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!
It’s the Lord’s Day, y’all. You know what that means. It’s one of the days believers gather to hear exegetical preaching and teaching to edify and sanctify our souls. That’s a lot of Christian talk for being refreshed by the Word of God. Today, one of our elder candidates preached about the light bulbs going off in the minds of the disciples after the empty tomb was discovered.
They had the scriptures and the true Teacher in their midst, yet they did not fully understand the written words or the things He said to them directly. They couldn’t see what was right in front of Him. Not only them, but those that actively opposed Him also had trouble understanding His words and the true meaning of the scriptures. These men that spent their entire lives immersed in the things of God had not a clue who this God is they worshiped and had not an inkling of a clue of what was meant by the words given to them.
In the book of John, we see that it is God that gives understanding (one of the places anyway). Those that don’t belong to Him don’t understand Him. They can’t hear what He’s saying, they don’t recognize His voice, and they can’t see what’s right in front of them. And oh, what a change in those men took place when they could really see for the first time. From frightened fishermen to martyrs for the King, seeing was believing for those men. Isn’t that still true today?
Men still can’t be bothered to listen to what He has said. If you can talk to some of them about the things He said and the things He did, they don’t listen. It’s like they can’t listen. They can’t hear Him and in turn, they can’t see what He’s done. If they can’t see what He’s done, they surely won’t ever believe Him unless God grants him understanding.
By the grace of God, I have been given ears to hear. I’m able to hear His voice and truly see Him (I speak in a human way), but my understanding is so limited still. I spend my days active and passively listening to things concerning Him (sermons/worship music/podcasts/etc). I would dare to say I may even immerse myself in as much material as those men of the past once did.
Give this a quick listen.
Listening to this message being preached, I realized something about myself: I fear silence. I spend a lot of time enclosed in a wall of sound for the glory of God, but how much do I actually sit down, be quiet, and read the word. How often do I meditate on it and take it slowly, allowing the spirit space to correct, rebuke and teach me? The short of it is I don’t. I don’t because I’m afraid.
Why am I so afraid of silence? Am I afraid to truly see the sin in my heart yet to be uncovered? Am I afraid to confront the sin that already has been outed? Am I ashamed of sin and not truly understanding the gospel? Am I afraid that I won’t hear His voice if I do sit down and listen? Why does the sound of silence frighten me so? I .. I don’t know. Maybe it’s all of those things. Maybe it’s something more I’m just not able to see.
What I do know is I want more understanding of what the scriptures say. I want a deeper understanding of how we should live in light of them. I want a more intimate relationship with Christ.
Note: I say “want” and not “need” purposefully. I don’t need those things because salvation is of the Lord. I don’t have to earn it and there’s nothing I can do to earn it. I don’t have to maintain it and I couldn’t possibly live up to the standard of doing that, either. Grace, ya’ll. Grace…
We have all been there before. Someone (or perhaps even it is us) is trying to communicate something very important but the delivery of the message is conducted in such a way that it immediately causes the hearer to throw up walls, tune them out, or flat out reject the message. It doesn’t matter if what is being communicated is true, important, or eternally impacting…the delivery is simply abysmal and causing more harm than it is helping.
Communication is a complex thing. Communication isn’t simply someone sounding off into the void without an audience, but requires at least two members to the party to effectively exist.
In the moment of communication there are several components at work (this list is by no means comprehensive, but a simple outwork of basic communication):
There is good communication and there is bad communication.
Bad communication is something we are all really good at if we are honest with ourselves. It comes natural. I suppose we could write it off to our fallen human nature, or just that we are a product of our environment of poor communication.
Good communication, on the other hand, is something we really have to work at. For most of us it doesn’t come natural. For most of us, it is a real chore to communicate in an effective way that gets the message across without shutting people down. Especially when what we are trying to communicate is of eternal importance.
Out of the 10 things listed above there is only one thing that cannot be controlled by the speaker, and that is how someone receives what you are communicating, or simply put: the receiver.
If you are anything like me, knowing this is frustrating because we may feel we have done everything in our power to communicate effectively, and yet the receiver still somehow manages to misinterpret what we said or somehow turns it negatively toward themselves and then ultimately back at you.
As a communicator, however, we have to realize that we cannot control this. As much as we want to control this, we will never be able to. There is some freedom when we finally come to terms with this and accept it as the reality, no matter how hard we may want to change that.
Knowing this, however, is not a license for us to communicate any old way we wish and resign ourselves to thinking how we communicate no longer matters.
Of the ten things listed above, there are actually nine things that you as a communicator can control.
For example, the words (1) we speak and the tone (2) in which we speak them is crucial. If I were to say, “I love you” to someone but my tone was angry sounding, it would probably not communicate “I love you” effectively. If I say, “I need to talk to you about something” and my tone sounds quite serious or put out, this may create some concern for the other individual as they begin to run scenarios through their head of what you’re going to say before you even say it.
Likewise, our body language (3) and posture (4) speak almost as loud (if not louder) than our words. If I am trying to confront an important topic and when I am speaking with someone my arms are crossed, and I constantly roll my eyes, this is probably communicating to the other person that I don’t really care about what I’m saying and that I really don’t care about them.
