Closure as a Biblical concept

Recent conversations have reminded once again that the terms we use to define the task are not Biblical terms. They are barely Biblical concepts. We try to drive our understanding from Scripture, but these measures are always lacking in some way. It seems very clear (at least to me) from Scripture (Matt 28 and 24 are our go-to passages, always, but Rev 7:9 and pieces from the OT etc fit in as well) that we have been given a task. This task involves both proclamation of the Good News and disciple-making. There’s even a big, tantalizing, mysterious carrot for us: Matthew 24:14 can be read to indicate when the task is done, Jesus comes back. (Maybe.)

We know what Scripture records of how Jesus did things, but even Scripture tells us the record isn’t complete. (End of John.) And we don’t want to get “too locked in” to things we shouldn’t be locked in on. Jesus didn’t do Twitter – but then Twitter wasn’t around in those days. Would he have done Twitter if it had been? Eh…

Here’s an analogy: it’s as if I headed out the door, and as I headed out the door, I told my kids to do the dishes before I got back. (Rough analogy.) I didn’t tell them precisely HOW to do the dishes. So, what do they have to judge whether the task I have given them is complete? They have basically how I’ve done the dishes in the past (my example) and how I’ve shown them to do the dishes in the past.

When I said “do the dishes” did I mean just the ones in the sink? Did I mean to scour the house for every last dish? Did I mean to re-wash all the dishes in the cupboard? It’s only obvious if you know me – and even then, there can be some ambiguity.

When we define “closure” and “unreached” and “unevangelized” and “the 10/40 Window” and “non-Christian” and all these terms… we are getting into messy and murky waters. It’s not that we shouldn’t try and define the task – definition precedes doing and measuring. But we should realize that in many ways we are making up our own measures to try and describe “the things we have seen and heard.”

(Really, we’re describing the things we see and hear as recorded in Scripture…)

People will quarrel and argue and fight over these definitions when maybe we should hold them very loosely.

My general rule of thumb is: let’s take a definition and do it. And if Jesus doesn’t come back, let’s just take another, deeper, definition, and do that. And let’s allow for mystery and muddiness and murkiness in the waters while we do, and be humble and charitable about our work.

“Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the ark. Professionals built the Titanic.”While I completely agree with the idea of trying something new, I think we can find a better quote. I really dislike this one.

  • It’s not a true apples-to-oranges comparison. We don’t really know what the inside of the ark was like, but it was essentially a big box that had to do only one thing: preserve the lives of those inside it from sinking within a period of time.
  • We don’t know the actual skill level of Noah, in terms of construction. But based on the story it’s far more likely that he was provided whatever instruction he was required by God. It’s not like he was an amateur who tried a really big project on his own, without any help, and got it right the first time.
  • The ark likely didn’t encounter icebergs. If the Titanic had to do what the Ark did, it probably would have been just fine.
  • This quote points out the one “big” success of a boat, and the one “big” failure. It conveniently excludes the tens of thousands of boats (more?) built by professionals.
  • The biggest fear people have of trying something new is that they might fail. This quote suggests astronomical success is possible. The bigger challenge is being willing to try, fail, learn from failure, and try again. Professional boat-builders learn from the Titanic.

What I find really bad about this quote: it suggests amateurs can do things professionals can’t because they are amateurs. The implication is that amateurs will inevitably succeed while stuck-in-the-mud professionals will inevitably fail. Yes, one good thing about being an amateur in a situation is that you might see things differently – that you might see an out-of-the-box solution to a problem. But implementing that solution with excellence will, if you pursue it, likely make you into a professional, an expert. Professionals become professionals by training and experience – by learning and doing – by getting their 10,000 hours (or so) of experience. By earnestly seeking to be better. That’s nothing to be ashamed of.

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