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
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
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.
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?
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. 2 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. 3 “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?” 4 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.
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.
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…
How we respond will be the difference between wandering aimlessly or finding victory.
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:
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
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.
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).
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
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?
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
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…
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?
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.
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?
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?
Late night conversations
and Fire-pit revelations
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
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
I’ve got to admit that I do miss the predominantly black church. The big choir, the animated sing/preaching, the dancing during praise, the soulful southern gospel style of music — almost everything. Yes, it is easier to go and be with people that also love those things, were brought up speaking the same kinda slang and understand the nuances of the challenges unique to the black experience here in America. Yet… I choose to leave a mixed congregation and joined a “White Church”. But, why?
When I first visited these people I fellowship with, the group was a bit different. The church itself was different. Being brand new to the church experience as a Christian (I often went before my conversion experience), I had different expectations of what the church should be.
“Oh, these are nice people”, “the sermon was pretty good” and “the worship and prayer is unlike anything I’ve witnessed in a good way” were some of the thoughts swirling through my head as I left the first time. The pastor recognized that I was there and engaged me, something completely foreign to me at that time. All these things were pleasant for a new Christian. There was one stumbling block: everybody was white.
Despite all the good things that the church was, what it wasn’t is what I chose to focus on. I wanted to join a church with established diversity. I wanted to see people culturally and ethnically different joining hands to be the church. I wanted to walk right into that and dive in. I had no interest in joining this church simply because there were so many white people, but the pastor’s kindness (and the preacher that day randomly mentioning Hurricane Katrina 3x in his sermon) convinced me that I should give it another try. So, I did.
After my second visit, my car broke down. I couldn’t go even if I wanted to. Bewildering and confusing as all get out to me, the pastor of the church went out of his way to make sure I had a way there (often personally giving me a lift himself) to and from the church. Talk about a warm reception! I didn’t know what to make of it, but I decided that none of these things could be just a coincidence. God led me to that church for a reason.
Fast forward 7 years and many stupid and sinful mistakes later, I am apart of another church plant with that pastor and some members of the former congregation. Over that time, I learned what it meant to not expect the church leadership to do everything, but to get my hands dirty myself. I chose to love these people as they’ve loved me and to lend a hand in what it could be in terms of diversity.
Not everyone has the experience I did. Some find it difficult and scary to join a church where their ethnic tribe isn’t present. That’s one of the reasons I stay. I hope my presence communicates how I feel as part of that body: I am loved, I am cherished, I am trusted, I am family, my voice matters. That’s why I stay.
I want to share this security with other minorities. I want them to see the love God has showed me through them. I want to join hands with my white brothers and sisters that want to see this happen. It’s a joy to have tough conversations about racial differences and actually be personally involved in the hard work it takes for racial reconciliation to be more than superficial.
There are many things I miss about the black church, but God has given me a great joyful task in being called to something else. I honestly couldn’t see myself in any other position at this point in my walk. I am looking forward, God willing, to see him bring others that were once where I was and reconcile them to Himself as members of our little church body.
“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!”
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.
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.
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!!
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.
Join us for Ep001 – Battle of the Ages, where we discuss the ongoing and ever growing battle between the ages within the church body. Modern church growth strategies often elevate targeting young families as the best and most important growth model…but is it a good strategy? And even more important, is it biblical? Let’s talk about that!
Opening Music: “Angry Dance” by Simon Panrucker
Outro Music: “Clear Progress” by Scott Holmes
Other Music: “Battle for the End Zone” by Ian Alex Mac
Support the Show! https://ko-fi.com/angrychristianpodcast
Cut off. That’s what black history month reminds me of. This isn’t an aim at anyone specifically, but generally speaking, that’s how I typically feel about black culture. That’s nothing new. I’ve felt that way since I was very young; way before I ever met and had any sort of relationship with anyone of a cultural or ethnic background that’s different from mine. I’ve dealt with some pretty blatant racism from some of those other cultures. Sadly, the majority of the racism I’ve experienced has come from those that are similar to me culturally and ethnically.
As a youngster, I always thought my people could be more. I can remember being as young as 10 years old and maybe even younger contemplating things I could do differently. I wanted to prove even then that we’re more than athletes and rappers. I wanted to prove it to myself and to my peers that idolized these people. I always felt like culture could not define me and that I could go my own way. The choices I made reflected that.
I chose to talk a different way. I chose to dress a different way. I chose to entertain myself a different way. Unknowingly, atypical was my motto and way of life. My closest friends thought my a weirdo, but embraced me moreso because of it. Not so in a lot of cases. I was looked at and treated differently. This is funny to me now, but some people were even frightened of me. They were only nice to me because they thought I might come and shoot up the playground one day (and for the record, my emotional instability didn’t take the stage until a decade after I graduated high school).
And so, I embraced the idea of being a bastard. … and I left. I went to find my people, but it was a chasing of the wind. The Mexicans and Asians in Texas were great to me, but I’m neither of those things. The white people in Indiana embraced me in ways I didn’t expect too, but I’m not that either. My black friends that I have back home in New Orleans are always excited to see me when I visit, but I am not there a lot. Life convinced me I just did not belong anywhere.
I’ve since found my home — and I’ll elaborate on that in another post. Right now, I am deeply troubled by the exile I feel like I’m in from my own people. I’ve fought pretty much my whole life to be where I am now: to be someone born in the ghetto that’s not going back. The ceiling for my economic success keeps getting higher and surprises even me still. I have a wife and a baby on the way. You can bet your last dollar that death will do us part and nothing else. I am not athletic, nor do I care to perform on a stage, but I’m an artist in my own right. And I don’t do any of these things in ways that degrade my people. I’m proud of this path and wouldn’t change it for the world, but it comes at a cost.
I ain’t invited to the cookout no mo’. If you’re black, you know what it is. If you’re white, “you can’t sit with us” might sound more familiar to you. Generally speaking, there is still so much filth that’s over emphasized and glorified that comes out of black culture, that there’s still much more fighting left to do. God willing, my boy will pick up where I left off someday.
I reject that idiotic pill popping mumble rap. I reject that our women have to parade around half (or basically completely) naked to validate their value. I reject that I’m a part of a minority population that makes up the majority of killing it’s own children. I reject that Christ is “the white man’s God” (don’t even get me started on how stupid that thought even is).
Picking up my cross for my people looks like doing what I know to be right according to God’s word and being rejected by my own because of it. I’ve always done the things I’ve done and lived the way that I do out of a deep love for my own — a love that will never be reciprocated. I’ve accepted that. Alas, my soul aches, watching so many that look like me and have the same ancestry that I do gladly handing over their families to things those forefathers and mothers died for.
Slave men were sometimes slaughtered at the auction. Why? Because family members were sold to buyers that lived in different parts of the country. Those brave men faced death before giving up their wives and children. Today, men and women just hand over their marriages and children to Molech. They do it gleefully and call people like me the oppressors.
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. God, help us all.
One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could lay his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him. But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.”Matthew 19:13-14 NLT
Last week, it made “Christian News” that a pastor of a church in Tennessee asked a woman to take her child out of the service from the stage because the baby made a noise. You can find the article HERE along with a video of the incident.
To summarize: the pastor suggested that the baby was being a distraction for everyone in the room, and that he wasn’t going to struggle with speaking over the child through the service. This clearly created a bit of a distraction all on it’s own because the pastor then comes back fairly quickly and says, “Okay, let me stop. Just because I just did that, everybody’s freakin’ out because I just said that, listen. We love children. And you … sweetie, look at me … we love kids, but if a child is gonna affect the whole service because the child’s cranky or whatever, we do have TVs that are right there in the back, so that’s cool…”
He then goes on to say that he’s not going to let a child affect 300 people in the room, and proceeds to try to gather his own thoughts (because, from what I can tell, he’s really the one who was being distracted and not the other people).
It cannot be overlooked that I believe this pastor was out of line by making a scene over a child and embarrassing the mother in front of hundreds of people. He allowed his own frustration with the situation to lead him into making a public spectacle that resulted in the public shaming of a mother and her child.
Could he have dealt with it another way? I’m sure he could’ve.
But the issue is deeper than simply how he dealt with it. It goes down to the very foundation of how many churches conduct their Sunday gatherings.
Sadly, this isn’t a new issue.
As you can see, in Matthew 19, Jesus ran into this issue when some children tried to come to Jesus and the disciples ,while they didn’t create separate spaces for the children to worship, they tried to put a kibosh on them coming to Jesus. But, Jesus responded by telling them to “Let them come” and then telling them that those who would inherit the Kingdom of God would look more like these children.