How we choose to deliver (6) our message is also important. As mentioned above, if we deliver our message through visuals, we need to ensure that our visuals are communicating accurately our message and not creating a distraction or communicating a very different message.
If we are using equipment to help us deliver our message, we need to consider how that equipment may separate us from our audience. For example, it is no secret that Christians confronting things like abortion, gay marriage, or other hot topics of the day often get labeled as the “bullhorn” guy (or girl). The reason being is that the bullhorn (or megaphone) is seen as something used by protesters or angry people. I’m not saying bullhorns are bad, but we may need to consider how this piece of equipment may be impacting our ability to communicate our message.
If the written word is our method of delivery for our message, then we have to understand that the written word lacks tone, body language, and posture. So it can become easy for our words to be misunderstood when we do not carefully choose our words.
Words aren’t always used. We may choose to use visuals (9) as well. If you’ve ever been in a classroom setting you may find a teacher who uses pictures and diagrams to help communicate the point they are making to the classroom. Sometimes our visuals are helpful. Sometimes our visuals can become a distraction or communicate exactly the opposite of what we are trying say.
Something that often goes overlooked is the environment (10). Our message may indeed need to be heard, but where we choose to deliver that message is important. For example, if I want to confront someone close to me (e.g. a family member) about an affair they are involved in that I am aware of, it’s probably not ideal to do that at the Thanksgiving table surrounded by all of the family members. It’s probably best handled in a private setting.
Even though motive (5) is number 5 in the list, this is probably the most important of all of the components of communication. Motive is our reason behind what we are saying and doing. We may think we have pure motives, but more often than not, our feelings betray us and our motive is really out of order. For example, I’m writing this blog article because I’ve seen repeated social media posts that I felt were examples of poor communication. If my motive is simply to expose the people and not confront the communication itself, then I have made it a personal attack against a person rather than a positive and hopefully helpful critique of communication.
Taking all of these components into consideration, the mishandling of just one of these components can cause our message to fall upon deaf ears. It may already fall on deaf ears because our audience may not want to hear it, but there may be members of that audience who were open to the message but how we handled the communication really turned them off. This is what we want to avoid.
I’ll put it simple…this should be important to us as believers because God communicated in His Word to us that how we treat others is important. The treatment of others is not just in what we do, but in what we say and how we say it.
You’ve probably read it before, but 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 has become a bit of a “life verse” for me as these 3 verses have challenged me like no other when it comes to my words and my action. Here is what Paul tell’s the Corinthian Church regarding their words and their actions:
If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NLT
Think about what Paul is saying…we can have supernatural gifts, and unlimited knowledge, and faith that moves mountains…but if any of these things are used outside of a motive of love for others, then it is a literal waste of time and we come across as a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
In other words, without love…with out communicating with the receiver in mind…we become obnoxious. And, sadly, a lot of Christians today are merely obnoxious clanging cymbals and gongs. They confront today’s hot topics but do it in such a way that immediately shuts down dialogue. They do it in such a way that comes across arrogantly. Some, I’ve seen, are even proud of this. They seem to think that people are rejecting the message and that they are fulfilling what Jesus said when he said “They have not rejected you but me”…when in reality I think the majority of the time it is the messenger that they are rejecting.
I know this from first hand experience. Because that used to be me. People would respond so ugly toward me, and would get so defensive with me, and so much more…and I would just say, “Well, clearly they cannot handle the truth.” But the reality was, I couldn’t handle loving them. I thought speaking the truth was enough. And then I really looked at Paul’s words there in 1 Corinthians and the Holy Spirit struck my heart.
They were responding that way because I had no love in me. I possessed the truth, but I possessed no love for them. I almost viewed them as my own enemy. What a distorted view I had of the whole situation, huh?
Over the last couple of years I have gone through a bit of an evolution as I have had to confront these things about myself and really examine my heart. I didn’t like what I saw, but thankfully the Holy Spirit has been empowering me to make the necessary changes to communicate better and to love people better.
I still believe the things I did back then, but how I communicate has changed. And it needs to change for a lot of other believers too…if they would just shut up long enough to take a long hard look in the mirror.
I don’t believe their behavior is entirely their fault. When you get in the trenches and you’re fighting every battle that comes your way, you become somewhat calloused. In fact, you can become so numb to the reality of things that you assume that if people aren’t fighting the battles like you’re fighting them, then they must be doing it wrong and then suddenly those who would your allies are now your enemies.
It’s almost like a spiritual form of PTSD!
If any of what I have described above sounds like you, and you want to find a way forward, I am more than happy to talk to you! Please drop me a line. Also, there is a podcast kicking off in September called “The Angry Christian Podcast” that will be exploring the topics of anger with a group of friends from all walks of life, and it might be worth while to drop in and listen for a while.
However you choose to confront these things in yourself, let us take these words from the Apostle Paul to heart:
Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone (Romans 12:18).
It was his sixth grade year and the boy was not only in a new school, but he was in a new city and a new state as well. Every aspect of the life he once knew had been uprooted and planted firmly in the middle of the state of North Carolina in a small town called Wake Forest.
