Ock-en-gay who?

I was kicked back in this incredibly comforter rocker that I think belonged to Carolyn’s great grandmother. Or maybe she just says that to make sure I treat it well, I don’t know. Sam and I are watching Colts come-from-behind win over the Patriots, rooting on the Patriots. My beloved wife is yelling and pacing the floor, pulling for the Colts. She knows nothing about the Colts except that "Payton Manning deserves to go to the Superbowl." Sam and I both love the Patriots… I digress.

While I’m watching the game, I’m catching up on some back issues of magazines, one of them being Christian History & Biography. Since it’s redesign pulled it out of the 70s, it’s even more of an enjoyable read to this graphic designer. I am totally enthralled in the Fall ’06 issue, that features the history of the evangelical movement, contrasting it with the resurgent fundamentalist movement. Names like Billy Graham and Bill Bright I recognized, but there were dozens of others, particularly Harold Ockenga (pronounced Ock-en-gay) who had a huge impact on the evangelical movement in this country and abroad, that I’m ashamed to admit, I knew nothing about.

I began to reflect on my ignorance. It took a while because there’s so much of it. (No hearty "Amen’s," please)

I was in Southern Baptist churches from the time of the womb to 2003. Let’s just mark down 35 years for argument’s sake. I wasn’t just a pew sitter. I was involved. We’re talking a Sunday-School-every-Sunday-snack-supper-before-youth-choir-then-discipleship-training -yes-I-memorized-my-verses-Sunday-night-service-going-occasional-after-church-fellowship -state-Bible-drill-winner-youth-committee-Wednesday-night-supper-youth-group-regular-and-leader -Baptist-college-attending-and-loving-finally-seminary-trained kind of involved here.

And I never heard of Harold Ockenga. Nor had I heard of many of the of the other leaders, except through references in literature the last few years. I began to come to an uncomfortable conclusion there in my easy chair. I have been sheltered. And not in a good way.

The denomination of my upbringing practiced withdrawal and isolation from the world, attempting to create an alternative society based on strict interpretation of the Bible. I believe many in the SBC still practice (and preach) this exclusionary philosophy. Perhaps they appeal to 2 Corinthians 6:17, (which quotes Isaiah 52:11): ""Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE," says the Lord. "AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; And I will welcome you."

I like how succinctly Scofield put it in his notes on this verse, "Separation is not from contact with evil in the world or the church, but from complicity with and conformity" with it.

My conclusion was that my spiritual heritage – the tribe to which I belonged – gave me great biblical understanding and helped expose me to great scriptural teaching, but it did little to nothing to encourage or equip me to engage the culture in which I live. This approach is fantastic is the metaphor for life continues to be that of a classroom. However, it’s not good if the metaphor for life is something different.

I don’t think Jesus ever compared the kingdom of heaven to something akin to a classroom. Rather, he described it in organic terms, like a mustard seed, a treasure hidden in a field, yeast, a fishing net, a merchant looking for fine pearls, etc. The kingdom of heaven in Jesus’ analogies always seem to involve action, engagement, and value to everyone involved in searching for it.

Now, before you ignoramuses (or is it ignorami) start gleefully clapping your hands, thinking that this gets you out of personal Bible study or meditation, just calm down, slap yourself, and think again.

The whole point of what I’m saying is this: I’ve missed out on a lot; but I’ve been given a lot. I sincerely believe that God is raising up a new movement in our nation and this world that will re-engage with the people of our culture. Rather than being consumed by our church activities and programs, this new movement will be consumed by bringing God the most glory. The leaders in this movement will seek the engage their communities in which they live with all they’ve got. You may never see their faces in a national publication or hear their names in the same sentence as a Max Lucado or Louie Giglio, but they will have as much or greater impact on the kingdom of God and our culture.

A generation behind us worked desperately to get the church to come out of its classroom and minister to the world rather than its pews. Their movement may have run aground (or even run astray) as they promoted climatic crusade-type events as the main tool to reach the world’s people. Discipleship was alarmingly absent in those days. It’s created a famine of discipleship in our day. However, at least they tried.

Now it’s our turn. Let’s not be ignorant any longer. Let’s move forward. Let’s press on and engage, with love our neighbors and our world.

4 Responses to “Ock-en-gay who?”

  1. Jim January 22, 2007 at 7:23 pm #

    Oh, yeah…great post! I’ve been waiting on this one! It seems that everywhere my family and I have been called to serve, it has always been overwhelmingly proven to us that we are anywhere from 5 to 10 years ahead of the ‘church’ process at that given time. We’ve struggled and struggled with this. I guess that’s one of the many reasons that I’m glad we’re in a ‘reality’ ministry. One that’s currently rooted in the ‘now’, racing toward the future. Thanks for this post!

  2. dean January 25, 2007 at 2:04 am #

    i agree with jim. not to have a one track mind here lately, but back in the early 90’s while in seminary, we had to read the george barna book “frog in the kettle”. the book plays off the premise of the church being akin to a frog in a kettle full of water. if you were to throw a frog into a kettle of very hot water, it would jump out becaue of the extreme difference in ambient temperature. however, if you threw a frog into a kettle of room temperature water and slowly turned up the heat, the frog would not notice the change in water temp, and he would meet his demise in the boiling hot water. it is this type of failure to recognize change the that is slowky taking place in society taht keeps the church from beng effective in the world.

  3. Jacques June 14, 2007 at 6:24 pm #

    Very interesting and challenging. Possiblty a great deal of correct thinking. Could lead to some major changes.

    Barna’s observation is quite insightful—unless, of course, you’re the frog.

    The changes that have occurred have not necessarily promoted the “Glory to Christ” that should be the goal of all of us. Tragically, I’m afraid that in many instnces “the baby has been thrown out with the bathwater. There were a lot of us who went through most all of the same program as yourself without the disconnect that you recall. We recall Harold and Oswald Chambers, Jim Elliott, Nate Saint, and many others not of our own Denominational setup. That being said, there was a major pre-occupation with “self-contained worlds” that failed to notice the “water was getting warm.

    Interesting thoughts.


  1. Notes from the Trail » Harold Ockenga… - January 22, 2007

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