It has become a popular trend within churches over the last couple of decades (or more) to have age segregated worship gatherings. Parents show up, they put their kids in either a nursery or a classroom (or both if they have multiple kids from multiple age ranges), walk away and do their thing while their kids get a child-friendly version of what the parents are getting.
In some cases it includes children’s worship music, but almost always it includes child-targeted teaching. Sometimes the teaching is in line with the “big church” teaching, and sometimes it is not.
Some churches even go a step further and have also included separate gatherings for teenagers with a similar format.
The point is, we have by-and-large across this nation taken intentional steps to create an age-segregated gathering in an attempt to reduce distractions for parents and adults in the “big church” gathering, and I’m not so sure it is the most beneficial or most biblical approach to the gathering of the church.
Parents are then, too often, made to feel like they MUST put their children in these environments or risk being embarrassed or “corrected” for not following the house rules about the kids being in ” big church”. Sometimes this is a spoken expectation, sometimes it is an unspoken expectation. Either way, parents are suddenly put in a position where they feel they have to put their kids in these environments…or else.
Reality is, back to the example before us, this entire incident would’ve been a non-issue if age-segregated worship wasn’t a thing, or at the very least not a forced thing.
Without sounding like I’m hating on churches that do this (because to be honest, I’m attending two churches that do provide these kinds of environments, one of which I’m on staff at – though I do think they approach it differently which I will discuss in greater length below), allow me to outline some positives of age-segregated worship.
That’s just 3 pros, but I’m sure there are many more that could be listed.
Likewise, there are some cons we need to consider regarding age-segregated worship:
Again, there are probably more cons that I could share, but this is just some obvious ones that come to mind when I think over this subject.
The question at this point is…is there a better way?
And I think the answer is yes.
I mentioned above that I attend two different churches in my area who do provide these kinds of environments to children in the church, but I believe they do it a bit differently.
I have also been in churches that looked more like the one in the article I posted than the ones I currently attend, and there’s a rather glaring difference…
For starters, in the churches I am now part of these environments are not required for children who come to the Sunday gathering. It’s optional. For another, parents who choose not to place their kids in those environments are not made to feel guilty for not doing so if their child acts…well…like a child during the Sunday gathering. In fact, nothing is said to them…no heads turn and stare the kid and parent down, and the pastors certainly don’t call them down from the stage.
The environment is still there for parents who wish to place their children there, but it is entirely optional. And that, in my personal observation, is the biggest difference!
Because of this, it sets a completely different tone within the larger church gathering. Children are welcomed, and even invited in to participate. Parents feel less stressed when their child acts up from time to time. The rest of the church feels less inclined to look down their nose at parents with children in the sanctuary (though I’m sure some still do…humans). And so on.
So the better way can be summed up in this way: make it optional and make sure your church and the parents know it is.
I was tagged in a number of posts and comments yesterday, so some of you may know that I and a few other men had a gun drawn on us. If you’re unfamiliar with the full story, you can read about it here (read the comments too). This is not about that, not directly.
On January 24th, I posted this with the caption “Stand firm.” I was toiling over how little many Christians seem to be willing to give up for their faith in light of this story. I was toiling over my own guilt in the same indifference/complacency. If you know me, you know I’ve done some risky things for an opportunity to share my faith with unlikely converts, much to the dismay of some of my unbelieving friends. I’ve said it once before, I think this will get me killed one day too.
Dear Christian, does your faith cost you anything? How often do you leave the Christian ghettos to engage with this seemingly ever spinning out of control world? I was mulling over that as I approached the mill. “What am I willing to give?”, I pondered. I went on resolute: I WILL preach the gospel even if I’m thought to be a fool, even if I don’t know what I’m going to say when the mic comes my way, and even if trouble comes my way. There are people out there being hunted and killed for their faith every single day.
So what if some random internet skeptic sees what I’m saying and doing and leaves some distasteful comments? Most of them are cowards that stand for nothing and fall for everything. Why should I dim my light for them? I can’t and I won’t. It would be an honor to die serving Christ, should it come to that.
Even still, there is such a tension and turmoil inside of me right now. One of the brothers with me did not flinch. He did not budge. I turned and saw him standing there, not even looking in the direction of the threat. I thought to myself “if this guy was going to do something, he would’ve done it”. No shots were taken at the closest target or those of us getting out of harm’s way. I cautiously decided to go back, at least retrieve my very expensive camera.
I had to be very careful. This was not just about me and my safety anymore. Lord willing, my child will be here in about 10 weeks. My wife and I are about to close on a house in just a few weeks. So much as it’s in my control, I can’t leave them. I am confident that should something happen to me, God will take care of them. I cannot fear preaching the gospel, but I am not seeking out a fight at the same time.
I am not sure how to navigate this kind of conflict, but I know this: everywhere Paul went, there was either a revival or a riot. People respond to the gospel in wildly different ways, so none of us have any idea what might happen when we’re out there pleading for the lives of the preborn and the souls of the mothers going in and coming out.
It may not cost you your life Christian, but your faith will cost you something if you’re serving the least of these. Whatever we do for them, we’re ultimately doing for Christ. He Himself said that. We must be willing to give of our time, our resources, our hearts and our minds. Some of us may be called to literally lay down our lives and die for Him. That’s the kind of faith the cross calls for.
Truly serving the King is costly and a bit scary. But, if He is for us, who can be against us? Take heart, dear Christian. We know how this story ends.
Before The Mandalorian told us that “This is the way” as he protected that undeniably cute baby Yoda (spawning COUNTLESS memes), Jesus had already come before and shook up the world as he claimed and proved to be “the Way”, the Truth, and the life (John 14:6), and Paul who was once persecuting the followers of “The Way” was now claiming to be a follower of the teachings of “the Way” (Acts 24:14).
“The Way”, of course, is what early Christians called Christianity before using the term “Christianity” as an accepted label of following “The Way” became a thing. You see, the term “Christian” was later tossed upon the followers of “The Way” as a derogatory term meaning “Little Christ” and was intended to be a mockery of them. Christians adopted the term as it was technically an accurate representation of who we are trying to become…imitators of Christ…or…”Little Christs”.
Any student of Church History knows that there has not been a time when the Church was fully unified and devoted to one another and to the same cause. There has always been a rift, and that rift exists because the Church is made up of…well…people.
But that doesn’t mean that we should not always be striving toward unity and love between the varying church bodies throughout our community and the world.
As of the writing of this article (January 13, 2020), I received an invite from a Facebook friend who I don’t actually know on any personal level, to go and like another Facebook page. This other page was dedicated to, apparently, the calling out of a church that the creator of this page felt was in “apostasy”. The church, that I’ll leave nameless, is a Baptist Church somewhere in the state of Georgia.
I declined, for obvious reasons, I hope.
As the Mandalorian would say, “This is NOT the way.”
I don’t understand it though. Why in the world is there an entire Facebook page dedicated solely to the purpose of tearing down another church body and it’s leadership? It is literally dedicated entirely tot he ruin of a single church body.
How does this profit anyone?
Is this really a precedent we want to set as believers? Really?
I’ll be honest, I don’t know a single thing about this church. They may very well be involved in some messed up stuff, twisted theology, and apostasy. But my mind is so seriously blown by the very fact that someone is out there who has taken the time to create this page, regularly updates it, and actually has 60 followers….meaning there are at least 60 other people out there who think this is a good idea.
And apparently one of them thought I would think it was a good idea as well.
I did not.
But you know what? You don’t have to create a Facebook page to accomplish this very same thing.
Sadly, I see countless Christians badmouthing the churches down the street that, and I quote, “Are a threat to our existence” as a local church (I’ve literally heard this). Many take to social media making posts about pastors and church leaders they don’t know, local church bodies they know nothing about, and on and on…all criticizing everything these folks say and do and may even, as the Facebook page I was invited to did, call them apostates.
What exactly does “apostate” mean? I’m glad you asked…here is the definition:
Apostate | noun. a person who renounces a religious or political belief or principle, adj. abandoning a religious or political belief or principle.
So, in typical human fashion, we cast labels on people that we probably have very little knowledge about because they are perceived to be a threat to our own existence or worse…we assume they must be teaching heresy and therefore leading people in to hell.
All, of course, without knowing a single thing about them.
Folks, this is not “The Way”.
This may be “a way” but it is not “The Way”.