Mere months before the boy had been enjoying his childhood in the mountains of West Virginia. Snow was a thing. Having four seasons was a thing. All of his friends were there. The school he had only one more year left in was there. His church was there. The things and people and places he loved were all in West Virginia, not in North Carolina.
But now his parents decided it was time to make a change in it all. So they held a yard sale, packed what was left, and moved the family to Wake Forest, North Carolina.
His father had just started attending Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary there in Wake Forest after having already spent 10 years in the ministry as a youth pastor and a senior pastor across Virginia, Tennessee and West Virginia.
His mother had just become a secretary to the president of that seminary after having spent the years prior supporting her husband in ministry and raising three children.
It was all so new.
It was all so scary.
But the boy didn’t let that bother him. He was outgoing, after all, and knew he could make a lot of friends. Though, he did miss his friends back in West Virginia…a lot.
As he walked through the doors of the new middle school he was to attend, it became quickly apparent that he kind of stuck out like a sore thumb. He wasn’t a rich kid. Never had been. He didn’t dress in name brand clothes or wear name brand shoes. Not that every kid at this school was Zach Morris or anything.
Shoot…his mom cut his hair and he wore huge plastic Urkel glasses. To make matters worse, he had just started learning the trumpet the year before and was walking through the doors of a new school in a new city and a new state immediately branded as a band nerd.
No one sniffs out the weak and scared quite as quickly as a bully does, and the boy soon became an unwitting target.
His trumpet was stolen and put in someone else’s locker.
His book bag had been ripped out of his arms and his books thrown down the hall.
Threats of getting beat up were made constantly.
The boy was truly terrified and had no idea where to go or what to do. Up until this point he was kind of excited about being in a new place, though understandably nervous, but this…this was becoming too much for him to handle.
Maybe it was just the kids in North Carolina. Maybe they were just meaner than the kids in West Virginia. Maybe not. Probably not. Who knows.
The boy sure didn’t know.
The boy sure didn’t care.
That boy…was me.
I had always been an outgoing kid. I never had issues making friends. My earliest memories consisted of my years in Oak Hill, WV and Bluefield, WV that encompassed kindergarten through fifth grade where I had made friends that, even to this day, I still talk to. Many of them were even in my wedding!
That was until Wake Forest Middle School.
This new situation had me terrified.
I had never faced anything quite like this before. Bullies? People threatening to beat me up, take my trumpet, and take my school books?
What does one do in this situation? I’ll tell you what I did!! I did what any smart terrified kid would do…I started faking I was sick so I didn’t have to go to school. Of course, that only lasted so long.
Eventually the school counselor was brought in, or rather I was brought into their office. I was promised that I would be watched over and taken care of. Nothing quite like being the new kid in town and having the teachers promise to watch over you. Could I get any more nerdy?
I spent the rest of my sixth grade year scared and constantly looking over my shoulder.
It was a miserable existence.
Sometime during and after my sixth grade year from hell, I finally made a friend in the neighborhood. He was one year behind me in school, which meant he would be moving up to my school at the start of my seventh grade year which, in my mind, was a good thing because this kid wasn’t afraid of anything, and I felt like I needed that in my life.
I needed someone I felt I could connect with in the hallways that wasn’t a teacher. I needed someone I felt like was on my side, who understood the struggles of an awkward middle school kid, and who would have my back and I could have their back.
For the sake of keeping real names out of the story we will just call this kid Billy. And Billy very literally became one of my best friends. Back in 1994 we started a relationship that would last all the way up to when I got married as he was actually in my wedding. In the early 90’s we spent those middle school years stuck to one another at the hip. We were a dynamic duo. No one at Wake Forest Middle School messed with us. And if they did, well, Billy would mess them up. At least that’s what I would tell myself would happen (whether or not it actually did happen).
Billy had a short fuse at the time, if I’m going to be fully transparent. And I’m sure if he was talking to you today, he would have to agree. He got into fights both at school and back home in our neighborhood which was seminary housing for students with families. I remember one fight that broke out at the bus stop before we even boarded the bus to go to school. I am pretty sure that neither Billy or the kid he fought actually made it to school that day.
Our neighborhood was interestingly nicknamed “Little Baghdad” by some of the kids there. Pretty messed up, huh? A bunch of kids of aspiring pastors, and our little neck of the woods was affectionately referred to as “Little Baghdad”. If I recall, that was a nickname it got long before my family and I had actually moved in. Not entirely sure how it got that nickname either. I suppose pastors kids are everything people think we are after all! (Totally joking my fellow pastors kids! PK’s unite!)
The neighborhood was a large town-home complex with several cul-de-sacs jutting off to the left as you made your way from the entrance at the bottom of the hill to the top of the hill where Billy and I lived.
A hill which, by the way, was excellent for riding large big wheels, roller blades, skateboards, or bicycles down. You could get some serious speed headed down the hill until you were abruptly stopped by the curb at the bottom.
We would spend hours doing this. And then, once you were at the bottom, you could often convince an adult driving back up the hill to give you a tow back up so you didn’t have to walk back up the long hill which, of course, meant more time spent speeding right back down again.
Billy lived at one end of the town-home building and I lived at the other end. We used walkie-talkies to communicate, and had even devised a plan to run a string from one town-home to the other through the adjoining attics and attach them to cans in our rooms so we didn’t have to always buy batteries or keep the walkie-talkies on if we wanted to talk. Unfortunately, we never followed through with this plan.
