Tuesday, January 17, 2012

I Pray that My Theology of God Will Never Be More Vital to Me than My Passion for God

"The African witches surrounded our South African home every day. They placed their ancient curses on me and my family because they didn't like us telling their fellow Africans about Christ. They painted themselves white, conducted blood rituals, and danced in circles as they invoked the dark spirits to do us harm. At first we prayed and asked God to protect us. Soon, there came a settled peace that "He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world." The African witches, however, kept coming to our house. Day after day they showed up to cast their spells. Finally, one of the young Africans whom we had led to Christ and was living with my family read from the Word and said to us, "I see here that Jesus says, 'Bless those that curse you...' We haven't yet blessed the witches!" We watched as our young convert to Christ walked out to the street with some water and said to the witches in their native tongue, "I've come to bless and help you. I commend you for your dedication to your cause. You come day after day to pronounce curses on us, curses that will never work, but you never give up. That's to be admired. Would you like some water? It's hot and I know you must be tired. Please know that if there is anything that you need or if there is something that we can do for you, just knock on our door and ask us. We will help. You are welcome to stay for dinner if you are hungry instead of going home." The witches stared at this Christian who blessed them as they cursed  him. Within a few minutes they left our house and have never returned."

The above story was told me this morning by a 31-year-old man named Jeff Reid; the witches were trying to curse him and his family. Jeff lives in South Africa in ghettos surrounding Capetown, ministering to the poor the gospel of Christ. I was introduced to Jeff this weekend by friends and fellow church members Bryan and Tara Riley. Jeff's passion spoke to me. When he was a seventeen-year--old drug addict, Jeff found himself in a California prison for men because of his crimes. One day a prison evangelist came and shared Christ with Jeff. The Holy Spirit took hold of Jeff through the preaching of the gospel and transformed him from the inside out. Jeff went to prison all tatted up, but the biggest tattoo he ever received was from the hands of God when the Holy Spirit tapped his heart. Having only the Bible to read for the next year, and going to prison 'church' with other convicts who had also come to faith in Christ while in prison, Jeff's Christian faith was fashioned in the crucible of America's prison system. Upon his release, Jeff didn't know any better but to go back to his old San Diego hangouts and share Christ with the people to whom he once sold drugs. Eventually Jeff felt God calling him overseas to share Christ with the poor in countries other than America. While in discipleship training sponsored by Youth With a Mission, Jeff met his wife Bethany. They are now ministering in the ghettos of South Africa through YWAM. Jeff speaks of Christ with an intimate passion. Their ministry base in South Africa is a former home of a notorious drug lord who had been the recipient of Jeff's love and "wanted to give to the missionaries" a place to minister. Jeff spoke to several groups at our church this weekend, and the story of the witches cursing him struck me because of the simplicity of taking Jesus at his word and doing it. Too many of us in America's Bible belt analyze, theorize, and systemetize the Bible instead of doing what the Bible says.

Jeff emphasized that sometimes we get so caught up in theology and having all the right answers that we miss the power of the Spirit through intimate relationship. Jeff recounted how at a discipleship conference for YWAM leaders,  a prominent theologian sought to demonstrate how to share Christ to antaganistic people. He took a group of trainees into the city and found a pretty rough, cynical crowd of young people. He began telling them of the Bible and Jesus. The theologian spoke at length, using his best rhetorical and intellectual skills. Finally, some guy shouted out, "If the Bible is true and evolution is not, then why do men have nipples?" The scholar, stumped for an answer, said, "You know I'll get back with you on that one." Though I laughed at the question of the skeptic as Jeff told me the story, what struck Jeff Reid was that nobody in the park came to Jesus through the scholar's arguments. He's also pretty sure that had the scholar actually come back with an answer to the nipple question, there still would have been no conversions to Christ.

On the other hand, in the city that same day,  a skateboarder who had recently come to faith in Christ was sharing Jesus with his friends. The skateboarder didn't know much theology. He wasn't an eloquent scholar like the theologian, but what the skateboarder did have was a passion for his friends to know Christ. He would simply walk up to fellow skateboarders and ask, "Hey, what would you say if I told you that the marijuana you are smoking to get high on is a sorry substitute for the real power that comes from God and gets you higher than a kite?" Curious, the skateboarders would ask for it to be demonstrated. The new believer would tell his friends what had happened to him when came to know Christ and after sharing the gospel he would take his friends by the shoulders and begin tenderly praying over them and asking the Holy Spirit to do for them what the Holy Spirit had done for him. Soon, the Spirit would take captive the heart of the sinner for whom the skateboarder was praying. Would it surprise you to know that the skateboarder was actually leading people to Christ through his passion to see lives changed while the theologian struggled to find an answer to the 'nipple question' in his passion to see minds changed?

I'm grateful for the reminder today that both theology and passion are important, but theology without passion is worthless. A passion to know God intimately and a desire to make God known personally transform the community around us. My prayer today is that my theology of God will never be more vital to me than my passion for God. 


