A Tale of Two Pharaohs

If you’re planting a church, you do it in interesting times.
In the words of an American prophet, “The times they are a changin’ ‘” Further he sang, “Keep your eyes wide open, the chance won’t come again.” Good advice at any time, but especially now.

Two pharaohs—one got it, the other didn’t

One man was wise enough to listen to a prisoner/prophet recently hauled from his own dungeon. His humility saved a nation. The other hardened his heart against an even greater display of God’s power and he was the one who would “sink like a stone” because the times were changing.
Slog through Facebook and note the leaders reacting against our changing times. Many with hard hearts and ears that do not hear.

Rewards for the Astute

The “new normal” is not only about how to run church after COVID-19. We’re in a social tsunami not seen since the late 1960s when Dylan wrote those fateful words. Life drastically changed in those times. On the one hand the Civil Rights Movement was good as was getting out of an eternal war in Vietnam. The Jesus Movement brought millions into faith, paving the way for today’s megachurches. But we also experienced the onset of drugs, new sexual mores, rampant divorce, abortion, lost faith in government, etc, etc, etc.
Life in a “Leave it to Beaver” pre-1960 world happened. I know because I grew up in one culture and lived as an adult in another. As the wheel turned, enormous change rewarded the humbly astute while punishing prideful keepers of status quo. So, what to do?

Discernment and Humility are Brothers

Ask God for a discerning heart and a double-dose of humility for starters.
Consider, “the sons of Issachar who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do.” That description appears in scripture as the torch slowly passed from Saul to David. They lined up with the new social order before anyone could have fully understood it.
Here’s the deal. They knew when God was moving in a different direction than he had in their recent past. They could discern which leader had God’s hand of blessing. They basically reacted with humility during two waves of radical social upheaval.
Decades earlier, the tribe of Issachar (one of just six out of 12) had the wisdom to throw in with Deborah and Barak in a revolution against an oppressive enemy nation. Deciding to follow a woman in such times was hardly a trendy thing to do.
I wonder if these guys would wear masks in public? Would they press for the right to public assembly in the face of a pandemic? Would they condemn protesters because of the criminal acts of a few? Would they try to defund police departments without a thought for the consequences? Would they bow to China because of economic convenience? Would they try to reconstruct the recent past?
Or, would they watch and pray as opportunities inevitably present themselves in times of tumult? Would they read the news with an eye for whatever God might be doing under the surface? Might what seems the steps and missteps of human leaders look like the hand of God to them?

Open, Rejoicing and Ready to Lead

Another thought brings Paul to mind when he wrote to the Philippians. Humility kept him open, and rejoicing, over whatever outcome he faced at trial. He held the heart and poise of a leader writing under great duress.
Guess it’s all in how you see it. One pharaoh was willing to listen—trade some short-term pain for later gain. The other sank like a stone. The times they truly are ‘a changin.’
So what opportunity do you see in the maelstrom of change? Do black lives matter to you? Are you a masker or a refuser? Why? Could you do church if we never got to go back in the building? I’ll read and post your comments—I promise!

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10 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Pharaohs”

  1. Another home run message. As usual you cause me to ruminate and prayerfully challenge my heart and mind to “hear” what Gods is saying and presently doing. Thank you

  2. This post is fantastic! Great perspectives that, when taken in total, can help us all see a way forward. Ralph, you really said a lot with very few words, and it is my hope that folks go back for seconds. I know I did…

    1. Thanks Jimi,
      Look forward to having you on the podcast this week (July 24). Very interested in your thoughts about race in America as a former rock star turned church planter your insights are unique and worthy of our attention. You’ve seen things from vistas most of us can’t fully imagine.

  3. I believe with all my heart that we can do church even if we don’t get to go back into the buildings. The church is people, people is the church. The church can be a church in a house, in a park, by the river side, basically; anywhere. Congregational worship does not make it a church. It is only a church when it expresses the love of Jesus to one another and to the world.

  4. robert gilbert

    It is absolutely possible if you can get together a small team of people who still remember their first love. anything else at the moment complicates the situation. To even go in the direction of “personal relationship” has red flags. I know too many people who has a personal relationship that started and ended some 30 years ago with a prayer and ended with a prayer.

    Why first love? I have been working as a sacristan in the catholic church looking for a change or create a change. My goal that I set up was get these people together and with all this mass stuff and scripture stuff and results as seeing people finally get a gathering, I hoped to hear something about jesus. We even and I say “we” realized there must be change. We got a younger board from this group of people. What happens. They repeat all the stuff before. I even told the kids in a hard discussion; you guys are just catholic. The older ones who know that something is more important; say back, yeah, we’re catholic.

    BUT what I am learning through all that I am reading, somehow, our first love needs to get us through this time. Based on covid, we might find ourselves as individuals dealing alone with this world. We had a taste of how covid can isolate humans. If we move it to a more isolating situation, christians (i say christians) may find themselves even more isolated in what is going on in the world.

    I think we will see isolation move to other stages. I think when I have my mask on and am on the street; you cannot just go and talk to someone, BUT I have found people are aching for a conversation. They just have not found the comfortable place.

    We were doing laps in the pool in the early morning as we did our laps, the others and us which were few started up a conversation.

    One older woman said, “it is just so nice to talk to someone. To see someone’s face and talk to them.” she talked about her grandkids. I presume her husband must not be there anymore.

    There is a urge for people to want to talk if you can ring up a conversation. It is hard to talk with a mask. We are moving to the next stage of no masks, but keep distance.

    In the world of small, there are and will be people just hurting for a conversation and just for someone to listen.

  5. Patrick Smith

    Is 1 Cor.10:23-24 relevant to wearing masks? As I understand it a mask mostly protects other people from the wearer, as he or she may be asymptomatic.(Especially if it is not possible to maintain a 2m “social distance”.)

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