In a way we were a lot like those kids from that Netflix show, Stranger Things! Minus the demogorgon. And the upside down alternate dimension. And kids with super powers and stuff.
Okay fine, maybe we were nothing like those kids, but this much we did know: this was our block. We knew it and we owned it.
The younger kids feared Billy and I, though it wasn’t because we were going around beating kids up, we just walked tall and proud. The older kids knew not to try and corner us together because that was simply not going to end well for them. We even tried to start a bicycle gang. You know the kind that stuck baseball cards on the wheels with clothespins so it sounded like you had some sort of engine hooked up to your one speed pedal bike. The more cards you had on there, the louder it sounded. The louder it sounded, well, obviously the cooler you were. And we were cool. (Not!)
Our town-homes bumped up against a huge forest which we found ourselves wandering almost daily. We would spend hours back there building forts, riding our bikes off of sweet jumps, playing in the creek, panning for fools gold (though we could’ve sworn it was real gold), swinging from vines, digging pit traps, going exploring for what we were told was the mystical butterfly garden, and yes we even got lost back there one time and my dad was REALLY unhappy with me about that one. Billy’s dad was pretty ticked off too.
Truth be told, the neighborhood really wasn’t that bad.
No one got killed…or robbed.
There were no drugs.
Weapons were not drawn on people (unless you count hockey sticks and wooden swords made from scraps of wood from the dumpster).
But some of the kids in the neighborhood were rough. Including Billy. So was I.
As an aside let me just say that Billy is no longer like this. He has since grown up, gotten married, and had children. After all, this was 1993 through 1996. He has mellowed quite a bit since then, as have I. But at the time, he had a fierce temper.
I don’t know if I necessarily took my anger cues from Billy (though I’m sure our relationship probably had some impact as all relationships do), but I do know that as a result of my sixth grade year I had made a pact with myself that I wasn’t going to get bullied anymore. If I felt cornered or under attack, by golly, people were going to get bit.
As an adult I have since learned that some times we can make these inner vows and not realize what we’re really saying, just how potent they really are, and just how much of an impact it can have on our lives.
Like the pigeon in American Tail once said to Fievel, “Never say never again!”
Why didn’t I listen to that stupid pigeon in American Tail? He was so wise!
Why didn’t Fievel for that matter? Silly mouse.
This was no different. I had said to myself, “I will never get bullied again!” I didn’t care how that became a reality, I just knew that the way I felt in sixth grade; helpless, scared, lost, and constantly looking over my shoulder…that was something I never wanted to feel again.
I soon developed a quick witted tongue that could verbally cut anyone down that had the pleasure of ticking me off or thinking they could handle me in an argument. I never got into a physical fight though. However, I was fully prepared to do so if the need arose.
I wasn’t a mean kid. I wasn’t hateful. I didn’t walk around with a chip on my shoulder just waiting for the next person to look at me wrong so I could stick my fist in their mouth. But I did walk around a lot more cautious and prepared to defend myself than I was when I was in sixth grade.
Honestly, I don’t know what snapped in me because it wasn’t like an overnight transformation. Perhaps it was just the desire to not be someone else’s punching bag. Perhaps there was a bubbling raging version of myself always below the surface that just needed the right environment and experience to draw it out of me.
Either way, the angry beast was out of the cage.
The angry beast had been unleashed.
Recently, I’ve been doing a book study with a number of close friends of mine (and even some new friends I never knew I had!). The study is through the book titled, The Road Back to You by Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile. To summarize, the book is an introductory journey through the enneagram, which is simply a tool to help you understand your personality type as well as your weaknesses and strengths in this personality type.
As I write this, we are only in our second week of the study, but it also means we have read through the first five chapters of the book. The first two chapters were an introduction to the enneagram, and chapters three through five were a deeper dive into the eight, nine, and one personality types on the enneagram.
Chapter three is the eight, or The Challenger personality type. It is the first personality type they really dive deeply into the book. And wouldn’t you know it, it is the personality type that I am.
I like to read (can’t say I always have though), but I go through books much faster when I use the audio book version. I already suspected that I was an eight based on the brief introduction to the subject in the first two chapters, but decided to let my wife listen to chapter 3 with me and get her first hand reaction as they described that personality type, mostly to see if she agreed with what I had already felt was likely my type.
Literally everything mentioned in that chapter my wife would simply nod in agreement and say, “Yep, this is definitely you!”
Friends, it is absolutely important to understand this recent development in me that has brought new understanding of myself in my current stage of life because if you understand what drives an eight personality type, and how they instinctively react to situations and people, then you will understand my life story and how I got to where I am now.
Usually, when you tell a story, you start at the beginning. But to truly appreciate my story, then starting at the end makes more sense.
But first, let me introduce myself…my name is Brad Bates, and I am a recovering angry Christian.
I had spent many years fuming and bubbling internally and externally over various people and aspects of my life, not knowing why I would feel so angry, or why I would lash out the way I did. But, thanks to the God I serve and His infinite grace, He opened my eyes to my heart condition and opened a door for me to truly take a look at myself and see myself as others saw me…and I didn’t like it…at all.