This is not profitable, charitable, helpful, or encouraging.
This is sad and unfortunate.
Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely churches out there getting it wrong and leaders and preachers out there who are indeed apostate. There can be no denying this. We are indeed commanded to be on the lookout for such people and avoid them.
But social media isn’t the way to deal with it.
I know I have seen them, and perhaps you have as well, the memes of Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the church there in Germany. These memes usually equate what Martin Luther did to posting on social media.
Could it be? Maybe…but I have my serious doubts.
But that’s irrelevant, because the reality is, I’ve seen this behavior play out between churches that I know aren’t that different from one another on beliefs and practices, but because they perceive one another to be a threat to their own growth (which is laughable when you consider that God alone is responsible for a churches growth – Acts 2), or they know they belong to a denomination that is having some MAJOR issues, they have to demonize and make one another out to be enemies and apostates instead of partners and fellow followers of “The Way”.
Yesterday (January 12, 2020), I went to two separate churches that morning.
You read that right…two separate churches. Two churches on two opposite sides of town, with two very different church models, with two very different church demographics, with two very different way of doing things.
And yet…I am actively involved in both.
For the very first time in my life, I’m partnered with two churches in a very unique and almost unheard of way, and I’m quite grateful for it.
You see, we started attending Journey Church in Ladson, SC back in January of 2019 after nearly 8 years of ministry at another church that no longer exists in the Charleston SC region. We spent the last year at Journey recovering from nearly 17 years of ministry hurts, disappointments, and frustrations. We are not fully recovered, but we are much further down the road than we have been in a long time.
As a result, I felt like I needed to get back into the game of ministry and began to look around for churches that were needing help in their areas of ministry. That journey (pun intended) led me to a church in Knightsville, SC that was about 20 minutes from Journey, who was looking for a praise team leader.
During the interview process I brought up how we were connected to Journey and had hoped to be able to remain connected. The pastor in Knightsville asked if we liked it there, and I responded with an emphatic, “yes!”. He said, “Then you should stay there”.
All that and they still hired me!
This told me that this pastor was unique and that he had a kingdom mindset that saw the bigger picture of Kingdom partnership rather than consumer “competition”. I already knew that Journey was like this, but it brought my heart great joy to connect with another church who saw things very similarly.
Something that should be pointed out…Journey Church is a Southern Baptist Church and Knightsville is a United Methodist Church. They have a lot in common, but there is still a LOT that is quite different.
So yesterday I first go to KUMC where I am now on staff as the praise team leader and I sat and listened as our pastor spoke about the choices we make and how they will impact us. He was relating this back to choosing to obey God and His word, or not. Our pastor and this church have been very encouraging to me as I know that they partner in so many ways to reach their community. Some would write them off immediately because they are associated with the United Methodist Denomination, but I can say that they are doing a great deal for the Kingdom.
This is the way.
After this service was done, we traveled across town to Journey Church where we listened to our pastor there talk about almost the exact same thing. He also talked about partnering with and encouraging other churches and not seeing them as competition but as partners in Kingdom work.
He then handed a key to another pastor, pastor of Grace Christian Fellowship, who was there from still another church that actually meets on Sunday nights in the same space as Journey. This church will be inheriting the space when Journey church moves to its new location in February.
This, as the Mandalorian would say, is the way!
And many other words ending in “ing”.
All of these churches and their leaders have one goal in mind, and that is this: that we have a far greater impact together than we do apart.
Sad truth is, I’ve never seen such a culture and spirit of unity and partnership among varying church bodies as I have over the last year. Don’t get me wrong, the last church I was on staff at did some partnering with some other churches (3 other churches to be exact), and one of the experiences was good, and two of them…well…not good. But I say sad because either up to this point I’ve been blind to it or it just started becoming a thing in our region. I have a feeling it’s the former more so than the latter.
Church, God is indeed doing something new and exciting.
Don’t be fooled and don’t be caught up in the trap of attacking other churches. God will deal with them. That is His job and His job alone. The Bible tells us that He disciplines those he loves.
Continue moving forward and seeking positive Kingdom impact and partnerships.
After all…this is “The Way!”
What is to follow is a response from me to the article, Why Churches Should Ditch The Projector Screens and Bring Back Hymnals that was posted to www.thefederalist.com back in June of last year (2019). I have seen this article numerous times before, and had debated on responding, but it seems to have resurfaced again, and so I felt a respectful push back would do the discussion some good. And that is what I intend to do.
Please note that this article is not intended to attack traditional churches, or solely support contemporary churches, but to directly address the points made by this author in his article. As a worship leader, I have a deep appreciation for all aspects of church musical worship, so I appreciate and see the value in it all.
That said, before I dive in to the points made in this article and my thoughts on them, I did want to first address the author, Mr. Tom Raabe.
Mr. Raabe, I feel it is unfortunate , and was saddened to see that you started your article the way that you did with a snarky and undercutting tone that belittles anyone right out of the gate that might disagree with the thesis you posed regarding hymnals and projectors. Not only do you start off this way, but throughout your entire piece you interject unnecessary jabs at those on the other side of this discussion, which honestly, leaves a bad taste in the mouth of those who are trying to simply understand your reasoning behind this article.
Reality is, I think your piece could’ve communicated the same thoughts on hymnals and projectors without delving into mockery and belittlement of your readers who may disagree with you.
As Christians, I think it is important that we, who are influencing Christian culture through writing, speaking, and teaching (and other ways), take the time to ensure that we are fostering respectful dialogue. I realize that I have done a poor job of that in the past, and I’m doing my best to heed the voice of God on the matter, and the clear commands that he has given in His word to us to be ready and willing to defend what we believe, but do it in a respectful and gentle way (1 Peter 3:15-16). So I apologize, first and foremost, for the tone I have used in the past that was less than admirable.
I realize that you and I fall on different sides of this discussion, but I would hope that all parties involved could maintain a sense of respect and honor toward one another as we discuss our disagreements, and hopefully help one another, and the church at large, find a way forward that brings honor to God and fosters unity among the body.
That said, let me dive right into to the various points raised by this article.
In this section, I can only assume that through what you compared as being on the decrease and what was on the increase, that these are the things that you consider to be “non-formal”:
I think the understanding of “formal” vs “informal” is largely within the eye of the beholder. In reality, what you are comparing is “the old way of doing things” and “the new way of doing things”. As culture shifts so too will musical tastes, fashion, technology, etc…so it is understandable that we will see those kinds of shifts within the church as well.
Thankfully, drums, projectors, and wearing shorts are not biblical precepts or commands just like organs, hymnals, and wearing suits and dresses are not biblical precepts or commands. They are simply a reflection of society and cultural trends at this time.
Now, while shouting “Amen” is not a biblical precept or command, I’m not entirely sure why “Shouting Amen” was cited as being informal. This one is odd to me. But, lets look at the word, “amen”.
Amen = “uttered at the end of a prayer or hymn, meaning ‘so be it’.
In other words, when people are shouting amen, just like with hymns or prayers, they are saying “I agree with this!”. I am not entirely sure how this could equate to being “informal”. I would actually be more encouraged to hear that word because at least you know who in the room agrees with what’s being taught….not that shouting “amen” is required to communicate that. But it just isn’t something I would immediately classify as “informal”.
That said, I’m sure that Michal, daughter of Saul and wife to King David, probably had similar thoughts racing through her mind when she saw her husband dancing before the Lord in the streets of Jerusalem as he led the ark of the covenant back into the city (see 2 Samuel 6:16-23).
With indignation she said, “How the king of Israel honored himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servants’ female servants, as one of the vulgar fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!”
And to this apparent disdain for what she thought was behavior too unbecoming or “informal” for a king, David responded:
“It was before the Lord…and I will celebrate before the Lord. I will make myself yet more undignified than than this…”
In other words, what we do in the Church gathering in our “worship” isn’t intended for the approval of or admiration of other people…it’s for God and God alone.
Drums are an Old and New Testament instrument, that were widely used in worship. If you don’t like them, that’s fine…but don’t try and draw a distinction between instrument choices and labeling one as being more “formal” and acceptable while another less formal and unacceptable.
Furthermore, how we dress going to church isn’t really a concern for others either. God doesn’t look at the outward appearance, but at our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7). Should we be conscious, to some degree, that what we wear is not too revealing? Absolutely…but that’s more of a question of modesty than formality.
