Hello readers! Sorry for yet another long delay between posts. I was recently given an assignment in my biblical worldview class in seminary where I was supposed to interview a church leader that I know. I was fortunate enough to interview my pastor (and many of my reader's pastor) Joshua Finley. The assignment is being turned in anonymously, but Pastor Josh gave me permission to use his name and post it here. Anyway, I hope you all enjoy it! It is the full transcript, as word for word as I could get it, so it's a bit lengthy.
1a) How would you describe the world in which we live?
Created by God. Moving along according to history which is his sovereign plan. There will be a culmination of this age moving into the age to come. There will be the reward of some and the damnation of others eternally. Jesus, right now, is actively doing two major things: interceding at the fathers right hand and building his church on the earth. I think that because of my biblical worldview, I view the world around be through the lens of the kingdom of God and within the kingdom of God through the lens of the local church.
So, that's my wheelhouse. From the local church perspective, how can God move his agenda throughout the earth locally and globally, in all seven mountains in every sector of society through the local church and the through the five offices he gave to the church: the apostle, the prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher, equipping the saints to move his agenda forward as they are conformed more and more to his image and we move closer and closer to the fullness of his plan.
1b) What is God’s relationship to this world?
Creator. Judge. Loving Father. Author and finisher of our faith. Ever present help in time of need. Any one of the trinity's attributes, that's his relationship! Author of the Bible. Ordainer of all authority: Romans 13. So, he's not the clockmaker that let the thing go. I mean, he's definitely intimately involved and, from moment one with Adam, has longed to work in partnership with man and will see his ultimate will fulfilled but has chosen to partner with man, even in our frailty. So, he's very involved, very interested. If he knows the hairs on my head and if he knows a sparrow falls, he's aware. If he numbered the people and the cattle and the sheep in Nineveh, he's got a pretty in depth handle on what's happening.
2a) What is your understanding of the purpose of human beings?
We were created to to walk with God, to have fellowship with God, to worship God, and ultimately, like the rest of creation to glorify God. I would say, like Jonathan Edwards, we are called to glorify God and enjoy him in the process. That would be the chief end of man, to glorify God and to walk in an intimate relationship with him, and to be carriers of his image in nature.
2b) Why are we here? What are we created for?
Created to glorify God, Magnify his greatness, be carriers of his greatness, and ultimately to be extenders of his kingdom.
3a) What is your understanding of the Christian calling, and Christian ministry and service?
My understanding... wow, that's another big one. I would say that Jesus chose to give a corporate commission to a large group of people called the body of Christ, the global body of Christ. And within that corporate commission there is an individual contribution that every believer is supposed to have within the body of Christ. To make that contribution, we've each been given grace as God chose to apportioned it to do something healthy within the body. So, have a corporate commission, we have an individual calling and contribution to make. The Bible is very clear that every believer has at least one spiritual gift to add, to strengthen that body. And it says that he chose to give some to the five offices of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher. And my understanding is that if “some” means “some,” and the role of that “some” is to equip the people of God for works of service. Really, those five offices are to mobilize the majority of ministry.
I think when you look at it across the global landscape, only two percent or less are involved in “full-time ministry”, “full-time vocational ministry.” 98% of the body are the ones that are to do the ministry. What a tragedy if the church ever became like a football stadium. In football you've got twenty-two people desperately exhausted, needing some rest with thousands of people sitting around them watching them, desperately needing some exercise. We don't want that to be the church. We don't want it to be the paid professionals doing the ministry. We want those in those specific offices with the grace gift Jesus has given them equipping the church and the body to do that. I believe that every individual believer has a calling for ministry, not just those that serve in the five-fold office. So, to sum it down, saved people are called to serve people! That's about as concise as I can give you an answer for that,
3b) Who is “called” and what are they called to?
His whole body is called. The whole church is called, and we are called to people. We are called to join God in his rescue mission of the planet and the people of this planet, and we are called to bring as much of heaven down here as we can before he brings judgment and then the restoration of all things. And so our target is people. Our product is the love of God. The team is everybody.
3c) What sort of “ministry” or service truly pleases God?
