Four More Reasons the Church Isn’t Getting the Job Done

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace~ Acts 20:24 NIV

The evolution of a blog-post can be a chaotic thing for me. 

 This week’s post was originally going to be on parenting.  Then I decided that the issue I was writing about was not primarily a parenting issue. At that point the piece mutated into something far more inclusive. Then early Wednesday morning I came across something on Facebook and all bets were officially off. I immediately felt compelled to write about something entirely different.

 Sigh.

 There are a few things I would like to clarify about the Facebook post I came across. It was posted by a friend who is a decent person but categorically not a Christian. This friend frequently posts things critical of Christianity and occasionally those posts are annoyingly insightful.

 This post was one of those posts.

 I will not share exactly what was posted (it was far too foul). That being said, I will tell you that it was a critique of the church that was undeniably obscene but sadly spot-on. The post reminded me (for the millionth time) that the church is not impacting our culture with the message of Christianity and that we have (at least to some degree) become a sad caricature of ourselves. Here are four (more) reasons we aren’t getting the job done (Matthew 28:18-20).

 Our priorities are a flaming hot-mess-

 I am not a Catholic. However, I do believe that when one segment of Christianity has a problem we all have a problem (1stCorinthians 12:26). The Catholic church has a huge problem that really is a problem for the entire body of Christ.  There is a huge scandal developing in the Catholic church regarding children, sex and gay priests. The sin that has gone on for years in some Catholic churches is simply heartbreaking (on every level). Alas, most evangelical Christians are either apathetic towards the issue or entirely ignorant of the problem. On top of all that most Christians appear to care more about Colin Kaepernick and his decision to kneel during the national anthem (and a million other idiotic things) than they do about the thousands of kids who were raped by or pressured into sex by their spiritual leaders. Christianity is in a sorry state when the body of Christ gets more worked-up over a deal a football player made with a company that sells shoes than we do about the long-term implications of the countless sex scandals that have plagued Catholic and Evangelical churches in recent years. Christians of all denominations should be praying for justice and should be insisting we deal with the sin in our camp before anyone else gets hurt.

 We have forgotten the point and purpose of church-

 I know this sounds heretical in this day-and-age but I do not believe Church was ever meant to be a place where unbelievers go to get evangelized. Church was intended to be a place where Christians go to learn the Bible and grow in their faith, so they can evangelize their friends, coworkers and family members (Ephesians 4:11-16).  Churches ought to be sensitive to the feelings and needs of non-Christians when planning their services (1stCorinthians 14:22-23). That being said, services should never be planned primarily around the spiritual needs or personal preferences of unbelievers because Church is not really about them.   

 We butcher the Bible to get it say what we want it to say-

 This is the one that could ultimately be the ruin of the modern church. Too many pastors and Bible teachers search the Bible looking for verses to back-up what they think about an issue or want to say rather than going to the Bible and doing the study necessary to find out what it actually says about a given subject. This has created a situation where there is almost a Medieval level of biblical ignorance in some Christian circles. Christians and non-Christians are not really learning what the Bible really says about much of anything. Instead, they are learning the opinions of people and quite frankly we don’t really need to learn each other’s opinions. We need to learn the word (1stPeter 2:2, Hebrews 5:11-14).

 We are weirdly infatuated by celebrity-

 Over the course of the last four decades there have been innumerable scandals (mostly over sex) in the Evangelical Christian community among “celebrity” pastors. The Church in America has come to the pathetic place where a guy who can put butts in the seats and bucks in the offering plate can get away with almost anything.  Sadly, too many otherwise intelligent people will completely overlook sloppy doctrine, preaching entirely devoid of hard truth and even catastrophic moral failure if it keeps their Churches growing numerically.  Because we have become enamored with superstar pastors many newer Christians have looked to celebrities to be their spiritual examples rather than their pastors or the faithful men and women in their own congregations (1stCorinthians 11:1, Philippians 3:17, Titus 2:2-4). This has created a state of moral illiteracy in the church that hurts everyone.

 Sadly, we will continue to get more of the same until we come to place where we expect better from our leaders and ourselves.

 

 

The Sad Truth Concerning #Metoo

The plans of the righteous are just, but the advice of the wicked is deceitful~ Proverbs 12:5

I will not lie. I had high hopes for the #metoo movement.

 Back in the day, I found myself on the receiving end of some bad behavior from men who were well beyond the point of knowing better. These days, that behavior would without a doubt be considered sexual harassment.

 Back then we called it “boys being boys”. It was wrong then and it’s wrong now. It just got a whole lot less attention back then.

 Crude comments, unwelcome touching, and rape are wrong for many reasons, most of which are clearly obvious to thinking people. At the root of every single one of those many reasons is the reality that predatory sexual behavior is an attack on the God-given dignity and personhood of women (Genesis 1:27). For that reason sexual violence against women is an attack on God Himself (as the author of life and giver of human dignity).

