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Aug

16

What Your Pastor Can’t Do For You

By pastorbillwalden

(This will meander a bit…please read it through and connect the dots) the_incomplete_man_in_grey_by_alexkhaine-d7682rf

I’ve been a pastor since 1989.  Most of the pastors I am friends with genuinely love people.  They sincerely care.  There are other pastors that I have met that seem to be more concerned with being celebrities, but they are in the minority of my personal circles.

If my experience with other pastors is accurate, my conclusion is that pastors care about people.  That means they feel things…emotional things…spiritual things…and they think about things…and are concerned about people…and situations…and potentials for danger…and possibilities for greatness…and the list goes on.

Good pastors don’t just work with their minds and bodies…they also work with their hearts.  Their hearts are their most valuable asset, and perhaps their area of most vulnerability.

Good pastors are anointed men.  When they speak, it can sometimes seem larger than life…and that’s because it is larger than life.  There is an anointing from God upon them.  When they are doing their thing, it’s other worldly (Heavenly).  The Apostle Paul said, “we have this treasure in earthen vessels”.  The pastor is only a clay pot, at best.  The treasure is Jesus, and the treasure is the Gospel message.  Sometimes people confuse the treasure with the clay pot.  If a pastor is really “bringing it”, some people erroneously focus on the man instead of on the treasure. There seems to be a fine line between the two.

A good pastor is an honest man, and seeks to be transparent…and he lays his heart out there…and sometimes he makes people feel like they have become his confidantes. Most people I know crave intimacy and honest relationships.  A good pastor might seem to be offering that on an individual level, when all he is really doing is trying to be transparent from the pulpit and make a point about the frailty of man and the greatness of God.

(I hope you are still reading…I’m going to connect the dots soon)

A good pastor has wisdom from on high.  He can counsel in many ways…sometimes from the pulpit or sometimes face to face.  It can be an amazing thing to receive a word from the Lord through a pastor.

A good pastor is an encourager…he encourages people to have faith and to be everything that God intends them to be…and he sometimes genuinely believes more for a person than they believe for themselves.

A good pastor is a good listener…he isn’t in a hurry to find a solution to your problem.  He knows that you are more than a problem to be solved…you are a person to be understood and loved.

A good pastor seems to be able to move forward when other seems stuck…he has navigated through his life well enough to be further ahead than he was five years ago.  Paul told Timothy…”Let you progress be evident to all”.  A good pastor’s progress in life is evident.

(Dot connection now follows…)

If all that is true, then here’s where it can get weird for some people and their pastor.  I’ll list a few things numerically.

  1.  Your pastor cannot be your best friend. Yes he is a good listener, and genuinely cares about you…but that doesn’t put him in the BFF status.  It just doesn’t.  Love between brethren is one thing…but being best friends is something altogether different.  Please allow your pastor to choose his own personal friends as he continues to be genuinely friendly with as many people as he can be.
  1. Your pastor cannot tell you every decision to make. He has had to work out his own salvation with fear and trembling…through his own tears, doubts, disappointments, poor decisions and good choices, etc. He has failed and succeeded on his own. Now you have to do the same for yourself.  He will be there to give you general counsel, and to pray for you and support you, but you have to pray and make your own decisions.  Spiritual growth is costly, and there are no shortcuts.  Pay the price.
  1. Your pastor cannot be blamed for your lack of spiritual progress. He encourages you to be all that you can be, that is true…but maybe he sees that you don’t have the calling to be the next Billy Graham, and so he gently suggests that your strengths lie elsewhere.  I have heard men say that they are called to be (fill in the blank), but for the last twenty years, their pastor has held them back.  If God has called you to something, no one can hold you back…but there is wisdom in the multitude of counselors.  If none of your friends are affirming you in an area, maybe your strengths lie elsewhere.  Don’t blame your pastor. He can’t hold you back if God has called you…he doesn’t have that kind of power…but maybe God hasn’t called you.
  1. Your pastor cannot be expected to choose you to be his confidante. It’s great that you care about your pastor, and want to be there for him, but please allow him to choose his own confidantes and counselors. Instead, if you sense that your pastor isn’t looking for another confidante, pray for him instead. He needs it. Let him choose his own confidantes.
  1. Your pastor cannot set the trajectory of your life for you. He cannot decide what you are going to be. He cannot be expected to tell you what your life purposes are in any kind of detailed sense.  Every Christian is here to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever”, but the details of how that works out is between you and God.

Alistair Begg says, “The best of men, are men at best”.  Most pastors I know wouldn’t even consider themselves the best of men.  Martyn Lloyd Jones, the great British preacher said, “I wouldn’t walk across the street to hear myself preach”. Most of my pastoral friends would say the same thing.

Dear Christian…your pastor can’t do a lot of things for you, but he can do some things very well. Receive him for what he is, a pastor.  If God makes it to be anything more, that’s great.

