“The spirit of Ahaz is sort of what drives the church growth movement, at its worst— that is, there is this kind of sense that we’ve got to do something. Ahaz thinks he’s got to hatch a plan, he’s got to bring the best minds, the best technology, the best strategies of the world to bear in order to win the kingdom for God, and he doesn’t want to trust in God’s Word. God’s Word seems weak and doesn’t seem like it’ll work. He’d rather have the steel of Assyrian swords, or Egyptian swords.Something must be done! The cause is urgent! Desperate times require desperate measures. We have heard it all before. What kinds of terrible messes have been created by such pious sounding cries that are all too often motivated more by need than by confidence in the Word and Sacraments of God!
“So the illustration I always give on this is this: so often what we get is this desperation— you know: ‘We gotta save the lost, the lost are perishing, it’s all up to us to save them’— and that is un-Christian! It’s right that we have a mission, and we should be compelled to go out, and we should feel a desire to help these people, but desperation is not Christian. God will provide.
“So imagine a man who is profoundly moved to pity for the starving hordes in war-torn Africa who comes upon a warehouse full of cornmeal that’s 98% pure. ‘I mean, why wait any longer?’ he says. ‘Why not send this cornmeal now because they need food, and we can’t wait for perfect food. Men are starving. This’ll have to be good enough.’ But of course rat poison is 98% cornmeal, and it’s no good at all to starving people. It kills them despite the good intentions and pity of people who want to feed them. That 2% might seem completely insignificant, of course, until it sits on the plate in front of your daughter, right? You don’t want her to have 98% pure corn meal; it’s not good enough for her, because she needs real food, healthy food.
“So the analogy here is of doctrine: what men need is the truth of God’s word, and it is the false pretend piety of Ahaz which would make us think that we must save the lost and that their fate rests upon our actions or our love. If that’s the case, they’re doomed anyway. Thank God it isn’t, right? God will keep His promises. He will defend, and He will protect us, and God will also bring all of the elect to the crown of righteousness for the sake of His grace— not our efforts. So Jesus Christ did not die in vain. None of the elect will go to hell. Jesus Christ does not turn His back upon His children just because their fathers are inadequate to the task or we are lousy missionaries. Now, again, the mission is urgent— absolutely. The Harvest is ready. But it’s not desperate. That’s the point. The Lord will provide the workers for the Harvest, and He will bring them home. We cannot compromise the message. We have no right to try to make it more palatable or more attractive or the way that we think it would work. There’s no place for hand-wringing in the Church of the Resurrection.”
The world lies in desperate need but it requires something from the Church more than desperate measures. It requires of us that we be faithful in preaching, faithful in catechesis (teaching), and faithful in action. Nothing less can suffice. We cannot enhance the work of God with gimmicks or tricks or it will despoil the Gospel and actually hinder the work of God to seek and save the lost. We cannot decide to do in desperation what God seems not to do in mercy by the means He has already appointed. Yet this is indeed our great temptation!
The world will not be helped by a Gospel that is not pure, will not be saved by work other than the work of the Spirit working through the means of grace, and will not flourish using the marketing tools of business. The world will be saved through Jesus Christ alone and the faithful who rejoice in this gracious act of God do their best not out of desperation but from confidence in God's good will and favor in Christ our Lord.
How true it is that in desperation we cast off the things we know best to pursue kooky things that might work instead of patiently preaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments and teaching the faith (catechesis) through which any and all who shall be saved will be saved! We are not in such desperate times that it will be good enough to offer the world less than God's best and to be anything less than the true and faithful catholic and apostolic church established by Christ.