Waking and Responding to an Unwanted Era

Several weeks after 9/11 I went with a team of leaders gathered by the American Association of Christian Counselors to New York City to minister to pastors, their spouses, their fellow church leaders and various ministry leaders who’d served their city and congregations after a tidal wave of terror hit their shore. I can still picture their faces. Some of them had not yet wept. Others had not ceased to weep. We’ve come to speak often, with appropriate awe and appreciation, of the first responders among civil servants in outbreaks of violence or tragedy. The leaders who’d gathered in that sanctuary to be served and comforted after 9/11 were first responders among church servants.

Many of the pastors who met with us that day had done what their seminary training could hardly have prepared them for. They’d conducted a mind-numbing succession of memorial services for members of their churches. “With no bodies,” one pastor murmured, his face almost as pale as death, his eyes hollow. We do not normally think of a casket as a tangible mercy in our grief but we realized that day with horror that cold metal can be warm comfort in terrible times. There was a pause, a giving way to the silence, a pleading for the Holy Spirit to plunge to the depths where no man can go, to intercede and bring a comfort not of this world to His very own servants. That day was a day for speaking the unspeakable. They could say anything they wanted or needed. They could voice feelings they were fighting that could not responsibly be uttered in such raw form to their congregations. Those of us serving them did our best to speak when speaking was appropriate. We held in our arms the ones who wanted holding. We sat near those who did not want to be touched.

As we search for words for what has befallen us, maybe 9/11 is the closest we can come to marking the birth of a different era, one distinguished by, of all horrific things, terror. Birth by stillbirth. Life in what we called a civilized world with a fire-breathing dragon of death coming out of hibernation. Terror from without and within. Global. Domestic. Evil. Environmental. We are not nearly as scared of death as we are of being scared in death. These things are unthinkable yet we must think of them. They are unspeakable and yet we must speak.

Wise, responsive action must be taken in coming days. There are outcries for legislation that need to be heard and reasonable measures to be taken for church security but this is an outcry for the fortification of the souls of our people. This is a plea for an awakening to the demands for responsible discipleship in the generation that has been entrusted to us, for training up and equipping strong, able Jesus-followers, sturdy living stones, tenderized by the love of Jesus, strengthened by His divine power.

I’ve thought over and over in the last five years, “we’re unprepared for what has befallen us.” Our discipleship, generally speaking, is not matching the demand of our violent, unstable days. We who follow Jesus were timed for this exact era on earth. God thought we were capable of serving it or He would not have planted us in this bloody soil at this moment in history. He’s a strategist. We leaders and teachers and mentors and communicators can either embrace what has been entrusted to us or answer for it when we see Him. We have churches doing no discipleship at all which would have completely flummoxed first century church planters and begged the question “Why bother?” Few of us have the patience or time to address for the millionth time all the ways we’ve flung our church doors open to the pandemic narcissism of our culture. Show them a good time. Do not dare call out sin or call for service or sacrifice or, God forbid, actual commitment. 

Those are tired discussions and I’m not in the mood to have them this morning. The discussion I’m in the mood to have is about revisiting the paradigm for discipleship in the early church where Jesus-followers were equipped to both suffer and rejoice. Not one or the other. Both. Take a look back at Matthew 10 and Luke 10 where Jesus sent out His followers and warned them what kinds of conditions they’d encounter. Look back at Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians. They were taught to serve one another in extreme hardship and that it would not finish them. Rather, it would flourish them. If it killed them, well, they’d be in the presence of the Lord. They were equipped for the inevitability of affliction and not just how to survive it but how to abound in it. This is the heritage of the saints. New Testament believers were trained – not just told but trained – to weep together and laugh together. To remember Christ’s death together. To live out authentic resurrection life that could not be explained in natural terms. They were taught to battle demonic powers and principalities. They were taught how to grieve with hope. They were taught how to repent and be restored. How to turn from the sin that was hemorrhaging their witness and their tenacity in Christ. They were trained in prayer and taught how to keep the faith. They were taught to anticipate with great joy the vivid life awaiting them in Christ on the other side of death and that these are mere shadows compared to the substance to come.

