Classic and contemporary excerpts

Salt Or Honey?

Sometime in my ministry, the church I served changed from being a church desiring to be salt to a church desiring to be honey to help the world’s solutions go down a bit easier. At first I thought it was a problem of liberal vs. conservative, or peacemaking vs. war-making. But lately I’ve decided it reflects the more fundamental problem of the church and the world.

William Willimon, “A Crisis of Identity,” Sojourners (May 1986)

Wise Counsel

I have heard often that it is safer to accept counsel than to give it. It can even happen that each one’s opinion is good, but to be unwilling to listen to others, when reason or occasion demands, betokens pride and wilfulness.

Thomas a Kempis in The Imitation of Christ

God’S People

When disaster strikes and innocent people suffer, or especially when something bad happens to a good person, Christians often ask, “Where was God?” But if Christians accept that they are People of God, it may be better to ask, “Where were the People of God?”

Father Henry Fehren in U.S. Catholic (May 1986)

Experiencing Experience

We ought not permit the meaning of the term “experience” to be confined within the brackets of one’s own existence.… I’m annoyed by those who define experience by saying, “Well, I haven’t met it yet; it hasn’t happened to me. Therefore, it has no authority.” I would be a poor person if the only things I knew were what I have found out for myself.

Joseph Sittler, “Provocations on the Church and the Arts,” The Christian Century (March 19–26, 1986)

The Wisdom Of Obedience

The true pupil, say of some great musician or painter, yields his master a wholehearted and unhesitating submission.

In practicing his scales or mixing the colors, in the slow and patient study of the elements of his art, he knows that it is wisdom simply and fully to obey.

It is this wholehearted surrender to His guidance, this implicit submission to His authority, which Christ asks. We come to Him asking Him to teach us the lost art of obeying God as He did.…

The only way of learning to do a thing is to do it. The only way of learning obedience from Christ is to give up your will to Him and to make the doing of His will the one desire and delight of your heart.

Andrew Murray in With Christ in the School of Obedience

Bumper-sticker religion

The more I think about it, the more I believe that we Christians are a lot like bumper-stickered cars. Some of us behave outrageously in the traffic of life and fully expect one sign to render us acceptable.

Some of us crowd our statement of Christian faith in with all the other areas of our enthusiasm and wonder why the world does not recognize the singularity of the one true God.

Jeanette Clift George in Decision (July–Aug. 1986)

False Foundations

No belief system can be faulted by the fact that it rests on unproved assumptions; what can and must be faulted is the blindness of its proponents to the fact that this is so.

Lesslie Newbigin in Foolishness to the Greeks

Genuine Prayer

Far away from the Bible’s example are most people when they pray! Prayer with earnestness and urgency is genuine prayer in God’s account. Alas, the greatest number of people are not conscious at all of the duty of prayer. And as for those who are, it is to be feared that many of them are very great strangers to sincere, sensible, and affectionate—emotional—pouring out of their hearts or souls to God. Too many content themselves with a little lip-service and bodily exercise, mumbling over a few imaginary prayers. When the emotions are involved in such urgency that the soul will waste itself rather than go without the good desired, there is communion and solace with Christ. And hence it is that the saints have spent their strength, and lost their lives, rather than go without the blessings God intended for them.

John Bunyan in Pilgrim’s Prayer Book, edited by Louis Gifford Parkhurst, Jr.

Making Truth Desirable

The Gospel cannot be preached … tangibly enough. A truly evangelical sermon must be like offering a child a fine red apple or offering a thirsty man a cool glass of water and saying: “Wouldn’t you like it?”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer in a letter to another pastor

Church Growth, Church Depth

I heard of a preacher the other day who was asked, “What’s the size of your pastorate?”

He said, “Twenty-five miles wide and one inch deep.” That is what bothers a lot of preachers these days.

Vance Havner in On This Rock I Stand

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