Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Frank Hamrick on God-Focused Ministry

During the first breakout session today at the Wilds Youth Workers' Conference, Frank Hamrick of Positive Action For Christ (my place of ministry) taught on "The Characteristics of a God-Focused Ministry." His session explained the full message of Romans 12:1-2, with particular emphasis on how the commands in this passage are grounded in "the mercies of God" as expounded in Romans 1-11.

Hamrick argued that we need to approach Scripture with a presupposition that its primary purpose is to reveal to us the glory of God Himself, with the result that we might know Him. He turned to the introductory words of both Genesis and Revelation as evidence that God's purpose is to reveal Himself. In past conversations, he and I have also talked about this theme in the introductions to Matthew, John, and Hebrews. (I also believe personally that the final verses of 2 Chronicles, which fall at the end of the Hebrew OT canon, are distinctly Messianic.) Hamrick also discussed John 5:39, in which Christ pointed out how Jewish legalism obscured God's purposes in Scripture.

So what are the characteristics of a God-focused (youth) ministry? Hamrick offers four suggestions. A ministry is God-focused when:
  • Its leaders recognize that the purpose of the Bible is primarily to reveal the glory of the Godhead and is only secondarily to teach men how to live.
  • Its leaders are preoccupied with revealing Him in every Scripture passage (John 5:39; Col. 3:1-10)
  • Its youth leave youth meetings in awe of God, not of Esther, David, Moses, or the speaker.
  • Its youth speak more of spiritual things than of material things.
These characteristics will begin to be manifested in our ministries when our preaching falls in line with the full force of Romans 12:1-2. Preaching must not be merely decisional ("present") or conformational ("do not be conformed to the world"). Preaching must be transformational ("by the renewing of your mind") It must be exaltational, not just expositional. (We cannot preach a text and miss what it reveals about God. If the text doesn't say something about God, our text is too narrow.) Preaching must also be doxological, not just pedagogical.

Update: I can't comment because I'm at the Wilds and can't access any Blogspot sites, although I can access to post and edit. Apparently, the Wilds' filter has classified Paleoevangelical as an "entertainment site." Ouch.

Response to Dave: First, I don't think it's insignificant that Paul says first that Scripture is profitable for doctrine. Without right doctrine, our reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness will be flawed. Second, is the maturity and equipping tied to the reason for the inspiration or to the four things for which Scripture is profitable? Also, is the maturity and the equipping the purpose or the result? Both? I'm genuinely asking. I'll also come back to that on my last point. Third, other texts specifically tie the teaching of Scripture to knowing God. Deuteronomy 6 and Psalm 78 are good examples of passages Hamrick teaches frequently in which knowing or remembering or fearing God are inextricably linked to His works, wonders, and words (commmandments, laws, etc. Sorry, couldn't resist the alliteration). I can't begin to catalog how many times Scripture says that God did or said something so that someone "might know that I am the Lord" (or other similar phrases). John was written so that we might believe. Fourth, I don't think that maturity and equipping for good works is equivalent to "how to live."

Finally, and this a key point, Hamrick's use of "primarily" should not be construed to mean that God-focused ministry does not teach people how to live. It does mean that we should not jump ahead to the results/behavior stage without establishing the essential theocentric foundation. His workshop tomorrow will flesh this out some more by explaining how godliness or maturity is the "ultimate purpose," but we too often bypass in our preaching the necessary steps toward this purpose and try to find shortcuts to conformity.


Dave said...

I am a little confused as to how the first point fits with 2 Tim 3:16-17. Doesn't this text explicitly state that the purpose of Scripture is "so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work"?

nz maori said...

Hi there everyone. 2 Tim 3:16-17 show both a primary aim and the ultimate goal of scripture. The ultimate (final)goal is that we may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works, but the primary (1st)aim of scripture is doctrine (rememberring that in Hebrew and Greek lists they always put the most important thing at the top of the list). Doctrine in its truest form can be summed up in five words - "What we believe about God." The reproofs, corrections and instructions can be summed up in four words (what is right and wrong) - these help us to live right but not if they are the focus. Jesus told the Pharisees "Search the scriptures for in them you think that you have life, and they are they which testify of me. He scolded them manytimes because although they knew right and wrong and tried to do right, their hearts were full of dead mens bones. This is the result of studyng scripture for the purpose of living right. This is why so many Christians live in defeat because like the pharisees, they think of the bible as a list of rules made to help you live right. On the contrary, Living right is the result of Holiness (separation unto God and from sin)but how do I do that? How do I become seaparated unto God from sin. I have to learn to love him. This is the first and great commanment in scripture, and all right living "hangs" on this, which means I can't be holy unless I love God first.The more I love Him the more separated to him and from sin I will become. But How do I love Him more? By getting to know him. YOu can't love someone unless you know them, and the more you know someone the more you will ether love or hate them, but with God, the more you know him the more you love him, you can do no other but love him as you get to know him becasue he is so awesome. Then how do I get to know him? I can only get to know him by seeing him as he is "High and lifted up" - As He reveals himself to me more and more, and as I come to see him in all of his glory, I will truly know him, and the more I see him as he is, the more I know him. So how do I see him as he is? How do I see God in His glory? The best way is to look into scripture and seek him out as I am reading and meditating upon it because all scripture is for...doctrine...that I may be perfect... unto all good works. This is explained by Paul in 2 Cor 3:18 - But we all with open face (without veil, as Moses was) beholding (seeing)as in a glass (the Word of God) the glory of the LOrd (as he really is)are changed (transformed)into the same image (to become holy as he is)from glory to glory (through varied stages) even as by the spirit of the Lord. God Bless