Thoughts on Church Leader Qualifications (The Modern Church Vs the New Testament Church)

This morning there was a fun discussion happening on a friends Facebook thread. Basically, it revolved around a call to the church to focus more on character than charisma when it comes to church leadership.

Below are some of the thoughts that came to my mind in response, but expanded.

First, I 100% agree!

I always find it interesting when I look at job descriptions from churches versus the qualifications laid out in the New Testament.

Church job descriptions almost always revolve around 3 things:

  1. Accomplishments
  2. Education
  3. Charisma

This is based on my reviewing a lot of church job descriptions. Especially back when I was looking to have a full time church job.

Basically…Churches want to see what sort of things a pastor or church leader they are hiring have personally accomplished. What sets them apart? How big did they grow a church? How many staff did they lead? How many programs did they start? Did they successfully lead building programs? And so on.

Churches want a seminary trained professional. Many will say “Bachelors degree acceptable but Masters Degree preferred”. Just serving in a church rarely qualifies someone.

Churches want a pastor or church leader who have a charismatic personality. They should be able to speak and keep the attention of listeners. They should be able to emotionally connect with people from a stage. They should look and sound like someone you want to follow. And so on.

What the New Testament puts out there, however, revolves around the following:

  1. Loving God
  2. Loving others
  3. Character

The NT values how people loved God and loved others. They valued the character of a person from how they dealt with unbelievers to how they handled their spouses and children. Education wasn’t bad, but formal education wasn’t remotely a requirement as education takes on many forms.

Now, let me be clear, I’m not diminishing education. Education is very important. Shoot…I have a BA in Youth Ministry from an accredited Christian University.

The reality, however, is that education takes on many forms, and some of the most impactful and meaningful education that I’ve received in my life didn’t happen in a formal institution, but by doing life with someone.

This is why in Acts 4:13, Peter and John were seen as “uneducated”…because they were in the most academic sense, uneducated…but they had been educated in a far more impactful and life changing way…they had been with Jesus. They had walked with Jesus. They had spent every waking and sleeping moment with Jesus for 3 years.

And it was this that the most “educated” men of their day recognized about them. They knew they hadn’t been formally educated (apparently it was painfully obvious), but when they spoke and when they acted…the fact that they had been with Jesus overshadowed their lack of formal education.

In other words, we should care more about if someone spent time learning at the feet of Jesus than if they were schooled by the universities and educational institutions of the day.

So to summarize, we (the church) need to look more at people who have clearly been with Jesus, and it shows in their words and life…and who have been truly discipled and who are discipling others, and less at a piece of paper hanging on someones office wall, or the list of accomplishments that they can give you, or how cool and charismatic they are.

When you look at what churches expect and what God expects, it’s a pretty stark difference! So the question I have is this…How do we change that? How do churches move to a place where they place more value on what God values versus what the world defines as valuable?

Because if we are honest with ourselves, that is the difference.

S3Ep7 – That’s a Wrap – 2020 Edition

2020 is FINALLY over. Here’s a quick review of the year!

“Angry Dance” by Simon Panrucker https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/
“Clear Progress” by Scott Holmes https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/

We have finally come to the end of the year that will forever live in infamy…the year otherwise known as 2020.

This year has been one of the most difficult seasons in the human experience in recent history as we watched a pandemic quite literally sweep across the globe and shut down life as we knew it.

Generally across the nation and the world we watched as people began to die from this virus that no one knew anything about. We watched on as some of our favorite businesses began to close up shop never to open again. We watched on as individuals began losing their jobs in devastating rates. We watched as people began to become disconnected with one another as we holed up in our homes trying to slow the spread per our governments recommendations and mandates. We had a tumultuous election (here in America) that saw our current president, Donald Trump, unseated. We had to try and navigate holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas with many states returning to lockdown status, and other states remaining open. This clearly made it hard for families to enjoy their time together. And to round the year off, there was a bombing in Nashville on Christmas Day that knocked out communications across Tennessee for several days.

In the midst of all of this we saw cities erupting in riots, destruction, and mayhem as people responded in anger to various situations involving the police and several different men and women who were killed by them. I personally watched the protests and marches in Greenville, SC from a balcony directly on Main Street with my family. To say we were nervous would be an understatement.

Strange things began to happen over the year too…strange things like toilet paper disappearing off the shelves. Not food. Not water. Not milk. Not bread. No sir. It was the toilet paper! Which, if I’m going to be perfectly honest, has to be one of the strangest phenomenon to have happened this year, or perhaps my entire life.

Difficult things began to take place for churches too. Many of them closed their doors never to open again. Some of them closed their doors temporarily, reopened, and then closed them again. Many churches refused to adhere to any recommendations and remained open completely, and saw their pastors and church leaders get arrested as they defied various local mandates. There were church staff lay offs, budget cuts, and a whole lot more.

Many churches began to get creative on how they could still gather without violating mandates and without putting the elderly in their congregations at risk resulting in virtual church, or drive-in church, or house church, and a whole slew of other creative ways.

Many churches began to wake up to the reality that they had placed all of their eggs in their “Sunday Services” basket and began to rethink why they existed and challenged their church body to think outside the box and find creative ways to reach their neighborhoods and communities.

I could probably go on and on about the many facets that made up 2020. But, suffice it to say, it was tumultuous, unpredictable, and down right awful in many ways.

As a podcast, the Angry Christian Podcast had its own adventures. We explored various topics through out season 2 ranging from racism to politics, divorce, COVID19, and more. Most of which was inspired by events taking place at the time of recording.

Season 3 was a bit different, however, as we explored a singular topic, “Who is Jesus?” Each episode was centered around various ways people have defined Jesus. It was a fun season that took a detour from our normal route and spent an entire season answering that one question.

The Angry Christian Podcast has grown in many ways, not the least of which is in our listener base. As of the recording of this episode, the podcast has had over 15,000 downloads over the course of 3 seasons. This is truly amazing! Each episode is averaging between 400 and 1000 downloads! That’s crazy!

So while 2020 has certainly brought us its many challenges, there are also as many, if not more, things to celebrate.

It’s easy to get bogged down with the depressing things that 2020 brought. Especially that whole toilet paper fiasco. What were people thinking?? But seriously, we cannot remain focused on the negative aspects. We will always be depressed if we do.

Instead, we need to try and recall the many ways that God has blessed us, and kept us, and protected us…even if we didn’t see it right away.

For example, here’s some examples from each of the hosts of the Angry Christian Podcast:

Brian says, “My son was born.”

Michael says, “No one in my immediate family got COVID.”

Jonathan says, “Spent a lot more time with my family since we’ve all been at home since March. My Band released our first album back in July.” (link to Jonathans band on Spotify)

Brad (that’s me) says, “I felt like, early on in the pandemic anyway, that we really began to see the true church shine through all the consumer driven mess that we have allowed to…well…consume us. I also got to spend a lot of extra time with my wife and kids as I was able to work from home, and find creative ways to spend our days.”

But you know what? The positivity doesn’t stop with us. I reached out to you, our listeners, and asked for the same thing. Here are some positives that others found in 2020:

Anna says, “I was able to maintain a healthy pregnancy despite 2020 being one of the most stressful years of teaching I’ve ever had. And then he arrived and he’s been an amazing baby.”

Deborah says, “We got pregnant the second time around much faster and easier after so much struggle with the first. And our first is growing into such a smart little guy.”

Dale says, “God gave His people an opportunity to be still and refocus on what’s truly important. He gave us an opportunity to make preparations to minister in a world that will be very different in 2021.”

Cherie says, “I planted a garden and learned so much about growing and healing. It may have been a rough year but I think I needed it.”

Mindy says, “I learned that birds are actually very interesting, and we have more species in my yard than I expected.”

Bud says, “Something I already knew before the Pandemic hit. Journey Church in Ladson SC is more than a building. We continued to “fight for joy” throughout 2020 with Jesus by our side. Looking forward to a blessed and joyful 2021 in the Lord.”

Jamie says, “My business made it even though we had to shut down for a while.”

Daniel says, “I believe this year has allowed us to spend some quality time with our spouse and children that will pay off in great ways for Christ in 2021. I am excited about what God has done with our family in 2020, and more excited with 2021. All to bring glory to our Savior and Lord, Jesus’ name.”

See there? 2020 wasn’t all that bad, was it?

2021 is here, and new adventures and new challenges await us.

The Angry Christian Podcast will be kicking off SEASON 4 in February (4 seasons? No way!!) and, there are some interesting things that will be getting announced about the various adventures that the hosts of this podcast will be taking (or have already started). Don’t worry, these adventures won’t take us away from you. Instead, I think you’ll find that they will bring us all a bit closer.

With all of that said, let us thank the Lord for what 2020 brought us, and prepare ourselves for what 2021 will bring us. God uses all of our circumstances for our benefit. We may just not always see it right away.

And as we head in to this new year, let me just say one more time for old times sake…

Don’t be angry.

The Unexpected Familial Casualties of Being a Pastor in the Modern Church

Yesterday I posted an article where I began to raise some questions about the immense amount of focus that gets placed on the role of the pastor. If you haven’t read it, check it out HERE.

I talked with my wife a little bit about this article and the questions I’m wrestling with, and she raised an excellent point about how the families of pastors have suffered over the years due to the undue and unnecessary amount of focus placed on pastors, and the unrealistic expectations placed upon them because of it.

And she’s right. I can testify to that on a couple levels.

Level 1: my father was a pastor and our family absolutely suffered both then and now. In fact, I’ll even go so far as to say that a lot of the pressures that he faced ultimately led to the breaking apart of our family and my parents divorce when I was an adult.

Level 2: I was a pastor (albeit staff pastor, associate pastor, whatever you want to call it) for many many years (and still serve on staff at a church) and my family absolutely suffered then and is still working through the impact of those things now. So much so that we had to get counseling to get it addressed.

Because pastors have been elevated to a very unrealistic status and the level of expectations placed upon them, they often find themselves overworked, exhausted, burned out, stressed, suicidal, and a lot more. In fact, here are some startling statistics about pastors specifically that should be quite the eye opener for just how bad it has gotten.

The following statistics come from Soul Shepherding, but were pulled from various surveys and research done over the years which are cited at the bottom of the article linked to above:

Ministry stress:

  • 75% of pastors report being “extremely stressed” or “highly stressed” (1)
  • 90% work between 55 to 75 hours per week (2)
  • 90% feel fatigued and worn out every week (1)
  • 70% say they’re grossly underpaid (2)
  • 40% report a serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month (1)
  • 78% were forced to resign from their church (63% at least twice), most commonly because of church conflict (1)
  • 80% will not be in ministry ten years later and only a fraction make it a lifelong career (1). On average, seminary trained pastors last only five years in church ministry (2)
  • 100% of 1,050 Reformed and Evangelical pastors had a colleague who had left the ministry because of burnout, church conflict, or moral failure (2)
  • 91% have experienced some form of burnout in ministry and 18% say they are “fried to a crisp right now” (7)

Emotional Health, Family, and Morality:

  • 70% of pastors say they have a lower self-esteem now than when they entered ministry (1)
  • 70% constantly fight depression (2)
  • 50% feel so discouraged that they would leave their ministry if they could, but can’t find another job (2)
  • 80% believe their pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families and 33% said it was an outright hazard (1)
  • 80% of ministry spouses feel left out and unappreciated in their church (2)
  • 77% feel they do not have a good marriage (2)
  • 41% display anger problems in marriage (reported by the spouse) (3)
  • 38% are divorced or divorcing (1)
  • 50% admit to using pornography and 37% report inappropriate sexual behavior with someone in the church (1)
  • 65% feel their family is in a glass house (2)

Lack of Care and Training:

  • 53% of pastors do not feel that seminary or Bible college prepared them adequately (2)
  • 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend (1)
  • 50% do not meet regularly with an accountability person or group (6)
  • 72% only study the Bible when preparing for sermons or lessons (1)
  • 21% spend less than 15 minutes a day in prayer — the average is 39 minutes per day (4)
  • 16% are “very satisfied” with their prayer life, 47% are “somewhat satisfied”, and 37% are either “somewhat dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied” (spending more time in quiet prayer or listening to God versus making requests was correlated with higher satisfaction) (4)
  • 44% of pastors do not take a regular day off (5)
  • 31% do not exercise at all, while 37% exercise at least three or four days a week as recommended (6)
  • 90% say they have not received adequate training to meet the demands of ministry (2)
  • 85% have never taken a Sabbatical (6)

I read through the lists above and frankly it rips my heart out. The family and the marriage has become a serious casualty of “ministry” and being a pastor in the modern western church. What bothers me most, though, is that these aren’t numbers because of the “suffering for the Lord”. These are numbers because pastors are suffering at the hands of unrealistic and unmet expectations as well as a church functioning in a way it was never intended to function. Yet, many (even pastors themselves) would simply write this off as the cost of ministry.