Ephesians 4:11-12 (NKJV) And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12  for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ…

Aug

15

Overculturizing Your Church

By pastorbillwalden

Christianity is a subculture among every greater culture in which it finds itself.  Jesus taught that “narrow is the way that leads to eternal life and few find it”.  The implication is that there are more people that haven’t found Jesus than those who have.  In any given city, there will be more unbelievers than there will be Christians.  Therefore, the Church is a subculture of the greater community in which it is found.vanillaicecream

Then within the Church Universal in any given city, there are different churches, with different philosophies of ministry, different doctrinal emphases, and a different flavor in music, dress, etc.  Each individual church is a subculture of a larger subculture.

I am not suggesting that any Church should conform itself to worldly standards to be more relevant or relateable.  Jesus taught us otherwise…that following Him would actually separate family members.  Every Christian knows that or ought to know that.  Following Jesus puts you in a subculture of the great community you live in.

For me, that’s all OK so far.

Here is my concern…

The Church in its purest form is already a smaller piece of the pie in any given culture, but I find that we often “Gospelize” non-Gospel issues, making ourselves even more unrelatable and marginal than we naturally are or are intended to be.

We have strong opinions on lesser issues, and we go soft on major doctrinal issues and commands.  In my opinion, church leaders or congregants sometimes over-emphasize such issues as home schooling, vaccinations, politics, or support for Israel.  We fight over issues like drinking alcohol or church membership. We hang Israeli flags in our foyers, and then wonder why people of Arab ethnicity are uncomfortable in our churches.  We are blind to the fact that our churches aren’t multi-generational, and if we do see that, we hate making changes to welcome people of others age groups. We forget about loving our neighbors as ourselves.

The phrase is true: “like attracts like” and we usually choose to gather together with people that share more preferences than one might imagine.

The negative result with this can sometimes be a silent or spoken disapproval of others that are not like us, even from Christian to Christian.  It’s not wrong to have strong opinions; it is wrong to over-emphasize secondary preferences.

If we insist on living with the idea of “like attracts like”, we inadvertently reduce our approachability and relatability to others that might simply want to worship God and hear a good Bible study.  We chase them away with our silent or spoken disapproval.

We become a subculture of a subculture of a subculture, and then we wonder why “no one wants to come to our church”.

I believe that the solution to the “overculturizing” of our churches is to have increasingly less absolutes both corporately and individually.  I like to use the phrase “vanilla church”.  When you eat vanilla ice cream, it is suited for any kind of topping you might want add.  I want our church to be as vanilla as possible regarding all secondary issues, but I want us to be deep and strong in the main truths of the Bible.

Being more vanilla on secondary issues means that we need to be more flexible with negotiable things.  It means we forsake personal preferences that matter only to us and our friends.  It means allowing people to all scoop from the same bucket of ice cream, but having a wide variety of toppings for individual taste. (Forgive the food analogies.  It’s how I think)

Instead of overculturizing our churches with secondary and tertiary issues, let’s major on the majors, and let people be free to “work out THEIR OWN salvation with fear and trembling”, without the fear of the disapproval of others in the next pew.

Feb

29

We Don’t Need Hype, We Need Revelation

By pastorbillwalden

I just started teaching through the Book of the Revelation.  It’s a book that reveals Jesus, hence, “The Revelation”.  Chapter one is all about Jesus introducing Himself via a vision to John.  John had spent 3 1/2 years with Jesus during His incarnation, but now he was seeing the exalted Christ in all His glory.

Upon seeing this fresh vision of Jesus, we read of John in verse 17, “And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead”.

Each Sunday, at the end of the sermon, I receive questions via texts, and this last Sunday, someone asked me if verse 17 refers to what has come to be known as “being slain in the Spirit”.  That is a conversation for a different time, but it did make me think about why some people pursue spiritual or so called spiritual experiences.  I do believe that someone can be overcome by the presence of God, as John was here.  Conversely, I also think that church leaders can manipulate desperate people into experiencing something that isn’t from God, but that is soulish, and in some instances, even devilish…but all that is secondary to the main point I want to make.

John didn’t go looking for an overcoming experience with Jesus.  He simply encountered Jesus, and then was overcome with the person of Jesus.  The experience was from heaven, and was real, and undoubtedly unforgettable, but the main point is this: John didn’t pursue the experience, he experienced Jesus, and an experience followed.

I have been in churches where “so called” spiritual things were happening: people being slain in the Spirit, groups of people speaking in tongues, healings, etc.  I believe that some of it was real, but that a lot of it wasn’t.  I have been “overcome” by the Spirit, and have been deeply touched by the Holy Spirit, but I was never “looking for a touch”.  The experiences were memorable and life changing, but I never read in the Bible that we are to pursue an experience with Jesus, but rather, we are to seek after Jesus.

Some may ask, “Why does it matter”?  It does matter.

First, the Bible says to “seek first after the Kingdom of God”.  (Matthew 6:33) That is clear.

The Bible says to draw near to God, and He will draw near to you”.  (James 4:8) That is clear.