Something to also consider; your assumptions of what is “formal” and “informal” is entirely based on a western understanding of formality. If you were to visit churches all around the world, they would all look different. You may not find any instruments there, or instruments you’ve never seen before. You may find people dressed in clothing that you would never wear in public, much less to church. You may find books with music, projectors, or nothing at all…just singing from memory.
But, that is the beautiful thing about the body of Christ…we are colorful and diverse and this should be celebrated, not pitted against one another.
Judging the worship of others is something God takes very serious. Just ask Michal who found herself barren, and unable to have children (v23), all because she looked down on David for how he chose to worship God.
That is not a place I would like to be, and with all due respect and honor, I would caution you and others to consider the same. Is that really the side we want to be on? Judgmental and harsh toward those who worship God differently from us?
That said, I would agree that those on the other side of you ought to take caution as well. Not only could they be guilty of judging those on your side of the aisle, but they could engage in worship practices that are not biblical, just the same as anyone. But let the Bible be that guide, not our personal preferences about attire, instrumentation, and how lyrics are presented. You just won’t find a guide in the bible for those things.
“Hymnals are a wonderful legacy of Western Christianity.”
Hymnals are indeed a legacy, in as much as it represents the technology that the Church had available to it to provide the Church world with a collection of songs they could include in their musical worship. As you rightly pointed out, hymnals first appeared in the 1830’s.
With that in mind, serious question, what did the church in America use before hymnals for the 1830 some odd years prior to that?
I took a look…hymnals came into being, really, around 1532. Which means the church existed for over 1,500 years without a hymnal.
I took a class in college when I was studying worship ministry called “Worship History”, and I learned that before hymnals music wasn’t even allowed in most churches. And before that scrolls were used as a means of writing things down. And before that clay tablets.
So if hymnals didn’t exist prior to the 1830’s in the US, and 1532 elsewhere, it could be argued that hymnals represent a small portion of worship music history in the 2,000+ years of church history. This doesn’t ‘make them insignificant.
But let us understand what they really are…a tool. If projectors existed 200 years ago, or even 2,000 years ago I’m sure the Church, and dare I say Jesus, would’ve been using them then too. But they only had printed material. So hymnals were what they came up with.
“Churchgoers used to proudly carry their own hymnals to church.”
Serious question, why was this something to be proud of?
God doesn’t look to kindly on the proud (Psalm 138:6 “For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar.”) So why carry something around with pride? Is the pride in the book itself? Is the pride in the words? Is the pride in the God that book was designed to help worship through music?
I don’t know that this makes a great case in support of hymnals. If anything, it makes a case that we have a pride issue in the church that we need to deal with.
“Another study from 2011 estimated that two-thirds of Protestant churches employed a large-screen projection system.”
As I attempted to point above, technology has changed and improved over time. Churches are going to introduce technological advances into their gatherings as these things happen.
There was a time when churches didn’t have central heat and air. A very long time in fact. Do we suddenly go back to those days because that’s how the churches used to be? Probably not because technology has made it so we can endure hot and cold temperatures more comfortably. Likewise, projectors have made the mass dispersal of information and music easier in a church gathering. This isn’t problematic, it’s just the reality of life.
“To the first point: they’re horrifically ugly.”
This is a largely subjective perspective, and not one I find to be very convincing. Perhaps you don’t find it attractive, but there are many churches who have successfully employed the use of projection systems and worked it into the beautiful ornate structure that pre-dated the system.
You rightly point out the practical nature of projection systems, however, when you point out that they help to elevate worshipers heads, amplifies the voices, and frees the hands. You also rightly point out that members with vision issues can often see the words on the screen better than in the hymnals, which is interesting because earlier in the article you suggested this was more easily overcome with large print hymnals.
But as previously mentioned, the aesthetics of it all is purely subjective, and ignores the fact that many churches have employed companies to come in and help work the system into the existing structure in a very useful and honoring way of the existing structure.
To me, the pro’s far outweigh the con’s in this case.
“For visitors or the unchurched–“seekers,” as they are often called–screens remove the learning curve required to read music.”
In as kind a way as possible, let’s make something very clear here, very few people actually know how to read music no matter their age. In the not so distant past (starting around 1815 in England) there were hymnals frequently used by many churches, especially in the more rural and mountainous regions, called “shape note hymnals” which didn’t employ the knowledge of music as much as it employed the knowledge of pitch and symbols representing those pitches. So people learned the music by learning the symbols and noting the direction on the staff the notes were going (up or down).
The point is, we kid ourselves if we honestly believe that a large portion of congregations at any time in history were able to read music.
For example, I am a worship leader myself, and at one time I served in a church where I had a choir. I had a sweet older lady who played the piano for that choir, but she couldn’t read music, nor could half the congregation. The piano player played entirely by ear. I am far younger than she (by at least 40-50 years), and I can read music. But for context, this church was as traditional as traditional gets, and the age of the congregation was well into their 70’s for a large portion of them.
I’ve served in many churches, in various denominations and worship styles, across many states, and I have found this to be the case no matter where I’ve been.
I feel that this is just a disingenuous attempt to lean on “reading music” as an argument for hymnals. It’s not a true representation of reality or history.
To some degree, this is probably true. Our culture is obsessed with technology. But not all (or most) technology is bad. Like with anything, abuses occur. The same people screaming that our culture is obsessed with technology get up on Sunday mornings and in the middle of their sermon boast about how they are going to go and destroy the Ryan’s buffet for lunch following the service (I literally watched this happen, more than once).
My point; the abuse of something doesn’t necessitate the disuse of something.
People abuse medicines. But it can be argued that medicines have their place.
People abuse alcohol, but even Paul said to Timothy that wine can be helpful for health reasons.
People abuse food, but we need it to live.
The projector, like any other technology, is no different. It can be used for good and for bad.
That said, you go on in this section to say…
“It becomes difficult to teach new songs on a worship screen, primarily because there are no notes. Screens only work when worshipers already know the melodies. Worship ‘playlists’ at contemporary services are often meager because the same songs tend to be sung over and over.”
I am sorry, but this particular point is somewhat laughable. I don’t mean that disrespectfully, but what you are saying literally projects on contemporary churches as a “problem” that I saw every week growing up in a more traditional (formal) church.
I grew up in traditional churches (or formal as you call them), that only used hymn books, and I’m sure my experience is not that much of a far cry from others – but we sang the same handful of hymns every year. New songs weren’t really new songs, they were just new versions of old songs. And again, the majority of people in those churches couldn’t read music.
The truth; in contemporary churches, just like with traditional (formal) churches, people sing the loudest and engage the most with songs they are most familiar with. In
Generally what I have seen in traditional/formal churches is that they have played the same songs for decades, therefore the people know them better. Not because of the notes on the page, but because of the frequency of their use.
Contemporary churches do more than institute “worship playlists” to help the congregation become familiar with songs. Some churches will literally take the time to teach them in a live setting. Some will introduce the song as a special a couple times, and then do it with the congregation. Others will do the song, but only a portion of the song and add more to it over the coming weeks. Still others will repeat the song several times over the coming weeks to allow the congregation to become familiar with the song.
So your statement is way off the mark and assumes that these “issues” you cited for the contemporary church are not also issues in the traditional/formal church. Which they clearly are.
There is indeed a great repository of theology in the hymns. But there is also a great deal of theology within the contemporary songs as well. There is also lots of error in the old hymns. And there is lots of error in the contemporary songs. The hymnals are not above reproach, nor are they scripture and infallible. Likewise, neither are contemporary songs.
It is important to note that worship music can be a teacher. I agree there. But it is wrong to suggest that only hymns can do this job effectively. If you examine a good portion of modern worship songs, you will find they are pulled directly from the pages of the Bible. For example, “Better is One Day” by Matt Redman, or “As the Deer”. These are just 2 of a great many songs from contemporary circles that teach the bible as directly as any hymn does.
In fact, many modern songs are starting to be written with a certain flair for the old hymns. Songs like “In Christ Alone”, or “Like Incense/Sometimes by Step”, etc. These musicians are blending old and new and making it a beautiful thing.
I disagree. To “save worship” we need to rediscover WHO we should be worshiping.
The method and vehicle of the musical aspects of worship are all subjective. What you consider the only way to do things via traditional circles, was at one time considered the wrong way to do things. What we consider to be progressive and forward thinking in contemporary circles will one day be seen as traditional and outdated ways of doing things.
I really wanted this piece to convince me that hymnals were the better choice. But it failed miserably as it really didn’t tackle the subject at all.
