We Were There

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


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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!!

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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.

S2 Ep001 – Battle of the Ages

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

Let the Children Come

Photo by Porapak Apichodilok from Pexels

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!

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.

Age Segregated Worship

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.

Pros of Age-Segregated Worship

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.

  1. Parents are free to pay attention in the service without the concern of their kid making a ruckus.
  2. Children are able to play and be kids without the concern of distracting other adults or their parents.
  3. Pastors/Teachers can be more targeted with their teaching/sermon without the concern of exposing certain age groups to topics that may be over their head or that parents may not desire their child learn about yet.

Cons 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:

  1. Children don’t get to worship with the church at large, or participate with their parents in a greater capacity.
  2. Children are sometimes seen as inferior members of the church body who can’t “handle” being with the larger church body.
  3. In many churches, children can literally go through 18 years of “church life” without ever truly being part of the large church gathering except on special occasions (holidays, children’s song specials, etc.)

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.

A BETTER WAY

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.

Murder Mill Musings #004

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.

This is “The Way”

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!

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).

Origins of “The Way”

“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.

The Invitation

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.

For what?

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.

Apostate. Really?

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.

A Way but not “The Way”

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”.

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.

A Brief Personal History

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.

Church 1

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.

Church 2

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!

The End Goal

  • Encouraging
  • Exhorting
  • Empowering
  • Promoting
  • Loving
  • Equipping
  • Developing
  • Deploying

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.

Our job?

Continue moving forward and seeking positive Kingdom impact and partnerships.

After all…this is “The Way!”

A Response to “Why Churches Should Ditch the Projector Screens and Bring Back Hymnals”

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.

To The Author

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.

Point 1: Informality at Church is Increasing

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”:

  1. Drums
  2. Projected images
  3. Shouting “Amen”
  4. Wearing shorts

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.

Point 2: Hymnals are Disappearing

“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.

Point 3: Screens Don’t Belong In Church

“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.

Point 4: Projector Screens Reflect Our Tech-Obsessed Culture

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.

Point 5: Hymnals Provide Deep, Theologically Rich Worship

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.

Point 6: To Save Worship, We Must Rediscover Hymnals

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.

Overall Thoughts of This Article

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.

So What is the Solution?

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.

When did the Fruit of the Spirit become trigger words for Christians?

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. It’s true…Christians have been guilty of having their own outrage culture.

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:

  1. A community they can identify with.
  2. A loving community who loves on and reaches out to the community around them – no strings attached (they don’t don’t reach out for the sole purpose of growing their church attendance).
  3. A church that is honest and transparent about their faults and not afraid to say, “I don’t know”.
  4. A safe place to ask hard questions and bring their doubts and fears without judgment.
  5. A sincere love for one another and others outside of their community.
  6. Leadership that truly loves the ones they lead.
  7. Leadership that hears and listens to the ones they lead.
  8. A body of people they can respect and trust.
  9. An older generation they can look up to and let pour into the lives of their children.
  10. An older generation that loves the younger generation and sincerely wants to see them succeed in life, faith, and in love.

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.

Ep007 – 2019: A Year in Review

2019 is coming to a close and 2020 is just on the horizon. Join the Angry Christian crew as we discuss what happened over the course of 2019 and have a little fun in the process.

Intro Music: “Auld Lang Syne” by Scotch and Soda feat. Pastor McPurvis
Outro Music: “Auld Lang Syne” by Amil Byleckie

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

Advent(ure)

 “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!

  • Michael Ledford (Follower of Jesus, Husband, Father, Friend, and all around nerd)

Episode 006 – Our Happy Holidays

Some of the best holiday stories aren’t the ones you find on TV or in the movies…but right there in your home (or someone else’s home) surrounded by your friends and/or family. In this episode, we get to hear YOUR favorite holiday traditions and stories in our special holiday episode, “Our Happy Holidays”.