You see, on one fateful Halloween Day back in 2017, I walked into my office at the company I was working for at the time expecting a normal day on the job. Little did I know that within 30 minutes of walking through those doors that my life would get, in the words of a famous Prince, flipped turned upside down.
People, my life wasn’t just flipped and turned upside down, my life was rocked to the core.
On October 31, 2017 I was fired from a job I had held for almost 10 years. I was a married father of four children, with a brand new house we just bought, my wife didn’t work, and I just lost my primary source of income and support for my family.
I was angry, scared, and confused.
Why would God let something like this happen to me?
Doesn’t He realize that I have four children and a wife to take care of?
Doesn’t He realize I just bought a house?
How am I supposed to pay for this thing with no job?
Doesn’t He realize that I am a victim here?
Or was I?
The journey ahead is really a journey through what I’ve left behind.
My hope is that over the course of several months of writing and podcasts, I am going to unpack for you how a cute and adorable kid like myself from the great state of West Virginia can go from a happy go-lucky kid in the 80’s to an angry Christian in his mid-30’s on the verge of a major life shaking crisis, and then ultimately how I’ve come out on the other side of that.
Truth be told, my real hope is that people will read this and find themselves in one of three possible scenarios:
So, sit back, put your seat belts on, and enjoy the ride. There’s bound to be some bumps along the way. But together, perhaps we can pull out of a destructive path and put ourselves back on to a healthy road toward a growing compassion for ourselves and for others.
I’ve been in a lot of churches over the years, and not just ones that I have served on staff at or been a member at, but also visited alone or with friends, and there is a phrase I have heard quite frequently no matter the denomination, style, or location…and that is this:
To understand our Church you have to understand our DNA.
Or sometimes they simply say, “That’s just our DNA” in response to describing something about the personality of the church.
But what in the world do they mean by that??
What they usually mean by DNA is that their DNA is their cultural distinctions that have emerged in that specific local church body versus what you may find in other local church bodies.
For example, you may find a church that has…
In other words, there may be aspects of Christianity or the Christian life that, as a local church body, they gravitate more towards and want members of their local body to adopt as a major value and focus in their own lives as well.
It is true…we tend to gravitate toward those we have the most in common with, as there is comfort there. As a result there does emerge a common bond or DNA among the members of that local church body that becomes quickly apparent as you attend more and more of their gatherings.
In the Church culture context, this DNA usually flows down from Church leadership.
Church DNA and culture can be wonderful things to help center and unify a body.
But there is a fine line between establishing a Church culture…and establishing a cult.
In some cases, the church DNA makes a serious shift away from simply making a focus out of an aspect of the Christian life or Church life, and moves towards something that is far more harmful than we may really understand.
If you’ve been in a church body like this, perhaps you know what I’m talking about. It’s usually not something that happens over night either…but starts off with good intentions and suddenly becomes something far more than anyone bargained for.
Here are some signs you may want to keep your eyes open for:
I’m sure I could keep going…I don’t just speak these things from observation…but also from participation. I did a lot of these things. And perpetuated a lot of these things in some of the churches I’ve belonged to and served in over the years…but in light of that I have to ask…
I’ll tell you what happens…you move from having a culture to becoming a cult.
But is there any way to prevent this from happening, or at least put up some safeguards to help detect when this is happening and confront and address this before it becomes too late?
I do think there are at the very least two steps that can be taken to help protect a Church body from becoming victims of cult mentality. Here are just some I think would make a huge difference:
As with most things, there are plenty of other steps that can be taken, but I believe these two things specifically are foundational toward the development and health of a local church and helping to protect that body from moving into a cult like mindset.
I don’t envy you if you are, because I’ve been there, and I messed up with how it should’ve been handled. So what I’m about to tell you isn’t how I handled it at all, but after much thought, prayer, and regret…I believe this would’ve been the best approach (sometimes hindsight really is 20/20).
STEP 1: Pray and weigh out your concerns Explore with scripture and with God and the Holy Spirit what you are feeling and the concerns you have. Make sure that what you are seeing take place isn’t simply a reaction to an offense on your part. Then, if you have determined it’s not simply being offended…move to the next step.
STEP 2: Go to the Pastor and Church Leaders with your concerns The first step is simply to approach your pastor and church leaders with your concerns. Respectfully outline for them what you see as problematic. If they address them, and you see changes take effect…then this is wonderful. If they flippantly dismiss them, excuse them, or give you lip service and move on without even remotely considering your concerns, then you have cause to move to the next step.
STEP 3: Go to the outside accountability with your concerns If you know that there exists an outside accountability, then I would first recommend reaching out to them directly with your concerns. They will likely want to hear your side, they will then want to hear your pastors and church leaders side, and they may even want to bring you all together for a discussion. If it is determined by the outside accountability that nothing nefarious is taking place, but you still have a sinking feeling in your gut and you’ve given this over to lots of prayer and careful consideration (not simply jumping to conclusions and making irrational decisions), step 4 is the next and final step to take.