Lots of things. He says that “it pleases my heart when you take care of the poor. It pleases my heart when you take care of the lonely in jail, when you give them a cup of water or you feed them and you do it in my name it's as if you did it to me personally.” So, that pleases him. Other service that pleases him is unity happening in service where we work with different denominations and different churches. It pleases God when we honor the dignity of every human being. He created human beings to be free and to have dignity, to have choice and when we honor that dignity... I think of Jesus coming to the blind man who's name is blind Bartimaus and saying to him, what do you want me to do for you? In that moment, Jesus, who had a 100% healing record and obviously aware of the man's need still asked him what he wanted. I think that was even a restoring of the man's dignity, saying, what would you like me to do for you? I know what you need, but what would you like me to do for you?
I think Jesus loves it when we don't treat people like robots but we give them the dignity of individuals and we don't force love on them but we're willing to love with no agenda. I think it tremendously honors God when we don't love with hooks attached. I think when we just love for the sake of loving because people are made in the image of God, whether or not they ever come to my church or come to Christ, profess Christianity. That's obviously, ultimately the goal, salvation, but there is value in loving the dignity and individuality of each person because they are made in the image of God.
4a) What is the purpose or goal of salvation or redemption in Christ?
I think of the word, “redemption.” Bring back what he wanted us to have from the beginning. Restore. Bring us back to that place where we could have unhindered intimacy with God. Obviously not that we would become a part of the trinity, but we would be able to have that unimposed, unhindered relationship, and be brought back to the place where his thoughts are our thoughts, and his ways are our ways and we are his offspring and bring us back to the place where Adam, being made in the image of God was the God kind. Just like animals were made in each other's image, we were made in his image, of the God kind. So, God is trying to bring us back to that relationship with him, to the original. So, in a sense, it's a glorious reset of many things that we lost.
4b) What are we saved from?
Pretty much one of the first things that come to my mind is that we're saved from ourselves. We are saved from our own selfish, carnal, sinful, nature that would make the world and universe revolve around our will, our wants—just the narcissism of our souls. We're saved from that. We are saved from eternal damnation and separation from God and torment with the fallen angels. We are saved from a purposeless life—living a life abusing ourselves, abusing other people because we don't know the value that we carry. I could go on, but that about sums it up.
4c) What are we saved to or for?
We're saved to him and for him. Colossions says all of creation was made by him and for him, and so I am saved by him and for him, for his pleasure. I am his workmanship, I am his project. So, I am a trophy of his grace to bring him pleasure. So, in a sense, I am saved by him and for him. And because I am saved by him and for him, it's my mission, I've been commissioned to go and teach others and make disciples of the same things Jesus taught his disciples, and to offer the grace of God to all men.
4d) How would you describe the final destiny of the redeemed?
The final destiny of the redeemed, wow... is beyond what we could ask, think or imagine. No eye has conceived and no one has known what he has prepared for us and so that's probably the most difficult question, but I would say, eternal, uninterrupted joy in the presence of God. Being overwhelmed for all eternity with the revelation of the facets of who he is in his nature. I think if the only glimpse I have is the people that are there right now, the beings that are there right now and they're crying out “Holy Holy Holy to the lamb that was slain and to his father who sits on the throne,” that says to me that their environment is absolutely overwhelmingly saturated with his glory and his radiance and there will be no need for a sun because his light, in splendor, will light up the universe as we know it. So, wow, limitless possibilities, but yet, an environment so saturated by the glory of God—eternally, uninterrupted.
5) What sort of public changes, if any, should be evident in the life of someone who knows Christ as savior (in their work life, in their choice of career, in their concern for others, in their involvement in society, etc.)?
Well, this is a difficult thing because, in a sense, it's customized and different for every person, in that, Jesus says, if you are not willing to give up everything, Luke says, to be my disciple, you cannot be my disciple. So, everything for you might look different than everything for me. Everything for the man who wanted to go bury his father looked different than everything for the rich young ruler, who had all kinds of wealth. I think Jesus, when he was saying, you'll know them by their fruit, the false prophet, really the false believer, there's evidence. So I'm not called to be a Pharisaical fruit inspector of other people, but if I don't see the fruit of the Holy Spirit in someone's life then I have to wonder if the Spirit of God has regenerated that person and converted them, because you should see some love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness... I mean, James said that if I hate my brother then I'm not even saved. If I'm a racist, how is that... if I can't love my brother, who I see, then I can't lie to myself and say that I love God who I don't see.
