Sunday, April 14, 2024

The Prophetic Voice of Keith Drury

Celebrating Keith Drury (1)
Keith Drury the Churchman (2)
Keith Drury and the Department of Religion (3)
Keith Drury and Wesley Seminary (4)
To the Present (5)

As far as I know, Keith didn't leave a prophetic letter for us who remain. "To the seven churches of America." But somehow I felt like a tribute to Keith's life wouldn't be complete if it only looked back. Keith had a prophetic voice. What would he say to the church as it looks forward? 

Obviously, it is me making an educated guess at what he would say. I could get it wrong.

To the Boomer Generation
Keith was born in July of 1945. The war in Europe was over. The war in the Pacific soon would be. Perhaps then he was just shy of being a Boomer. 

But I remember hearing some of his thoughts on this generation of the church. One critique was of large church pastors who spent their whole career snubbing the church, on the periphery of the church, almost leaving the church, practically mocking the church. But then, in the twilight of their ministries, suddenly wanting to reshape the church to be what they want it to be, to force it into their likeness.

That leads to a second critique I remember hearing. This is the difficulty of stepping aside and letting the next generation lead. Keith modeled this. There was a clear point in the later days of his teaching when he stopped posting for his Tuesday Column and very rapidly started yielding to those who would come after. It seemed a high value to him for a person to pass the torch at their peak rather than to hang on to their position until all the good they did was almost undone by overstaying.

In a sense, this is not your church to unravel. It would be deeply unfair for you to deconstruct the church as your final act. You may have run your own show in your church, but the rest of us need each other. Not only that, we want each other. We want to stay together as more than a loose connection of associated and semi-independent churches. Retire and let the Xers and millennials lead -- and leave them something to lead.

To the Millennials
You know what Keith would say to you because you've been emailing him and private messaging him for a couple decades now. He trained many of you for ministry. In fact, I'm guessing most of those who are likely to lead in the future studied under Keith at some point.

My guess is, many of you have been disappointed by the church somewhat in this last decade. Perhaps you've even been smacked around a little by the church. You used to be idealists. You used to have a dreamy idea of what ministry would be like. The reality has perhaps driven some of you away.

But don't lose heart, those of you who have stayed the course, some of you barely holding on. Your moment is at hand. Consider returning, those of you doing something else, unsure of what your prior calling meant. Soon it will be your job to bring healing to the church. Bind the church back together. Love the church out of its fractionalism. Find a path between the extremes. Call the church back to its core values and mission.

The church goes in cycles, and it has seen this cycle before. The 60s made the church feel guilty for its lack of substantive engagement with the world. It lashed out with culture wars in the 70s and 80s to make itself feel better about itself. But then in the 90s and 00s, the core message of Jesus emerged again. Robert Webber wrote about these "younger evangelicals" in 2002. The smoke of this moment will clear again.

To Gen Z and Beyond
While many in your generation might mark "none" for their religion, those of you who remain have a fervor that the church sorely needs. You are on fire to worship the Lord. You're not distracted by politics or ancient battles you can't even understand. All you know is that you love and believe in Jesus, and you want as many other people as possible to know Jesus too.

Let me introduce you to a man who was named Keith Drury. He was one who brought large groups of young people together to worship Jesus and then get some Holy Spirit to go change the world for Christ. He had this sense of getting a calling from God at these gatherings, a call to go share the good news with people and minister to them. Did you go to Follow? Did you go to Fusion or Never Too Young or Never the Same? Then you were experiencing something that this man really started.

He started this thing called Ezekiel's Wheels, where young people would bike around the country sharing the good news with people. You all have boundless creativity to go and invent all sorts of creative ways to spread the word that the real Christ is good news. You can renew the name of Christ as something pure and good and real. Ignore the voices that don't make sense. Listen to the Holy Spirit and let him show you want he wants to do through you in the church in this next generation.

To the Wesleyan Church
Don't give up on each other. Jesus gave authority to the church to bind and loose (Matt. 16:19). This was a key insight of Keith. God has given the church the authority to apply the principles of the Bible to this time in a Spirit-led way that is specific to this moment. Sometimes that means we go stricter on an issue than they did in Bible times. Sometimes it means that we go looser. 

Whether or not we drink isn't as simple as whether they drank in Bible times. We are not in Bible times. Whether or not we have a trust clause or call something a "local board of administration" isn't as simple as whether they had one or called something one in New Testament times. We are not in Bible times. The Bible was written for the people of God at particular times and places. 

Today is also a particular time and place. The church today requires the Spirit of God applying the spirit of Scripture to our times. We are forced to work out our salvation with fear and trembling and to do it today because the Bible doesn't say, "Now to those of you living 2000 years from now in America."

So grow up. Stop bickering over alcohol and find a way through it. If you don't drink, do it for the Lord. If you drink, do it for the Lord. Let each be fully convinced in his or her own mind (Rom. 14:5). 

Grow up in your understanding of Scripture. Stop borrowing all your thoughts from what you're reading on the internet or what some other cool megachurch is doing. God has called us as Wesleyans to contribute to the broader church. We don't have to be driven and tossed by all the winds outside us. Surely there are enough Wesleyans who are wise enough among us to have an insight of our own. Keith surely wasn't the last prophet among us.

The World
Whenever there were elections, Keith's father would say, "I wonder who they'll elect as their president this year." It instilled in him a core understanding that our kingdom is not of this world. If you identify your faith too exclusively with one or the other political party, you probably have infected your faith with elements foreign to the gospel. 

We are in the world, but we are not of the world. Turn off the media and spend more time reading Scripture. Spend some more time praying. Spend more time meeting together, worshiping and fellowshiping with other believers. Spend more time serving those outside the church. 

There can be some "world" in what the church thinks is its distinctiveness. And there can be some "church" in what the world thinks is its own virtue. Pray that the Spirit lead us into all truth, so that we can recognize God's moving in the world and recognize the Devil's moving in the church.

None of this is an individual or a private task. In the end, There Is No 'I' in Church. We have to work it out together (Phil. 2:12).

1 comment:

Sun and Shield said...

Sensible epistles.