Stories and traditions from:

1. Nathan, NC
2. Brad, SC
3. Lucas, TX
4. Deborah, SC
5. Liz, SC
6. Cherie, SC
7. Christopher, SC
8. Rhylee, SC
9. Brian, IN
10. Jonathan, NC
11. Jamie, SC
12. Jonathan, NC
13. Braeden, SC
14. Meg, Host of “Letters From Home Podcast”
15. Andy, NC
16. Monica, NC
17. Averie, SC
18. Chris, Host of “Truce Podcast”
19. Declan, SC
20. Brad and Cherie, SC
21. Anna, SC

Music:
“Happy Holiday’s” by Borrtex
“Deck the Halls” by The HoHoHo’s

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

BONUS: Triggered – The Christian Outrage Culture

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. It’s true…Christians have been guilty of having their own outrage culture.

Music: “Special Place” by Ketsa

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

Listener Submissions – Ep006 Our Happy Holidays

Some of the best holiday stories aren’t the ones you find on TV or in the movies…but right there in your home (or someone else’s home) surrounded by your friends and/or family. In this episode, we get to hear YOUR favorite holiday traditions and stories in our special holiday episode, “Our Happy Holidays”.

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 angrychristianpodcast@gmail.com.

LISTENER SUBMISSION FORM

5 Things to Help Make the Holidays Brighter

Some of the best holiday stories aren’t the ones you find on TV or in the movies…but right there in your home (or someone else’s home) surrounded by your friends and/or family. In this episode, we get to hear YOUR favorite holiday traditions and stories in our special holiday episode, “Our Happy Holidays”.

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:

  1. Family or not, you are a guest…remember that – If you are GOING to another person’s home, family or not, remember…you are still a guest in THEIR home. They may not do things the way you do. They may not cook the way you do. But you know what? You are a guest in THEIR home. Bring a smile, a warm heart, and your dish to contribute, and then…keep your lips shut about what you think they should or shouldn’t be doing or how they should or shouldn’t be cooking. Again…for the third time…you are a guest in THEIR home. This should ever-present in your mind.
  2. Family or not, they are a guest…remember that – If you are having others in YOUR home, family or not, remember…they are likely not trying to be controlling of the situation when they ask if they can help in the kitchen…they may legitimately just want to help. So, if you got a job that they can help with in the kitchen, give them something to do. Now, if they are the controlling type, it may be best to plan out the meal prior to Thanksgiving day, and hand out to those who are coming to your home what you would like for them to bring. If you know items that they absolutely love to make and feel like is their “specialty” (if they are the controlling type, they’ve probably told you what that item is on more than one occasion), give them that to bring and let them know how much you are looking forward to getting a bite of that thing they make so well. They may go along with it, or if they throw a stink about it you can politely let them know that this is what you’re doing for the meal and that if this isn’t to their liking then perhaps this year it may be best to find a different place to spend the holiday and we can try again next year.
  3. Leave the politics at home – For the love of all that is holy, leave the politics at home. Look…we all know you have an opinion on the current administration, the various parties in power, and probably even previous administrations…we all do…but you know what? You didn’t gather with your family and friends to reinforce what you’ve likely already been sounding off about on social media for the last 5 years. For one day…maybe even for one week…leave it alone. It’s OK. Really. Your politics will still be there when you get back.
  4. Leave the old family feuds at home – I know that you and uncle Billy got into an argument on Facebook in July when you posted something that was, in his mind, anti-American, and I know that your sister Susie questioned your parenting skills the last time you guys got together, and dog gone it…if grandma didn’t make things super awkward at the family reunion when she showed up and asked if you’re doing OK since you look so fat in that outfit…but if you’re going to survive this holiday with a smile on your face, you’re going to have to let those things go. Don’t get me wrong…it’s not OK that these fights even happened…and that they may even still be happening…but as a family, if Nazi Germans and British soldiers could call a truce on Christmas Eve during World War I to celebrate Christmas together in the middle of a battlefield…then surely you should be able to set things aside for one meal and an afternoon and enjoy some time together without rehashing the old feuds. Your heart will thank you for not spiking your blood pressure, and the pumpkin pie will taste just that much sweeter if you can.
  5. Be thankful for the ones you do get to see – Not everyone you had hoped would be around for the holidays will be around. It hurts knowing this. And what I’m about to say next isn’t to diminish the hurt and pain of the loss you have experienced…but don’t let who is NOT there keep you from enjoying the ones who ARE there. It is easy to consume your thoughts of who isn’t there and why. If they have passed from this world into the next, it is perfectly OK to remember the times when they were there. If they are still in this world, but just not part of your personal corner of the world, it is perfectly OK to remember the times when they were there. But in both cases, it is really easy for these things to become a distraction from the ones who are physically sitting in front of you. Don’t do that to yourself, and don’t do that to them.

