“What do you think is the greatest obstacle to God’s desire for evangelization of the world?” asked morning speaker Chris Wright. “It’s not other religions. It’s not persecution. It’s not resistant cultures. The greatest problem for God in his redemptive mission for the world is his own people.”
The great crisis in the modern church is that church leaders are too often marked by an abuse of power, mismanagement of financial resources, and a lack of purity. Sometimes they even distort Scripture to justify arrogance, immorality and greed. But all these things result in a great disunity among evangelicals that hurts our mission effectiveness.
Wright is an Old Testament scholar and International Director of the Langham Partnership International. Deeply influenced by the ministry of John Stott, Wright called delegates of Lausanne III to repentance, renewal and commitment—to abandon the idolatry of power, pride, popularity and wealth and return to a simple humble faith. “There is no biblical mission without biblical living,” he said. “The whole of Scripture gives us strong warnings against these idols that pervert people.”
Sitting texts from Isaiah, Micah, Jesus and Paul in Ephesians 4, he warned first on the obsession with power and pride. To be driven by these is “sheer disobedience and destroys what we seek to accomplish.”
Then he spoke of the seduction of popularity and success. Wright spoke of the lying and questionable statistics that leaders often give to gain funding and support for their projects and ministries. Dishonesty and distortion make us like the false prophets in the Old Testament. They were popular because they gave the people what they wanted to hear.
Third, he spoke of the idol of greed. This afflicted Israelite priests and called forth rebuke from the prophets Micah and Isaiah.
God in his love often provides abundantly for his people. But the people often lose site of this fact. We become proud in our hearts. Sometimes we even take credit for these blessings.
Jesus faced all three of these temptations from the devil. Yet he chose the path of humility, integrity and simplicity and relied upon his father. Tragically, said Wright, many Christian leaders and missionaries fail these tests, and then the whole church pays for the cost of their failure. So before we critique the world, we must clean up our own back yard.
Wright made specific mention of prosperity preachers and modern day “super apostles” who distort the Bible by appealing to greed, and conveniently omit the Biblical references to suffering and the cross.
For all these reasons, a reformation is desperately needed in the church today, beginning with evangelicals. Wright called for repentance and a radical return to Jesus and Scripture. “We need to go back to the Lord………If we want to change the world, we must first change our ways.”
He concluded with three words for the church today—humility, integrity and simplicity—or H.I.S. In English it is the word “His.”” Are we HIS people? We must be so for His sake, and for the sake of the Great Commission.