I am still posting from the North American Christian Convention in Orlando. As usual, the program has been outstanding and I have enjoyed the speakers. I think the best one was Dr. Jerry Taylor, who spoke for the main session on Wednesday morning. Dr. Taylor is a professor at Abilene Christian University, a Church of Christ school. He has been having a visible role at the NACC the last few years. To show you how much I enjoyed his message, I will admit that I actually coughed up money to buy the DVD (a rare thing for me).
Dr. Taylor preached on Isaiah 5:1-7, the “Song of the Vineyard.” This text tells the story of the Lord’s relationship with ancient Israel, comparing it to a man who develops a vineyard.
I will sing for the one I love
a song about his vineyard:
My loved one had a vineyard
on a fertile hillside.
He dug it up and cleared it of stones
and planted it with the choicest vines.
He built a watchtower in it
and cut out a winepress as well.
Then he looked for a crop of good grapes,
but it yielded only bad fruit. (5:1, 2)
Dr. Taylor noted the great investment the Lord had in the nation of Israel, and the disappointing result: bad fruit. He then did an incredible thing: compared this scenario to the investment the Lord has in our nation, the United States of America. I usually do not buy the comparisons between Israel and the USA based on the Old Testament, but this one worked well. Dr. Taylor’s sermon was not an indictment of America as much as it was an indictment of the American church. He spoke of a situation of “black rage and white fear,” words that unfortunately resonate deeply with our current situation, a raging state of affairs that has its flames stoked by the inflammatory words of people who claim to be Christians. Dr. Taylor did not mention this, but if anyone needs evidence, consider the debate surrounding George Zimmerman, a white man who shot and killed a black young person in his neighborhood, Trayvon Martin. This seems more real to me when I realize that the incident took place in Sanford, Florida, a few miles north of where I am now blogging. Zimmerman seems to have acted from fear. The reaction of the black community has been outrage.
Dr. Taylor’s solution: return the church to the Lord. Give control of the Christian Church back to Christ. In the “entrepreneurial Restoration movement,” let God be God and Christ be Lord of his church. Absolute human control over the church needs to yield to divine control. As Dr. Taylor’s sermon refrain hammered home, “Return the Watchtower back to the Lord.” He is Lord of all of us, whether fearful or outraged, and our unity as a church, a movement, and a nation will only be found in submission to him.
One of the old mottoes of the Restoration movement was “When the church is one, the world will be won.” I am beginning to understand this differently. It was taught as if the goal of unifying the church was the first step in winning the world to Christ. Now I begin to see that these two are the same thing. When the church is one, the world is won. This unity is essential. We will never be, “One nation, under God, indivisible” as long as the church is fighting over politics, racisms, or other non-essentials. So let us return the watchtower to the Lord, for he is the King forever.
Nebraska Christian College