Pope Francis: The True Meaning of his Name

St. Francis of Assisi (November 26, 1182 – October 3, 1226), the man after whom the current pope is named left an indelible print in the sand of time because of his penitential or repentant lifestyle. On March 13, 2013 Cardinal Gorge Mario Borgoglio of Argentina was elected as pope, yet he took the name Francis. Therefore, he is known as Pope Francis 1.

“Habemus Papam” – Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S.J., has been elected Pope Francis I (Photo credit: Catholic Church (England and Wales))

You might be wondering, “What is in a name?” Usually, newborn babies are given the name of another person. That is, some babies are named after their aunts, uncles, or grandparents. For example, my parents named me after my grandfather, Abdulai Tommy Sowa. Recently, I did a legal name change. I changed my first and middle names to Charles and Timothy (CT). I named myself Charles for Charles Spurgeon – “Victorian England’s best known Baptist minister”, and Timothy – The Bishop of the 1st century churches of Ephesus in Asia Minor. Remember, Martin Luther King, Jr., the African American clergyman and Civil Rights leader was named after Martin Luther the Protestant German Reformer.

As an itinerary evangelist, the overarching theme at the core of St. Francis’ preaching was God’s unfathomable love for humankind. He was not judgmental in his preaching at all. He embraced the life of Gospel poverty, and he had no feelings of overwhelming anxiety about it. Francis’ exemplary lifestyle serves as a flashlight on the dozing conscience of the 21st century church. Surely, there will always be sick people in our communities, and they need to be cared for. The poor and helpless also deserve our care. Lepers, for example, deserve to be cared for not with the attitude that we are doing them favor, but perceiving such ministry as a “source of spiritual and physical consolation….”

St. Francis of Assisi (circa 1182-1220)

St. Francis of Assisi (circa 1182-1220) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Francis of Assisi observes that, since we are absolved, there is more room for growth in the image of Christ. Incarnation is one of the dominant themes of the penitent Franciscan stripe. Lessons on the penitential stream teach Christians today (especially those that have swallowed the prosperity Gospel hook-line-and-sinker) to embrace simplicity of life-style. It does not necessarily mean that each and every one of us should do property denunciation and become friars. At the Third Lausanne Conference on World Evangelization, it was observed that one of the six major challenges facing the church is, “Calling the church back to humility, integrity and simplicity.”

We can make the conscious decision to overcome materialism, refuse to live exploitative lives, and practice generosity. When people become engulfed by the love of money, they employ all kinds of Machiavellian or manipulative practices in order to amass the mundane things of this life. Instead of consuming the best and leaving the poor to glean on our crumbs we should lavishly share our best with them.

Indeed, the lines between the penitential life and the compassionate life intersect. Surely, God is calling the whole body of Christ to be an “includer” of those who feel left out, and to be a voice for the voiceless. Both the rich and the poor reflect the glorious image of God. Therefore, the latter must be cherished and honored as much as the former is. Fundamentally, we are all the same. We are all equally important regardless of social status or physical condition. Neither the elite nor the common should be ignored. The church needs to do more in terms of ministering to people who are grappling with untreatable illnesses. HIV/AIDS patients, for example, should be treated with dignity.

Are we to cast judgment on those who are falling through the cracks due to their indiscretion and poor decisions? Certainly no. Being judgmental can hurt the feelings of people. Why should we (preachers) condemn people if we don’t have to? Our authority is not to preach judgmental sermons; our authority is to preach the redeeming love of Christ!

If Saint Francis of Assisi left a legacy of penitence, then it follows that Pope Francis’ leadership of the RC Church must epitomize repentance. There must be a clarion call to repentance that reverberates across the globe! Integrity issues, habitual temptations and wrongdoings among the leaders of the church must be dealt with. Each and every one of us must realize our sins and be willing to change our ways.

Since he has the awesome responsibility of leading the 1.1 billion-member Roman Catholic Church, I pray that Pope Francis will live out the true meaning of his name.

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Charles Spurgeon: Relationship With God, Roles and Results

This set of images was gathered by User:Dcoetz...

This set of images was gathered by User:Dcoetzee from the National Portrait Gallery, London website using a special tool. All images in this batch have been evaluated manually for evidence that the artist probably died before 1939, or that the work is anonymous or pseudonymous and was probably published before 1923. Author floruit in 1846, presumed dead by 1923. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Surrey music hall, Charles Spurgeon preaching.

Surrey music hall, Charles Spurgeon preaching. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I will briefly describe the leadership actions of Charles Haddon Spurgeon with reference to his relationship with God, roles, responsibilities and results.

Genuine Conversion

As a nineteenth century preacher, Spurgeon (1834-1892) experienced conversion at the age of sixteen. Genuine conversion is a commonality that marks the lives of all great souls that ever lived to God’s glory. In the biographical book, Charles Spurgeon: The Boy Preacher of the Fens, written by Kathy Triggs, it is explained that he was saved on Sunday, January 6, 1850. On that day he stumbled in to a church where a non-clergy member seized the preaching opportunity because of the pastor was prevented from coming to church due to a snowstorm. Recounting that experience, Kathy Triggs writes, “In that instant Charles felt as if the darkness rolled away and he saw the sun. He looked to Christ and felt himself saved.”

There and then, Spurgeon’s life-long relationship with God started. In a few months, Spurgeon was baptized. He continued desiring the sincere milk of the word of God. The knowledge of God’s Word set him on fire for God and for souls, which set the stage for his fame as “The Boy Preacher of the Fens.”

In her introductory comments about Spurgeon, Kathy Triggs expresses:

There is an old saying, ‘The heart makes the theologian,’ and Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s theology certainly came from his heart. He was convinced of God’s love for him, and of God’s desire to save all who  would come to him. This was Spurgeon’s message throughout his life.

At the Bible Bulletin Board Website (http://www.biblebb.com) I found one of Spurgeon’s many articles. Drawing from his experiential intimate relationship with God, he testifies, “I know there is a comfort in the faith of Christ’s imputed righteousness which no other doctrine can yield. There is something that a man can sleep on and wake on, can live on and die on, in the firm conviction that he is received by God as though the deeds of Christ were his deeds, and the righteousness of Christ his righteousness.”

Spurgeon was of the firm conviction that maintaining intimate relationship with the Father through prayer was imperative. In his book, Lectures to my Students, Spurgeon writes, “Habitual communication with God must be maintained.”

Roles, Responsibilities and Results

Springing from his profound love for God, and his fiery heart for souls, Spurgeon observes in Lectures to my Students that, “ I can only weep and agonize for souls in my own renewed nature, therefore must I watchfully maintain the tenderness, which was in Christ Jesus.”  Like the weeping prophet, Jeremiah, that ‘tenderness’ was an integral part of Spurgeon’s preaching ministry. No wonder he preached with such burden that he, more often than not, choked with tears like Jesus weeps over Jerusalem (Matthew 23). He implores his students by saying, “Let the infinite Jehovah be served with our best.” His personal testimony was, “ I follow a call to which God has manifestly set his seal.”

In this reflection on Charles Spurgeon’s leadership actions, I see him as God’s servant who effectively led and systematically managed a mega-church. Above all, he was a preacher who communicated the Gospel message by vocalization and printed matter, thereby reaching thousands who met God!

Since that encounter in 1850 Spurgeon acted out the true meaning of his faith until his death in 1892. Kathy Triggs adds credence to Spurgeon’s leadership as she explains that, “Spurgeon had genius for organization and for choosing the right people to whom he could delegate responsibility.”