The sad truth of it all is that the piece did not present any real evidence from scripture as to what worship should look like, it provided zero historical precedence as evidence that their claims were true, and it fell short of being a piece intended to persuade anyone who may prefer projectors to reconsider hymnals.
It did, however, spend a great deal of time passively aggressively attacking contemporary churches and making traditional churches out to be victims of an unjust war. The focus was entirely on subjective preferences as the means to the end of “true worship” and lacked any real theological approach to worship.
This really saddened me, because I’ve been seeing this article circulating by countless people over the last several months and I have to wonder if the Western Church truly understands worship at all.
We clearly don’t because the majority of us think worship is mostly about music, which couldn’t be further from the truth.
The solution is a hard one…we have to take ourselves out of the picture and stop making worship about us if we are going to be able to truly worship God. This is hard because it means we have to stop thinking about ourselves, and what makes us happy, and start thinking abut what worship meas to God.
I appreciate and love the aspects of the traditional churches. I’ve even taken a job in a church as a worship leader for the contemporary service of a church that also has a traditional service, and that has many members who prefer the traditional side of things. We attended the Christmas Eve service which was a classic candle light service, and it weaved together contemporary and traditional aspects in a very beautiful evening that I felt truly honored God.
Church, we can totally coexist in our worship of God when we make it less about our preferences, and more about the unity that is found in a church body that worships God without ourselves getting in the way…in a church body that honors the ones who have come before, and encourages the ones who are still on the way.
Fact is, neither side has the corner market on what worship is so long as both sides assume that worship is about them and not about God alone.
In the final paragraphs of your piece you say, “Does any of this matter? Will the warnings of traditionalists bring any worship screens down from the chancel walls or lead congregations to rethink installing them in the first place? Maybe this whole thing is moot.”
And to that I’ll simply say…if our focus and obsession is always on the “how” and less on the “who” then we completely miss the point of worship anyway and it won’t matter if it’s with organs, choirs, and hymnals–or with guitars, praise teams, and projectors…we’ll get it wrong every time.
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things.Galatians 5:22-23 NLT
I’ve started noticing a trend with some (not all or even most) Christians, especially male Christians, and even more specifically male Christians who would consider themselves “culturally engaged” or taking on cultural ideologies that conflict with Biblical principles and moral standards found in the Bible.
That trend is this…any time someone (like myself) mentions that we as believers need to love others better (not just those within the church, but also those outside of the church) and be kinder, more patient, and more gentle with people…there seems to rise up from the ranks of the individuals I mentioned above an immediate defensive posture, and their responses come across as almost a disdain for what is being said.
For example, back on December 29th I had posted something to social media called 10 Things the Next Generation is Looking for in a Local Church Body which included the following:
And no sooner had I posted that list of 10 things, did I get a comment immediately telling me that this individual didn’t want to go to a church that didn’t practice biblical church discipline or preach against sin. That they didn’t want to go to a church to feel comfortable. That they didn’t want to go somewhere where they, quote, “come as you are and leave as you came as long as the music is good and I saw my friends”.
If this was the first time I’ve seen such a response on social media to things like what I posted, then I would’ve been taken aback a little. But sadly, I’ve seen this happen entirely too much, almost to the point where this is becoming more of the normal response I see from “long time believers” who are “in the fight to win the culture”.
My response to this individual, and to others like them is simply this…when did the fruit of the Spirit become trigger words for Christians?
Are we so angry with the culture around us and how they have handled words like love, kindness, respect, honor, gentleness, patience, etc. that we can no longer hear those words without assuming that anyone using those words doesn’t truly understand the Biblical application of those words?
Why do words like love, kindness, gentleness, and patience…all things that Paul told us in Galatians were the product of the Holy Spirit living in us and producing in us the character of God….why do these things send some over the moon and back again in rage and anger?
If anything, I would argue that these kinds of responses are the exact opposite of the Fruit of the Spirit and come from a fleshly place of arrogance, pride, anger, hurt, legalism, and a whole slew of other things that are born in the sinful depths of mans heart.
But I don’t know their heart…like truly know their heart. But their actions and responses cause me to wonder about or question these things.
Now, for many of these individuals that I have personally interacted with, I can say that they are concerned heavily with people rejecting the law of God and calling good evil and evil good (Isaiah 5:20), and are rightly concerned that people do not truly understand these terms. And many do not. That much is true. But many do.
What I have witnessed is that often they lean on passages like 1 Corinthians 13:6 which says that love “does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth” and then argue that the most loving thing a person can do is tell someone the truth.
All the while, it feels like they may be overlooking the first 3 verses of that very same chapter which tells us that we can say and do all sorts of supernatural and true things…but without love we are clanging cymbals.
So my question is, why are these words so triggering to some folks?
Why would something that should resonate with the Spirit living in and through us cause some to respond with what appears to be outright vehemence toward the fruit of…well…the Spirit?
It could be one thing…it could be a multitude of things…and we could sit around and speculate all day about what triggers these individuals without truly knowing the answers. But I’m not so sure that this is beneficial for anyone, not the least of which is those who are responding this way….nor am I sure that at this point many of these folks even know what is causing them to be triggered by these words.
Perhaps the best way forward is to acknowledge that there are some who will get triggered… those who claim to have the Spirit living inside of them who ought to be producing these very things in and through them….and to continue to demonstrate to them and others the meaning of these words and what it looks like to live these words, and let God do what He will do inside of them.
Only God can soften them. This isn’t my place. I am not God.
I’m not the Holy Spirit so it is not my place to convict either.
You and I can control only one thing…the way we personally respond.
So, when we are faced with those who seem to take issue with our encouragement to others to fully embrace and put on display the Fruit of the Spirit let us respond with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
“We can never know about the days to come, but we think about them anyway.” Those are the opening lyrics to Carly Simon’s famous tune, “Anticipation”. I have been thinking a lot about that very thing this Advent season.
As I write this it is December 24th, the last day of the Church’s celebration and observation of advent. The definition of that term being the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event. For those in the Church this is a time of both the arrival of a notable person and event. The event having been foretold thousands of years prior was without variation from the prophecies that described it though it stretched the bounds of probability to have been so completely fulfilled. The person involved was the son of God Most High who was sent to earth on a mission that baffled the religious scholars of the day and even into our own time.
The anticipation of the coming of Jesus prior to His birth was handled differently depending on who was involved. For Mary, a young virgin teen from a small flyover town called Nazareth, there was joy and great concern. Some might even go so far as to say that she was a bit afraid, and rightfully so for her time. For scholars and prophets there was a longing for answers. For a yet to be born baby named John there was great excitement. For the darkest forces in the heavenly realms there was most certainly dread and for the angels of the Most High there was a time of celebration.
The birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus our Christ was a set of events to rival all events past to present. The God of all creation was not suffice to leave us in our separation from Him and sent the best of Himself to the earth to be born as a lowly flesh and blood human being so that He could ultimately take our place in death for our sins, so that we would know only life. It is the story of deliverance so amazing that the shepherds left their place in the fields to rejoice with the new parents and proclaimed it to the people around Bethlehem. It was so earth shaking that observers from far away followed the sign of a star from across a continent to worship Him. It was also so disruptive to the status quo that men feared enough to kill hundreds of children in hopes of stopping it.
This time was amazing and is rightfully remembered and revered by today’s church. However, we have an even greater advent to be celebrating and it is a celebration that should follow us each and every day. As my family gets ready to celebrate Christmas tomorrow we are remembering our soldiers who are away from us this season. We look forward to their return and long to be able to spend time with those that are away. At the same time, my mom is missing my grandmother greatly. She looks forward to the day when reunited, glorifying our King in heaven. While we anticipate these things, our friend Brian and his wife and my brother and sister-in-law are anticipating the arrivals of their new little ones. We also have friends anticipating the marriage ceremony where they will make a covenant to be forever the one for their love.
These are great events in our personal lives and deserve great anticipation. There is another aspect to anticipation though. It can be just as excruciating as it is wonderful. For instance, there are folks waiting through this holiday season to hear of a medical diagnosis that may not go their way. There are some who fret that their lost loved one will not be found and those who anticipate some impending disaster on its way. For the spiritual evils around us they can only anticipate the ultimate destruction they know will befall them and those who reject Christ.