I cry foul!

The statistics above are no small numbers and this should cause a great deal of alarm in each of us that reads them. Bells should be sounding off in our heads as we consider the ramifications of what we have done to pastors, their spouses, and their families.

All in the name of “ministry”.

The effect on families, according to the research done for the statistics above, is horrendous! 80% of pastors feel their ministry has negatively impacted their families, with 33% saying it was an absolute hazard. 38% of pastors are divorced or divorcing (my father is among this number), 77% feel they have a bad marriage, and 41% display anger in their marriages. 70% of pastors are fighting depression, 75% are extremely stressed, 90% are exhausted every single week, and 91% are burned out.

Folks, this isn’t good. Pastors and their families are suffering. And if the vast majority of pastors feel their ministry has a negative impact on their family and that they have a bad marriage…what in the world is going on?? Why is this even remotely acceptable? Why are we continuing down this road? Why do we keep glossing over this? Why aren’t we looking at the underlying causes of this?

I’ll tell you why…tradition.

We ignore these things because this is how it’s always been done. We’ve made these things into sacred cows that no one dare touch. But the reality is, this isn’t how it’s always been done. The early church didn’t do it this way. And while they were not perfect, and experienced much of the same issues we experience today in the church, there was a healthier aspect to their existence than there is to ours. We need to look at that and ask, why???

These statistics are symptoms of a massive underlying issue. If all we ever do is treat the symptoms, the true problem will never be rooted out and addressed.

We don’t go in for a doctor checkup and give a list of symptoms, then have the doctor scan us and find that we have brain cancer, and then have the doctor turn around and only prescribe us stuff for the symptoms. No! They want to go after the cancer.

My personal experience has been quite reflective of these statistics.

  1. My father divorced my mother a few years ago while in ministry.
  2. My wife and I have been massively hurt by church members, pastors, and ministry in general.
  3. I neglected my wife for years as I pursued being a “minister” and gave the vast majority of my attention to the church rather than her in our first 3 years of marriage.
  4. My wife has always felt the church came first over her.
  5. My wife always felt she needed to support my ministry and neglect her own calling.
  6. We have always felt our family lived in a glass house and were constantly under scrutiny if we didn’t live exactly right.
  7. We have had to get 9 months of counseling to work through much of our church and ministry hurts.
  8. I came out of the church as a teenager hating the church because of how I saw them treat my father as a pastor.

I could go on and on…but the point is like it or not, believe it or not, we have a cancer in the Western Church, but all we ever want to do is treat the symptoms instead of the cancer.

We think that if we just change the music style it will get better.

We think that if we just offer different programs it will get better.

We think that if we just have better preaching it will get better.

We think that if we just had the right facility it will get better.

All the while, the church is suffering under the surface from a dark mass of cancer that is sucking the life from the American Church, those who serve on staff at these churches, and the families of these pastors and staff.

If we don’t want our families to be casualties in this thing we call “The Church” or “ministry”, then we better start looking closely at the underlying issues and stop spending so much time and resource on the symptoms.

I’m trying to begin to lay out my prognosis of what I believe the cancer is in the American Church based on the various symptoms that are all around us, and based on the opinions of many others who have peer-reviewed this problem and are looking at this mass of cancer and coming to the same conclusions.

But this much I am absolutely sure of, it’s amazing what happens to the symptoms in a person when you remove the cancer.

The symptoms just…go away.

Why is so Much Attention Given to Pastors Over all the Roles Found in Ephesians 4?

Over the years of my life I have noticed something that few like to talk about or question and that is this: why there is so much emphasis placed on pastors in the church? Especially when one takes a look through scripture and you see that the pastor is but a single small part of the grand picture that is the Church.

For that matter…why is so much focus and emphasis placed on music in the church as though this is the only form of worship the church engages in? OK…I won’t go down that bunny trail this time. I’ll have to revisit that in another article.

Seriously though…as the modern church, why is so much emphasis and focus placed on the role of the shepherd (pastor) while the other roles listed in Ephesians 4 tend to get very little focus if they even get talked about or examined or practiced at all when that isn’t the picture we get in the Bible?

I mean we have pastors conferences, books for pastors, pastors retreats, pastor breakfasts, pastor resources galore, pastors websites, pastors this, and pastors that. The list could go on. Lots and lots of great resources.

If I go to Google and search for “pastor resources” I will be overloaded with what I listed above and more.

Not really a surprise there.

If I go to Google and search for “prophet resources” the majority of results are centered around Islam and Mohammad.

What??

If I go and Google “apostle resources” nearly every single result has to do with the apostles from the Bible and practically nothing has to do with modern day apostles.

Double what??

Interestingly, if I go to Google and search “evangelist resources” I’m almost as overwhelmed there with resources as I was for pastor. Although, I’m not entirely surprised about that as one who grew up as a Southern Baptist, the 2 roles out of all the roles listed in Ephesians 4 that got the most attention were evangelists and pastors.

Seriously, stop right now and go try it for yourself.

If you took a moment to test out the search for these things above, welcome back! Interesting isn’t it?

Please hear me…there is NOTHING wrong with these roles. But these roles aren’t islands unto their own. They were never intended to shoulder it all.

To be fair, the role of the evangelist has seen a serious decline in focus over the years in general, while the role of the pastor continues to soar.

That aside, we have done a great disservice to the Church and to those who God has gifted outside of these roles by making it so much about the pastor (and in the past the evangelist) while practically ignoring and neglecting the other roles.

Everything in today’s Western Church Culture seems to put the entire weight of the church on the shoulders of the pastor as though they are the only role God ever gave to help equip and lead the church.

I realize there is some debate on if it’s 4 or 5 roles listed in Ephesians 4, but no matter your count, it cannot be understated that we have somehow elevated the role of the shepherd (pastor) above all the others and given them our undivided attention, focus, and resources.

Which raises another question of mine – where in the Bible is the pastor elevated to the “authoritative” role over the church that we have adopted as the norm today? I have tried researching this, and I just don’t see it.

  1. Hebrews 13:17 doesn’t mention pastors or shepherds. It just says “leaders”.
  2. 1 Timothy 3:1-7 doesn’t mention pastor or shepherds. It says “overseer”.
  3. Acts 20:28 Paul isn’t talking to pastors or shepherds, but rather to elders.
  4. 1 Thessalonians 5 mentions “those who labor among you” but there is no mention as to who those people are. In other places, Paul has mentioned apostles (such as himself) as ones who labored among the people. But he doesn’t mention pastors.
  5. Titus 1:6-9 doesn’t mention pastors or shepherds. It says “overseer”.
  6. Acts 14:23 mentions elders, not pastors or shepherds.
  7. 1 Peter 5 mentions elders, not pastors. And, if verse 5 of this chapter seems to indicate that elders are from the older generations, not the younger generations.

I could go on. My point is simply that I think we have ascribed the role of “pastor” or “shepherd” to roles that weren’t necessarily in their wheel house. All too frequently I see the role of pastor being used interchangeably with elder, or shepherd, or overseer. But is this correct?

I’m still digging on that one, and that is another discussion for another time.

This much I know, whether or not the pastor is biblically elevated to an authoritative role, or whether or not it is acceptable to use “pastor” in place of “elder” or “overseer”, no single role was ever designed by God to function on its own. The very existence of a Triune Godhead shows us otherwise.

Another interesting thing to me is that we have made the roles listed in Ephesians 4 into titles and job titles where I just don’t see that being the case in the New Testament. In other words, we institutionalized the “gifts of God”.

I look at all of this, and the questions it raises in my mind, and I can’t help but think that’s why our churches struggle so much, why pastors have some of the highest depression rates, suicide concerns, and burn out rates of practically every “profession” out there. It was never meant to be a profession and was never meant to be all about the pastor.

Me saying this doesn’t mean I don’t care about pastors.

On the contrary, I care enough about them to say you are unnecessarily burning yourself out by heaping untold amounts of pressure on yourself that was never intended for you to carry alone. You may even be functioning in a role that isn’t yours to function in.

Do we really want a healthy and properly functioning church? If so, then we need to begin to have the hard discussions, examine everything, hold it up to the light of scripture, and make some seriously course corrections.

The Indispensable Worth of Discipleship and the Longevity of Faith

Definition of Foundation

There are many applications of the definition of foundation. It is the underlying base of support that a building is built upon (see def. 4 and 5 above). It is an institution that donations can be made to (see def. 3 above). It is an act of establishing something (see def. 1 above). And it can be the basis upon which a belief system, principle, or worldview is built upon (see def. 2 above).

I was talking on the phone yesterday with a great friend of mine who used to be a youth pastor on staff with me at the church I used to be part of that closed a couple years back (wow…hard to believe it’s almost been 2 years!).

I became the youth pastor at that church after he left, and have been a youth pastor in other churches over the years, so naturally we were talking about ministry in general, but also youth ministry more specifically.

The main thing we were discussing was how many of the youth we had in our youth ministries are still pursuing God in their life and what we thought helped keep the ones who are still pursuing God on the right track.

This is the conclusion we came to…

The youth that we still see actively pursuing God in their lives today are those that we personally invested our lives in directly, and continue to connect with to this day.

In other words, we had them in our homes individually (not just with the other youth), we spent LOTS of time with them outside of the larger Church and youth gatherings, we knew them personally in ways we didn’t know the other youth in the group, and we maintained a relationship with them long after they grew up out of the youth group.

Basically, the ones who stayed the course (by-and-large) were ones that were intimately discipled and not just interacted with (surface level) at youth meetings and larger church gatherings on Sundays where they’re primarily treated to games, food, and fun events (not a lot of actual discipleship happens there, if we’re honest).

We didn’t do it perfectly. We probably demonstrated how not to do things a lot along the way. But something about that relationship seems to be directly connected to their longevity in the faith.

That relationship, that act of discipleship, was the foundation that was laid for someone in the faith to stay the course and to find their purpose in God’s will.

After further reading of scripture, and seeing what Jesus commanded us to do, and what the early church did, I find this to be true:

Discipleship is INDISPENSABLE as it directly relates to the longevity of faith in a person. Discipleship is a foundation that, when properly laid, is something that can be built upon that will last.

Jesus is the foundation of the gospel upon which our entire faith is built.

Discipleship is the foundation of the great commission upon which the faith of others is built.

Discipleship is foundational to our ministry, and when we lose sight of discipleship, we lose sight of what God commanded us to do in Matthew 28.

I’ve got lots of youth pastor friends that I believe need to know this: you can have the largest youth group in the world, but unless someone is intimately pouring their lives in to a student in your youth ministry in a very direct way, and unless they have someone outside of that ministry doing this already (like a parent or another member of the church), their chances of staying the course in the faith are greatly diminished.

The other thing you need to know is this: it’s absolutely impossible for you as a youth pastor to accomplish this on your own for all of those in that ministry.

Remember, Jesus had 12 close disciples (there were far more than that overall), and had three that were in his inner circle that were poured into in even greater measure. And even in the group of 12 he had two betray him (with in the same 24 hour period to be exact – one which was in the inner circle). Thankfully, one of those two (Peter) returned to him and pursued him further. The other (Judas) did not.

The point is, you should not try to shoulder the weight of discipling every student in your youth ministry alone. In fact, it’s quite unbiblical. Especially when you see how God provided to the Church a plethora of people gifted to help equip and disciple the church. The same goes for your youth ministry.

Don’t be upset by or even jealous of the relationship a student may have with another adult in your ministry. You can’t do it all on your own even if you wanted to anyway, and if you have adults who are willing to pour into those students lives, you should be grateful…not put off.

One more thing…

This doesn’t just apply to youth ministry.

This applies to senior pastors, children’s pastors, evangelists, teachers, prophets, apostles, missionaries, and so on.

I’ll go even so far as to say to you senior pastors most specifically (because they have taken on the primary role of care of local churches), and please hear my heart on this: STOP trying to carry the burden of the entire church on your shoulders. God didn’t design you to do that. He didn’t design anyone to do that.

He brings together many people gifted in many ways to disciple and equip the many to go out and do the work of the church. Stop making the church out to be your sole responsibility as a pastor. Stop shouldering so much. According to Ephesians 4, God has brought others along side of you to help disciple and equip the church. This is not yours alone to bear.

Instead, look at each person in your local church body as someone who has been uniquely gifted to do something for God and your responsibility is not to plug them in to YOUR ministry, but to help encourage them in their own gifting, point them in the right direction, disciple them or bring others in to disciple them if you are already pouring into others…then release them into the work God has called them to.

Always keep in mind that you are not the CEO of a business, or an event planner, or an orator, or complaint box, or anything else you find yourself functioning as.

By shouldering everything you may actually be standing in the way of others being used as God intended rather than helping them…and, potentially standing in the way of how God intended to use you as well.

