I am taking an early retirement.
No, I am not independently wealthy. No, I am not at the age where I can receive Social Security benefits (I'm 40). No, I am not quitting my job as a church planting pastor or as a representative with The Lost Cause Ministries.
I am retiring from the drama--the drama of the street evangelism community.
This does not mean that I am quitting street evangelism. Not by a long shot. Anyone who knows me knows that I am doing more evangelism as a church planter than I ever thought about doing when I was solely a street evangelist.
It means that I am retiring from the de facto position of policing the community. It's not my job.
Once upon a time, it was (quite literally) my job. I worked in a para-church ministry which helped establish evangelism teams across the United States and in eight other nations. I interviewed the leaders, prayed over establishing them, wrote resources for them, and received reports from them. I often intervened in issues related to evangelism. Occasionally I fired them from their unpaid positions. In the process I got to be known as a leader of leaders and as a result, I have hundreds of friends around the world who respect my thoughts on evangelism and theology. I spoke at conferences and churches across the country and in other countries. I helped organize large scale outreaches and wrote a book on evangelism. I have one more book in the works and an idea for a third.
As a result of my background in evangelism over the last eight years, I often find myself in the middle of drama. Sometimes it is theological--someone is bent on going heretical and I get a phone call or an email. Sometimes it is political or personal. Often it is methodological. In the past I had time for all of this stuff. I don't any more. I've already written all that I am going to write about the errors in
the street evangelism community. I am done.
Why? I'm a church planting pastor. I don't have time for any additional drama.
The evangelism that I do now is part of the process of gathering a body of believers for the purpose of worshipping the Lamb that was slain. I'm not primarily in the business of equipping any professing believer in evangelism. I am in the business of equipping Christ is King Baptist Church to do the work of the ministry. My responsibility and authority extends no further than that. And honestly, even when I was paid to do it, I never had any real authority to oversee evangelists anyway. That authority belongs to the local church alone.
I have no plans for correcting the errors that there are in the street evangelism community outside of what I can deal with here in our church. Street evangelists are not accountable to me. They are not accountable to any parachurch ministry. They are accountable to their respective local churches. I've found that when I try to correct people I have never met, the usual
response is something like, "Who do you think you are anyway?" Good
So, if you choose to neglect the local church, preach out of pride, interrupt your grandmother's funeral with an open-air sermon, carry sandwich boards with neon-light flames and a stadium amplification system, think all Calvinists are twice the sons of Hell as John Calvin (or Arminians are twice the sons of Hell as Arminius), and choose to divide with brothers in Christ over it, then have at it. I am not getting involved. My prayer is that the Lord will bring you to repentance. He doesn't need me to play the role of the Holy Spirit in your life. If you are one of His sheep, He will see you through to the end without my help. If you are not, then He can take care of that as well.
There are 150,000 in Syracuse, NY that need the gospel. There are 700,000+ in our county. These precious souls need evangelism, discipleship and a local church that is Biblical. There is enough to do here for a month of lifetimes. Yes, the world still needs the gospel and I will gladly take it to them where the mission is connected with a local church or church planting. But it is impossible for anyone to reach the world by himself. Hence, the need for the local church. Invest there and you will invest wisely.
A verse keeps rolling around in my head that is applicable here:
"...aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you." (1 Thess. 4:11).
So that's it. My resignation letter. I hope my friends will come by to visit me in my retirement and that we'll be able to preach together here in Syracuse. Your help is welcome and all retirees like to see old friends.