The church in America is dying for this kind of discipleship, for the real, live fly-in-your-face thing that results in lives that matter greatly in their communities. I’m not pounding on something that I’m unwilling to put to practice. I have a long way to go and a lot to learn but I’ve made increasingly strong adjustments in Bible study curriculum in recent years. I hope the call to steadfastness, sacrifice, strength, love, faith and defiant joy in times of extreme duress and distress is blatant in the studies on James, 1st and 2nd Thessalonians, 2 Timothy and, most recently, The Quest. I want to be like Paul described Epaphras who was “always struggling” on behalf of those he served, that they might “stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.” (Col.4:12)

There is so much good news. Such a fresh embodiment of the increasingly disembodied Body of Christ. I’ve watched a slack-jawing awakening of service and sacrifice in churches in my own city in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. I have no doubt Floridians would say the same. I marveled yesterday as our pastor told us what our next phases of ministry would be. It included things like dropping off new mattresses in homes where beds were destroyed and families were sleeping on floors, hanging sheet rock, helping people fill out insurance claims. Serving in Houston has looked more like rebuilding a community after a war than the church of my young adulthood. What is this world we’ve awakened to???

It is our world. The only one we have for now. I’m the furthest thing from a pessimist but I don’t think it’s going to get better. I think we may get reprieves of mercy but I fear we have entered a travail we will not soon escape and that it will intensify. Here’s where my optimism comes in handy: I may not think our conditions are going to get better but I think the church is. Jesus-followers have what it takes to serve this world. We have the Holy Spirit. Now we need the training on how to allow Him to work effectively and fruitfully among us. We need discipleship fit for our days. We need the Scriptures. We need to be taught in our churches not only how to deal with our personal suffering but how to deal with our community suffering as a people.  We need to be taught our right to joy and how it flourishes most beautifully and colorfully in a landscape of difficulty.

I’ve run out of writing time and I’m sure you’ve more than run out of reading time. I’ve got no great ending to this post. Just earnestness. We wish things were different. They’re not. But we can be different. We can be disciples. Real ones. Trained ones. Tenderhearted ones. Fortified ones. Effective ones. Strong ones. Joyful ones. Courageous ones. Compassionate ones. And the world will be the better for it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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73 Responses to “Waking and Responding to an Unwanted Era”

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Jarl says:

    Beautiful, powerful, and perfect in tone. Just what call we need right now.

  2. 2
    Betty M says:

    Oh Sister Beth!
    Do I agree with you today! I said earlier this year that it takes a good crisis to wake up our discipleship.
    Too long in Christian America we have been coddled to death on Memory Foam of church cliques and Christian snobbery. We split hairs over doctrinal differences and we have a world out there dying and making to die waiting to hear the Sweet Gospel of Jesus Christ.
    We forget that we go to church to hear what God has for us we go half asleep to our place of worship hoping the Praise
    team has some peppy songs to wake us out of our blissful sleep of apathy. We go to church for the entertainment value and then we wonder why we are empty or bored with our faith. It requires nothing more than a passing interest on our part. No wonder! Most churches do not require one to even open a Bible so we don’t embarrass those who don’t know how to find the books of the Bible.
    I am so happy for the Epiphany I got in the middle of study you did on Daniel several yrs back… We better search those scriptures for in them we have eternal life. Yep! Things are gona get tougher it may require us to be martyrs for our faith but what better way to be ushered into Heaven but to have praises to our God still wet on our lips!
    Bless you Dear! Look forward to a short visit again sometime!
    LOVE,
    Betty M your Dakota friend!

  3. 3
    Kate says:

    Oh yes, to know as Paul did, how to live, serve and love in troubles with a joy that knows no bounds.

    A recurring theme of 2 Corinthians which has been challenging me this week.

  4. 4
    Vickie says:

    Well said Beth! You have put into words what I have been thinking and believing for some time. Thank you.

  5. 5
    Sara says:

    Thank you.

  6. 6

    One of the best things I’ve ever read by you, Beth. It is time for the church to grow up and become the living vibrant active body of Christ. We are only beginning to have a small taste of what our brothers and sisters in Christ overseas have been facing for a lifetime. We need disciples of Christ who are all in. Lord purge, strengthen and build your true church, with true followers.

  7. 7
    K R says:

    Amen and amen. Such an honest word. I’ve already run into ppl today who have cliches as answers and others who are hopeless. Such polarity won’t help us. The truth will. Thanks

  8. 8
    Wilma says:

    Beth,
    Thank you for being God’s voice today to many broken hearts. I have so wanted to tell you the biggest life changing event in my life has been “The Quest” we have just finished this study at my church. It has forever changed my relationship with Jesus. I shed tears by the buckets everyday I did my homework. It dug up places in my heart that had been buried so deep I did not think would ever be found. My Quest has begun on a new road and I trust Him to guide me every step of the way. Thank you for being His faithful servant and following His calling on your life to help us in finding our Quest.
    “You are in error because You do not know the Scriptures’ or the power of God. Have you not read what God said to you? I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”
    Matthew 22:29-32

  9. 9
    Sparki2003 says:

    Hi Ms. Beth,

    Yes, “Biblical Discipleship Training” is exactly what we have needed; yesterday, today, and into the future [until our Lord Jesus Christ returns for us] !!!