You are a pastor, a shepherd (as the Bible words it), of a group of people who are chomping at the bit to learn and put into practice the gifts God has given them. God calls us to “Go and make disciples” not “Go and build buildings” or “Go and build programs” or “Go and plant churches”.

Discipleship is the keyword. It is the program.

Disciple people, and the rest will fall into place.

I will leave you with the words of Paul who lays out the profit and consequence of good and bad discipleship:

1 Corinthians 3:9-15 NKJV

For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. 10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

What is Worship? Can Churches Really Shut Down? Can Governments Really Restrict Worship?

Photo by Arvid Knutsen from Pexels


Worship is a very misunderstood thing. It is an often argued about thing as well, mostly because I think of the misunderstandings that the (sadly) vast majority of believers have about what worship is exactly.

I think this became painfully obvious as we entered into the lockdown phase of 2020 after the whole COVID19 thing hit. It was in this moment that I began to see the following two concerns or questions being raised by believers in large numbers:

  1. Can a church be shut down?
  2. Can a government really restrict our worship?

To answer question one, in short, since the church is a body of people, the only way a church can be shut down is if the church is being run like a business and not an actual church.

I’ve said that before, but I think it bears repeating.

Think about it…if your church is being run like a business, and your only source of revenue is the donations of your people…and those donations are only accessible (by-and-large) through in-person events you hold once a week (or more) for one hour at a time, then yes…your “church” (read: business) could be shut down.

But since the church ISN’T a business, you can’t shut it down. The only way to shut it down would be to end the lives of the very people that make up that body. Even then, the church will go on. And since the lives of the church body haven’t actually been taken (at least here in America), then the Church was not shut down.

It’s one hour large church gathering got shut down, but the church itself was not shut down. I would even go so far as to say that it was at the height of this whole lockdown thing that we saw the church looking more like the church than it has looked in quite a long time.

Which brings me to the second question – can a government restrict our worship?

The short answer? No.

The longer answer? The government can’t restrict our worship because our worship is more than what we do in our weekly one hour gatherings. And to understand this…we have to truly understand what worship is.

So today, I want to explore the question, “What is Worship?

I will first go through the various ideas people have about worship, and then I’ll let the Bible tell us what worship is. After all, it’s all well and good for everyone to have an opinion about what worship is, but if we don’t let God define that for us, our opinions will remain opinions and we will miss the mark entirely.

Without further ado, here we go!

Many think worship is the gathering of the church body.

Worship ABSOLUTELY includes the gathering of the church body. Unfortunately, there is a huge dispute amongst the body as to what constitutes as a proper worship gathering. Especially under COVID19 restrictions and lockdowns that we’ve seen.

Some say a worship gathering must have music, a sermon, a time for prayer, a time for offerings, etc. They will say that without these things present, a proper church gathering did not take place. Some say a worship gathering is simply the body of believers coming together and encouraging, exhorting, and building up one another. They will say that you don’t need a pastor or a sermon or any of the trappings of “church” that we currently see to count as a gathering.

I will say that the Bible indicates that God is in our midst at all times and even more so when two or more are gathered (Matthew 18:20) – so the church gathering needs to at least include, at a minimum, 2 people.

Should we gather? Yes!

Is there many ways we can gather? Yes!

Can this even be done virtually (Zoom, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, etc.)? Yes!

However the gathering may look, while certainly part of worship…it’s not the only part.

Many think worship is prayer.

We too often treat prayer as a one sided “conversation” where we go to dump everything out on the lap of Jesus, which usually results in us walking away never having heard him speak back to us. Then we get frustrated because we say “God doesn’t answer my prayers”.

Then again, we aren’t actually listening for the answer, are we?

We’re just spewing out all our problems and then saying “Alright God, fix it!” All the while thinking that this is all there is to prayer.

Want a visual?

This is kind of how prayer looks (if we’re honest with ourselves):

If you watched that video, you’re probably laughing. But sadly, this is exactly what it looks like WAY too often.

The reality is, prayer is conversing with God. Conversation is a two way street…it is a time of both speaking AND listening.

Yep…listening.

So, while prayer, conversing with God, is a HUGE part of worship…this too is not the only part.

Many think worship is music.

This one is probably the hottest topic on the list.

For decades, it seems, the Church has been arguing with one another over church music. Traditional or contemporary? Choir robes or skinny jeans? Organs and pianos or electric guitars and drums? Unplugged or loud sound system? Hymns or CCM? Hymn books or projector screens?

NOTE: I wrote two long articles, HERE and HERE, on this one in response to another article telling us how hymn books are basically superior to screens in helping us worship. Try not to roll your eyes too much.

Personally? I think these are all stupid arguments.

Every. Last. One.

I say that as a worship leader in a church who leads the music for our contemporary service.

Why do I think these arguments are stupid?

Because A) worship is more than music (I’ll get to that in a minute) and B) It’s pathetic and sad just how much we have allowed musical preferences (yes these are ALL preferences) become a point of anger, frustration, and division in the church.

These arguments over musical preferences (yep, I said it again) demonstrate a great deal of immaturity in the Church when it comes to worship.

As a musician, I understand and appreciate the beauty of all genres and styles. I understand how music can leave a literal imprint in our memories. I understand how we can latch on to certain songs because they speak to a part of us in ways other things can’t.

But these things are not good enough reasons to make music in to the idol it has become.

That said, one thing I can appreciate about music and I think is one of the greatest benefits of music, is that it is one of the greatest teaching tools out there. We struggle to memorize bible verses, our phone numbers, or street addresses…but give me a song (“867-5309” anybody?) and suddenly we can’t forget it. Tie those lyrics to a catchy tune, and even a memory, and it will be forever engrained in our psyche.

There’s a spiritual aspect to music too. In the Bible, music helped soothe Saul’s troubled soul (1 Samuel 16:23). It helped David process the good and bad in his life and even remind his own soul that God was in charge (see the entire book of Psalms). It was a way the early church communicated and encouraged one another (Ephesians 5:19). And more.

So, while music is certainly an avenue of worship, it’s not the only avenue.

What is Worship?

This section is probably going to be very disappointing in length compared to the sections above, mostly because worship is possibly one of the most simple spiritual concepts to grasp.

Are you ready?

Worship is many things…in fact, it is all things.

Worship is simply this “Giving God the glory in all that we do.”

OR, as Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God”, or in Romans 12:1, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

That’s it!

All that you do, and all that you are…THAT is worship.

Whether you are singing, praying, gathering, sleeping, eating, drinking, feeding the poor, caring for the homeless, adopting, helping a widow, serving fellow members of the church body, driving to work, working, parenting, going to school, reading, shopping, obeying your parents, caring for pets, and much MUCH more.

Now go…present your bodies…your lives…as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is YOUR spiritual worship.

S3Ep5 – Political Jesus: Is Jesus Conservative or Liberal?

We live in a very politically divided time. Everyone sees the “other side” as the enemy. Conservatives see liberals as enemies and liberals see conservatives as enemies. Neither side seems very willing to work through differences, but instead want to paint with broad strokes and wide brushes the other party. To make matters worse, individuals have come to some conclusion that Jesus would’ve been a supporter of their party. But, would he? Is Jesus a conservative or a liberal? How about a socialist? Let’s talk about that!

“Angry Dance” by Simon Panrucker https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/ and “Clear Progress” by Scott Holmes https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/

S3Ep4 – White Jesus Vs Black Jesus

In a time when racial tensions are high, people often want to bring Jesus into it. Not just from a “what would Jesus do” aspect, but also from “What race was Jesus?”. So, in this episode, we explore that a little. Was Jesus white? Was Jesus black? Tune in to find out where we land on this question.

“Angry Dance” by Simon Panrucker https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/ and “Clear Progress” by Scott Holmes https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/

Micro-church Misunderstandings: Clarifying My Position on Church Gatherings, Facilities, Paid Ministers, and Education.

I think some people assume that I’m anti-large church gatherings, or anti-a lot of things apparently, because of the stuff I often write about micro-church expressions. So, my hope is to offer some clarification in 4 areas:

  1. Church gatherings
  2. Facilities
  3. Paid ministers
  4. and Education

So….here we go! 

1. I’m not anti-large church gathering.

I’m not against big things. I’m not against churches gathering together in large groups. However, I think it is in the smaller groups that we see the most effective environment for discipleship and equipment to go and do the mission of the church.

I think this is modeled by Jesus himself. Indeed, he preached to thousands at times. But, he was closer, more intimate, and spent the bulk of his time with 12 guys. He spent lots of time with others who comprised the core of the early church, but the bulk of his focus was these 12 guys. 

In the micro-church expression there would be LOTS of small church gatherings taking place all over a region (in groups of like 20 or less). Each one dedicated to their own mission and community to reach in their own unique ways. Those smaller gatherings would meet weekly, if not multiple times a week (who is to say?). 

Those gatherings would then gather less frequently (but still intentionally gathering) with the other groups in a larger expression where they can come together, be encouraged by whats happening with the various groups, worship together through music, pray together, and sit under some preaching or teaching geared towards encouragement and exhortation to go back to their corners of the community and be on mission. 

The leaders of these micro-churches would come together frequently to pray with one another, encourage one another, and equip one another.

In other words, even the larger gathering wouldn’t look exactly like what we’re used to. It’s not the size of the gathering in this case, but the purpose for the gathering that is important.

2. I’m not anti-facilities 

Buildings are great and serve lots of purposes. I live in a building myself…it’s called a home. I depend on it to protect myself and my family from the elements and provide a safe space for us to sleep and eat and whatever else one does in a home. However, there is a lot of overhead with the ownership of a home. Likewise, there is a lot of overhead for a church that owns a facility.

Church facilities are great and well intentioned, but can wreak major havoc on church budgets. Outside of salaries, facilities are the next greatest expenditure for most churches. And if we’re honest with ourselves, they don’t provide a whole lot of return on our investment. In other words, these massive facilities sit vacant most days of the week, and do very little to actually help us fulfill our mission in reaching our community. In my estimation, this is a great waste of money, when money could be better put to use on the actual mission. 

Don’t get me wrong….the early church had access to facilities as well…but I’m not entirely sure they spent untold amounts of money building grand buildings they could visit once a week in order to shake some hands, sip some coffee, hear some great music, and listen to some guy give a pep talk about having your best life now.

As mentioned above, there may be times when all of the micro-church expressions with in a network of micro-churches will want to gather together for a larger gathering. They will need a space for that. They may choose to partner together to build something that will serve multiple purposes and be used every day of the week for their mission, or they may choose to simply rent a space when the time comes to need one. Either way, it’s not that they won’t need facilities, it’s just that a facility won’t be the main base of operations for them…individuals homes and communities would be. 

3. I’m not anti-paid ministers

In the micro-church expression, there isn’t anything barring someone from being a minister who receives compensation. To be sure, Paul and other leaders from the New Testament had things to say about paying ministers. Paul encouraged paying ministers, however, he himself didn’t take payment frequently (he did at times though).

The point isn’t so much “Should a church pay a minister?”, but rather “Should paying a minister be one of the primary ways a church uses its finances?”

That said, I believe in the smaller expressions, money would be more wisely used and better spent on the mission of reaching their community rather than providing the salary for a single individual (and potentially their family), or potentially a whole slew of individuals and their families with in their church body. 

The money would also be used in times of crisis when a member of that local body experiences financial hardships (job loss, medical bills mounting, adoption, etc.). Because a micro-church won’t already be trying to support paid staff and keep up a building, they will have more freedom with their finances to support those in their midst who are in need. 

The money could also be used to support missionaries who are sent from this local expression of the Church into other nations where financial assistance is absolutely needed, at least at the start.

If compensation were to take place, I believe in the micro-church expression that compensation would be very minimal and the person being compensated would still likely hold a full-time marketplace job outside of the church that provides the bulk of their financial support. 

The benefit of this is several-fold:

  1. More money can be spent on the actual mission.
  2. More money can be spent on supporting people who are in need (the poor, homeless, widows, orphans, members of the body who are struggling, etc.)
  3. Money won’t become a trap for those leading to compromise in ways they shouldn’t because it might cause someone to leave the body who gives a lot of money.
  4. It removes the temptation to make money a cudgel against people.
  5. Money becomes a tool to reach people instead of a trap for those who are leading.

4. I’m not anti-education

It is true…I’m not a fan of seminaries. Mostly because I feel seminaries have become largely giant centers for continuing denominational view points (right or wrong), and something for professional ministers to add to their resumes so they can get hired on at a good paying church job. 

But this isn’t the same as not being a fan of education.

Quite the opposite…I’m a HUGE proponent of education. Education is absolutely important. We ought to always be students and finding ways to educate ourselves on all sorts of things. I believe furthering our education should also include learning how to read and understand the Bible. It should include learning about our spiritual gifts and how to put them to use. It should include so much more that I could list.

