Monday, November 19, 2007

Ministry's Highest Good: Doxology or Soteriology? (Part II)

So what are some implications of the distinction of "doxology over soteriology"? I'll make some observations - you may have others.

(1) If salvation is the highest good, there is no explanation as to why God's judgment of lost people in eternal Hell is glorifying to God, yet Romans 9:22-23 indicates that is the case. But if God's glory is the highest good then the lostness of some glorifies God by highlighting His salvation of others.

(2) Making evangelism the highest good in ministry tends to cause us to measure success in ministry by immediate and apparent results (bodies, buildings, and bucks) rather than in bringing glory to God.

(3) Measuring success in ministry by immediate and apparent results tends towards a weakness in yielding to the temptation to resort to gimmicks, questionable methods, or even dishonesty (preachers would never pad their numbers would they?) in an attempt to make oneself or one's church look more successful.

(4) If evangelism is the highest good in ministry, we should be at it all the time! No time for lunch, exercise, marriage, family, vacation, enjoyment of life, etc. These become relative wastes of time if evangelism is the highest good. Maybe this helps explain why so many evangelists have failed morally in relation to their marriages. It is not that they were spending too much time on evangelism, it is that they failed to see their marriages as a means of glorifying God and as being part of their ministry. This is a fragmented view of life and ministry which fails to see all of life as cohesive under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. It fails to see every calling/vocation from God as holy. And it fails to consider that God "richly supplies us with all things to enjoy (First Timothy 6:17).

(5) To whatever extent number four above is true, there is a massive, corresponding sense of guilt or even condemnation because the doing or the results of evangelism are not good enough. I have struggled with this in a deeply personal, sometimes morbid, way. I have gone out late at night to find unsuspecting lost people to talk to about Christ because I had not met my quota for the day or had not seen enough results lately. Whatever "converts" I saw that way, in the words of DL Moody, they were my "converts" not the Lord's. I had to have a godly friend tell me years ago, "Keith, some people are going to go to Hell whether you want them to or not." I have watched those with the catch-phrase "Win the Lost at any Cost" find that the cost was their sanity, or health, or marriage. This is not a valid cost. When we are depressed because attendance was down, or the results are too slow, or people are not responding, this is an indicator that we are not ministering for the Glory of God, but for our own success. And often the discouragement leads one to quit the ministry.

(6) When evangelism is viewed as the highest good, the Gospel being preached tends to become man-centered as opposed to God-centered. The message collapses into whatever tends to "work" or get the most results as opposed to what is biblically accurate and exalts God.

(7) When evangelism is viewed as the highest good it actually becomes less effective and less sustainable than when worship is seen as the highest good. Worship is the fuel of evangelism and mission. John Piper has made this point quite well in his book "Let The Nations Be Glad: The Supremacy of God in Missions". Worship is also the best context for evangelism - see First Corinthians 14:24-25. How many weeks have you sustained your typical church outreach visitation program? Two? Three? For evangelism to be sustained it must be fueled by worship. So evangelism will be more effective when it is viewed under the Glory of God. The Great Commission begins with worship (Matthew 28:17) and culminates in worshipers (John 4:23). The glorified experience of worship in Revelation 5:9 includes the results of global evangelism, consisting of people form every extended family grouping, every language, and every ethnicity worshiping before God's throne.

Yes, I share the vision to motivate the Church to be far more evangelistic - to be aggressively evangelistic - in these days. But the way to do this is to hold high the vision of Christ and His Glory displayed through the Church. "Now to Him Who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond what we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the Glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21).


  1. might i offer #8:

    it places the especially of Galatians 6:10 in the wrong location.

    i have seen church after church that seeks to make evangelism the highest good sacrifice the believers in their own fellowship. i will commend them for the fact i believe they have taken their theology to it's logical conclusion. for if evangelism is the highest good, then no ministry energy should be exerted to those who already know Christ.