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?!

Episode 005 – Sticks and Stones

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

Intro Music: “Angry Dance” by Simon Panrucker
Outro Music: “Yours” by Brad Bates

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

Sticks and Stones – Disagreeing with Grace

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

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.

Our words matter.

As was mentioned in one of our last articles/podcasts regarding Kanye West, John MacArthur, and Beth Moore…the Church struggles with the concept of being able to gracefully disagree.

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…

  1. One Body – there is only ONE church. Denominations do not = a church. They are simply segments of the ONE church in to smaller groups that are like minded in specific areas. What each segment believes (in general) is minor, that we are all part of the same global Church body is major.
  2. One Spirit – This is the Holy Spirit. Some believe he empowers us to do supernatural things. Others believe he empowers to simply become believers and is the indwelling Spirit doing all the work inside of us. Either way, we ALL believe there is only ONE Holy Spirit. How exactly he works is minor. That he exists at all is a major.
  3. One Hope – There is one Jesus who saved us, and one heaven for which we are bound. Jesus is returning for us. How and when is minor, that he is returning at all is major.
  4. One Lord – This is Jesus Christ. Period. Who is Lord is the entire crux of the gospel. Making anyone or anything else Lord is a major ordeal. Accenting or focusing on one or more of the characteristics of Jesus as a person is minor, yet we often point out one characteristic as though it is the only aspect of his character worth mentioning (e.g. him flipping tables or him being full of grace toward another person).
  5. One Faith – There is only one way to access the Father and that is through Jesus. Any other way (according to Jesus) is wrong. This is clearly a major point.
  6. One Baptism – We all ought to be baptized as a sign of our faith, and covenant with Christ. This is a major point. How one is baptized (immersion or sprinkling) is minor.
  7. One God – Despite what other religions may teach, there is only one God. Period. This is a major point. And as mentioned above, there is only one way to this God and that is through Jesus Christ. Period. Any suggestion otherwise violates a major point of Christianity. This is not a minor issue.

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.

Election Day Woes

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 spent many years expressing my views about all things political, and it was exhausting. It’s Election Day 2019, and here are some of the thoughts running through my mind on the matter.
The Democrat Debate took place the night we recorded this episode and it got us thinking about some things. Does God have a political party? Is it fair to say “Not My President”? Is it possible to agree with those on the “other side” on various things without supporting their overall political platform? How do we get to a better place in our political discourse? Does the Bible have anything to say about politics? These questions and more we discuss in this episode of the Angry Christian Podcast.

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!

BONUS: Election Day Woes

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 spent many years expressing my views about all things political, and it was exhausting. It’s Election Day 2019, and here are some of the thoughts running through my mind on the matter.

Music: “Special Place” by Ketsa

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

Kanye, MacArthur, and Moore – Exposing the Division in the American Church

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks in Western Christianity as we saw the freak out over John MacArthur telling Beth Moore to go home and then a week later Kanye West dropping his gospel album “Jesus is King”. In the middle of the commotion an interesting thing was revealed about the state of the American Church…we don’t get along. In fact, we’re pretty divided along some unfortunate lines.