The bible encourages us to love knowledge. Knowledge is great! Knowledge can lead to wisdom. But if education becomes an idol, and we rely more on what our seminaries can teach us than what the Holy Spirit will do in and through us…we are in serious danger.

The issue is, much like facilities, money, and the size of our church – the piece of paper a pastor hangs on his wall has become a major idol for a lot of churches, and has even become a detriment to churches because they seriously do think that the only qualified people to lead or serve in a church are those with specific degrees from specific seminaries or universities.

Again, education is important, but if we make it into an idol, then it becomes a stumbling block just like anything else.

A lot more could be said, but I hope this helps provide at least some clarification and maybe a better understanding of my thoughts on what the church COULD and perhaps SHOULD look like.

COVID19 Has Turned Us Into Zombies

COVID has been a pain in our butts for the vast majority of 2020…this much is true. People have died (over 200k in the US). This is no small thing. However, perhaps one of the worst outcomes of the entire thing is how we have come to treat one another…our friends, family, and neighbors.

We were already at one another’s throats over stupid politics and religion…but then we throw in a virus that no one knows anything about coupled with government agencies and health organizations talking like experts on the matter when they knew very little as well…and suddenly everyone is a health expert and everyone is a threat.

As a result, I have watched people begin to treat others (their friends, neighbors, and family) like they are social pariahs…or like they are carrying the Black Death in their pocket. I have literally had people run away from me because I was asked to usher them to their seat at a wedding. I’ve gotten dirty looks because I stood too close or something to someone one time in line at the store (even though I had a mask on). I’ve seen people calling the cops on other people to report that they are not wearing a mask in a store (this actually happened in my town), and the cops actually showed up!

NEWS FLASH…your friends, family, and neighbors aren’t zombies!

They’re humans.

They aren’t your enemies.

They’re humans.

If anything, WE are the zombies acting out in mindless fear toward the people we know, love, and see every day.

Now it’s the elections turn to drive a deeper wedge between us. Heaven forbid you say anything remotely political online as you might receive private messages telling you that you’re not really a Christian. Or have someone lose their mind on you on a social media post. Or come and tear up your political parties signs in your front yard. Or worse…

All this for what? Because we are afraid. And in our fear we have turned one another into threats and enemies.

As we move into the 2020 holiday season I REALLY hope we’ll snap out of our zombie like state and come back to our senses a little bit with our friends, family, and neighbors. You know, treat them like human beings again instead of like walking diseases that must be avoided at all costs.

P.S. I’m giving out free hugs. Next time you see me, I’ll be happy to give you one!

Theory of International Politics and Zombies – Foreign Policy

S3Ep3 – Jesus: Legalist or Anarchist?

Was Jesus a legalist, an anarchist, neither, or both? Tune into this episode as we explore another facet of the character of Jesus and 2 more ways that Jesus is often portrayed by people who say they know him, or at least say they know about him.

“Angry Dance” by Simon Panrucker https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/ and “Clear Progress” by Scott Holmes https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/

S3Ep2 – Jesus: Warrior or Pacifist?

On episode 2 of season 3, we continue our discussion and exploration of who Jesus is by asking the question, “Was Jesus a Warrior, a Pacifist, neither, or both?”

“Angry Dance” by Simon Panrucker https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/
“Clear Progress” by Scott Holmes https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/

S3Ep1 – Who Is Jesus? Season 3 Intro

Everyone has their own ideas about who Jesus is…but it is important that we actually know who Jesus is, and not just who we would like Him to be. Season 3 is dedicated to exploring the many ways people portray Jesus and comparing that to what the Bible tells us about Jesus. It’s sure to be an awesome season filled with great discussions and thought provoking nonsense (wouldn’t be an ACP episode without a little humor, now would it?) See you there!

Opening Music: “Angry Dance” by Simon Panrucker
Outro Music: “Clear Progress” by Scott Holmes

Churches and Sand Castles

I’m seeing pastors, church leaders, and churches struggle with some very real things right now. Things like staff lay offs, bank debts for facilities, paying the utility bills, finding volunteers to man the programs they have…asking questions like…do they have in person gatherings or not, do they go to summer camp or not, do they have their normal annual conference or not, do they allow singing if they gather, and much more. 

These things can’t be taken lightly. They are very real concerns…under this current structure of church.

Yesterday I talked a little about the story of the three little pigs and how this story reminded me of the parable of the wise builder that Jesus talked about who built his house upon the rock instead of sand making his foundation a firm foundation that could stand up against the storms of life.

And as I think about the three little pigs, and the parable of Jesus, and then take a look at the current condition of the American Church…I have to wonder…what sort of foundation did we build our house (our churches) upon if it trembles so easily under the weight of a virus and social pressure? 

My honest take? 

I think our foundation is one of sand, not rock. 

Sadly, more often than not, our “houses” aren’t just build on a foundation of sand, but are completely constructed out of sand and look more like sand castles that we’ve spent years meticulously crafting and building higher and higher, then standing back and admiring our work and inviting people to come see what we did…only to have the tide come in and a small wave come along and wash it all away.  

I think this is why we are seeing unprecedented “church closures”, keeping in mind that churches can only close when they are run like a business and not a church. 

This reminds me of another scripture in the bible…this time from Paul, which is in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 ESV and it says:

10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

What Paul is saying is that while the foundation is important, and in the case of the church and salvation our foundation in Jesus is critically important, the structure that we build upon that foundation is also important.

Paul tells us that a test will come that will test the workmanship of those who built upon that foundation…he refers to this test as a fire…and what each person has built will either survive the test, or be burned up.

He assures the readers that while their work may be burned up, they themselves will still be saved…but their work will be utterly lost.

As I read the words of Paul, and I think about the three little pigs and the wise builder who built his house upon the rock, and I again think about the American Church…I’ll be honest…I’m nervous for her. VERY nervous.

The test (the fire) for our time has come in the form of a virus, and we are seeing the workmanship of so many church planters being burned up and left in a pile of ash. Our foundations might have been right…built on Jesus…but our structures….oh God our structures…were massively flawed.

What makes me nervous isn’t so much that our structures are being revealed as seriously faulty, but rather that pastors, church leaders, and churches are doubling down on these structures and holding fast to their structures as they, like the sand carried away by the wave, slips through their fingers.

Why are we holding tight to sand structures? Why would we not let the wave just carry them away and resolve ourselves to build a better structure…one of gold, and silver, and precious stones that will stand the test of fire and stand the test of time?

I’ll tell you why…pride.

We’re so proud of our sand structures.

After all, we’ve spent countless years building our little castles in the sand (we went to seminary and did studies about our target audience, etc.), adorning them with seashells and other ocean matter (we gathered our church planting team, hired our staff, built our buildings, etc.), inviting people to come see what we have done (inviting people to our Sunday entertainment gatherings where people come and sit and listen to music and speaking for an hour a week) instead of inviting people into a relationship with a mighty God and see what HE is doing (inviting them to come and engage one another and engage God).

We’ve been enjoying ourselves immensely as the masses are entertained and filling our coffers so we can build bigger and better and more comfortable buildings with even more entertaining programs for people to watch. 

But Church…our test is here…2020 has come in and a virus has come along and all that we have worked for is being washed away.

Will we keep grasping at the sand?

The Gospel of The Three Little Pigs

It’s 8PM on a Monday night, I’m sitting in the living room with my 4-year-old watching the Looney Toons version of “The Three (3) Little Pigs” and, of course, this gets me thinking about the message that is being communicated through this short little story. 

If you’re not familiar with the story (which, I REALLY hope you are, but just in case), it’s about three little pigs who go to build their houses. One builds their house of straw, one of sticks, and the last pig out of bricks. 

Along comes a big bad wolf who tries to blow down their houses so he can eat them. He successfully does this with the pigs in the straw and stick homes, but when he comes to the little pig in the brick house he can’t knock it over. It remains standing against the wolfs attempts.

The moral of the story is making sure that you are building on a solid foundation so that your life doesn’t come crashing down all around you in an instant when the woes of life come blowing against it. 

The bible has a similar story…except the Bible tells of two houses.

One built on sand and one built on the rock. 

In Matthew 7:24-27 NLT, we read the words of Jesus:

24 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25 Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. 26 But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”

Similar to the story of the three little pigs…Jesus is warning against building on a shaky foundation. 

The foundation that Jesus is referring to is the truth in His Words. The revelation of who He is, and why He came. The truth in who is, and what this means for us. When we build our earthly and eternal foundation on Jesus, trials will still come (he never said they wouldn’t, in fact he even says “Though the rain comes…” with certainty), but we in spite of the storms we will not be easily shaken. 

This, unfortunately, cannot be said of those who have built their house upon the sand (a shaky foundation outside of Jesus).

So…what foundation have you built your life upon?

The Rock (Jesus)? OR The Sand (anything else)?

Optimal Church Environment

There is such a thing as an optimal environment for everything in life.

Optimal environments for raising children.

Optimal environments for pets.

Optimal work environments.

Optimal health environments.

And so on.

There is one thing I’ve been learning with my wife as we explore growing our own food that stands out pretty clearly in my mind, and that is this: there is an optimal environment for growing various plants.

Some plants grow better in some environments over others. It’s not saying it’s impossible to make those plants grow in sub-optimal environments, it just means it will be met with great frustration and difficulty to accomplish, and may not produce the results you were expecting to get (if it produces any results at all).

For some plants you may have to give up on the idea of growing it in your region. Or it may be that you will need to find a way to harness an optimum environment with what you have (better soil, green house, growing indoors, etc). Either way – you don’t want to spend your life as a gardener trying to force plants to grow in a sub-optimal environment. It will drive you absolutely crazy and could potentially be a huge waste of time.

As I was picking up a riding lawn mower this evening from a friend, a thought occurred to me as we talked. The thought was this:

There is such a thing as an optimal environment for the church.

The issue is…no one wants to admit that maybe, just maybe, the environment they are trying to force the church to thrive in may in fact be a sub-optimal environment.

Church leaders – let me encourage you by saying this – admitting you have been attempting to sow seeds of church growth in a sub-optimal environment doesn’t mean that you are a failure. It just means you recognize that what you are doing may not be producing the best fruit (or any fruit) because it is not the optimal environment for the flourishing of the church.

For example: I am not anti-mega church. I do, however, believe it is a sub-optimal environment to effectively foster and equip the church to do the work of the ministry for many many reasons that I’m not going to go into here.

Can it be done in a mega-church environment? Sure!

But there is a strong likelihood that you will be met with an immense amount of frustration and difficulty and perhaps even find that the vast majority of the ones in attendance to your local gathering is not functioning as a healthy member of the church body.

And not to let small churches off the hook on this one, here’s another example:

I am a firm believer that the very structure of church government and church model that practically every church follows in the west is sub-optimal.

Again, can it be done? Surely.

But like with mega-churches, because it is sub-optimal you will be met with a great deal of frustration, difficulty and find that the vast majority of those in attendance to your local gathering is not functioning as a healthy member of the church body.

So, what then, is the answer?

First of all – humility. Being humble enough to admit that maybe we are off the mark is a great first step. It’s also the hardest first step. It is also the one step that many in your local church gathering may not be able to get on board with because they too are stuck in an assumed mindset that they are doing it right and that the problem is just the culture. But, if the leaders of the church are willing to humble themselves and take ownership of the course the church has taken, then we can really begin to make headway in correcting its course.

Second of all – creativity. Begin to explore the early church and what is required of the church. Begin to foster a creative and optimal environment based on what God requires of us, and what your specific community needs. Start looking at the countless ways that the church can express itself in its community.

The hard part about this step is that this may require trashing everything you currently do and put a flame to it. However, it may only require minor tweaks. Or, it may require something in between. This will all be entirely dependent on where you and your local church gathering currently are and where you need to be in order to achieve an optimal healthy environment.

Now the question and call for action…where do YOU need to begin, and what will YOU do to get the ball rolling in the right direction?

COVID19 – Shopping Mall Churches Face the Music

The Age of the Shopping Mall

Perhaps I’m dating myself here a little, but I remember when shopping malls were all the rage and acted as the primary place where people of all ages would come and spend their weekends. Friday nights, especially, were spent roaming the halls of the malls.

These malls were packed with multiple shoe stores, clothing stores, restaurants, snack stands, perfume shops, jewelry shops, music stores (when people still bought tapes and CD’s), book stores, and so on. Many malls even had arcades, and some even had movie theaters built in.

I used to work in the mall. Specifically at the Chick-fil-a in the Food Court of the mall where I lived which happened to be situated right underneath the movie theatre and right at the main entrance to the mall.

Most of the foot traffic of the mall came through this to begin or end their mall adventure.

When I wasn’t working, I would absolutely be hanging out here with my friends, catching movies, playing games in the arcade, grabbing snacks at the pretzel place, going to talk to my friends who were still working at the various shops in the mall, or going out and cruising around the mall in my car trying to see if I spotted anyone I knew.

