In my teens KTB (the name of our cell groups at IREC Sydney), we frequently end up talking about many random things like how western media has so overtaken the entertainment world that we expect caucasian looking main characters to the adventurous and consuming nature of video games and the craze over the latest Zelda release. At times I am quite concerned if I am doing things right. It is not quite as orthodox as what I had imagined KTB should be like. We don’t sit down and read the Bible verse by verse whilst I wield my exegetical skills to give sense to God’s Word. Yet God’s Word does resound amongst us as we discuss the latest sunday sermon, a good book, or just what we’ve been reading in our daily lives. And God does work amongst us, giving us all spiritual growth in His own mysterious ways.
Likewise, I have many hopes and dreams for RE Generation-Z. Sometimes I imagine that the study centre would boom and turn into a centre brimming with thousands of teens thirsting after God’s Word, eager to study the Bible rigorously and deeply through the abundant lens of reformed theology. Then I would imagine that these teens would be so moved that they would start bringing reformed theology to their friends and church circles, reviving a youth that starts another great awakening from where there would arise many missionaries ready to die on the spear’s edge amongst unreached people groups. Could God do that? In the click of His fingers. But what if that is not the future of this movement? What if God’s ways are not our ways?
God Only Wise
In yesterday’s Sunday Service, we sang a hymn, Immortal, Invisible, God only Wise. That hymn is inspired by Paul’s testimony in 1 Timothy 1:12-17.
I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
If we pause for a moment and wonder at Paul’s story, it is quite odd, if we’re honest. Why in the world would God choose Paul for His ministry work to the Gentiles. First of all, Paul is not a Gentile. Instead, He’s a devout Jew. They have no commonalities. Second, Paul literally persecuted God’s church. He killed Christians. It would take double the effort to convert Him rather than some pew-sitting, Christian-raised teen. Imagine the amount of patience, the amount of hardship to turn such a man around. Yet God did, for no other reason than to show off His wisdom.
Similarly, it is quite unorthodox for God to build His church with sinful people. It is akin to building a grand palace using 100% termite-infested wood. Through some ridiculous process, you would have to mend every single plank of wood before even starting your construction project. God could have destroyed mankind at the flood and started over again with fresh oak timber. But He didn’t. in God’s wisdom He chose broken people to build His church. And all that to show off His “manifold wisdom” to the “rulers and authorities in the heavenly places”. Surprisingly, this was God’s plan from eternity (Eph 3:10-11).
What does Wisdom look like in our Ministry and Spiritual Life?
If God’s purpose is to show if His extraordinary wisdom through our ministry and life (ie. us being the church), how then should we hope, pray and dream for the future of RE Generation-Z? How should we dream about being used by God, about being sent to continue God’s grand kingdom work around the globe?
Firstly, with humility, recognising that this is God’s work not our work.
We love being at the epicentre of all things whether it be from coming up with creative ministry methodologies to running meetings and our own programs. We love being in control, orchestrating our own lives and ministries according to what we think is right. Yet, we have to realise none of this is actually our work. God is the only one drawing people into His kingdom. It is only the Holy Spirit that melts hardened hearts and expands Christ’s kingship in the hearts of His chosen ones. And God does this in ways we don’t expect. Have we ever considered how God is working through ordinary men in Iran — a muslim nation where Christianity is banned — who simply picked up a Bible, started reading it without any commentaries or reformed theological books, got converted and evangelised to hundreds of people on the streets, starting houses churches all without a theological education and quite possibly without a university degree either? We could quite possibly have both and yet no evident fruit in our ministry. That doesn’t disqualify education as a precious blessing and gift to the church. But it does humble us to realise our ways are not God’s ways. And He is going to work in unexpected ways to show off His wisdom to the cosmos for the sake of His glory and praise.
Secondly with listening ears, being open to reason, being gentle and peaceable.
Too often we think our way of doing ministry is the best way. We think we know what will be acceptable to God and effective to further His kingdom. Our pride creates sects even amongst our own local churches where some think one way of evangelising is better than another way. We always think we know best. Yet, God’s ways could unfathomably be the most out-of-the-box thing we know. Some people aren’t converted through gospel preaching or conversation. They’re converted through the a song playing on the radio or a leaflet of paper stuck to a noticeboard. Yes, in their walk of faith they will end up listening or reading to the Word for that is where faith comes from. But we can’t make that happen. The reason they wanted to hear us in the first place has nothing to do with what we said.
I have thought over and over how best we should evangelise and reach the upcoming generation. Yet no one methodology concocted in a man’s mind will ever sprout ministry fruit. Instead, a better way is to listen to one another and those we are serving. A better way is to recognise we don’t know what we are doing, get our hands dirty, and listen to those we want to serve. Each context for ministry will be different. There will be unique challenges and hardships to overcome. We cannot come with a saviour-syndrome that thinks we’ve prophecied all the potential problems. We need an I’m-going-to-wash-your-feet attitude to those we serve.
Wisdom from Above
James 3:17 says, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peacable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.”
Could relating the west’s media power and influence to Christianity’s public impact towards western society in the last five hundred years since the reformation have eternal significance? Could relating the addictive nature of Zelda’s sense of adventure to our innate design as soldiers of Christ built for cosmic war spring divine fruit? Maybe. After all, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21). Christ was willing to know sin to save us. What are we willing ‘to know’ for the work of God’s kingdom? Let’s be prepared for God to unfold His manifold wisdom in building His church as we humbly serve faithful to what God has called us to do this very day.