The ultimate anticipation we have before us is the anticipation of the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The time when all will be made right and joy will be abundant and pain will be no more. We can feel the groanings of our world all too well. My eleven year old son told me just yesterday how this Christmas season has felt extra contentious in his spirit even though he couldn’t put his finger on why. I explained to him the Bible’s words concerning the birth pains that will happen in our world not only physically but emotionally and mentally. Romans 8:19-23 says it best, “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” This is the painful part of anticipation, but the glorious part of that anticipation is knowing.
We know in our hearts that this is not our final home. We know that there is better and we are destined to find it when Christ makes His glorious return. This is the advent that we carry in our hearts and should celebrate EVERY DAY! This is not an advent that we celebrate out of remembrance, but one that we celebrate in the true anticipation of the glory that is to come. Jesus is returning and we are guaranteed to be with Him, never experiencing the birth pains of this world ever again. Though we celebrate this season the greatest Christmas present in the namesake Himself, we can know that the greatest Christmas present is yet to come when we see Him face to face.
So, let’s try to celebrate advent every day of our lives that others might wonder at our hopeful anticipation. I pray that through us and our expression others may come to know this gospel of grace and peace. Then, the world can celebrate with us this perpetual joy of hopeful anticipation. Merry Christmas!
It sure has been a busy month in the kingdom of Western Christianity.
October 18th – John MacArthur tells Beth Moore to “Go Home”. Outrage ensues and party lines drawn between MacArthur and Moore supporters resulting in countless insults being flung at one another on social media.
October 25th – Kanye West releases “Jesus is King” album as a public declaration of his faith. Party lines were drawn between Christians declaring that this was a marketing scheme, while others embraced him at his word resulting in countless insults being flung at one another on social media.
November 17th – Kanye West speaks and performs at Joel Osteen’s church in Houston, TX. Kanye preaches the gospel. Party lines were drawn between Christians who support Kanye and Christians who can’t stand Joel Osteen resulting in countless insults being flung at one another on social media.
November 18th – Chick-fil-A announces they are focusing their donation efforts in 2020 and bringing the number of organizations they donate to down to 3 focusing on homelessness, hunger, and education. Party lines drawn between those who supported Chick-fil-A on November 17th but are now furious and walking away, and those who still support Chick-fil-A after the announcement, resulting in countless insults being flung at one another on social media.
Now, this is just an observation from watching what has taken place over the last month, but here is what I have noted…
…many believers love to make fun of liberals and/or millennial’s as being easily triggered and talk about how being triggered is just a result of a soft generation being coddled by weak parents/teachers/society.
Trust me, I know…this used to be me.
It’s presented as though one generation seems to have the leg up on being strong while the other generation is just so weak that all it takes is the wrong look or word, and they are suddenly catapulted into a fit of rage.
They’re usually accompanied by memes like this:
After watching the western church response to John MacArthur/Beth Moore, Kanye, then Kanye/Joel Osteen, and now Chick-fil-A I can confidently say that the reality is these folks get triggered just as easily as their liberal and millennial counterparts…they just get triggered over different things.
Look, I don’t write this to belittle anyone…it’s an observation. But it’s an observation that I think we all need to not take lightly. There is nothing funny, amusing, or entertaining about people getting triggered over what should be a minor issue.
Sure…folks will argue that these are not minor issues….but you say that because these are things YOU care about! Therefore it is not minor to you. On the other hand, you think that what liberals and millennial’s get triggered over is a minor issue…they don’t think so…because it’s things THEY care about! So it isn’t minor to them.
People on both sides are getting triggered…left and right…republican and democrat…conservative and liberal…millennial’s and boomers…Christian and atheist…
You get the point…right?
Here’s the hard truth pill we’re going to have to either pass on or swallow and that is this…we can continue to complain about the liberal and millennial outrage culture and continue to ignore our own outrage culture…OR…we can take a long hard meaningful look in the mirror and realize that we aren’t so different…you and I…and that we have a lot of work to do ourselves to ensure that we aren’t fostering our own version of the outrage culture.
Instead of feeding into the outrage culture ourselves…how about we cultivate more of the fruit of the Spirit? You know…the fruit we find in Galatians 5:22 and 23 that is:
What do you say? Shall we set our course for greater things or continue to be dragged deeper into the outrage culture mud pit with the rest of the culture?
I choose Galatians 5…don’t be angry!
Join the hosts of the Angry Christian Podcast as we share some of our favorite holiday memories in Ep006 – “Our Happy Holidays” coming out next Tuesday!!!
The format will be slightly different, but I think you’ll enjoy some of the stories, and perhaps it might even bring some wonderful holiday memories of your own.
Speaking of holiday memories!
Do you have a happy holiday memory or family tradition?
If so…we would love to hear it/read it…please submit below in the comments between now and 5PM Friday, 11/22/2019, or through the form below and we’ll feature it in this episode!
We will even take video/audio submissions. They just need to be in by 5PM Friday, 11/22/2019! You can post those in the form as well, or email them to us at email@example.com.
We are a little over a week away from Thanksgiving…one of my all-time favorite holidays…because let’s face it…I LOVE FOOD!
But, over the years I’ve observed interactions between families–not just my own – I love my family!…but also from other families–and it is interesting to see how holidays, such as Thanksgiving, that should be bringing people together and filling homes and hearts with joy and fellowship…can be one of the biggest stresses on relationships in the existence of the world.
Sadly, everyone can think of at least one family member (by blood or by marriage) that they dread having to see during the holidays because they know that this one individual can very literally make or break your time together…and they do so consistently and without fail. In fact, it could be argued that they have quite a history of killing the mood almost before you even get there and causing people to want to just pack it up and head home early…OR…just not go visit them at all.
This is unfortunate, sad and pathetic, and one of the great mysteries of the universe that we may never truly solve. BUT…I hope to provide some ideas below that can help make holidays this year a bit more…tolerable.
So here we go…my list of 5 Things To Help Make the Holidays Brighter:
And there you have it….5 Things to Help Make the Holidays Brighter. There are certainly more things that can be done or left at home to help make the holidays a bit more enjoyable…but these are the first 5 that came to my mind.
What are some things YOU can think of that can help make the holidays brighter?!
You may not believe this, but I don’t agree with every Christian about every topic to come across the Church table. An even bigger shock is that every Christian doesn’t agree with me about every topic to come across the Church table. I mean they should…because I’m usually right…but that’s beside the point (totally joking!).
The hard truth of the matter is this…
…the Church body WILL find things that we DON’T agree on.
But how we disagree with one another will determine a great deal of things…largely how the world will view the Church.
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
This is, unfortunately, a lie. Words do hurt.
For us as humans, our words can cut deep into hearts, and leave massive wounds that can take a lifetime to get over.
For the Church, our words can ruin our testimony and cast a dark shadow over the Church that can potentially push people away from the faith and God altogether.
This may just be a human problem and not just a Church problem…but according to the Bible, as the Church (as believers) we have been empowered by the Holy Spirit to accomplish things that as mere humans we would not have been able to accomplish previously.
And yes…I believe this includes unity despite our differences and disagreements.
I was actually told by an individual, specifically about this topic of unity, that unity is a pipe dream, and that it’s unrealistic to believe that the Church could ever be unified despite our differences and disagreements.
I disagree. A lot.
I don’t look down on this brother for holding this perspective. I realize that for many the idea that unity can be achieved with the church body does feel like a pipe dream. It is difficult to see how people from all walks of life, with varying perspectives, varying theological views, varying cultural backgrounds, and so on…can find unity despite all of those things.
But I believe it is possible.
I believe it is possible because Jesus believed it was possible.
I believe it is possible because Paul believed it was possible.
I believe it is possible because, thank the Lord (quite literally), unity doesn’t depend on our ability to unify but fully relies on the Holy Spirit to bind our hearts together.
When we stop trying to force unity around ideas, political views, cultural views, and whatever else we try to unify one another around…and instead focus on what Paul said would unify us (one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God – Ephesians 4:4-6), I think we will find we have much more in common than we initially suspected and would be able to find that common ground needed to unify the body.
The things that stand in the way of this, I firmly believe, were highlighted in the responses I saw concerning Kanye West and concerning Beth Moore and John MacArthur.
And what was highlighted in these events?
I believe what was put on display for the entire Western Hemisphere to see was our quickness to call someone else a heretic, a goat, a false prophet, etc. when we may disagree on something that isn’t a core of the faith.
When we begin to major on the minors, this is when we lose the ability to unify with one another.
The next big issue is…who gets to determine what the major and minor things are that we ought to focus on?