If you’re not sure what a mall looked like back in those days, check out the last season of “Stranger Things” and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. Or…well…really, you could watch any 80’s or 90’s movie to see it as well.

The End of the Age of Malls

Fast forward to the mid to late 2,000’s and technology introduces us to things like eBay, Amazon, and all the shopping someone can muster, all at their finger tips through their computer without leaving their house or putting on clothes.

Fast forward a little further to the mid to late 2010’s and we find shopping malls seriously on the struggle bus. And why were malls struggling? Because online shopping was growing in convenience and popularity.

No longer were people coming to the mall to buy stuff, which meant people were less inclined to come and enjoy the other amenities of the mall.

Couple that with the advent of online streaming services for both movies, TV, and video gaming, and suddenly the other cool amenities like the arcade and movie theaters are taking a huge hit as well.

Sadly, as a result, we’ve seen a great mall exodus from America. Even in my own area I’ve watched one of the largest malls (and nicest in my opinion) go from hugely popular to struggling to even get older people there to walk in the mornings. They have literally turned the mall into a church (on one end) and in the middle they have turned it in to a branch of MUSC (a hospital system in my area).

There are still some malls hanging in there, but by-and-large, malls have lost their luster and the people have lost their affinity for them. Companies who had stores in malls that adapted to online shopping and started providing online shopping services to their customers have managed to pull through and survive the coming mall-apocolypse.

Unfortunately, other shops that didn’t adapt have had to close their doors altogether.

Fast forward again to 2020 and with the COVID19 pandemic, many stores who didn’t already have an online presence have had to close their doors, try and quickly get an online presence or find other creative ways to get their product to customers. Either way, they’ve struggled.

Meanwhile, stores that have had an online presence and have been providing shipping for years quickly and easily adapted and even became popular sources for shopping for those who hadn’t previously done online shopping, simply because people were too scared to leave their homes to shop.

The Age of the Shopping Mall Church

Now, imagine with me if you will, still in the 80’s and early 90’s, replacing those individual shops with various local churches and then, let’s call this place the “Western Church Mall”.

As you walk through the halls of Western Church Mall you see the various church shops with their people standing out by the doors begging you to come inside and see what they have to offer as they shoot glares and smirks across the hall to the church across the way while they tell you all about how different and better they are than the Church shop down the hall.

You notice that some of the shops appear to be ethnically targeted, while others seem to be targeting certain age groups of people.

Some of the church shops appear to be hocking formal wear, offering only the finest in suits, ties, and dresses. While other church shops appear to be hocking casual wear offering the latest trends emerging from the casual markets.

All of the church shops appear to be in competition with one another to get customers. Some of the church shops even belong to larger corporations who put out advertisements on TV and radio comparing their offering to the other church shop offerings like some Pepsi vs Coke commercial of the 80’s.

As you walk by each church shop you hear their various radio stations playing over their loud speakers. Some, like the formal church wear shops, are quietly playing classical music over the speakers, while others like the casual wear shops are blasting loud rock, hip-hop, or even rap music over their speakers.

As you continue walking you see all the other people around you walking the halls, some of them slipping into one shop, and then moments later slipping into the next shop, and so on. You see several who walk the halls, peruse the shops, and leave the mall without buying anything because, in their words, “The stores just didn’t have what they were looking for” so they are going to go try the mall across town and see if those Church shops have what they want.

The End of the Age of Mall Churches

In the mid 2010’s we saw the increase in popularity of a little thing called “Live Streaming”. Live streaming suddenly made it possible for “churchgoers” to attend their churches Sunday gatherings from the comfort of their home. They could pull up their churches services right there on their computer without leaving their home or putting on their clothes. They could even watch multiple church gatherings if they wanted at the exact same time from churches all across the country and world.

Fast forward to 2020 and we suddenly have a pandemic on our hands called COVID19 and churches are being forced to consider closing their physical church locations to help prevent the spread of COVID19 to their parishioners.

Churches that have been live streaming for years have faced as much of a struggle with this as they simply continued to produce online services that they were already doing. Some faced a slight dip in giving, but generally, they were able to maintain their Sunday worship services for their people with minimal additional effort and even saw a massive uptick in “attendance” via their online services.

However, unlike the online stores, even these churches have begun to see a serious hit to their bottom line, attendance (both in person and online), and more. These churches have had to halt building projects, let go of or reduce the pay of staff, and have had to put all sorts of programs and events on hold that would’ve otherwise been a smash hit during the summer.

Churches that haven’t been live streaming for years, may not even know what live streaming is, or struggle to even have a single computer in their facility have been a horse of a different color. They have struggled to quickly catch up, learn the technology, implement new parts to their website (or get a website to begin with), find people in their churches who know how to use this technology, and find ways to get these digitally produced services to their members who by-and-large aren’t all that big on technology either.

The Barna Group released a study on July 8, 2020 titled One in Three Practicing Christians Has Stopped Attending Church During COVID-19, and I’ve already seen the rounds going by Christians and pastors alike decrying peoples non-commitment to the local church. In this article Barna reveals that all churches (traditional and contemporary) are struggling hard in this pandemic.

Technologically advanced and technologically disadvantaged churches have had to learn a hard truth in light of COVID-19:

…they have (for better or worse) built their entire existence around a one hour gathering on Sunday’s as though this was their entire reason for being, and all it took was a single pandemic to practically topple it.

And because of that, if they do not manage to find a way to maintain it or replace it with a creative alternative in light of the current era we find ourselves in that is plagued with a literal plague, they will find themselves closing their doors no matter how young, hip, cool, technologically advanced, or whatever else they may be.

In short, these churches put all of their eggs in one basket because they assumed this was the only basket the Church had to carry.

It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way

Unlike shopping malls and stores, the Church is, or at least should be, a very different entity from a business. Mostly because they are not a business.

However, up until now, the Church has made the massive mistake of becoming a consumer driven organization that looking more and more like the shopping malls of the 80’s and 90’s than a living, breathing, world shaking entity that is empowered and equipped by a mighty God who created all things to go out into the world and be His ambassadors of light to this dark world.

The mindset has become, “If we build it they will come.” (NOTE: This is a famous line from the movie “Field of Dreams” starring Kevin Costner…classic late 80’s/early 90’s movie)

As a result, COVID19 stripped nearly every church in America of their identity because we put all of our efforts and focus into a single hour of the week assuming this was the purpose for which we existed, instead of in the person of Christ and in the relationship with him and with one another.

We were dead wrong, and many churches are facing the music because of it. I don’t celebrate this. It’s sad news.

Unfortunately, I have been saying this for years now, but especially in the last few months, but it doesn’t have to be this way. The Church in the West doesn’t have to go down like this.

Yes, we’ve had our facilities, gatherings, budgets, staff, and all the niceties of the modern church stripped from us, but these things really weren’t the church, were they?

No. These things were the trappings of a church that had adopted a toxic consumer mindset and have spent the better part of the last 30+ years trying to find ways to function like a business but still call itself a Church.

This isn’t a jab at contemporary churches only. It’s not just a contemporary church problem. This is a Western Church problem, and has been for a very long time. [See some of my other articles on this issue like Obese Church vs Keto Church, Tiny House Movement: A Big Lesson for the American Church, 20 Signs of a Consumer Driven Church Culture, or Re-Branding the American Church).

But we can change course. We don’t have to go back to what we’ve always done. We can use this moment as a moment for positive and effective change.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Back in March, when all of this COVID19 stuff started making its rounds in America, I wrote the following article: COVID19 Aftermath: The Church Cannot Go Back to Egypt.

I highly recommend going and checking this one out because this was my first step at trying to outline where we need to go from here.

But now, I’m trying to think of some ways to address the glaring issue I think is out there because it’s not enough to sit around and point the finger and say, “See! There’s a problem!” and then do nothing to try and fix it.

So, here is a feeble attempt to provide four starting points:

  1. Start with the Bible. I know this sounds so cliche, but the Bible informs our understanding of God and the Church. Explore the New Testament and how the church lived, functioned, and more. Compare this to what you see today in the Church.
  2. Be willing to ask questions. Not softball questions. Hard questions. Questions that are going to make others and even yourself uncomfortable. Question everything. Seriously…it’s OK to ask questions. You don’t find answers if you don’t ask questions. Don’t just ask yourself these questions. Ask your pastors, church leaders, family, etc to help you understand from a biblical perspective what the Church is and why it exists and whether or not we are accomplishing this. Start a discussion, see where it goes. But always be respectful. Don’t become a clanging cymbal.
  3. Find people who have already been down this road and the resources they have available. Explore what bumps they hit, what tips they have, advice they give, encouragement they can show you, and what ideas they have explored. I’ve already found several challenging and respectable resources out there from people like Frank Viola (author of “Organic Church” and “Pagan Christianity“), Brian Sanders (founder of the Tampa Underground Network and author of “Microchurches” and “Underground Church“), or even Francis Chan (author of “Letters to the Church“).
  4. Connect with like minded people locally, not to whine, complain, and trash the local church, but to begin to explore how you can take your exploration to the next level. Perhaps it’s connecting with something like the Underground Network and starting something in your area. Perhaps it’s going back to your local church and speaking with the pastor and/or leadership about what changes might could take place in your church, and if they’re even open to that.

At this point, I think the next steps will be determined by what you discover and learn through the above steps.

Truth is, I’d be sad to see the American Church go. And we have the power and the means to make sure that doesn’t happen. We just need to be willing and courageous enough, and even creative enough, to take the steps necessary to ensure it.

Ephesians 4: Ministry, for the Rest of Us

Ministry is not only a pastor thing.

In fact, it’s not only an evangelist thing. Or a teacher thing. Or a prophet thing. Or an apostle thing. It’s an everybody thing.

The roles listed above exist for a two-fold important purpose according to Paul in Ephesians 4:

“12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…

I firmly believe, as Paul and the 12 disciples believed, that every member of the Body of Christ (that is, Christians – the members of the church) has a purpose and a calling on their lives. Each one is equipped, by God no-less, in a way that no other person within the body is equipped. And yet, those gifts compliment the gifting of every other member of the body in perfect unity and harmony when working properly.

Many have bought into the idea that you aren’t truly doing ministry if you don’t hold the title of pastor, teacher, prophet, evangelist, or apostle. This is often perpetuated when people are feeling a calling on their lives and they seek out counsel and they are asked to define that calling within he confines of (usually) the role of a pastor (music pastor? youth pastor? senior pastor? etc.)

How do I know? It happened to me.

Back in college (in 2001), I felt a calling on my life, but I didn’t understand it. When I sought out counsel I was very literally asked, “What do you think it is? Youth work? Children’s work? Music? Senior pastor? Missionary?” It was as if there was a finite list of options that I had to choose from. Didn’t matter if none of them really resonated with my spirit. This was the list, now choose.

So, I chose to become a youth pastor. And later on, a music pastor as well.

Somehow, along the way, all of the gifts of the Spirit have been narrowed down to a singular gift which leaves a gaping hole in the Body of Christ. This leaves the Church looking lopsided, anemic, and causes the Church to become focused on accomplishing the work of a single ministry rather than equipping everyone to serve in their very specific place of ministry.

I believe there are many people within the Church who are simply looking for permission to do what God has already called them to do and are simply looking for guidance, equipment, counsel, accountability, and more.

They are looking for the exact thing Paul describes in Ephesians 4.

Unfortunately, they are often met with responses from church leaders that look something like this, “Well, that’s awesome! Unfortunately, it doesn’t fit with the overall vision of our church. But, we wish you well in your endeavors.”

I have heard this countless times with my own ears. Not directed at me, but with me sitting in the room and it being directed at someone else who had approached church leadership about a calling on their lives.

This should not be.

Pastor, church leader, whoever you are saying this…I don’t mean this to be rude when I say it…but, stop it. Please. We (yes we) can do better! Go back and read Ephesians 4, and then listen to these people again. Use wisdom and discernment. Listen to the Holy Spirit speak to your spirit and provide wise and helpful counsel and guidance to the Body of Christ looking for purpose and meaning.

Don’t just shove them away because it doesn’t line up with your vision of what you think your church should be doing. The Kingdom of God exists for more than just you or your local church gathering.

Despite popular belief, the church body doesn’t exist to simply fund or provide volunteers for a singular ministry of a local church organization or pastor. That isn’t to say that paying church staff/pastors or having ministries for a local church manned by members of the church are bad in-and-of themselves. It just means this isn’t the only thing God is up to.

If we really want healthy, effective, world shaking churches, we need to start examining what the church and its leadership actually exists for, and find ways to encourage and equip believers for the specific calling of their lives.

So many are chomping at the bit to activate and be sent and are waiting for permission to do the very thing God is calling them to do.

Don’t be the one person standing in the way of that.

Now, can you think of someone who needs permission to go?