    Unfortunately, many of the believers (prior to my generation) in the churches in my area (southern Wisconsin), were never trained in Biblical Discipleship; so, it is very difficult for a young person in Christ Jesus to find any individual who even understands what it is !!! :'(

    And, in comparison to the first disciples, I should be considered to be “older in Christ Jesus”; as I just had my “golden birthday in our Lord Jesus, in His sweet salvation” this past April = 14 years “young” … However, I still do not feel as if I have received what Biblical guidance, etc., that I have “needed” … I have had to find the training on my own; mainly online …

    I’m not sure if we need to start having “Security Guards” in churches; but it sure seems to be an option. What do Y’all think of this idea ? I know that it would Not stop a person who is bound and determined to do something horrible (like a “Mass Shooting”), though … It is just a thought, from a Christian young lady; who, like Y’all, do Not know what kinds of preventative measures to take to lower the rates that these tragedies have been occurring … Just a thought …

    But, I do believe that learning how to become a stronger Christian, via “Biblical Discipleship Training” is exactly what we ALL Need !

    Love, in Christ Jesus,

    Jennifer 🙂

  10. 10
    Kay says:

    Oh yes Lord Jesus!!! Teach me. Help me Help others

  11. 11
    Frankie says:

    Thank you so much Beth for sharing such honest to goodness truth. I have been saying and thinking for the past year or so that ‘the church is gonna have to come outside those walls to minister to communities’.

  12. 12
    Vanda says:

    Amen and Amen

  13. 13
    Kim Green says:

    Oh, what’s coming to our generation that cries out, “It is well with my soul” when singing? It’s even plastered on our home decor, notebooks, and key chains. Are we ready? For those of us who know what it means to live by that statement, we will be ready, and we will guide the others hand in hand.

  14. 14
    Lawan says:

    Wow! If we haven’t started, let’s get started! Good word!

  15. 15
    Jannell F says:

    Thank you for this encouragement and call to rise up at this time in our communities. Discipleship is being trained and training others. Certainly lacking in our churches. I choose to be trained and then disciple others to follow me as I follow Christ! This gave me fresh energy continue on the course! Thank you!

  16. 16
    Kelly O says:

    Beth, we just had this conversation the other day. It is easy to follow Christ when it’s purely social, or you’re doing something that is a “fun” mission. But that’s not what we’ve been called to be, and it’s so discouraging to see people shut down as soon as things are hard or “not fun” anymore.

    That’s when we need each other the most. I’m watching our flood-ravaged community (Kingwood) recover, and it’s so discouraging to see things going “right back to normal” for some, and others who seem to be afraid to reach out when they’re feeling not so strong or happy. That’s why we’re the church.

  17. 17
    Lori says:

    I am so grateful for your words! I have been full of tears today, but you remind me that suffering and rejoicing go hand-in-hand in the Christian faith. I will rejoice that our God is bigger than the evil stalking our world. I will rejoice in his saints who call us on to continue on, to fight to the end for His goodness and grace. Thank you.

  18. 18
    MarlaMae Beyer says:

    Oh, Beth, you continue to inspire, and I so appreciate your honesty in the statement “We wish things were different. They’re not.” Standing with you, arm-in-arm…

  19. 19
    Christine says:

    Yesterday, our pastor gave a sermon on martyrs and then we all watched The Insanity of God which is about those who willingly submit to the most horrific persecution in other countries in the name of Christ. The missionary narrating it, had lost a young son, whole congregations were killed in Somalia, Russian Christians were killed or sent to prison to be beaten on a daily basis. The story of one particular man was amazing. Another man smuggling Bibles into his country was also beaten but went on doing it. The final question was, “Is Jesus worth it?” It is a question all Christians must ask. Those truly committed to Christ will answer “YES” without a second thought. Others may feel uncomfortable and hesitate. Our church is a new starter church. We have 11 members. The pastor, who has a heart condition, chronic fatigue and is a train wreck health-wise goes out with other members, door to door on Saturday, soul winning. It’s what Jesus told us to do.
    While we were watching the movie, a raving lunatic of demonic intent, went and shot up a little church in Texas. I cried when I found out that half were kids and one 6 year old tiny person was shot 4 times!! Rage doesn’t cover what I feel as well as deep sorrow for our brothers and sisters in Texas.
    This is only the beginning. Satan has declared war on us and is marching full steam ahead.
    You better make sure you have the Armor of God on and DON’T take it off!