STEP 4: Find a new church You don’t want to do it. No one really wants to do it. But sometimes it’s absolutely necessary…hard…but necessary. You may be tempted to try and drag others out with you. Don’t do it. There is still a possibility you could be wrong about your understanding of the situation, and it would be unwise to pull others in to your corner unnecessarily. There may be times when it is necessary…but I would give careful thought toward that end, and seek a lot of wise counsel before deciding how to approach that.
Like I said, I didn’t do any of these things, and looking back I really wish I had. Don’t make the same mistakes I made assuming it will get better, and that it’s just the enemy who is trying to create division in the Church body. There may be very real concerns that need to be addressed, and if no one speaks up it may never get addressed.
Just make sure that when you act that you’re coming from a good spirit, with a right motive, and not acting on rumor, assumption, or offense.
There once was a man who was in the market for a car that was really good on gas mileage, was cheap, and was small (he worked in a downtown area where parking was minimal).
This man found a 2002 Mini Cooper with 56,000 miles on it for a darn good price.
He took it for a spin…
…and then he bought it.
Within a month of owning the Mini Cooper the car began to experience various issues. The issues began with an AC that suddenly stopped working, and then the car began to overheat, and then…in a grand display of frustration…the clutch cable snapped while the man was on his way to work leaving him stranded in the middle of the road during the morning rush hour commute.
The man was not happy.
The man began to wonder if he had made a mistake buying this car.
The mileage was right.
The price was right.
The car SEEMED right. But clearly…all was not right.
Things seemed OK on the surface, but with regular driving it suddenly became apparent that with age (the car was nearly 20 years old) that there were problems below the surface that the man was not aware of.
The man paid to have the AC fixed.
The man paid to have new brakes put on.
The man paid to have new tires put on.
The man paid to have the oil changed.
The man paid to have the clutch fixed.
The man thought, “Surely things will start looking up! I’ve practically replaced the whole car.” But within a few months the car was back to driving terribly. It idled horribly, especially when the AC was running. It was struggling to change gears. The gas mileage was terrible on a car known for having great gas mileage.
“Didn’t I just get a new clutch?” the man asked frustratingly.
Despite the brand name of the car, it was becoming clear that the Mini was becoming a HUGE problem.
In less than a year from being purchased the man took his car back to the transmission shop to have the transmission looked at it because he was getting nervous that the clutch would fail on him again.
Within a couple of days of the car being at the shop, the shop owner called the man to give him the bad news. The clutch was shot. Initially the shop owner blamed the mans long commute for wear and tear on the clutch, but when he got inside of the clutch the shop owner realized that the clutch bearing had broken loose and was causing all of the issues.
The clutch was replaced once more.
When the man got his car back, he noticed that his bad idle issues had disappeared, as well as the awful gear issues, he was getting much better gas mileage, and the car was generally running better than when he first purchased the car.
You see, all of these other things were merely symptoms of a deeper issue. When the deeper issue was rooted out and fixed, the other issues (symptoms) cleared themselves up.
The man could’ve kept on with the issues, and trying to fix AC issues by replacing AC parts. Or trying to fix idle issues with more oil changes or having the idle looked at. He could’ve just kept spending money on issues that he didn’t realize were actually symptoms of a single and far more important issue.
Once that issue was addressed, the other symptoms corrected course on their own.
Also…that man was me.
And that 2002 Mini Cooper is my car.
As I thought back over the car troubles I’ve experienced over the last year, I realized there were a few lessons to be learned that I think can relate at a deeper more emotional and spiritual level for us all as human beings:
I’m sure many other lessons can be learned, and I’m sure you could probably look at the story and make your own applications. But these 4 things are what stood out most predominately to me. I hope they give you some things to think about as you consider the problems you may be facing in your own life.
Take it from me…the last thing you want is to let your mini problems become HUGE problems.
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.James 1:19-20 ESV
For a very long time…too long really, I’ve gotten this scripture backward. Very backward. I was REALLY quick to speak and REALLY slow to listen.
I would see something that triggered me (yes, conservatives get triggered – don’t let us tell you otherwise), especially on social media, and I would immediately take to the airwaves to let the world that was clearly wrong know just how right I was.
People would challenge me, I would ignore their challenges and keep beating that drum of mine, and ultimately I would get a lot of angry people shouting me down, mocking me, and calling me names.
Some would unfriend me.
Some would take to other threads to continue the bashing I was receiving.
Some would private message me to let me know exactly how much of a jerk I am.
Any challenge to my clearly right statement was met with statements to myself (or even to them) like:
“Well, clearly God has abandoned you to a debased mind or you would know what I’m saying.”
Or, I would convince myself that I must be experiencing what the bible calls “persecution” because so many people now hate me. The thinking process would look something like this:
If people hate me, then the passage where Jesus tells us that the world will hate us must be true because people are definitely hating me right now, therefore I must be doing the right thing and I’m just getting persecuted. It couldn’t POSSIBLY be anything else causing the response I got. Just a bunch of godless individuals who have been given over to their debased minds who do not understand truth because…you know…Romans 1:28-32.
If I had to convince myself that I was being persecuted, the likelihood of it being true was next to exactly ZERO.
But I’ve got a thick skull, and clearly I didn’t see it that way.
That is until October 31, 2017.