So, I think the number one mark is a love for God and a love for other people. And I would say that love is not love if there's not a measure of sacrifice involved, if there's not a measure of sacrificial generosity attached to it. No one loves more than the man who lays his life down for his friends. I think John defined it, that this is how we know what love is. Jesus said, if you love me, you will... you will, you just will keep my commands. So, I have to say that if I find someone who exhibits the fruit of the spirit as listed in scripture, and obeys the commands of God as listed in scripture, Then I would say, wow, there's someone that I would say has a converted soul. Now, obviously Jesus is going to be the judge of every living soul, and so I'm not going to have to be the one who has to judge that, but if I did, that would really be the criteria. You know, you can't give what you don't have. If they haven't received the love of God and if they haven't received the forgiveness of God then, chances are, they aren't going to be very loving and forgiving and you're not going to see the fruit of the spirit in their lives.
I think another thing that would be important to me is, they would be, again, not watchdogs, but guardians of truth. He said, you will know my truth and the truth will set you free, if you hold to my teaching. So, I think that as believers, you would see people that are saying, you know what, if I love Jesus, I'm going to obey his commands. I know his commands from his life example and from scripture. So I guess, people that live with sacrificial love and people that live under authority. They live under the authority that God gave them. It shows submission in their heart and yieldedness... that we're not our own.
6) In general, how do you understand the relationship of the sacred to the secular?
Man, I think we put too steep of a wall—concrete silo between the two. I think that far more things are sacred than we would have put in that category throughout church history. I think God sees me teaching my kids how to ride their bike as sacred. I think God, when a youth pastor goes and joins the assets comity at a local school board to serve the superintendent, to extend the kingdom of God and to add value in that environment, sees that as sacred, even though it's a “secular” environment. I think God looks at it as a sacred moment when I am on vacation with my family, staring out at the ocean, listening to worship music on my iPod, overwhelmed by his greatness. That is a sacred place. So, I think my personal persuasion is that because we're carriers of the Holy Spirit and we carry the presence of God and we're called as a royal priesthood that pretty much anywhere I bring the kingdom of God, that place now has become sacred. Whether it's “business” “political.” I think the whole point of Ezekiel, the river leaving the temple, getting deeper the further out it goes from the temple is the very testimony that the further out we go we should bring the sacredness of God to those places.
Jesus sitting at the well with the woman, he made that a sacred place even though they would have called it “sacred” because of Jacob's well, he made it sacred because he brought the presence of God, the word of God as a prophet into that place... now that became sacred. I could be leading someone to Christ or praying for their healing at a rest stop on I90, in a secular environment and now that place has become sacred—probably the most sacred place that person has ever stepped into because they had an encounter with God there. And so I think that when we look at the whole of scripture, we find God even saying, I'm going to have sacred moments with people in ridiculously secular environments.
I'll just give one more example, you can tell I've got some thoughts on this one. Daniel, in the most demonized environment ever, the Babylonian empire, we're still talking about the Babylonian empire and the spirit of the age. Nebuchadnezzar , incredibly demonized, ungodly, you know, “worship me,” all that. In that environment, Daniel was able to pray, turn his work as a eunuch, as a person whose name has been changed to a demon god, and made it sacred, even though it was secular. That was probably the most secular environment I could think of. Joseph did the same thing. I think because we're carriers of his presence, our job is to transform the environment around us. And if everyone feels like it's secular but you bring the kingdom... Jesus said the finger of God is upon you, and now the finger of God is touching that secular environment and has made it a sacred place. Jacob said, wow, this rock is none other than the gateway between heaven and earth, now this is the house of God, I'm going to call it Bethel, it was a certain place but God has made it into an awesome place. So he turned the ordinary into the extraordinary.
So, I'm not really sure that the lines are as... they're more blurry for me, and I think that religious tradition makes it... we love neat things. I'm as obsessive compulsive as the next. We love neat compartments, but God does not want to be compartmentalized. Jesus turned the disciples' breaking the sabbath, grabbing corns of grain in their hands into a sacred moment of teaching even though they were under attack from “sacred leaders” who watched what they were doing. So, I'm really slow to call something sacred or secular. I think that if it is given a label then it is usually a temporary label that man gave it until the kingdom of God could come in and transform it... because I think God loves every aspect and dynamic of society. We are to be a light on a hill and salt and light and all that, but he said, I'm going to send you out as wolves in sheep's clothing. That tells me that he wants to take these sacred people, his priests, and get them out in the secular.