  20. 20
    Chelsea says:

    Yes. This!!

  21. 21
    Michelle says:

    What a needed word. Let us not give up but keep our eyes on the prize and Glory ahead. Thank you for this today.

  22. 22
    Gena says:

    Isn’t this the refinement that you spoke of 23 yrs. ago, in the beginning? There’s not one thing that God has not allowed and so, I get the opportunity to respond a little differently. Because, unfortunately, previous reactions did not profit much. What the world wants is love. That comes out of the throne in a surrendered posture. No judgement, self-righteousness, conditions. I think we can understand how a person became homeless so sitting by a homeless person in church is okay. How about a lesbian couple, transgender? Do we have to understand it all to accept all woundedness and love the eyes of all God loves? I sat in a study last year where women said if their child was a lesbian, they would ban them. Have you ever had your child abandon you? It does not feel loving. God is good. He’s refining. It gets lonlier Furthet Still. Although, I know I am not alone.

  23. 23
    Ann Thiede says:

    Thank you, Beth. ‘Soldiers of Christ arise and put your armor on; strong in the strength which God supplies.’

  24. 24
    Connie Smith says:

    I am so thankful you shared this. My husband and I just moved to a little town to pastor a church that had been closed for a time. I have been excited to take this new journey only to be overwhelmed with the spiritual need. I have been feeling God leading us to do something new that really isn’t new at all — throwing the “church” programs out the door and focusing on discipleship of the sheep already in the fold. Learning to live side by side and love each other sacrificially. I desire it with every fiber of my being. I am finding that God is putting this in the hearts of many across the nation. May we submit to His leading and learn the way He desires to teach us. May we follow His paths so many will come to Him before the sky splits and the lost are lost forever.

  25. 25
    Debbie says:

    Amen and Amen.

  26. 26
    Elaine says:

    Yes, and Amen! We are here to serve God, for such a time as this…we as just ourselves are not equipped, but God is, and He provides all we need through His Spirit. May He pour out a fresh, heavy and new measure of His Spirit today in Houston and in each of us.

  27. 27
    Julie Clark says:

    That is crazy talk Beth!! I was praying the exact same thing today. Oh these people. Praying for all. I feel that we have had a great depravity in our churches for years and we are not equipping the Lord’s people to do His work well.

  28. 28
    Margaret says:

    for such a time as this…..

  29. 29
    Patty says:

    Please share the 1-2-3 to make this happen. What does that training look like? Let’s dot it – but help show us how!

  30. 30
    Lola says:

    The Bible, as we all well know, teaches that the final days will bring a lot of darkness. We as Christians all need to know this and teach others about it. God does not want to see anybody left behind and wants everyone to achieve salvation through His son Christ Jesus. Leaving it up to the Church or to Beth Moore or Joyce Meyer(as amazing as these women are in the eyes of God), He called EACH ONE Of His Sheep to “Go forth and make disciples” He called EACH ONE OF US to be in the world, but not to be part of the world. To be a light in the darkness.

    In these scary and dark days, how are We, as followers of Christ, setting ourselves apart? How are we meditating on God’s Word, daily, to equip us to help Him fulfill His Will? OR are we leaving the responsibility up to the our Pastors or Bible teachers, when the instruction and the protection on how to endure joyfully are found in the Bible?

    It is detrimental that we stop being accepting of things that God hates, just to be accepted by the World. Now is the time to meditate on the Word day and night and pray continuously for direction and let the enemy know that humans with free will can and will honour and serve the most high God, Jehovah!

  31. 31
    Christine says:

    So well said dear sister. You are wrong, the ending to this post is great indee!!,

  32. 32
    Kitty says:

    Thank you Beth! So right on! Discipleship is so important for this generation! It takes time and discipline to pour into the next generation! Oh LORD may we be Your people willing to sacrifice our time and talents to strengthen and grow into Your followers/warriors! May we life today with the end in mind…and finish well! All praise glory and honor to You! Grace and truth be lived out by Your Spirit Jesus!

