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D.L. Lowrie urges Midwesterners against ‘slop-bucket’ Christianity

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–Ministry should be typified by love for Christ, the presence of the Holy Spirit and a sanctified determination which avoids “slop-bucket” Christianity, D.L. Lowrie said.
Lowrie’s observations came during Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s annual week of preaching, Sept. 1-5 on the Kansas City, Mo., campus. Lowrie, who spoke for an hour each morning, is pastor of First Baptist of Lubbock, Texas, and a former executive director-treasurer of the Tennessee Baptist Convention and for the that state’s Baptist convention and director the state missions commission of the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
Drawing from four separate New Testament texts in calling ministers to holiness and endurance, Lowrie in his first message called attention to Jesus’ re-commissioning of Peter as recorded in John 21. He noted how the Lord’s question to Peter, “Do you love me?” preceded Peter’s ministry assignment of feeding Christ’s sheep.
“It is so easy to get so preoccupied with ministry that you forget what ministry is all about,” Lowrie told students. “It can happen in the pastorate. You’re still feeding sheep, but you’ve forgotten the question that preceded that: ‘Do you love me?'”
Just as love precedes ministry, it also qualifies ministry, Lowrie said.
“For ministry to have any value or any significance, it must be the expression of love. Jesus knew that if Peter was to minister in his name, then Peter must do what he did because he loves the Chief Shepherd, not the sheep.”
Finally, Lowrie suggested that Jesus’ comments in John 21, which move from love to ministry to talk of Peter’s death, indicate it is love that sustains ministry in the face of hardship and difficulty.
“There’s not a man who’s been in the ministry very long who’s not had some days he wanted to quit,” said Lowrie, relating the story of a young minister who faced opposition within his church. “I’ll tell you what will keep you when you don’t want to keep going. It’s a love for the Lord. It’s love for Jesus Christ supremely. That’s the reason you get in the ministry in the first place, and that’s the thing that will keep you there. That’s what will give you the strength to bear whatever difficulties may come along.”
In his second message, Lowrie asked listeners to compare the condition of the modern church with the description given in Acts 2. He noted how, in verses 14-21, Peter explained the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as the fulfillment of God’s promise through the prophet Joel. Lowrie then pondered whether the same affirmation could be made today.
“I have a problem,” Lowrie related. “I read that second chapter of Acts, and I hear Peter say, ‘This is that which Joel had prophesied.’ He said concerning what was happening in his day, ‘This is that.’ This is the expression, the fulfillment of what God had given the prophet Joel. And then I look at the people I serve with. I look at my congregation and other congregations I’m familiar with, and I ask myself the question, ‘Is this that?’ And I really don’t like the answer I come up with.”
Lowrie that said on the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit brought convicting and transforming power. As a result, all the believers, and not rather just a few paid professionals, participated sacrificially in the life of the church. Noting the contrast with the church today, Lowrie went on to question how modern worship can be so devoid of passion if the same Holy Spirit who was present at Pentecost is at work in the church today.
“Where is the passion in our worship?” Lowrie asked. “I look at my congregation on Sunday morning, and many of them are more clock-conscious than they are God-conscious. Many of them are there because it’s custom or tradition. But there is so little passion or excitement.
“I’m not talking about man-made excitement,” Lowrie clarified. “You see, we’re talking a lot about worship in our day. We’re experimenting with it, and we’re trying all kinds of things. We’re trying drama and video and changes in music. But I wonder sometimes if a lot of this is not a man-made substitute for the reality of the Holy Spirit.”
In his third message, Lowrie turned to Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 2:19-26, where the apostle speaks of honorable and dishonorable vessels in a large house. Here Paul tells Timothy that those who cleanse themselves will be honorable vessels, fit for use by the Lord. Lowrie began his comments on the passage with a description of his upbringing in a mountain homestead.
“I didn’t grow up in a big house,” Lowrie related. “In fact, it barely qualified as a house. And my mother didn’t have many vessels to honor. Now, vessels of honor in a house are those precious, prized vessels that you get out only for those special occasions. She did have a few, and you could always tell if company was coming if she had those out and was using them, putting them on the table.
“In our house there were also vessels to dishonor. It was a country home, and in a country home you didn’t waste anything, so we had a slop bucket. You know what that is — it’s just an old beat-up bucket that set outside the back door, and when the meal was over, Mother brought it into the house and scraped whatever was left over on the plates into that bucket. You didn’t waste it, because that was taken to the hog pen to feed the hogs. The slop bucket — that’s a vessel to dishonor. It’s smelly, dirty, ugly. In fact, if you had company coming, you stuck it where it couldn’t be seen — you hid it somewhere.”
Lowrie then went on to compare his experience to Paul’s teaching.
“The apostle is making this kind of contrast and this kind of challenge here,” said Lowrie, “that you and I in our own personal relationships with God would not be smelly things that God is ashamed of and hides away when he is trying to do something special, but that we would be preferred vessels, ready for the Master’s use.”
Lowrie said the text suggests God is looking for honorable vessels to serve the banquet of salvation to a lost world, and to serve the truth that strengthens his own people. However, just as the lady of a house might wisely prefer to use her finest dishes to serve company, the Lord prefers to use vessels which reflect his character, and (he) wisely avoids using those whose lives reflect carnality or compromise.
In order to avoid being such “slop-bucket” Christians, Lowrie challenged ministers to purge their lives from cultural and moral decadence. He then reminded listeners of God’s promise to use a person not on the basis of their background or intellect, but rather on the basis of their willingness to be cleansed.
“Your usefulness to God depends on you making your life available and keeping it in such a context that God can use it,” Lowrie declared. “You may feel like an old slop bucket God wants to hide somewhere, like Momma used to hide it when company was coming. But I want you to know, in the chemistry of the kingdom of God, you’ve got the potential of being a silver platter, if you’ll put your life in such relationship with God that he will find you meet for the Master’s use. And it’s worth the purging when you have the privilege of being used.”
In his final sermon, Lowrie looked to 1 Peter 5 for encouragement in ministry. In verse four of the passage, Peter says the Lord will reward the “crown of glory” to those involved in the ministry, and Lowrie shared the impetus this promise has brought to his ministry.
“That stirs aspiration in my heart. That stirs a desire in my heart. If it is possible for people who do what we do to be honored and crowned by the Chief Shepherd, then I dare not have any goal less than that. Surely I dare not even consider anything less than going for the crown.”
According to Lowrie, “going for the crown” in ministry involves doing the right work in the right way for the right person. During his message, Lowrie defined each of these three aspects in turn. The right work is that of a shepherd who feeds, leads and protects the flock. The right way is with willingness, eagerness and exemplary behavior, rather than out of compulsion, greed and manipulation. Most importantly, said Lowrie, the minister must work for the right person, who is Jesus Christ himself.
“Now, you say, ‘Yeah, but I thought the church hired me,’” Lowrie said, anticipating the response of ministers to his final point. “No, the church doesn’t hire. We’re not hirelings. Don’t ever let a church hire you. You are called by the Chief Shepherd, and the Chief Shepherd appoints you where he wants you.
“Spurgeon was right,” Lowrie said, speaking of the renowned 19th-century British minister. “Spurgeon said your call into ministry is ultimately authenticated when the Chief Shepherd causes one part of the flock somewhere to call you as pastor. That’s his business.
“You are working for the Chief Shepherd, and when the Chief Shepherd appears, he will bestow the crowns of glory.”

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  • Clinton Wolf