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.

His response?

“Go home”

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!

BONUS: Kanye, MacArthur, and Moore

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks in Western Christianity as we saw the freak out over John MacArthur telling Beth Moore to go home and then a week later Kanye West dropping his gospel album “Jesus is King”. In the middle of the commotion an interesting thing was revealed about the state of the American Church…we don’t get along. In fact, we’re pretty divided along some unfortunate lines.

Music: “Special Place” by Ketsa

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

Episode 004 – Don’t Bite the Shepherd

The church is a two-sided coin. On one side you have church leaders, and on the other side you have church members. Both sides think they ARE the coin, when in reality they are but one side of the SAME coin. As a result, unity is missing from many of our local churches. Sure, pastors have been guilty of beating the sheep, but the sheep have been guilty of biting the shepherd as well. In this episode, the Angry Christian crew discusses the abuse of church leaders at the hands of the sheep. [Hebrews 13:17 and Ephesians 4] Be sure to check out the accompanying blog post HERE.

Intro Music: “Angry Dance” by Simon Panrucker
Outro Music: “Yours” by Brad Bates

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

Don’t Bite the Shepherd

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…

  1. Speak truth in love
  2. Grow in EVERY way more like Christ
  3. Fit together perfectly
  4. Help each other
  5. Become healthy
  6. Experience growth
  7. Become full of love

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

Being the leader in a church is hard work. Church folks can be some of the most frustrating and difficult folks to work with. But, despite their flaws (and our own) and the amount of stress and frustration we may face as church leaders, beating the sheep should never be an option. God doesn’t take kindly to it, and we put ourselves in great danger when we ignore this fact and abuse the sheep for personal gain. Unfortunately, it happens more often than we may realize as beating the sheep isn’t just a physical act. In this episode we introduce another host of the Angry Christian Podcast (Robert Platt) and explore how easy it is to fall into the angry trap as a church leader. [Ezekiel 34:1-11]

Show notes and article: https://eagerfortruth.com/2019/10/02/dont-beat-the-sheep/

Credits:
Intro Music – “Angry Dance” by Simon Panrucker
Other Music as it appears – “Oh Yeah” by Yello, “Sweet Georgia Brown” by Ben Bernie, Maceo Pinkard and Kenneth Casey, “Would Jesus Wear a Rolex” by Ray Stevens, and “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” by Fred Rogers

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

Don’t Beat the Sheep

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):

  1. Above reproach
  2. Husband of one wife
  3. Children are believers
  4. Not arrogant
  5. Not quick tempered (angry)
  6. Not a drunkard
  7. Not violent
  8. Not greedy
  9. Hospitable
  10. Lover of good
  11. Self-controlled
  12. Upright
  13. Holy
  14. Disciplined
  15. Hold firm to truth

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:

  1. The sheep becoming scattered
  2. The sheep becoming fearful
  3. The sheep becoming dismayed
  4. The sheep becoming neglected
  5. The sheep stop being fruitful
  6. The sheep stop multiplying
  7. The sheep get lost

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.

I’ll summarize:

What happens to the sheep:

  1. The sheep starve
  2. The sheep get slaughtered
  3. The weak sheep do not get strengthened
  4. The sick and injured sheep do not get healed
  5. The lost sheep stay lost
  6. The sheep become prey to those who seek do harm
  7. The sheep wander
  8. The sheep are ruled with force and harshness

What happens to the shepherds:

  1. They are stripped of their responsibility and influence
  2. God becomes their enemy
  3. God will hold them accountable for the treatment of His sheep

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!

Also, be sure to follow us on Instagram and Facebook!

Is Being Angry a Sin?