 Which brings me back to my original high-hopes for the #metoo movement. I like the idea of drawing attention to the very real problem of sexual violence. I also feel that those who commit acts of sexual violence deserve to have their deeds exposed (Numbers 32:23, Galatians 6:7). For those reasons alone, I wanted so badly for #metoo to be something that I, as a Christian woman, could support and stand behind.

 It’s not.

 For the record, I did not rush to judgment on that pronouncement. I sincerely wanted to see where the movement would go before I made up my mind about how I felt about it. I did this because, generally speaking, I feel that Christians are a little over eager to both condemn and embrace movements.

 When Christians criticize and condemn before getting the facts, we all end up looking like a bunch of small-minded, knee-jerk Judgy McJudgers. Conversely, when Christians choose to embrace movements prior to getting all the facts, we wind up looking ridiculous when we are inevitably forced to backtrack and retract our support.

 I have been observing the #metoo movement for a while now and have concluded that smart, thoughtful Christians should avoid the #metoo movement for at least four reasons:

 The movement is insincere-

 If #metoo were truly serious about ending sexual violence and the exploitation of women they would do more than simply point fingers at high profile predators. They would denounce the porn industry, fight for the end of prostitution and raise money to support those victimized by the sex trade. To my knowledge none of those things are happening, which makes all their talk about being “advocates for women” appear hollow and self-serving.

 Not every man is a bad man-

 One of my biggest concerns with the #metoo movement is that they seem to sincerely believe that every man is a sexual predator and every unsolicited flirtation from a man is somehow a form of rape. One does not need to be clairvoyant to see where this insanity might lead. Innocent interactions between men and women will no longer be seen as innocent, men and women will be further alienated from each other and the war between the sexes will intensify. If that happens we will all lose.

 The movement is quickly becoming one-big witch-hunt-

 The #metoo movement believes that all women should be believed regardless of evidence (or lack there of). They also believe that women should be able to accuse men anonymously. I am all for keeping the identity of victims of sexual violence who have reported the assault to the police out of the public eye. The privacy of victims should be protected from the press. Period. That said, sometimes people lie (Deuteronomy 19:15-17) and in the interest of fairness (and keeping our justice system just) the accused have a right to know who is accusing them.

 #metoo could set women back decades-

 I work in a field (ministry) where men tend to be very reluctant (for obvious reasons) to be seen interacting with a woman. This fact (as understandable as it may be) has not made my life in ministry easy, nor has it helped me to move ahead in a field I love. I’m not complaining. I am simply describing the world I live in. I am fearful that the law of unintended consequences will come into play and my (admittedly weird) problem will become a problem for all women. No man in his right mind will be seen associating with women (even in a business setting) if he knows there is a good chance his reputation will be ruined for it.

 Nothing in this world aggravates me more than the powerful taking advantage of the powerless. It is true that some men (not all) have taken advantage of women in the past and even prevented some from reaching their God-given potential. That said, the way to correct a past injustice is never with more injustice. We correct injustice through understanding, open communication and a commitment to believe the best in others unless there is an obvious reason not to.

 

 

The Worst Kind of Abuse

“At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’  The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded~ Matthew 18:26-28

 There was a time in the not-so-distant past when the whole issue of abuse was murky and poorly understood. Abuse was far from uncommon but rarely discussed. As a result, the majority of abuse victims lived lives of secret desperation and intense shame. Few attempted to share the pain and torment they experienced at the hands of others. Victims courageous enough to share their experiences were routinely shamed and sometimes even blamed for the abuse they suffered.

 Mercifully, human civilization has evolved in recent years. Sadly, abuse is still all too common. However, due to extensive public awareness campaigns the causes of abuse are better understood and the signs more frequently recognized. Behaviors and speech once accepted as “normal” are now recognized as abusive and no longer tolerated by the non-Neanderthal majority. Victims are generally treated with compassion and understanding, and help is available for those who struggle with abusive behaviors.

 That said, there is still one arena where abuse frequently occurs and is seldom recognized for what it is, it’s the abuse of grace.

 Grace is a term so rich in meaning that it is difficult to define. Grace is most typically understood to be undeserved favor or approval. However, there is much more to the mystery of grace than simply favor or acceptance. Grace is closely related to love and can also be defined as kindness, mercy and the willingness to overlook the iniquities or mistakes of others. 2nd Corinthians 12:9 gives readers an intriguing example of grace; there grace is defined as super-natural empowerment to handle particularly challenging situations.

 Personally I prefer to think of grace as a do-over or an undeserved second chance. We could all use a little bit of grace at one time or another.

 Grace is a characteristic most often associated with God and for good reason. God at His very core is a giver of grace. But grace is also something humans can and often do bestow on one another. Anytime an offense is overlooked, a second chance is offered or a transgression forgiven, grace is at the core of that act of kindness or mercy.

 Abuse of grace occurs when one takes the grace given without acknowledging or respecting the cost of the transaction. Forgiveness can be freely given but that does not mean it’s actually free. There is always a heavy price to be paid for any act of forgiveness.