For one guy it may be a major ordeal that women are in the ministry, and for another it may be a minor issue. One treats it like it’s faith ending, the other treats it like it holds no weight at all.
What do we do when this happens? How do we come back to the point of unification?
I think we look back to Ephesians 4:4-6 and circle around those things:
There is ONE body and ONE Spirit–just as you were called to the ONE hope that belongs to your call–ONE Lord, ONE faith, ONE baptism, ONE God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Let’s break this down…
It is these 7 things that Paul says we can ALL unify around. Paul is suggesting that it is these 7 things that are core to the faith.
As an aside…know what else is fascinating that I just noticed here?
Paul cited 7 things that we can all unify around…7 in the bible is the number for completeness.
That said, notice in this list how much is NOT here, and what IS here. It is what IS here that I believe Paul is saying is what matters most, and what will bring unity to the Church body. The rest is certainly important, but debatable things…
…things like eschatology…bible versions…women in ministry…how one is baptized…musical preferences…where the church meets…how to baptize…and so much more.
And yet…the things I just listed off (which are merely a sampling) tend to get elevated to the status of major things rather than minor things.
Is it any wonder that we struggle to find unity when we are constantly fighting over the non-essentials?
To bring it full circle…is unity possible? Yes!
But it is only possible through the power of the Holy Spirit, and only if we stop making minor issues major issues and find common ground on the essentials of the faith.
It is only then will we be able to approach our disagreements with grace.
I used to be obsessed in a very unhealthy way with politics. It consumed my thoughts, my actions, my social media, my discussions, my arguments…it very literally consumed everything. I watched every debate. I critiqued every political figure. I listened nonstop to talk radio figureheads like Rush, Hannity, Savage, and more. I urged people to do their civic and biblical duty to get out and vote. I even assisted on a local individuals campaign in hopes to see them win and take over a seat in congress all the way up in Washington DC.
I was obnoxious about it too.
I served in a Church at the time as the worship and youth pastor, and on many occasions I was asked to preach from the pulpit as well. And when I did, you better believe that I wasn’t making it out of that sermon without having addressed at least one political issue, if not several.
Did I mention I was obnoxious about it?
It got to the place where I was making far more enemies than friends, and that I was enjoying, perhaps a little too much, the opportunities to slap down everyone I disagreed with politically. I actually looked forward to it. I hunted down opportunities to publicly dismantle political arguments and demonstrate for others just how silly and ignorant they were in their own political views.
Oh…I don’t remember…did I say I was obnoxious about it? Because I totally was.
Those who held to my particular brand of political views were some of my biggest cheerleaders…that is until I started evolving a bit in my views and stopped speaking so loudly about them.
Truth be told, it wasn’t even so much that my political views were evolving, but rather my views on how and when to express them were changing.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that while politics may be unfortunate and perhaps even a necessary evil, it doesn’t mean that I need to intentionally go out of my way to ensure that everyone in the world knows exactly where I stand on every single political issue to date.
I spent many years expressing my views about all things political, and it was exhausting.
Do I think people need to be engaged politically? Sure! After all, it is within this arena that laws are being made that govern our lives. If we are disconnected from this process, we miss out on an important opportunity to invest in and impact what laws will govern us.
But, simultaneously, I think politics can be one of the ugliest and most divisive subjects to ever grace the Thanksgiving Table.
And now, it’s election day, and I have a simple message for us all to remember…
No matter what political party you may find yourself in, and no matter how you may cast your ballot today, at the end of the day we are all American’s and we all still have to learn to live together. Don’t let our political leanings become the wedge that not only divides, but breaks us. We are going to disagree. It’s inevitable. But let us learn to grace one another with kindness, and embark into political discussions with respect for one another. We don’t have to agree. And we can hold passionate political views. But we must be able to look one another in the eye as fellow humans, joined together on the same journey to try and make our nation, state, and city a place worth living in.
And hey…don’t be angry!
In case you’ve been living under a rock or out of the country for the last month, let me just tell you…it’s been a busy couple of weeks for the American Church.
Controversy was first stirred up by John MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Vally California, during the “Truth Matters Conference” when he was asked to provide a 2 word response regarding Beth Moore.
Understandably, this infuriated many women (and a good number of men as well) who took issue with MacArthur implying that the place where Beth Moore should spend her time is at home rather than spending her time speaking, teaching, and as he claimed “preaching” to men, which he considers to be a violation of biblical mandates that women should not “have authority over men” often cited out of 1 Timothy 2:12.
While many folks were jumping to Moore’s defense, there were just as many jumping to the defense of MacArthur and his particular view of women in ministry and espousing that all MacArthur was doing was providing correction and rebuke to someone that has violated God’s word.
Meanwhile, Kanye West was putting the finishing touches on his latest album, “Jesus Is King”, that he ultimately released on October 24, 2019.
This album is a far cry from the initial direction of the album which was originally titled “Yandhi” and announced to be out in September 2018.
A year later in October of 2019, West releases this 9th studio album, and immediately took to the airwaves in numerous interviews leading up to and following the albums release to declare his new found freedom in Jesus, and how he is no longer seeking to entertain people, but point them to Jesus Christ as the only way to salvation.
This of course has also incited responses from Christians on both sides of the Kanye aisle.
Some have jumped immediately on the West Wagon, while others are actively calling him a sham and that he’s simply pulling a publicity stunt, and still others are suggesting that we need to wait a little longer before we fully accept that what Kanye is delcaring about himself as a Christian is a true statement.
Just today I saw a post where the guy suggested that Kanye wasn’t really a Christian unless he gets rid of all of his material wealth. I’m almost positive this individual didn’t think the same standard need apply to himself.
No matter where you stand theologically with MacArthur and Moore, and no matter your perspective lands about Kanye’s declaration of salvation…there is one thing that became extremely clear in all of this…we as the western church are extremely divided and entirely too quick to pass judgment on one another, and call people enemies over disagreements in theology whether or not they be major or minor issues.
As a result, I think we have lost the art of disagreeing, and in the end we only hurt ourselves and the unity the Church is supposed to have.
Surely we, as the Church, can find a way to disagree with one another that is respectful, honoring, and helps to maintain our unity?
After all, Jesus said in John 13:35 that the world would know us for the love we have for one another, not for the stupid arguments we find ourselves in, or the way we fight with one another.
In our next full length episode of the Angry Christian Podcast, we are going to explore this a little deeper as we examine these incidents in light of God’s word. We may find ourselves in disagreement even amongst the hosts of this show, or we may be in full agreement…who is to say…but despite how that may shake out, our hope and goal is to model for the world that it is possible to disagree and still maintain respect, honor, and love for one another.
Be sure to tune in for that. Oh, and hey…Don’t Be Angry!
Check out Ep 003 – Don’t Beat the Sheep
Then check out Ep 004 – Don’t Bite the Shepherd
In Ep003 of the Angry Christian Podcast we explored the dangers of pastors and church leaders beating the sheep. You can catch that episode through the link above (if you haven’t already listened to it), and you can also check out the article we posted along side of this podcast HERE.
In our next episode, Ep004, we are going to explore the relationship of Church folks back to the pastor and church leaders in what we are titling, “Don’t Bite the Shepherd”.
You see, this whole Church thing is a 2 sided coin.
On one side you have the pastors and church leaders (the shepherds), and on the other you have the church body (the sheep). For decades (if not centuries) there has always been a tension between these 2 sides of the coin, which results in church splits, hurt relationships, broken testimonies, people being turned away from and turned off of the church, and a whole lot more.
Each side of the coin seems to think they ARE the coin not realizing that they are but one side of the same coin….that there is another side.
One side is danger of beating the sheep (especially when they become stiff necked and difficult to deal with), while the other side is in danger of biting the shepherd (especially when they become offended or angry with the church leaders).
Both sides struggle with relating appropriately to one another and maintaining a healthy relationship.
While pastors and church leaders can certainly fall into the trap of beating the sheep, the sheep have to be careful that they are not becoming stiff necked and difficult and creating a lot of frustration for the church leaders as they try to appropriately lead and equip the church body to do the work of the ministry.
Paul puts it this way in Hebrews 13:17 NLT:
Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit.Hebrews 13:17 NLT
I know that often times this passage can be used as a cudgel by church leaders who tend toward the abusive side, but this reveals a great deal about how much of a struggle it is for church leaders to adequately and joyfully lead a church body that is constantly biting them.
I have served in ministry and as a church leader in various churches across several denominations and in two separate states, and I can tell you story after story that would make your head spin about how I and other pastors and church leaders were treated at the hands of the sheep.