On this day I lost my job at a place I had been with for almost 10 years. I was working my way up. I was well respected (or so I thought). I was making decent money, and the benefits I received were so numerous and helpful for my family that my wife’s dream of being a stay at home homeschool mama could be a reality.
But back in September of that same year, I put things in to motion that would have a massive impact on me and my family…and probably countless others. And truth be told…it began long before that.
I’ll save you the details, but a dumb…immature…quick to speak and slow to listen version of myself took to Facebook and made some careless comments and another persons public thread that ultimately made their way back to my company.
So on Halloween day, 2017…I walked in a happy angry social media warrior Christian…and within less than an hour I walked back out an unemployed, depressed, and deflated good for nothing.
This was a devastating moment in my life. I brought it on myself. But even at that time, I tried to convince myself and others that my company was just clearly against my religious views and therefore I was once again being persecuted.
I spent 9 months unemployed.
I spent 9 months waking up, putting out hundreds of resumes, getting lots of rejection letters back, and going back to bed just as defeated as when I woke up.
But during these 9 months, God began a work in me that is still going on today almost 2 years later.
Honestly, I haven’t considered it until this very moment that I’m writing this, but those 9 months a lot like being pregnant….those 9 months were preparing me for a new version of me that I have never considered…much like being “reborn”…I spent 9 months in the dark to re-emerge a new man.
As I read these passages, these passages describing what a Christian looks like…I began to realize that I looked NOTHING like this. And it hits me…
OH MY GOD!
WHAT HAVE I BEEN DOING?
HOW MUCH TIME HAVE I WASTED BEING THIS ANGRY SELF RIGHTEOUS JACKASS INSTEAD OF THE KIND, GENTLE, TRUTH LOVING (BUT PEOPLE LOVING) CHRISTIAN THAT GOD HAD CALLED ME TO BE???
I immediately set out to reverse course. If I didn’t, the small iceberg I hit in October of 2017 would pale in light of whatever big iceberg I was heading toward.
And out of that pain….I grew.
I’m still growing. I’m not there yet. I’ve got a long way to go. But I see the direction I’m headed, and I think God is pleased with that because it looks more like His Son. At least that’s my hope.
It quickly became apparent to others that this wasn’t the same Brad as before. For better or worse, many folks began to take note.
Many have been encouraging and letting me know how much they have appreciated seeing the change in me.
Some…however…just didn’t and still don’t understand me or where I’m headed.
I’ve received numerous messages from folks concerned that I’m suddenly heading in a dangerous direction (which is interesting, because they didn’t seem to think the direction I was heading in before was dangerous…and even rooted me on in those times).
They expressed their concern.
They challenged me to do serious introspection (as if I hadn’t just spent over a year doing just that).
I’m not mad at them. I’m thankful they felt they could come to me with their concerns. But unfortunately, they just don’t understand me at the moment. Perhaps in time they will. Perhaps not. Who is to say?
This much I know though…the old me…I don’t like that guy.
I still struggle with him cropping up from time to time like some Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde situation going on. But he’s becoming easier to control because I’ve begun to really practice those things I found in the Bible about being peaceful, kind, gentle, slow to speak, and quick to listen.
You may notice on this blog, at least from me, a new direction. I’m now on a mission.
I’m on a mission to:
And a whole lot emore.
You may notice a change in the tone of my writing. I will be transparent about my own struggles (which I’ve been pretty good about), but be humble enough to not come across as though I’ve got this figured out and that it’s still work I have to do and that God has to do on me.
You may notice a change in the topics I choose to speak on. There’s a lot of truth to be spoken, and a lot of hot topics to hit. But I may not run directly to them like I used to like a vulture on a dead carcass.
You’ll probably see more.
But just know this…I’m still me…but at the same time…I’m not.
And I hope you are still you…but at the same time…not.
Together, may we grow closer to God, closer to one another, and closer to truth.
I’ve always struggled a bit with my temper.
OK…scratch that…I have always struggled with getting angry ENTIRELY too quickly. Just ask my wife…my kids…people who have served along side me in ministry…people in traffic…
Let me just be real for a moment…more often than not, my fuse was (and sometimes still is) shorter than the line to the men’s restroom at a Backstreet Boys concert.
A number of years ago, I turned my anger toward a new subject…politics and social engagement. I became the Peter Griffin (e.g. You know what really grinds my gears?) of the Christian world. I told myself that I was fighting the good fight for the good of the Kingdom of God. I was convinced that all I was doing was telling the truth, and that people’s problem wasn’t with me, but with the truth.
I used this very blog to blast off “truth bombs” toward the unsuspecting and godless culture that surrounded me. I fired them off faster than Robin Williams ad-libbing on the set of…well…any movie he was a part of. I was kicking butt and taking names.
Or so I thought.
What I really was, was a self-righteous blow-hard who put on my self-proclaimed “Kingdom Justice Warrior” cape and masqueraded around as a guy who “had it all together”.
Clearly, this wasn’t and isn’t a good thing, and has been something I have had to work towards bettering myself in over the years. And, I’d like to think I’m getting better. But, it’s been a long hard road fraught with many casualties.
I have spent the last several months (and maybe close to a year) of doing some serious introspection. I have been trying to take a deep hard look at who I was, and how that aligned with what I see about Jesus and his engagement with the unbelieving world in His time on this earth.