 God, paid the ultimate price when He sacrificed Jesus, allowing humanity to freely receive His forgiveness. People also pay a price when they choose to forgive. When a person forgives, they relinquish the right to seek revenge for the wrongs done to them by the other person. If this sounds easy, it’s likely because you have never actually forgiven anyone or you have never been terribly wronged.

 Grace is also abused when one blithely takes the forgiveness offered without changing their behavior (the Bible calls this change of behavior repenting). God and many people (even non-Christian people) are willing to forgive outrageous offenses if they know the offender is truly sorry. When a forgiven person immediately returns to past behavior without a trace of sorrow or shame, the forgiver (whether it be God or a person) has to assume that the offender was never really sorry for their sin.

 Sadly, the abuse of grace is destroying the church Jesus was sacrificed to build. It’s wrecking havoc on relationships, breaking the heart and testing the patience of God and doing irreparable damage to the witness of Christians everywhere.

 Its time for followers of Christ to recognize that grace is a precious gift and no gift should ever be treated with contempt. We should also remember that the patience of God has historically had limits. It’s never wise to test the heart of God by abusing His kindness.

 

 

 

Is it Always Wrong to Judge?

Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning, but a rod is for the back of one who has no sense~ Proverbs 10:13 NIV

 There was a time in the not-so-distant past when Christians were governed by a lot of rules. Many of those rules were unwritten but very real and recognized by all members of polite Christian society.

 The use of alcohol was strictly forbidden. Tobacco use was assumed to be a clear sign of obvious inner corruption. Tri-weekly church attendance was mandatory. Divorce was intolerable under any circumstances, even in situations where abuse was clearly evident. To be seen entering a movie theater resulted in a trip to the rumor mill. Only the vilest of heathens used salty language. Dress codes mattered; respectable men wore suits, hemlines were carefully monitored for modesty and women brazen enough to wear shorts were shunned.

Not all the rules were biblical.

Some were not even rational, a few were downright ridiculous. As a result the thing happened that always happens when individuals cease to be sensible and get carried away with rule making. For better or worse, the pendulum of popular opinion swung sharply in the opposite direction.

 It is no longer odd for Christians to drink alcohol or for churches, even evangelical churches, to serve alcohol at outreach events. Tobacco use is still frowned upon, not because it’s considered sinful or wrong, but because it’s unhealthy.

 Church attendance is no longer obligatory; in fact few Christians who identify themselves as committed believers even attend weekly services. Divorce for any and every reason is commonplace in the Church. Christians who choose NOT to attend even R-rated movies are sometimes considered a bit odd. In a few congregations, clothing is practically optional. And weirdest of all, it it is not unheard of for edgy young preachers to drop an F-bomb from the pulpit to make a point.

 All the old rules have been replaced with one new rule: THOU SHALL NOT JUDGE. Admittedly this is rule came about as a result of mostly silly, sometimes heartless, legalistic nitpicking about topics that have for the most part, never had any real relevance to Christianity whatsoever. Only an idiot would yearn for a return to the bad old days of unhinged legalism.

 Legalism is the brainchild of the devil, a perversion of the Christian concept of holiness. Legalism takes our eyes off of Jesus, and places our focus on the  outward behavior of others, rather than our own behavior, attitudes and internal spiritual development. Legalism breeds unhealthy spiritual self-confidence and sometimes even becomes a substitute for salvation.

 That said, not all judging is sinful. Some judging is beneficial and even biblical (1st Corinthians 5:12-13).

 There are two types of judgment. The first is when one imperfect human judges another imperfect human worthy of heaven, hell or the right to be cared for and loved based on behavior or outward appearances that may or may not be based on biblical truth. This sort of judgment is wrong, leads to hypocrisy (Matthew 23:1-5) and sets us up to be judged by the same standards (but not necessarily for the same sins) we set for others. The Pharisees judged in in this way and Jesus sharply condemned them for it (Matthew 7:1).  

 Christians are clearly not called to judge those outside the Church (1st Corinthians 5:12-13). The behavior of non-Christians is troubling to us at times. It is also none of our concern. Our responsibility towards the unsaved is to pray, show them the kindness of God and to present biblical truth. What they choose to do with all that is between them and God. He is the final judge.

 There is such a thing as healthy Christian judgment and it begins with regular and rigorous self-examination. We must be willing to look for sin in our own lives with the same zeal we normally reserve for others. But there is more to it than just that; we also have to keep ourselves open to the idea that we might be wrong about something we believe or do. Growing Christians are willing to entertain the notion that the thing or the attitude they have been holding onto as a “right” or as a “Christian freedom” might just be something that is holding back their growth and possibly leading others astray (1st Corinthians 10:23-33).

 We forget that Christians are called to judge one another, not in a condemning way, but out of concern for one another (1st Corinthians 5:11). If the Church is ever going to get healthy again, the people in it have got to stop getting angry every time someone says something that challenges their point-of-view on an attitude or behavior. It’s time to stop shouting, “You can’t judge anyone ever!” and start thinking about why we fear being judged or hearing a view that differs from our own.