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:

  • Proverbs 30:33 ~ “For pressing milk produces curds, pressing the nose produces blood, and pressing anger produces strife.”
  • James 1:19-20 ~ “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.”
  • Psalm 37:8 ~ “Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.”
  • Proverbs 14:29 ~ “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.”
  • Ecclesiastes 7:9 ~ “Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools.”
  • Ephesians 4:31 ~ “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”
  • Proverbs 15:18 ~ “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.”
  • Proverbs 16:32 ~ “Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.”

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!


LISTEN HERE:

Episode 002 – The Place of Anger

What is the place of anger? Is there ever a moment when anger (especially by Christians) is ever acceptable? Divorce? Abortion? Terrorist attacks? Car accidents? Self anger? We talk about these questions and more on Episode 002 of The Angry Christian, “The Place of Anger”. [Ecclesiastes 3]

Intro: “Angry Dance” by Simon Panrucker
Outro: “Yours” by Brad Bates
All other production: The Angry Christian Team

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

Episode 001 – Displaced

Have you ever been displaced? Perhaps physically by a natural disaster? Or spiritually and/or emotionally by your circumstances? In this episode of the Angry Christian Podcast we explore the topic of being displaced through stories (Brian shares his story of being displaced by Hurricane Katrina), scripture, and our own brand of fun. We also briefly touch on Pastor Jarrid Wilson and the churches response to suicide and mental illness.

Intro Music: “Angry Dance” by Simon Panrucker
Outro Music: “Yours” by Brad Bates

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

Mini Episode 003 – Jason Hampton – Jesus and Anger

Sermon snippet from Pastor Jason Hampton, pastor of Refuge Church in Indianapolis, Indiana concerning Jesus and anger. A powerful thought around grief and anger.
Intro: “Angry Dance” by Simon Panrucker
Outro: “Yours” by Brad Bates

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

Mini Episode 002 – Michael Ledford – Interview

Interview with Angry Christian Podcast co-host, Michael Ledford!
Intro Music: “Angry Dance” by Simon Panrucker
Outro Music: “Yours” by Brad Bates

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

Mini Episode 001 – Brian Baldwin – Interview

Interview with Angry Christian Podcast co-host, Brian Baldwin!
Intro Music: “Angry Dance” by Simon Panrucker
Outro Music: “Yours” by Brad Bates

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

Be Quiet and Drive

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.

photo-1543324406-0e40e0b7e44b

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…

Angry Christian Chapter 1: The Beast Unleashed

sixth grade

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.

little baghdad

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.

a pact with myself

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.

Angry Christian: A Destructive Journey Toward a Growing Compassion (Introduction)

Discovering The Enneagram

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.

STARTING AT ALMOST THE END

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

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:

  1. Reading my story and stopping themselves from going down the same path.
  2. Reading my story and passing it on to others to help stop others around them from going down the same path.
  3. Or reading my story and finding a way to heal from and move forward from having been down the same path I took.

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.

The Fine Line Between Culture and Cult

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 IS CHURCH DNA?

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…

  • Foreign missions as a major value and focus
  • Church planting as a major value and focus
  • Music as a major value and focus
  • Prophetic ministry as a value and focus
  • Healing ministry as a value and focus
  • Cultural engagement as a value and focus
  • And so on…

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.

THE SHIFT FROM CULTURE TO 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:

  • Suddenly, every person that leaves your church is an “enemy of the state”, and the church leaders, while they may never tell you to directly disconnect from them, will make it painfully obvious that remaining connected with this person is a real test of loyalty to the Church and pastor and not a wise decision.
  • Church leaders who don’t get on board immediately with the elders and/or pastor are suddenly seen as a dissident that needs to remember where their loyalty lies, or consider a new ministry and church to be part of.
  • All other churches not doing it like yours are just not as “faithful” to the calling of a Christian and a Church as you and your church are.
  • Money becomes a major focus. More specifically, it becomes something they speak more about “needing” but become less and less transparent about what is happening with that money once they get it.
  • Pastors start referring to the money the Church has gathered through tithes and offerings as though it is their own money.
  • Respectful challenges to leaders and even the spouses of leaders is suddenly seen as dissension and divisive, and is immediately squashed through direct “correction” or instant removal from your role.
  • Even the most loyal of members gets pushed to a distance by leadership and everyone’s words, actions, and motives become suspect. The pastor and leaders suddenly become very paranoid about these things.
  • HUGE decisions are made without the knowledge of the whole church, and even without the knowledge of some leaders who are seen as potentially disloyal, and are only presented at the last minute when nothing can be said or done to challenge or prevent them.