Garen Martens said...

I wish I could have met Jeff. I have connections to South Africa and several dear friends who live there. I have been there once and wish to go back. It is a fantastic and diverse country.
Voodoo religion is prevalent there and is difficult to deal with. One of the beliefs of voodoo is that by having sex with an innocent baby transfers that innocence to the assailants heart. This causes baby kidnapping to be a major problem and my friends have had several close calls with their grandchildren. Crime is rampant and civilized life has been accosted by the lack of morals and discipline.
I pray that Jeff and his family are able to maintain their passion and that God blesses their work. I also pray for their protection.

wadeburleson.org said...


We are having Jeff back. I told Rachelle after I had breakfast with him, Bryan and Tara this morning that our entire church needed to hear his testimony and message. I anticipate he will speak in all four of our services sometime in March. I promise you that you will be blown away. Our men's group at 7:00 a.m. this morning was thoroughly challenged.

Anonymous said...

I was surprised by the last sentence of this post ("My prayer today is that my passion for God will never be more vital to me than my theology of God"). It was the opposite of what I expected.

It seems to me that there's a very vocal group of folks in the SBC these days that has a strong theology as well as a vibrant passion. The problem, in my opinion, is that their passion is for their reformed theology, more than for God.

Anonymous said...

Just to be clear, Pastor Wade, I think you are a great example of the right balance between a strong theology and a vibrant passion for God (and consequently, for people). Thank you for speaking up and speaking out, even when it's not the easiest path to take.

Tom Kelley said...

Where's the "Like" button? :)

Christiane said...

I think 'theology' affects how people come to perceive the 'image of God' in others.

The basis for respect of the dignity of all human persons is that they are made in the image of God, with souls given to them by Him.

But some theologies do not ask for people to recognize that dignity, and instead 'others' are seen without a connection being made that they are a part of the human family that descends from Adam, formed by the Hand of God.

Theology that teaches 'RESPECT' for other humankind brings with it a deep appreciation for the value of all human life, and of the profound dignity of being 'a son of Adam or a daughter of Eve'.

I hope that whatever 'theology' a Christian person follows, they can never look at another human being as unworthy of their concern, and their help, if God places that human being in their path injured at the side of the road.

We want a 'passion for God' that brings the light of Christ to 'others', not condemnation, judgment, and rejection.

Jeff Reid said...

Hi friends. I am Jeff Reid. If you are interested in more you can go to www.followthereids.com or www.community-transformations.com. Or you can email jeffandbethany@mac.com. Thank you for sharing this Wade. I treasured our time centered around Jesus together.

wadeburleson.org said...

Look forward to hosting you again Jeff!

Gene S said...

The magic with this story is the same magic of Ghandi and MLK = never forget to love and minister to your enemies!

Anonymous said...

Bro. Wade,
Like the Anon before me, I too am confused by your last sentence. It seems to negate the tenor of your post. Please Explain.

shadowspring said...


wadeburleson.org said...

"Like the Anon before me, I too am confused by your last sentence. It seems to negate the tenor of your post. Please Explain."

Anonymous, I am not seeing what you are seeing, but I attribute that to my poor communication skills. I see the last sentence as completely consistent with the entire tenor of the post.

The young convert did not know a great deal of theology, but he walked out of the house and simply and humbly DID what Jesus said. Instead of arguing over the meaning of "bless those who curse you," he did it.

Likewise, the theologian stumped over the nipple question was attempting to reach people theologically by convincing them in their minds of truth. The skateboarder, who knew very little theological truth, was reaching out to people in his passion for the lost.

My statement at the end is saying I wish to always have MORE passion FOR GOD (and people) than I do theology OF GOD. :)

Thanks for the question. I don't know that I have explained anything--for it seems I've just repeated what I've already said. But maybe, for those who know ,me personally and understand my bent toward theological precision, they now have through this post a better understanding of what is more important to me - knowing God than teaching about God.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for addressing my question. Your last sentence says "My prayer today is that my passion for God will never be more vital to me than my theology of God."
I interpreted that to mean that you valued theology over passion.
It seems to me that the word "ever" would be more appropriate than the word "Never" in that statement.

As one who has read your blog from day one, I know you to be a man of great passion and theological acuity.
I apologize for my misunderstanding.

wadeburleson.org said...


Oh my. I just now realized the two words were reversed. Laughing.

I'm the dense one.

Corrected!! :)


Rex Ray said...

Hey Wade!
Welcome to the club. :)

Your post is one of the most revealing to me that I rather argue theology than use it.

Victorious said...

I tried to find something profound to say that refutes these men's "theological anchor," but I'm so appalled that words fail me. Will their unethical, unscriptural agenda never end?

Color me very sad....

Victorious said...

Ooops! Posted this in the wrong place. :)