Photo by Francesco Ungaro from Pexels

BONUS: I Can’t Breathe Pt 2

George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and more represent recent unjust deaths in America that have led to protests and riots across the entire United States. The phrase “I Can’t Breathe” was part of the last words George Floyd spoke as he died under the weight of a police officer who had his knee in his neck while 3 other officers watched on and did nothing. 

“I Can’t Breathe” has now become the new cry of the black community that has been struggling for as long as American History itself to breathe and find their place in society and be heard, seen, and treated equally. 

On this episode Brad and Brian are joined by Michael and continue our talk about these events, the protests, the riots, and what it’s like to be a black person growing up in America. It’s a hard conversation, but a needed one that we hope you’ll take the time to listen to. #BlackLivesMatter

Opening Music: “Angry Dance” by Simon Panrucker
Outro Music: “Clear Progress” by Scott Holmes

S2 Ep007 – I Can’t Breathe (Part 1)

George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and more represent recent unjust deaths in America that have led to protests and riots across the entire United States. The phrase “I Can’t Breathe” was part of the last words George Floyd spoke as he died under the weight of a police officer who had his knee in his neck while 3 other officers watched on and did nothing.

“I Can’t Breathe” has now become the new cry of the black community that has been struggling for as long as American History itself to breathe and find their place in society and be heard, seen, and treated equally.

On this episode Brad and Brian talk about these events, the protests, the riots, and what it’s like to be a black person growing up in America. It’s a hard conversation, but a needed one that we hope you’ll take the time to listen to. #BlackLivesMatter

Opening Music: “Angry Dance” by Simon Panrucker
Outro Music: “Clear Progress” by Scott Holmes

S2 Ep006 – That’s a Wrap

Season 2 has come to a close. What does the future hold? Tune in to find out!

Opening Music: “Angry Dance” by Simon Panrucker
Outro Music: “Clear Progress” by Scott Holmes

All Has Been Stripped Away, But Will We Simply Come?

Imagine with me, for a moment, a Church where…

  1. there is no paid staff, and the pastor and other staff do not rely on the local church to provide for their families.
  2. there is a pastor, and other leaders are organically raised up from within the body – including future pastors of more churches and missionaries to foreign lands.
  3. everyone’s spiritual gifts are identified, honed, promoted, and encouraged to actively participate in the life of the church and to reach their communities.
  4. tithes aren’t spent on staff, facilities, curriculum, etc. – but rather is able to be gathered and put toward the needs of those in the body, the poor and widowed in the community, and even to help support missionaries abroad.
  5. there is no youth, children, single adult, senior adult, or any other age segregated ministries – but every person from birth to death is mentored and discipled, and also mentors and disciples others.
  6. the music ministry isn’t an overly produced Sunday gathering, but is an integral part of the gathering of the church where each person comes and sings the songs of their heart and the scriptures.
  7. the bible is taught, meditated on, and cherished – and each person is able to bring thoughts and the things they are learning by the Holy Spirit.
  8. each person is known intimately by every other person and no need or struggle is hidden in the shadows because it is a safe space where accountability, prayer, and help can be found.
  9. each person is constantly on mission, and they find encouragement, support, and help in their mission field they call home, work, school, or anywhere else.
  10. gathering isn’t just a once a week thing because you’re completely involved in the lives of one another 7 days a week.
  11. multiple local churches are birthed within the very homes of it’s people – and each of these bodies regularly connects with the other bodies to celebrate together and to support one another.
  12. things like COVID19 don’t bring the churches operations to a complete halt because the church knows they are far more than any one gathering, or any one building or space. They are the church, and it will continue to grow and reach it’s community and one another no matter what.

This and so much more…just…meditate on this for a little while, and let the image of this church fill your mind and thoughts.

Then…listen to this song by Jimmy Needham, “Clear the Stage“…

“Clear the Stage” – Jimmy Needham

And/Or this song, “Heart of Worship“, by Matt Redman…

This, is much like what the NT church looked like. Much of this is lost on the Western Church of today. But it can be recaptured. In fact, I would even argue we are in the midst of a time where this is far more possible than times past.

Now…let me be clear, I’m not romanticizing the NT church as though they were the ideal state of being at all times. They had their problems. And this church will have it’s own as well.

But, there was a simplicity in who they were and how they conducted themselves that captured an entire world like no other organic entity ever had before or since, and it was powerful to see and be part of as it swept from city to city and nation to nation.

The music has faded…
The idols have been exposed…
And all has been stripped away…

Do we simply come, or do we go back to the way things were because that was familiar and comfortable?


Photo by Flo Maderebner from Pexels

Discipleship: Sunglasses and Bike Rides

It’s Saturday night. I’m laying in bed, everyone is asleep, and two incidents from the week keep replaying in my mind involving each of my sons oddly (well perhaps not too oddly) leading me to some thoughts about discipleship:

Incident 1 – Declan (4 years old) came into my room last week with his glasses clipped to his shirt collar and said “Dad, this is how you do it right?” I said “Sure buddy. Why?” He said, “This is how you do it when you get ready to leave the house.”

Incident 2 – I’ve been taking my kids for regular (near daily) bike rides since this whole quarantine thing started. Several times I’ve goofed around and started riding with my hands off the handle bars. This totally impressed my kids (obviously – even I was impressed with myself). With no more than merely showing them I could do it, my oldest son Braeden (10 years old) got the courage to try it and mastered riding his bike without hands on the very first try.

Both incidents remind me that my boys are learning from me in both big and small ways. They are learning by watching and then doing.

For Declan, I did not sit him down in a classroom and give him the history of sunglasses, the importance of UV protection, and the convenient places to clip on sunglasses when not wearing them. He simply watched, he learned, and he imitated.

Likewise, for Braeden, I didn’t sit him down in a classroom and discuss gravity, balance, motion, the invention of the bicycle, and on and on. He simply watched, he learned, and he imitated.

I can’t help but wonder; how much more are they watching and learning from me that will ultimately lead to imitating me? How many good things are they picking up? How many bad things? Good habits? Bad habits? Spiritual disciplines? Relationship matters? Character traits? And so on…all from watching, learning, and imitating.

And then I wonder – is this not what discipleship looks like? Is this not what Jesus did with the disciples?

Did he sit them down in classrooms with black boards and text books and go through a 12 week course on church growth models, history of the Bible, preaching styles, evangelism tricks of the trade, and whatever else?

Or did He model for them, they learned in the watching of Him doing, and then He sent them out to do what He did, and they learned from the doing?

It’s pretty fascinating when you look at what Jesus and even Paul and the other disciples did in the way of discipleship in comparison to what we pass off as discipleship today.

In fact, the disciples were often mocked as being “unlearned men” and people were astonished at the things they could do and the way they could speak… and they knew instantly they had BEEN with Jesus.

Acts 4:13, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had BEEN WITH Jesus.”

Notice, Jesus’ idea of discipleship was not so much to disciple through class work, but through being with them, modeling for them, and then them imitating him.

Much like my sons with me.

We have much to learn about discipleship through the simplicity of the model Jesus gave us.

Photo by Kaboompics.com from Pexels

S2 Ep005 – Special Guest Jeff Bardel (Testimony)

“Jeff Bardel has been through a lot in his life. A lot that would drive most men to become angry and bitter Christians. Jeff, is not most men. Listen to his testimony and find out why!”

Opening Music: “Angry Dance” by Simon Panrucker
Outro Music: “Clear Progress” by Scott Holmes

Best Practices for Angry Christians on Social Media

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”

James 1:19-20
This was also a special podcast bonus episode that you can hear above!

[Brad] Hi, Brad Bates here, your friendly host of the Angry Christian Podcast, and today I’m doing a collaborative blog article here with my friend Jason Villanueva of the Salty Dogs Podcast…say hi Jason!

[Jason] “Hi.”

[Brad] Have no fear, we are really social distancing as I’m based out of South Carolina and Jason is out of Kansas. That said, you probably can’t tell by the names of our podcasts, but we struggle a little bit with anger. And wouldn’t you know it, social media just happens to be the perfect breeding ground for anger and Angry Christians like us (and maybe you too?). 

If you’re anything like us, and you scroll through Facebook or Twitter at any given point in the day, I’m sure you’ll find enough nonsense to trigger that angry Chrsitian inside of you, Combine today’s political and religious climate coupled with the wonderful COVID19 pandemic and everyone’s opinions on the matter, and you have a perfect recipe for an angry disaster! 

Thus begins the fight to squash the anger before you let your fingers do the talking and get you into a lot of unnecessary trouble. (Take it from me…this NEVER ends well!!)

Recently, Jason has decided to take a hiatus from Social Media. Jason, tell us about that!

[Jason] Simply put, I was super angry and had zero self control when it came to refraining from making salty comments on posts and comments where I disagreed. Not only that, I was finding great pleasure in bashing people’s stances and beliefs when I thought they were wrong. I’ve always stayed on top of making sure my stances were known, but when my entire day was distracted by making sure I was checking to see if people were responding, I knew I was in trouble. I suppose it got to the point where I just felt done with feeling angry all day and I knew it was time to “get sober”. So I’m some days in, not even sure how long at this point, but I’ve not commented angrily at least today, and that’s progress. Now I need to allow the Lord to do the work in my heart that he’s wanting to do. 

[Brad] Jason inspired me to take a brief hiatus myself, although mine only lasted for about 36 hours. But, it was enough to help me feel refreshed and get a good perspective on my own triggers and find some creative ways to help cull the anger before the anger draws me in. 

We’re going to talk about some best practices, but understand, we are speaking these to ourselves just as much as we are speaking these to you. We are no masters, if we were, our podcasts wouldn’t exist and we wouldn’t be writing this article to remind ourselves of how NOT to act on social media. 

That said, here we go!

Best Practices for Angry Christians on Social Media

Know your triggers

[Jason] You know what grinds your gears, don’t seek out instances where you’ll be triggered. It’s counter-productive. We all want to be right about what we think and believe, but being right and being a jerk is wrong, no matter how you twist. Don’t seek out the platform by doing what I did and joining groups and pages where I could get on my pedestal.

Remind yourself that you don’t have to respond

[Brad] Seriously, I know this is super hard for those of us with strong opinionated personalities (that’s me), but you really don’t have to respond to every silly little thing on Social Media. Sometimes, the best course of action is to keep scrolling past it and ignore it. I realize that sometimes this is easier said than done which is why it may be easier to…

Unfollow, Unfollow, Unfollow

[Jason] I purposely followed pages and joined groups where I knew I would want to get into it with people. I significantly reduced my salty comments by simply getting out of those groups and unfollowing those pages. 

You may have added people as acquaintances or even as “friends” who think and believe differently than you ( that’s 100% the case, always ) but you’ve noticed you disagree on many different points. If you find yourself unable to see their posts without getting pissed off, just unfollow. 

Remember who and what you represent

[Brad] As a Christian, you do not represent yourself to this world, you represent Jesus. When we allow our anger to take over in ungodly and unhealthy ways, we look less and less like Jesus to the world, and we lend more credence to their complaints that Christians just aren’t loving people or that we really don’t practice what we preach. 1 John 4:8 reminds us that God is love, and Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 what love looks like. Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful. Love is not proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable. Love does not keep a record of being wronged. Love does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Know that the Lord is wanting to change your heart, and that simply removing yourself from the situation isn’t the final work.

[Jason] We can “get sober” long enough for the Lord to change our heart rather than getting off the group or out of the page where you’re having issues. An alcoholic has more work to do after getting out of the bar and putting down the bottle. Ultimately this is all a heart issue, not a social media or a people issue. YOU are the issue, and the Lord loves you no matter what. He’s wanting to help your heart where you have hate, anger, saltiness and pride. 

Unfriend and/or Block People

[Brad] This is kind of a last resort option, in my opinion, because I always want to be one who fosters discussion even in light of disagreement. However, there are people out there who are not interested in that, and there really is no sense in filling up your newsfeed with other angry Christians who don’t care anything about keeping themselves in check, and will only serve to drag you down in the mire with them. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been “friends” with them for years, you may just have to let them go. Proverbs 22:24-25 says, “Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.”

Establish a vision and purpose for your social media usage.

[Jason] It might sound silly, but seriously… Really think about the WHY behind you being on social media. You can choose which side of the double-edged sword social media will be for you. Are you using it to build up and encourage, to represent Christ well, to stay connected with friends and family? Or are you using it as an outlet for your anger and discontentment, and a place where you can make people look stupid so that you feel better about yourself? 

Work toward becoming physically and emotionally healthy

[Brad] It’s true, our physical and emotional health are linked together. When you are feeling good physically it has a positive effect on your mental state. One thing I’ve been doing over the last 3 weeks that I’ve been working from home due to this whole COVID19 thing is daily walks with my family, and daily rides on my bike. I’ve also changed my eating habits and lost 5lbs with a target of losing another 10lbs. 

