At our recent church family meetings, the elders discussed with the body our desire to remove financial support from a local parachurch ministry. While we believe this ministry is doing important work, they have intentionally and strategically chosen to keep the gospel on the sidelines and to speak about things that God hates as if they were merely neutral options. We understand that the reason they do this is for the so-called “greater good” of drawing people in so that they can then be ministered to. But as elders, we believe that if you are going to be a faith-based organization and you desire God to bless your work, that you must do things God's way and trust Him for the results. The Bible does not teach us to take matters into our own hands as if the ends justify the means. Our God is sovereign and is providentially working all things according to the purpose of His will. He only requires us to be obedient. Man-made strategies to “help” God out only manifest a lack of faith.
Sadly, the poison of pragmatism has affected this local parachurch ministry just as it has an untold number of churches and Christians. We have elevated "what works" (i.e. gets results) above faithful obedience to God— as if God needs our help to accomplish His will on earth.
What would it look like to trust in the sovereignty of God instead of the pragmatism of man? It would look like Abraham moments away from sacrificing his own son Isaac (Gen 22). It would look like Gideon leading 300 men against 135,000 Midianites (Judges 7). It would look like the Apostles going straight back to open-air preaching in the Temple immediately after being released from jail, instead of re-evaluating their approach for a more seeker-friendly option (Acts 5). It would look like John the Baptist calling out King Herod for his adultery even though Herod had the power to take his head (and he did! Mark 6). It would look like Ezekiel laying on his side for 430 days (Ez 4) and Isaiah preaching naked (Is 20) all because God commanded them to. It would look like Daniel's three friends standing in defiance of Nebuchadnezzar's statute, unwilling to even pretend to tie their sandals while everyone bowed down (Dan 3). It would look like Daniel opening his window and bowing in prayer three times a day for all to see after the king’s decree outlawed it (Dan 6). It would look like Noah and his sons building a massive ark for one hundred years when they had never even seen rain or a flood before (Gen 6). It would look like Jesus commissioning a small ragtag group of unimpressive disciples to go and disciple the nations to the ends of the earth (Matt 28).
The problem with pragmatism is that it only factors in what man can accomplish. Faith factors in what God can accomplish contrary to all human logic. Pragmatism seeks compromise for good results. Faith seeks after faithfulness no matter the immediate results. The lure of pragmatism in church ministry is that you often can get immediate results of bigger numbers and budgets and platforms, and this is always wrongly assumed to be God's blessing and therefore a vindication of their pragmatism. But God will not judge us by the results. God will judge us by our faithfulness in uncompromising obedience (1 Cor 4:2-5).
We at Wellspring are committed to trusting in the providence of God over the pragmatism of man. This is why we are confident in the proclamation of God’s Word into all spheres of life, because God has made clear that He works His will through His Word (Is 55:11). And God will only bless our efforts when we walk in faith, not “leaning on our own understanding” (Prov 3:5).
In the words of the abolitionist and sixth President of the United States, John Quincy Adams, “Duty is ours, results belong to God!”