Posted by: Philip Rushton | December 20, 2011

Embracing Brokenness in a Culture Bent on Success

The Christmas story is radically counter-cultural. Our culture is bent on looking successful. The same goes for the church. All sorts of books are published these days that appeal to successful business strategies to help grow churches numerically. Mega-churches publish books that tout the success of their programs. Some of these books are helpful, I read them from time to time; however, I often find these contemporary models to be at odds with the way Jesus did ministry.

Jesus’ plan to change the world started with him taking on a position of weakness. Though he had all the resources of heaven at hand he willingly took on the limitations of humanity. He came as a weak child rather than a powerful king.

During the temptation account in Matthew 4 we also see Jesus take on some profound limitations. He was tempted to be practical and relevant by turning stones into bread. He was tempted to be spectacular by throwing himself off a cliff and performing a miracle. He was tempted to become very powerful, by gaining all the kingdoms of the world in exchange for giving his allegiance to Satan. Instead he rejected these offers and proceeded to go the way of the cross.

This begs the question why? Why did Jesus take on these limitations? Why was his model of ministry one of weakness, humility and suffering?

Throughout the biblical story we see that there are inherent gifts that manifest themselves in weakness. In the life of Jesus we discover that the way of incarnation and the way of the cross allowed him to demonstrate his love for the world. Through his incarnation he made himself present to people no matter where they were at. As he faced the cross he demonstrated his willingness to lay down his life for us that we might live.

Jesus calls us to a similar approach to ministry. He tells us in Matthew 5:2 that the entrance point to his kingdom is poverty of spirit. In order for us to learn his way of love we have to come to terms with our own brokenness. This teaches us to depend on him and it develops within us an empathy for others. There are no short-cuts to love. It can’t be programmed and controlled. The process of learning to love as Jesus loved is a costly process that involves facing limitations and set-backs. It is only as we come to terms with our own brokenness that we gain the empathy and the humility to love others.

In a church culture that longs to be successful, we need to make sure we define success correctly. Success in God’s kingdom is not measurable in attendance records, it is not guaranteed by having relevant programs. Success happens when his followers follow his example of sacrificial love. The reality is that this process often results from coming to terms with our limitations and our brokenness.

Here is a pray I came across this week that encourages us to see how God works through our limitations:

I asked God for strength that I might achieve,
I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health that I might do great things;
I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
I asked for riches that I might be happy;
I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for power when I was young that I might have the praise of men;
I was given weakness that I might feel the need for God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life;
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am, among all people, most richly blessed.

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