I was reflecting yesterday on the prideful goofiness that so often marks my life and it reminded me of a show I used to watch as a kid. The show was called "The Greatest American Hero," and the premise of the show revolved around a schoolteacher named Ralph Hinkley. Ralph was minding his own business on a school field-trip when aliens dropped out of the sky and gave him a superhero suit. This suit basically made him Superman, and his charge from the aliens was to go about doing good and fighting evil. There was only one problem. As Ralph was leaving the scene, he lost the instruction booklet to the suit. This meant that he sort of bumbled along learning how to use his powers by trial and error. If Ralph ever stopped evil, it was usually as by an accident of his gifts, not because of their skillful use.
I think that evangelicals like myself are about as close to the reality of the Greatest American Hero that you will ever see. Though we give great homage and honor to the Bible, most are about as knowledgeable about its contents as Ralph Hinkley was the instructions to his "red jammies." Even those who are familiar with doctrine often disregard truth for pragmatism with impunity. The resulting comedy is to watch pastors flail about like Hinkley in flight. We think that we are accomplishing great things for the kingdom via movement, and sometimes we actually do get things accomplished. We just don't realize how idiotic we look to the casual observer, and we are oblivious to how much easier it would be if we took a little time to study the instructions.
Take, for example, a sincere Christian moved to do missionary work. They may have 50 wrong motivations for doing so. They may go because they feel sorry for the people of the world who are "starving for the gospel." Even a cursory understanding of theology ought to be enough to reveal that, far from being gospel-hungry, people actually bear great animosity to God and His Christ. We do not take into account the great depravity of man, nor the cultural tribulation that will result in this endeavor. Yet off we go, flying haphazardly to the far reaches of the globe to preach the gospel, armed with power of the Holy Spirit. It turns out that He is sufficiently powerful to overcome any obstacles despite our comedy of errors.
Whilst we are busy crashing into walls through ignorance and folly, the Holy Spirit is busy blessing the gospel we can barely handle coherently. Often, the result is that folks are actually brought into the kingdom, though this is often accomplished in spite of and not so much because of the messenger. To compound the comedy, it is often the case that the messenger then begins to think that it was actually his method that brought about the desired result in the people. Other Great American Heroes then begin to emulate the quirks of another, and so the entire movement is engulfed with pastors looking more like a flying Bozo than Superman.
I am still learning to walk in the Spirit by faith each day, and I confess that I am often more Ralph Hinkley-like than Christ-like. I am also quite glad that the glory of God is manifested through the power and message of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and that clowns like myself are given such an amazing gift as the Holy Spirit. I simply lament that we do not pay more attention to and have more faith in the instructions God has so graciously provided.
And yes, I do actually sit around and think about stuff like this.
I am a pastor serving in my hometown of Albertville, Alabama. The greatest evidence of God's grace in my life are my wife, son, and daughter. One look at me and then my wife will tell you that her "yes" was a modern day miracle. Otherwise, I am almost completely mundane.