It’s sad really.
Most church leaders and pastors have the best of intentions and desires for the church body in mind, but are often treated as though they are the greatest threat and enemy to the church body. Usually because these church leaders represent some sort of change that the church body doesn’t want to undergo.
This ought not to be so.
When we understand that we are all working on the same team, toward the same goal, under the same God…we work in unity with one another…and, according to Ephesians 4, we no longer act like spoiled immature children (v14).
What will this look like according to Ephesians 4?
15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
To summarize…the church body (as a whole), when everything is functioning as it should, and relationships are working as they should, and church leaders are functioning in the role God designed for them…the church will…
Seeing this, and knowing this, I have to ask…
Which church body would you rather be part of?
The one where the shepherds beat the sheep and the sheep bite the shepherd?
Or the one where folks actually get along and grow together in unity and health and look more like Christ Jesus who died for us all so that we might be free from the carnal behaviors we were once known for?
I know which one I would rather be part of. How about you?
Episode 003 – Don’t Beat the Sheep – https://eagerfortruth.com/2019/10/08/episode-003-dont-beat-the-sheep/
“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord. Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the Lord. Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the Lord.”Jeremiah 23:1-4 ESV
God takes quite serious the role of pastors and church leaders because they are the ones who are overseeing HIS sheep, not their own. He owns the sheep, pastors and church leaders simply help manage them. So it should come as no surprise when pastors and church leaders abuse the sheep that God is probably not going to be too happy about that.
I can only speak from my personal experience, but I was, on more than one occasion, a sheep beater. Keep in mind that beating the sheep doesn’t always have to be a form of physical abuse, but can also be verbal and spiritual abuse.
My particular rod of choice was my tongue. I was (and still am) quick witted and could conjure up snarky unkind responses at the drop of a hat. All a church member had to do was corner me, or hit me up before the church service was beginning to complain about something, and the rod (that was my tongue) would get whipped out and promptly applied to the head of the unsuspecting sheep.
It wasn’t always words with me though.
I remember one night during praise team rehearsal leading up to the Christmas season as we were going through the Christmas music. I totally lost my cool. It all happened over a song we were playing. The drummer and bassist swore we had never played it before and I was quickly getting frustrated with them and the fact that we were totally botching the song.
I got so mad that I finally yelled, “Fine! Then we just won’t do it” and then I promptly balled up the sheet of music and threw it at the drummer and walked out of the practice space (which at the time was the drummers garage).
I eventually came back in and apologized for my outburst and we moved on with rehearsal, but to this day I have never forgotten that moment. It was in that moment that I took my position of authority and responsibility of overseeing a group of good folks, and used it as a moment to beat the sheep.
Sadly, this wasn’t the only moment I had like this over the years of ministry. Fortunately for you, I’m not going to detail each of those out in this article. That could take years…
In looking back over those moments, however, I have a lot of regret. I regret that I lacked the self-control needed to respond in a frustrating moment with a calm and wise demeanor. I regret that I allowed my anger to get the best of me and make me a fool. I regret that a group of people, who were well meaning and loyal people, became the target of my wrath.
I didn’t heed Paul’s warning in Acts 20:28, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.”
Paul would later go into greater detail about how a shepherd ought to behave in his letters to Timothy and Titus.
For example in Titus 1:5-9 he says the following should be characteristics of an elder (pastor/shepherd/leader):
You see, in the moments that I was spending beating the sheep, I was lacking a lot of these characteristics. Specifically I was acting violently, I was angry (quick tempered), I was not being hospitable, I was not self-controlled, I was not disciplined, and I was not behaving humbly.
I wish I had listened to the words of Paul in Acts 20:28…because what he was really saying was “take care with how you treat the church (the sheep), because God paid for them with a high price…his own blood. So don’t think he won’t be very angry if you end up mistreating those he has purchased at great cost. “
It would be a lot like you buying $100,000 car, and lending it to someone. You would probably say something like this to them, “Look, you can drive this car, but you better take care not to scratch it, wreck it, or harm it in any way. I paid a LOT for this car. It had better come back to me exactly as I gave it to you, or you better believe I will be suing your butt.”
I know the person borrowing the car would be EXTREMELY careful, because there is no way they want to be held responsible for damage done to a $100,000 car.
Likewise, God has said “I bought the church at a great price. You as the shepherd, the overseer, had better take good care of them and return them to me just as I had given them to you or better, otherwise there will be literal hell to pay.”
This isn’t the first warning God issued to shepherds. God actually issued His warning through Jeremiah to the ones who were overseeing Israel (see passage at the beginning of this article).
The reality is, when we beat the sheep we risk a lot. Not only the obvious wrath of God, but also the impact it has on the sheep.
As mentioned before, God said through Jeremiah that the shepherds were mishandling the sheep and it resulted in:
God issued another similar warning to the shepherds of Israel in Ezekiel 34:1-11 that gives an even bigger picture of what happens to the sheep when the shepherds do not properly care for them, and what God’s response will be.
What happens to the sheep:
What happens to the shepherds:
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be God’s enemy. Just read the old testament and see what happens to the enemies of God. Not…good. Not only do you become an enemy of God when you mistreat the sheep, but God will literally hold you accountable for your treatment of them.
Now, I think that God is a deeply patient God, and understands that we are not perfect. We are going to make mistakes. My throwing a waded up piece of paper at my drummer is probably not the worst thing that could happen, and I’m sure that God isn’t waiting for me to get to heaven and then say “Sorry pal, you’re not coming in here. Remember that time you threw paper at your drummer?”
So while we should breathe a slight sigh of relief that God is a patient and understanding God, it doesn’t mean that we need to be careless with our role as shepherds and lose sight of the fact that we are taking care of God’s possession…not our own.
All of that said, let me encourage you to return the fields with new eyes for the sheep. I know I’m personally taking it to heart as I enter in to the next stage of my own ministry.
I hope you will too.
On Tuesday October 8th, The Angry Christian Podcast will be releasing a new episode by the same title as this article, “Don’t Beat the Sheep” where we will be discussing this topic with the very same drummer mentioned above who is now a host of this podcast.
Be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts or anywhere you get your podcasts to catch this episode and more!
Recently, I started a podcast with several friends called The Angry Christian Podcast, which explores the topic of anger as it relates to being a Christian. We talk through various topics and questions and scriptures trying to explore and understand better the concept of anger in the life of Christians.
Our first episode explored the topic of being displaced as we talked through the story of one of our hosts, Brian Baldwin, and his being displaced years ago by Hurricane Katrina. [listen HERE]
Our second episode explored the topic of what the place of anger really is. [listen HERE]
In an effort to promote our content and spark discussion on social media, I posted on Reddit. Posting on Reddit is one of those things you do with great caution because, even if you are posting to Christian subreddits, you stand the chance of opening up a massive can you may or may not want to open.
Past posts have resulted in quite a variety of responses. In this particular case, the discussion has been relatively tame and pleasant, however, a recurring question was posed and that is “Is being angry a sin?”
This got me thinking…is being angry really a sin?
After all, at its core anger is merely an emotion that we feel. Many times we confuse other emotions as being anger, but generally we know when we’re angry. It’s also an emotion that God Himself felt. We see countless examples throughout the Old Testament of God’s anger [e.g. 2 Kings 17:18 and Isaiah 48:9]. If we are indeed created in the image of God as we are told in Genesis 1, then I think the conclusion that we an rightly come to is that anger was part of that which was built into us.
Which brings us back to the question…is feeling angry a sin?
Through much discussion and study, the conclusion I have come to is that feeling angry is not a sin. Harboring anger, and acting inappropriately out of anger, however, absolutely is a sin.
I think the best approach is to let the Bible speak for itself as the Bible is rife with warnings about harboring anger and acting out of anger:
The verses above are just a sampling of what the Bible has to say about and warn about when it comes to our anger.
Paul, in Ephesians 4:26-27, says that it’s okay to be angry but to not let it cause us to sin and not to let the sun go down on our anger (i.e. don’t harbor anger). This is a hard task, no doubt, which is why I tend to lean toward the idea of erring on the side of avoiding anger as much as possible than trying to give allowance for our anger and potentially open doors for it to become destructive. Trust me, I’ve lived that life, and I don’t want to go back.
Tune in to Episode 2 of our podcast to hear our thoughts on this topic. And please be sure to like, subscribe, follow, share, and review if you like the content that we are bringing to you every 2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month!