Introduction and Interaction

Part of the beauty of social networking websites, despite their manifold dangers, is the potential for reconnection and even reconciliation with long-missed friends. Facebook allowed me to reconnect with my best friend from West Point, (now) Major Ray Kimball.

Ray Kimball is a Major in the US Army whose operational experience includes counterdrug operations on the Mexican border, peacekeeping in the Balkans, and high-intensity combat in Iraq. He is a Charter Member of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the nation’s first and largest group dedicated to Troops and Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Recently he wrote an article entitled, “Mission First: What BOTH Candidates Get Wrong.” I highly recommend that you check it out. In it, he interacts with the following two quotes.

Senator Obama (in Army Times): “I don’t know a higher [military] priority than making sure that the men and women who are putting themselves in harm’s way, day in and day out, are getting decent pay and decent benefits … These are just basic requirements of a grateful nation.

Senator McCain (on his website): “There can be no higher defense priority than the proper compensation, training, and equipping of our troops.

Patrick Mead, Ben Overby, and I share a deep and abiding affection for and spiritual commitment to the soldiers of our free nation. If I knew then what I know now, I would never have sacrificed the opportunity to minister directly to those brave men and women as a military chaplain. But that’s yesterday. What about today?

I won’t spoil either Ray’s presentation of the problem or his solution by quoting it here. PLEASE go read it, and think about it in context of the following quote from Brad Harrub (who is my scapegoat SIMPLY BECAUSE he is the last person I heard say it; it is a common conviction in our brotherhood).

“The #1 Goal in my life is to make sure I go to heaven.” – from 7 Reasons We’re Losing Our Children and How to Save Them DVD, Focus Press

I’ve heard this phrase, suspiciously unaccompanied by Scriptural support, time and time again from pulpits across the South (not to suggest that it isn’t prevalent elsewhere; I just haven’t been in CoC assemblies elsewhere). And yet Paul understands his mission and his identity in such a way that he can say such things as Romans 9:3.

We’re deeply confused at the level of identity and mission.

in HIS love,



About Nick Gill

orphan-poet-adoptee-soldier-prodigal-servant-husband- counselor-desperate seeker after my Father's face "I feel my body weakened by the years as people turn to gods of cruel design. Is it that they fear the pain of death, or is it that they fear the joy of life?" - Toad the Wet Sprocket

Posted on 21 July, 2008, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Hey Nick,
    When I have a minute or two I love to check your blog. How ’bout saying that a priority in life is to seek “a better country- a heavenly one”?

    God bless, Gardner

  2. Welcome back, Gardner! Your work is in my prayers, and I always look forward to hearing from you.

    My problem with both of those ways of stating the mission are that they are me-centered, and they are deeply distrustful of God’s power and desire to save.

    The mission of Jesus was not to get himself to heaven.

    The mission of Paul was not to get himself to heaven.

    Remember that, even in the language of the Hebrew writer, we are to follow Jesus outside the camp.

    Our mission is to warn and prepare the world for Jesus’ appearance, for the coming of the heavenly city.

    My problem is not with the idea of craving eternal communion with YHWH God. It is with centering my identity and mission on myself.

  3. Nick,
    See your point and it’s well taken. I think that searching for a heavenly city is following the example of godly men like Abraham, but I think that your point is that such a desire should bring on a primary focus on Christ and serving others. I guess I think that the sentiments of the hymn, “I want a mansion just over the hilltop” probably represent the self-centered attitude you are questioning. Thanks, Gardner

  4. The language of seeking and searching fits the Christian life far better than the idea of protecting a precious treasure.

    Even when Scripture uses the language of inheritance, it says that the worst thing to be done with the inheritance is to guard it.

    You read me LOUD AND CLEAR about “mansion over the hilltop” theology. When even the word ‘mansion’ is the fruit of terrible mistranslation…

    keep praying for me and helping me sharpen my understanding of our mission in Christ…

  5. Good post, great reminder that things are not always the way the “seem” to be. I will definately read the article.


  6. All right, Nick. You mentioned over at that we are guilty of presenting the church as place to get rather than to give. And you asked how we might change that.

    Here are a few ideas:

    * Require new members/converts to sign a membership covenant, as Saddleback does.

    * Tell the new member/convert that Christianity is all about service to others, self-sacrificial service where you wind up on the giving end more often than not.

    * Ask the new member/convert to commit to a life of service in the Kingdom.

    * Develop a congregational ethos of saying yes. “When we at XYZ church are asked to participate in something, we always say yes!”

    * Service, therefore, takes priority over many of the things that take up the time and energies of the world. We schedule life around service, not the other way around. Where we work, what activities we participate in, what we sign our children up for … everything that seems normal and every day is sacrificed on the altar of taking up our cross for Jesus.

    * We raise our children with a service mentality. In fact, we encourage our members to raise their children to be missionaries, ministers, church planters, or vocational ministers who work outside the church but dedicate time to world-changing programs.

    * We expect to lose 20% or more of our congregation from the transition but believe that God will bless our work —

    (Luke 6:38) “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

  7. Look at that! Practical steps towards living out the ethos taught and modeled by Jesus, an ethos of compassion, at the congregational level.

    The only thing I woould add is demanding from ourselves a commitment to cease “bait & switch” evangelism. We’ve got to stop hooking people with “look what Jesus will do for you” and then, after we get them wet, hitting them with “ask not what your Savior should do for you….”

    Thank you, Jay, for participating in my Fumbling journey.

    In HIS love,

  8. Nick,

    I’m really glad that you’ve got time to do more writing. Your insights are always inspiring.

    “I’ve got a mansion, just over the hilltop,” sums up the gospel of westernized Christianity. The “good news” is that one day you can escape earth and zoom off to a land where you get a great big mansion! Yahoo. It’s a blend of Platonism with a half dose of capitalism all stirred together with barely a sprinkle of scripture.

    Referencing a recently deceased fellow, last night someone on TV said, “He’s been promoted to heaven.”

    I looked at Kim and said, “If I die tomorrow DO NOT LET ANYONE GET AWAY WITH SAYING ‘HE’S BEEN PROMOTED TO HEAVEN.'”

    Heaven isn’t a promotion. For humans, it’s a place for disembodied spirits–the place we go when we die, a paradise where we wait for the resurrection of the body and what we know as “life.” In heaven, we can’t be fully human. After heaven, we’ll inherit humanness to the full as God’s dominion and earth become one.

    To die is gain, not promotion.

  9. Don’t forget the other half… “We’ve got to save the world because God sent Jesus, and then they went on vacation.”

    I’m making myself write, whether I have time for it or not! 🙂 I’m glad someone enjoys having my thoughts inflicted upon them.

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