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…

  • What happens when your local church body develops a DNA that is contrary to what the Bible tells us is the DNA of a Church and/or a believer?
  • What happens when a pastor moves from servant to dictator and demands you either adopt the DNA or see your way out of their body?
  • What happens when church leaders begin to sound more like hollow echo chambers and yes men and women rather than a body of accountability and wise counsel?

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?

SAFEGUARDS

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:

  • Accountability: Pastors and church planters alike need to have accountability put into place with people who are personally given the authority to speak into the life of the pastor, the leaders of the church, and the church itself. Someone who is given the authority to give a hard check to the pastor and the churches leaders and even take steps to stop a pastor and the church leaders from being able to continue forward if they begin to exhibit cult like behaviors. More than just the pastor needs to be allowed to help determine the accountability. If this part is left up to one man, they will be more likely to bring people around them that are yes people and will be of no use to providing actual accountability. This accountability needs to be made of people both inside and outside of this local church body to provide internal perspective as well as outside unbiased perspective.
  • Plurality: A church does not need to be solely led by one person. This isn’t biblical and it isn’t wise. The picture of leadership painted in the New Testament is one of plurality. Christ is the head, and the rest of us are the body. But too often Pastors are made out to be the head, with Jesus as like…the hair or something…and the rest of us the body. The reality is, overseers and elders alike are joined together in the responsibility of leading and shepherding a local church body. There isn’t one person who gets more of a vote than another. They function in unity through careful examination and application of scripture (Ephesians 4), and they hold the feet of one another to the fire when necessary. They are vulnerable with one another and submitted to one another. They work together to equip the local church body, not rule over them like dictators and tyrants.

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.

WHAT IF I’M IN A CHURCH CULT?

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.

Angry Christian: So Much for that Whole “Truth in Love” Thing

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.

KINGDOM JUSTICE WARRIOR!

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.

A LOOK IN THE MIRROR

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.

A BETTER WAY

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.

10 WAYS TO SPEAK THE TRUTH IN LOVE

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.

  1. Be patient with the person. It may take a lot of conversations and relationship building to find common ground with this person. (v4)
  2. Be kind to the person even if they aren’t being kind to you (v4)
  3. Be humble. You don’t have it all together, and you were once in the same shoes as the person you’re talking to (v4)
  4. Don’t be arrogant about what you know. There was a time when you didn’t know it either (v4)
  5. Take careful consideration for the other person. Everything you say and do is being examined against what you claim to be as a Christian. Even if they get rude and call names, don’t do the same. (v5)
  6. Speak the truth, but don’t force it down someones throat. You know what it’s like when you feel someone is doing that to you, so don’t do it to another. It isn’t your place to force it on them anyway…God alone will work in them. You just be the voice (v5)
  7. Don’t become irritated at the person who just isn’t getting it. How many times did God have to deal with you about something before it finally sunk in? (v5)
  8. Don’t resent the person who isn’t accepting what you have to say. They aren’t rejecting you, they are rejecting truth. It’s not your place to make them accept it. (v5)
  9. Engage with the person in the truth…and do it in love without affirming or accepting their sin (v6)
  10. Be persistent, but not overbearing, assume the best of others, have a hope that God is doing a good work in this moment, and endure to the end with this person. (v7)

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

Don’t Just Judge, Judge Rightly: An Inconvenient Truth

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…

No…I was wrong.

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.

THE DISCONNECT

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.

THE STRUGGLE IS REAL

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.

TAKE HEART

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.