Finally, and most importantly, post cute puppy pictures

Everyone loves puppies. When things get tense, post a cute puppy pic. OK, the real point here is, diffuse the situation rather than exacerbate it. Maybe it is a puppy picture, or maybe it’s simply excusing yourself from further discourse when you feel the temperature in your face starting to get warmer and turning off the notifications so you don’t get reeled back into the argument. But puppy pictures can be quite helpful too. 


Resource mentioned in the show:

https://freedom.to/

BONUS: Best Practices for Angry Christians on Social Media 04/08/2020

I am joined by Jason Villanueva of the Salty Dogs Podcast on this special bonus collaborative episode where we discuss what it’s like being a Christian who deals with anger and trying to survive the Social Media trap. We give our best practices (that we too are trying to do as well) and some resources as to help YOU along your path to Social Media freedom.

Opening Music: “Angry Dance” by Simon Panrucker
Outro Music: “Clear Progress” by Scott Holmes

BONUS: Happy Hump Day, Tell Me Something Good Y’all! 03/25/2020

We are starting a new weekly segment called “Happy Hump Day, Tell Me Something Good Y’all” as we remind ourselves of the good things going on in the face of uncertainty and crisis. Join us!

Opening Music: “Angry Dance” by Simon Panrucker
Outro Music: “Clear Progress” by Scott Holmes

COVID19 Aftermath: The Church Cannot Go Back to Egypt

Photo by David McEachan from Pexels

The Way Things Were

For years I’ve been writing on the consumer mindset that has befallen the Western Church world over the last several decades (Check out articles like this one and this one to read more about the current state of the Church), and the serious impact it has had on the effectiveness and fruitfulness of the Church.

It is no secret that the American Church, especially, has grown so enamored with the idea of being cool and big that, as a whole, we’ve lost sight of what the Church really should look like.

A large portion of churches have designed their gatherings around the lost (calling it “Seeker Sensitive” (see the “Methods” section of THIS wiki article), a movement started in the 70’s and 80’s) rather than designing what they do around discipling and equipping their church body to do the work of the ministry. As a result we have a great deal of Churches that have become more like entertainment venues, and many smaller churches who seem to think these bigger churches are the epitome of success and must be doing something right because they’re drawing in the crowds and thus trying to imitate them.

In light of all of this, however, there have been a number of solid churches (both large and small) who haven’t lost sight and have been doing their best to be a beacon in the darkness to the other churches who have lost their way.

The Pandemic Shake Up (COVID19)

Now, as of today, March 27, 2020 – most (if not all) churches in America have been forced to board up their doors and get creative on ways to connect with one another in light of the COVID19 outbreak. They have resorted to live-stream services, pre-recorded services, online bible studies, Zoom Conferences, Social Media group pages, email, text, phone calls, and more.

Most churches are still putting a great deal of effort into making the 1 hour Sunday gathering viable over the internet for most of their church body. Some are making efforts to find discipleship opportunities outside of Sunday morning. And unfortunately, a great deal of people are still screaming that they want things to go back to the way they were.

Seeing all of these reactions, I can’t help but ask, should we go back?

The Longing For Egypt

In Numbers 14, we see the story of the Hebrew people (the people who would one day become Israel) getting a report (in chapter 13) from the spies who entered the promised land that there were giants and many people who would do them harm, and now they are complaining that it was better for them if they had stayed in Egypt.

Let’s see their complaint here in the first 4 verses:

1 Then the whole community began weeping aloud, and they cried all night. Their voices rose in a great chorus of protest against Moses and Aaron. “If only we had died in Egypt, or even here in the wilderness!” they complained. “Why is the Lord taking us to this country only to have us die in battle? Our wives and our little ones will be carried off as plunder! Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?” Then they plotted among themselves, “Let’s choose a new leader and go back to Egypt!”

The Hebrews were very literally standing at the edge of the promised land, a land God said He was going to lead them to and lead them into victory to claim, but there was a problem. They were scared of the promised land and where God was leading them, and to be perfectly frank…they didn’t trust God.

The Promised Land was unknown to them, but Egypt, Egypt they knew and were comfortable with. In Egypt, the Hebrews were slaves, sure, but they had roofs over their heads and food. They knew where it was all coming from.

They longed for Egypt.

They longed for something less than what God wanted to give them.

Moses and Aaron fall on their face before God after learning of this and this is what God had to say to them (v11-12):

11 And the Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? Will they never believe me, even after all the miraculous signs I have done among them? 12 I will disown them and destroy them with a plague. Then I will make you into a nation greater and mightier than they are!”

So instead of moving into what God knew was better for them, and that He had promised to give to them, they chose to go back to Egypt and become slaves again. God, however, had other plans and caused them to wander the desert for 40 years until they were truly ready to enter the promised land.

The Church in Egypt

Likewise, the Church has been enslaved in Egypt for a very long time in the West.

We have been enslaved to the god of money. We have been enslaved to the god of popularity. We have been enslaved to the god of consumerism. We have been enslaved to the god of worldly success. We have been enslaved to false doctrines. We have been enslaved to society. We have been enslaved to governments. We have been enslaved to countless things.

Sure, at least in these conditions we know what we’re getting. We know where the money is coming from. But then COVID19 came along and radically shook things up. We were pulled out of Egypt and thrust into a retreat.

And now, we stand at the edge of the Promised Land, and have been given an opportunity to seize what is better for the Church. But the people of God are scared of the giants in the land. They are scared of the giant called “Pandemic”, the giant called “Disease”, the giant called “Economic Collapse”, and the giant called “Uncertainty”. Sadly, many Christians have treated God with contempt.

And we are left with a choice…

  1. Do we go back to Egypt?
  2. Or do we grab hold of this opportunity to step into the promised land?

How we respond will be the difference between wandering aimlessly or finding victory.

We Cannot Go Back

Church, I hope we understand that we cannot go back. We simply cannot look back at Egypt and say “those were better days” when they clearly were not. They were days of certainty. We knew exactly who we were enslaved to, but they were not “better days”.

This whole COVID19 outbreak has really opened the eyes of a lot of churches in a way that few global events have in my lifetime, but we are in real danger of being tempted to go back to the way things were before all of this.

We cannot go back to the way things were for the Church. No matter how tempted we might be to try and “make up for lost time”.

We all need to be on our knees before God and pray the prayer of Moses in Numbers 14:17-19 NLT:

17 “Please, Lord, prove that your power is as great as you have claimed. For you said, 18 ‘The Lord is slow to anger and filled with unfailing love, forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion. But he does not excuse the guilty. He lays the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations.’ 19 In keeping with your magnificent, unfailing love, please pardon the sins of this people, just as you have forgiven them ever since they left Egypt.”

S2 Ep004 – COVID19 – To Close or Not to Close

When we recorded this the number of cases was around 182,000 worldwide and the US was in the #6 spot for number of cases. As of writing this post, we are over 380,000 cases today and the US is now in the #3 spot for total number of cases. Third only to Italy (#2) and China (#1).

Whether we like it or not, and whether we are willing to admit it or not…we are in the midst of a global crisis. Governments are responding. Schools are responding. Businesses are responding.
And yes…the Church is responding.

But, what does this all look like?
How is the Church responding?
How should the Church be responding?
Are we lacking faith by closing our doors temporarily?
Are we putting people in danger or acting foolishly if we remain open?

Opening Music: “Angry Dance” by Simon Panrucker
Outro Music: “Clear Progress” by Scott Holmes

Support the Show! https://ko-fi.com/angrychristianpodcast

COVID19 – To Close or Not to Close – That is the Question

If you aren’t aware, there is a pandemic sweeping the globe right now called COVID19 (otherwise known as the coronavirus or Wuhan Virus). As it stands right now, according to the worldometers.info site, the number of confirmed cases stands at around 174,000 with deaths (wordlwide) standing at 6,684. These numbers are growing literally by the minute.

To say it has the entire globe and economy in an uproar, would be a massive understatement.

People are rushing to the stores to snatch up toilet paper (prompting COUNTLESS memes and jokes), food, and other items before their respective governments, states, or cities declare an area wide quarantine. It’s not so much a matter of “if” that might happen, but when, as we are watching all around the world in countries like China and Italy (and now Spain) enacting countrywide quarantines.

We are being introduced to new terms like “social distancing” and being given instructions on how to properly wash our hands. It feels like we’re in the beginning stages of seeing “The Walking Dead” come to life.

One of the biggest things that’s started happening as of the writing of this is schools closing, bars and restaurants closing, and events and concerts canceling as the CDC has put out recommendations of avoiding groups of 50 or more.

Last week, the CDC recommended that gatherings of 250 or more not happen, which began a stir among local churches who gather weekly in various sizes. Conversations began early last week in many churches (if not all churches) for how they were going to approach this past weekend and coming weekends as they consider their local church bodies demographics.

  • Some churches chose to close for the weekend altogether.
  • Some churches chose to close for the weekend, but offered virtual services.
  • Some churches remained open for the weekend.
  • Some churches remained open for the weekend, but offered virtual services as well.

Most churches did and are continuing to do the best they can with their local church body in mind. This is very commendable, and really what we want to see take place. However, the issue that I’ve started seeing is that several people took to social media to express their outrage with other churches who chose to close or remain open (depending on their personal stance on the matter).

  • Some claimed that a church was in sin if they closed or remained open (depending on their angle).
  • Some claimed that we ought not to forsake the gathering of the people.
  • Some pastors got up in front of their congregation and told people to hug and shake hands in defiance of the government.
  • Some even claimed that the CDC’s recommendation was an affront to religious liberties and an attempt at our government to shut down churches.

I totally wish I was making this stuff up. Unfortunately, this was happening all over the social media sphere for the last several days, and even continuing today.

People in the church need to consider some things outside of themselves for just a moment before they take to social media and make fools out of themselves. Churches are in a precarious place right now with all of this COVID19 stuff, and the last thing they need are church people going online and making matters worse.

First of all, the coronavirus largely impacts individuals over the age of 50. According to Pew Research, about 15-20% of Christians in America are under the age of 30 leaving the mass majority of individuals identifying as Christian in America over the age of 30, with about 45-50% being over the age of 50.

Churches aren’t just willy nilly choosing to close their doors or to remain open. If the numbers from the Pew Research article are to be believed, then at least half of all congregations (or more in many churches) are at risk with COVID19.

This is just one example of the many things that church leaders are being faced with considering as they approach their weekend gatherings right now. To close or not to close is a very real question for churches. And instead of mocking, kicking, biting, or lashing out against churches who are struggling to make the right and best choice for their local gathering, consider praying for, reaching out to, supporting, and encouraging church bodies as they do what’s best for their people.

The Angry Christian Podcast will be addressing this topic in our next episode, “To Close or Not To Close – That is the Question”. So be on the look out as we continue the discussion about how COVID19 is impacting the local church.

Lastly, let me leave you with the words of Paul:

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

Philippians 2:3-4 NLT

Thoughts on Church Hurt

Originally posted on the Salty Dogs Podcast blog.

In response to my guest appearance on the Salty Dogs Podcast back in February, I wrote:

I’m sitting here thinking about church hurt after my guest appearance on the Salty Dogs Podcast last night. You can watch the replay here.

I said something during the episode that, to be honest, was a spur of the moment organic statement, and something I hadn’t prepared to say. As I’ve thought over what I said…it dawned on me just how hard it really is to do.

Here is what I said:

“I cannot hold others accountable for the wounds they did not inflict on me.”

I was saying this in relation to church hurt.

Let me be clear…I’ve been hurt…a LOT…in and by those in the church. I’ve been hurt by deacons, pastors, average Joe church attendee, and more.

As a result, I would leave a church and walk into my next church with the walls already up and prepared to deflect any attacks I fully expected I was going to receive.

And you know what? I was wrong to do that.

You see…It is easy to put our walls up when we get wounded. It is easy to walk into the next situation after a previously bad situation and go in with the expectation that we are going to get hurt again.

I don’t want to be hurt again, and I know you don’t want that (honestly, who does?), so our instinct is to insulate ourselves to the wounds by already assuming we are going to get hurt again. It’s as if we tell ourselves that, if we go ahead and assume it’s going to happen, then it won’t hurt nearly as bad when it does.

This may be instinctual…but it’s not healthy.

Reality is, we may indeed get hurt again. But the people we encounter along the way who hurt us, aren’t the ones who hurt us before. And there are often casualties of innocent people who haven’t hurt us that get caught in the crossfire.

Then I think about my God…and how he sent Jesus to die in my place…He sent Jesus to be held accountable for the wounds I DID inflict upon Him through my sin and rejection of Him.

And yet…He didn’t hold me accountable for those wounds. His Son, Jesus, willingly took up MY cross for me and became the accountability on my behalf.

His kindness, grace, and forgiveness move me to a place of gratefulness and a deeper desire to know this God who would do such a thing for me.