  33. 33
    Amy Oesterreich says:

    Amy Oesterreich, Crown Point, IN
    “Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?”
    Psalm 139:21 ESV

  34. 34
    Dalene says:

    A million ‘AMENS’!!!!!!

  35. 35
    Gwen says:

    TRUTH! Amen and amen! Let US be the generations that listens with our ears and hearts, and steps out in obedience with action, empowered by all the strength our souls can muster (through Christ’s provision of strength– claiming Phil. 4:13)

  36. 36
    Sam Carudo says:

    I feel your passion, Beth and am ready to be equipped and to equip!!! Let’s do this! Let’s come together and be the light that God called us to be! A city on a hill! What’s next our fearless leader???? Tell me your game plan…..I’m in and totally sold out! The awakening must start now and it’s up to us! What’s next?????? Time is running out and I want to finish well!!!! I am emboldened and ready to go to work!
    Amen and amen to all you have said! The apathy must go and the revival must begin!
    I’m listinging! Send me!!!! I don’t want to waste one second!!!!

  37. 37
    Shannon says:

    Yes! Discipleship training is paramount, it is too bad that almost every Bible study available today is either grossly under nourished or a dvd study. What happened to our church leaders teaching the lessons? Don’t get me wrong I absolutely love your studies but do they ALL have to be DVD?

  38. 38
    Becky says:

    Beth,
    Amen! Thank you for this post! In praying for those effected by yesterday’s horrific attack, I’ve also been praying about how we as Christians need to seek God’s face more to meet the battle with faith, strength, and courage. Discipleship, yes, and each of us realizing the battle grounds are increasing. Are we ready? Are we equipping ourselves and others through prayer and Gods Word?! Are we seeking God’s wisdom in these violent, unstable days?!! May our lives show our trust in the Lord and that we keep before us the truth that “He is the sure foundation for our times.” Isaiah 33:6

  39. 39
    Dave Dayanan says:

    It’s true that we Christians undergoes suffering. This things are not from God but the way respond to this things will reflect the Jesus in us. Job had a worse case than what we are having right now but He remained for God. God blessed him in return.

  40. 40
    Alicia Parker says:

    I enjoyed this thought-provoking post. Thank you. Not gonna lie….initially thought the topic was baseball when I saw “Era” in the title. As a diehard Cubs fan I was still floating on the cloud of Houstonian victory and filtering all tweets and posts through the lens of post World Series narrow-minded joy which I experienced last year. Alas, although not about baseball, this post did not disappoint!
    P. S. For baseball newbies (welcome) and ERA means earned run average… A statistic for pitchers.

  41. 41
    Suey Caldwell says:

    Good Morning WEGM
    I agree with Jarl… perfect tone
    Thank you and Second Baptist and HFBC
    praying my family out of the Middle East when
    we lived there.. before 9/11

    IThess 5:16

  42. 42
    jessie seneca says:

    Yes, and Amen. YOU Be the Difference in this crazy world!

  43. 43
    Lisamarie Foleenor says:

    Praise God for your courage to speak the truth! It will not get easier and we must be braver and work harder for Jesus!

  44. 44
    Susan C says:

    So well said Beth! It is no surprise to God that we believers are alive in this generation. Let us rise up for ‘such a time as this’. Boldly speak His truth, shine His light and share His love right through our cracked, worn vessels. I pray daily for the ‘how’ and ‘who’. May I ever be obedient to His leading!!!

  45. 45
    Deanne Moore says:

    Started the book of Isaiah yesterday. May we listen to the voices of the prophets in our day.

  46. 46
    Courtney says:

    Thank you, Beth!

  47. 47
    shannon conner says:

    There’s always hope in this dark world. Thanks for the reminder.

  48. 48
    Lacy says:

    Thank you. I think I and likely others needed to hear that perspective. It is good to remember our sovereign God has us here in a troubled time for His good purposes.

  49. 49
    Lisa Lewis says:

    As a true Jesus follower and disciple, this is the most motivating, call to action thing I’ve ever read! Thank You, Beth!

  50. 50
    Melanie says:

    Thanks Beth,
    For such a time as this… I am facilitating a ladies group through Breaking Free second version, I did the first version in 2004. Amazing how each season of life has potential for new strongholds. The theme of what the Lord is saying to me over the past year is “step up” BE the woman you truly are in my Spirit. Through daily repentance and active trust I am realizing a peace that passes understanding at 46 with busy career, church commitments and two daughters 17 and 20 leaving the nest.
    We need God’s Word,His Spirit and His people like never before to stand strong through the brokenness of ourselves and this world.

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