And they didn’t align.
I was the angry Christian that the unbelieving world points their finger at and says, “See that guy? Why would I want to be like him…like the Church? They’re just a bunch of angry blow hards trying to tell me how wrong I am and point out how good they are. Hypocrites.”
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.1 Corinthians 13:1 ESV
Not only did I look in the mirror, that is Jesus, and not like what I saw…but I also looked in the mirror, that is 1 Corinthians 13, and I realized just how ugly I had become. How unlike “love” I had become.
Now, don’t get me wrong…I still firmly believe in the truth and what the Bible teaches. I still hold to what people would classify as conservative view points on various things.
But I am learning that there is a far better way to communicate with people that doesn’t come across as 1 Corinthians 13:1 calls “a clanging cymbal”.
Just this week I have witnessed several things that disturbed me from various folks proclaiming to be Christians that took me back to my old self…and, to be frank, it nauseated me…it frustrated me…and it pained me to watch.
Not just because it reminded me so much of my old self…but because this was the Church I was seeing…the Bride of Christ…behaving in a way that I just don’t think Jesus could be supportive of.
For example…I saw a gentleman claiming to be a believer, and pro-life, calling those who support abortion “lowlife trash”.
Is that even necessary?
What was the point of that anyway?
I reminded the gentleman that before Christ, he too was lowlife trash and that he shouldn’t forget where he came from lest he lose the ability to have compassion on others and speak truth in love.
When these folks get confronted, they want to throw out the whole, “Don’t forget, Jesus made whips and flipped tables too”…and completely ignore the fact that he did that to the religious elite of his day…not the lost and unbelieving world who didn’t know the truth and know any better.
Church…we don’t have to act this way. There is a better way.
1 Corinthians 13 tells us how love looks. And if we want to speak the truth to an unbelieving world, we have to learn how to do it in love. Truth is…a lot of it simply revolves around putting yourself in the other person’s shoes for a minute.
With all of that in mind, I want to leave you with a quote from one of the staff pastors at my church that he stated during his sermon this past Sunday that really resonated with me, and I think captures the whole posture we need to take with unbelievers…and it is this:
Our assignment isn’t to show people around us how good we are. Our assignment is to show people around us how good God is!Pastor Neal – Journey Church, Ladson SC
I used to be pretty critical about those who didn’t “go to church”. Clearly, they lacked something I didn’t because they didn’t want to be AT church. Clearly they weren’t as committed to God and the Church as I was…I who was on staff and being paid by the church to be there.
That is…until one day, after over 16 years of ministry and suddenly not having a ministry to “work for”, coupled with God doing a bit of work in my heart…I realized I was too harsh…
I understand the heart of the pastor (remember – I’ve been one, and several family members are and have been as well)…I get it…I totally do. I know deep down in their hearts all they want is to see people connecting with the local church body. They want to see those people being transformed and discipled, and then going out and helping lead others into transformation and discipleship.
But inevitably they start tossing around comments about how uncommitted people are that don’t “go to church”. And it seems to me that judgment is being passed on something that perhaps they don’t really understand fully.
That’s not to be demeaning to pastors and church leaders (after all, I was in their shoes…and I totally didn’t get it then either), but the reality is a lot of pastors are sadly disconnected from the realities of what many of their church members go through or are experiencing.
Perhaps this is because those members do not speak about what’s going on.
Perhaps they don’t speak because they’re afraid of the judgment they may receive.
Perhaps the pastors have tried to reach out and are just being pushed away.
Either way, it’s a reality that many face.
The real troubling problem, however, is that BEING the church is much more than GOING to church. And the American Church has done a really good job of making GOING to church more important (almost) than BEING the church.
To many in the Church (leaders included), going to church is the benchmark of commitment.
Truth is, we have hundreds of people every day and every week who are struggling to “go to church” and it’s not because they don’t love God or the Church.
For some, they have suffered greatly at the hands of leaders and pastors of churches as they diligently served that church either on staff or as volunteers. They have been abused, manipulated, used, and then cast aside when they are no longer willing to be the pack horse for the church.
Others have been treated awfully by other members of the church. They have been made to feel shame over things that, frankly, don’t deserve shame (e.g. they are trivial and insignificant things that are usually ones personal conviction and not truly biblical commands).
They have been ostracized in the body that’s supposed to “love them”.
For some, they carry such weight of shame and guilt about how they are living, that as much as they may want to attend the church gathering, past experiences have shown them that they will be judged fiercely, and that’s just not something they want to put themselves through again.
That’s just a few reasons, and certainly not an exhaustive list. It can’t be. Everyone is different, and has their own unique experiences driving them to do what they do.
My point in all of this is simply to encourage pastors to not be so quick to assume what is going on, be less judgmental about those who do not “come to church”, and try to find a little grace and understanding in whatever it is that these folks may be unable to communicate adequately.
I understand the bible doesn’t teach us NOT to judge. But it does teach us to judge rightly…in other words…not jumping to conclusions or assumptions but judging rightly so that you may assess what is taking place more clearly so you can address it more adequately.
This is, after all, what Jesus taught us when He said:
John 7:24 – Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.