Efrem Smith Speaks on Strengthening One's Spiritual Life
CHICAGO, IL (February 2, 2008) - Pastor Efrem Smith exhorted North Park students on Wednesday to live out of their core identity as a chosen race, royal people, and a holy nation in order to advance the kingdom of God.
That kingdom includes the salvation of individuals but also issues of justice and social change, said Smith, the pastor of Sanctuary Covenant Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Smith noted that the words written in 1 Peter 2: 8-10 on Christian identity were directed at a group of people living amid terrible persecution and that the disciple had authored the letter while possibly facing his own martyrdom. "They are in bad times, and it is going to get worse," Smith said.
Smith lamented that much of the literature on church growth and evangelism as well as preaching was directed at the middle class, for whom times may be difficult but who do not face the pain being experienced in rural and inner-city areas. Referencing the 1988 hit by Bobby McFerrin, Smith said much of the theology proclaimed today is "Don't worry, be happy."
"It's a cheesy song," Smith said. "I hear a lot of cheesy, very superficial individualistic Christianity."
The residents of his urban neighborhood cannot live by such theology, he declared. "It is not good days in the community where I pastor," Smith said, noting that more than 1,000 foreclosures had occurred in the last 14 months, and six public schools were closed.
The mindset of all people living in the United States also must consider the suffering of those in other countries when considering theologies of prosperity.
"There are places where there is no running water, there are places where there is no electricity, there are places where there is no roof over the head," Smith said. "There is a place where (children say) everybody in my family is dying of AIDS. I'm 11 and I have to be the head of the house now, and at 11, I'm raising my five-year-old brother."
To such a world, believers must live out their responsibilities as a people chosen by God to be holy, spreading good news. He related that a trainer is helping him to lose weight and is forcing Smith to work on strengthening his core (abdomen).
"Well, I really don't want to do that part, is there other stuff?" Smith asked his trainer. He was told, however, "If you're going to be healthier, if you're going to be in better shape, Efrem, you've got to get to the core of your body."
The same holds true for the spiritual life, Smith told the gathering. AAt some point in time you have to get to the core of your being. Why are you here on the earth? What is the core reason for living? What is at the core of God's heart? What is God really about?"
In the end, the core of a person's being is in who God names them. AAs an African American, I am a descendent of people who have faced oppression," Smith said. "I need to have on one hand, a sense of pride and good feeling about being African American, but at the end of the day, the core of my being is not just primarily about being African American. The core of my being is being God’s beloved."
Coming to understand that identity comes only through intimacy with God and spending time in his word and prayer, Smith said. That intimacy will then lead people to move into the world spreading the gospel.