So as I think about that, I ask myself a new question…

How could I truly hold others accountable for wounds they did NOT inflict on me when my God didn’t hold me accountable for the wounds I DID inflict on Him?

It’s humbling.

S2 Ep003 – The Casualties of Divorce

There are many casualties with divorce that go far beyond just those who are splitting up. Join the Angry Christian Podcast, and guest host Cherie Bates, as we discuss just what those casualties are. If you are going through a divorce, been through a divorce, or thinking about a divorce, or know someone who has, this just might be an episode you’ll want to listen to!

Opening Music: “Angry Dance” by Simon Panrucker
Outro Music: “Clear Progress” by Scott Holmes

Support the Show! https://ko-fi.com/angrychristianpodcast

Divorce and The Space Between the Broken Things

There are many casualties with divorce that go far beyond just those who are splitting up. Join the Angry Christian Podcast, and guest host Cherie Bates, as we discuss just what those casualties are. If you are going through a divorce, been through a divorce, or thinking about a divorce, or know someone who has, this just might be an episode you’ll want to listen to!

When I was a kid, unbeknownst to everyone, I would sometimes wonder about what would happen to me if my parents ever got divorced. Like…which parent would I live with, what would it feel like to live in two different homes, how would my friends see them or me, and so many other questions.

I had seen and heard about it with my friends parents, but never in a million years did I think it would actually happen to my parents. Things seemed to be solid between them. So the thoughts were often fleeting.

This all changed when I became an adult. And at the risk of divulging too much information, I want to tell you my story…

The Unexpected Call

A little over 6 years ago (when I was 32) I got a call from my sister who was frantically crying on the other end telling me that my mother was in her home and that she had come there because my father had just told her that he no longer loved her. My sister let me know that it was suspected that this had something to do with a female friend of my fathers. A female friend who also happened to be married.

What was being implied here? Foul play? Suspicions of an inappropriate relationship between my father and another woman? Really? How could this be?

Not my father.

At the time, my father had spent my entire life in the ministry. When all of this was breaking apart, he was a campus pastor at a well known Christian university, after having spent over 20 years as a pastor in various churches across 4 different states.

I called my father immediately hoping that something just got poorly communicated and that this was all just a big misunderstanding. I asked him what was going on. His response was short, “I just don’t know if I love your mother anymore.”

Good heavens…was my father losing his mind? How could he say something like this after 36 years of marriage?

What is Love?

As a 32 year old man with 3 kids of my own, I was about to have to do something I never pictured myself doing…explain to my father who had spent over 25 years in ministry and providing counseling to who knows how many married couples through the years, what the word “love” meant in the context of biblical marriage.

For those who may be wondering…love is more than a mere feeling, or romantic encounter…it goes deeper than that. It is a commitment. It is action. It is a verb. It is something that must be fought for every day of your life. It is truth and transparency. It is trust, respect, and honor. These things and so much more.

The Apostle Paul puts it this way in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

And surprise surprise…love is not easy. Which is why we make vows during our weddings like, “For better or worse, ’till death do us part.”

This was certainly worse.

I explained to him that whether or not there was anything going on between he and this female friend of his, that his first responsibility was to his wife and that this relationship should be ended as it was upsetting his wife (my mother).

It seemed to fall on deaf ears, and he assured me nothing was going on and that they were just friends.

My parents spent the next 2 years or so in marital limbo. No one was sure what was going to happen. At various points it seemed like they might pull through. It was, in fact, what we all had hoped for. We all pointed them to various resources to try and get help. I had numerous calls with my father advising and counseling him to get help.

Nothing seemed to work.

Throughout the entire time, it was suspected that this female friend may be more than a friend (though no one wanted to truly believe that, who really wants to believe that about their friend, father, or family member?), but no proof had been produced otherwise.

That all changed in a single day.

EXPOSED

It was fall and, through various avenues and connections, information made its way to my father’s boss that he was having an affair. As a subsequent action, my father was asked to resign. Which he did promptly.

That day I received a call from my father who wanted to give me an update on his situation with my mother. He let me know that he had lost his job as a result of having an affair with the female friend we had all suspected was at the heart of the issue.

And then he said something I will never forget…

“Son, this is just between your mother and me. This doesn’t concern anyone else.”

If he could’ve only seen the look on my face when he said that. Surely he didn’t believe the words that were coming out of his mouth?

THE SPACE BETWEEN THE BROKEN THINGS

I know he heard it in my voice when I snapped back at him that this was far more than just he and mom. I told him this involved me, my wife, my kids, my siblings, their kids, my mother’s family, his family, every single person he has ever ministered to as a pastor or campus pastor, this woman’s family, her husband, her husbands family, and so much more.

That day I learned about one of the greatest lies of divorce…that divorce is supposedly just between the ones who were married to one another.

It is not. This is a lie. And anyone who believes such a lie is deeply deceived.

There are so many relationships and things that get impacted that lay as rubble between the broken pieces of a marriage.

I wrote a poem to try and capture what I mean:

What gets lost in the space
between the broken things?

Father’s Day
Mother’s Day
Birthday’s
and Holiday’s

Weekend visits
Summer escapes
Late night conversations
and Fire-pit revelations

Trust
Respect
Honor
and Confidence

Hopes
Dreams
Anything
and everything

There in the space
between the broken things.

I have avoided this topic for some time as it is one that hits very close to home and not something I wanted to write about with the intention of stirring up trouble. However, it is a topic that needs to be spoken about as it has greatly impacted numerous homes in our nation. According to the American Psychological Association, as of 2019 the national divorce rate was between 40 and 50% of all marriages ending in divorce with an even greater divorce rate for subsequent marriages.

With those kinds of numbers, it could be argued that divorce has, in some way, touched every single person in America. Sadly, divorce is something that is very much a part of my story, so it could not be forever ignored.

And so…here I am. Caught in the space between the broken things trying to make sense of it all…even after all these years.

I wish I could say that as time has gone on that things have gotten easier, and while it has not gotten easier, I have found comfort in this affliction. I wish I could impart wisdom, or 5 steps to getting over it, or something more tangible to help you process your grief. And if you’re in the middle of something like this with your own marriage or your own family members, I wish I could take your pain away.

But while I can’t take your pain, there is someone who can provide you comfort in the middle of your affliction…God our Father.

I imagine more will be said as I journey through this myself…but I hope the words of Paul about our gracious and loving God will bring you some comfort knowing that you are not alone.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

S2 Ep002 – Not My President

The Democrat Debate took place the night we recorded this episode and it got us thinking about some things. Does God have a political party? Is it fair to say “Not My President”? Is it possible to agree with those on the “other side” on various things without supporting their overall political platform? How do we get to a better place in our political discourse? Does the Bible have anything to say about politics? These questions and more we discuss in this episode of the Angry Christian Podcast.

Opening Music: “Angry Dance” by Simon Panrucker
Outro Music: “Clear Progress” by Scott Holmes

Support the Show! https://ko-fi.com/angrychristianpodcast

Sticks, Stones, Rubber and Glue – Words Matter For Me and They Matter for You

What do Kanye West, Beth Moore, and John MacArthur have in common? They are all believers, and their recent actions have sparked a LOT of controversy in the Western Christian world over the last few weeks, and put a bright spotlight on a major issue facing the Church today…the ability to disagree with grace.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me!”

“I’m rubber and you’re glue. Whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you!”

Sound familiar?

If I had to guess, you, like me, probably said these and other similar things as a child. Who knows, you may have said it as an adult to. I’m not judging! But, I do have to ask, are these true statements though?

Do stones really hurt more than words?

Do the words someone says to us and about us really just bounce off?

I used to live as though words didn’t matter. In fact, I would take pride in the fact that the words of others didn’t sway me or bother me, and make bold claims that I was impervious to the slanderous attacks of the enemy (people I disagreed with). I would rattle off “truths” in peoples faces, telling them they had no understanding of the Biblical concept of love and truth and then simultaneously call them moron’s, deceived, fools, depraved, and every other derogatory term I could conceive of saying.

The reality was…I didn’t understand the Biblical concept of love and truth.

Did my words really matter? Do the words of others really matter?

I think so. And I think Jesus thought so too…

You’re familiar with the command to the ancients, “Do not murder.” I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother “idiot!” and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell ‘stupid!’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill.

Matthew 5:21-22 MSG

The Message, if you’re not familiar with it, is a paraphrase bible, but I think it captures the concept pretty well here. Our words do matter, and the words we say in anger matter even more so.

Christians (and pastors especially), we need to be conscious of the words we are using no matter who it is with, how much they may be wrong (or have wronged us), or how frustrated we have become with them.

I have personally witnessed the term “fool”, “moron”, “idot”, and the like thrown around by pastors and Christians alike to describe and even address someone that they disagree with or think they have wronged them. I’ve even done it! (guilty)

I’ve been on the receiving end of it too…in fact, I was once called a fool, and it was then implied that my life was a train wreck just waiting to happen. Then they said they were going to go ahead and grab some popcorn, sit back, and watch the show unfold.

I guess I should’ve simply responded with, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me!”

But I couldn’t truthfully respond that way…those words hurt…a lot. It hurt my wife too. And if my kids had any understanding of what was said and who it was directed at, and who said them, they would be hurt too.

Can someones behavior and/or words be foolish? Yep! I stick my foot in my mouth a lot (a lot less than I used though, thankfully, but I’m still working on it).

Should we call someone engaging in foolish behavior “fools”? Probably not. And most definitely not out of anger. Jesus goes so far as to say that we are guilty of murder when we do this (yikes!).

We definitely shouldn’t wish ill on someone else’s life just because there is a disagreement between us. If a conflict cannot be resolved (and sometimes it just can’t), then the best course of action is to end the relationship and quietly part ways. But it should never devolve into wishing the other party ill and calling them a fool.

Conclusion? Words matter!

I think they matter…and more importantly, Jesus thinks they matter.

And if they matter to Jesus…then they should matter to us.

We Were There

Can you not with the “Jesus is the white man’s God”? Really, it’s so lame and easily refuted. This shows a serious lack of reading comprehension and an even worse victim complex. Everything is the white man’s fault somehow, even the spread of the Christian church. Not only has this been thoroughly refuted over and over again, we were there. It’s black history month. Let’s dig into some biblical black history.


ian-kiragu-GSh-Pws-Zs-PQ-unsplash

Moses married a black woman. Guess what? Even then, ethnic groups had problems getting along. There was some grumbling about their relationship and God took some serious offense to this. Bible study time! Go look and see for yourself what God did in response to the attitude towards their marriage.

The Roman Catholic catacombs, designed by Christians suffering through the awful persecutions of the first and second century, clearly depict black people in their midst. We were there. Let’s go back even further.

According to the geography described in the bible and archaeological discovery, humanity’s origin is right out of Africa. I’m not making any claims about what Adam and Eve may have looked like, so make of that what you will.

All throughout scripture (and yes, OT too!!) you see reconciliation among the nations under the true and only God. The Jews didn’t get it until later, but God has been drawing the nations unto Himself this whole time. You see the Jews interacting and marrying some from black tribes (Jacob, Abraham). You’ll have to read the entire Old Testament to find out all the whens and whys. No spoon feeding here!!

spongememe

Have you read anything read by slaves? I have one for you. Go read Frederick Douglas. He claims that blacks weren’t allowed in the churches in a lot of cases. If they were, they were seated away in places they couldn’t be seen. They were segregated. They were also illiterate (mostly). They were not taught that the punishment for slavery is DEATH nor were they taught they we are ALL created fearfully and wonderfully in the image of God.

And seriously… How can God be blamed for man choosing to rebel? That’s what we do! We rebel. We reject that we’re all equal. We reject that cultural and ethnic differences came from God. We reject that God has specific intentions for every part of the family. One of the consequences of this rebellion is racism. And lemme tell ya… GOD HATES RACISM. You’re hating someone that’s made to reflect God’s glory to the world for a superficial reason. You think blaming Him is gonna fly on judgement day?

If you consider yourself justified in rejecting Jesus because of horrific things done using Him as a cover, I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news…. You need a savior, bruh. But, back off my soapbox.

Simon of Cyrene, the man that helped Jesus carry the cross, was from Africa. It’s disputed if he was actually black, but make of that what you will.

Paul was mistaken for an Egyptian. He was definitely a Jew, but ya boy was probably a little dark skinned.

I grazed over the catacombs. There’s also this: some of the earliest prominent leaders of the church were BLACK. Check out Saint Augustine. To this day, he is one of the most respected theologians and early church fathers. Africa was even one of the first places Christianity spread when it left Jerusalem!

Don’t give me that lazy “white man’s religion” talk. It’s unfounded and foolish. The Bible is every man’s history and the only path to God. No matter your race, gender or creed, it all flows out of Jesus and right back to Him through our reconciliation with the King. Believe it.