Secondly, it matters because when Believers seek experiences, they can unwittingly be led astray because their focus is off. A Christian can have a legitimate “overwhelming experience” with Jesus, and be radically blessed, but the danger therein is that that same Christian can become an “experience chaser”, and that can be a very slippery slope that leads into unbiblical and even devilish pursuits.

In Acts 18, Simon the Sorcerer saw the Apostles ministering in the power of the Holy Spirit, and offered them money so he could experience what they experienced.  

18And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money,   19saying, “Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”

Simon wasn’t seeking after Jesus, he was seeking after an experience, and he was sharply rebuked by Peter.

Why is that some Believers think passing around venomous snakes is a good idea, or even a Biblical idea?  I cannot and will not judge their motives.  Undoubtedly, some Christians are truly seeking God, but their lack of Biblical discernment leads them to pursue foolish and dangerous pursuits.  There are a myriad of other examples, many of which are sanctioned by pastors in pulpits, but that are in no way sanctioned by God in His word.

My biggest concern is this: Both pastors and congregants can easily become people that chase experiences.  Pastors hype up their congregations with either sinful or neutral props, words, and environments.  The focus becomes chasing the experience, and everything starts revolving around duplicating a previous experience.  This is foolish.  It is the “tail chasing the dog”.

Pastors, you don’t need to hype up your church into a frenzy or even into a “feel good”.  That isn’t the goal.  Be a faithful pastor and study to show yourself approved, and then teach the Bible so well that the people have an amazing fresh and powerful revelation of Jesus.  Jesus told Peter, “Feed My sheep”. (John 21:17)

Congregants, if you have had some amazing experience with Jesus, that’s fantastic, but we are not told to seek experiences, we are told to seek God. Be a faithful Christian, and seek Jesus.  If He wants to give you an “overwhelming experience” then that is up to Him.  Your part is to draw close to God.

It seems as though many churches today major in “chasing experiences”, and minor in seeking Jesus.  We don’t need “soulish hype”, we need a “spiritual revelation” of the exalted Christ.  Check your Bible: the men and women who encountered God were not people looking for an experience, but were people who encountered God, and as a result, had an experience.

We don’t need hype, we need revelation.

 

May

8

Those Embarrassing Christians

By pastorbillwalden

I am a follower of Jesus, and because of that, I get lumped into a large pool of people that go by various names.  They are called Evangelicals.  They are called Conservatives.  They are called Homophobes.

They are called Christians.Head in Hands

A lot of what these people do embarrasses me, angers me, and leaves me shaking my head.  I do not resonate with most of what they do.  I do not prioritize life the way that they do.  In fact, I actually hate some of the things that are done in Jesus’ name.  I do not associate with them in many of their activities, and yet, because of a common shared faith in the person of Jesus, I am united with them in a bond that will never pass away.

The bottom line is this: though I do not sympathize or empathize with many (called) Christians, I am united with them by a shared faith and a mutual indwelling of God’s Spirit.

I cannot dismiss myself from them simply because they do things that I think are foolish.  To do so would mean that my valuation of them is based upon a philosophical agreement, rather than the bond of Christ.  To dismiss them would be to value my opinion over the truth of what Jesus prayed for and what Paul the Apostle declared:  We are one in Christ.

I must be willing to be guilty by association to those who would paint me into the same corner as others with whom I disagree on many levels.

But this is the lesser of things to consider.  To many, Jesus is guilty by associating with us.

When Christians do stupid things, He gets blamed, maligned, and mocked, yet He never disassociates Himself from us.  When I do foolish things, He never turns away from me.

Jesus is willing to be mocked, blamed, misunderstood, and mis-characterized by the masses that see the foolish things that His followers do and say, often in His name.

If you are a Christ follower, it’s not about you, it’s about Him.  Do not divorce yourself from those whom Jesus indwells, simply because they do things that embarrass you.  Following Jesus isn’t all about you finding people that agree with you on every point.  Following Jesus is to recognize the Church Universal, and to love her in spite of all her failings.

Though it isn’t right, Jesus is willing to be guilty by association. How about you?

Jun

12

Chicken Legged Disciples

By pastorbillwalden

The world is full of negativity and sadness.  That is a huge understatement.  Even the Church has plenty of sad challenges within its four walls; God’s people are not immune to tragedy and setbacks.  I have pastored since 1989…I have seen much within the church that can break one’s heart. Many times, my heart has been broken over the effects of sin within the church.  

It seems that in the minds of some church leaders, the solution to sadness and negativity is to never talk about it.  I think that the motivation to encourage people is a good intention.  People need to be encouraged, and church is a great place for that to happen.

All that being so, I am concerned about what I believe is an unhealthy trend in many churches.  There is a deliberate avoidance in talking about sin or judgment.  The Body of Christ isn’t warned against straying from God, but instead is taught about how Jesus can improve your life. The unbeliever isn’t warned about fleeing the wrath to come, but is told that Jesus will fill the emptiness of their heart.

I DO believe that Jesus improves the life of His followers, and that he DOES fill a believer’s heart, but that is NOT the full preaching of the Gospel, nor is it the full counsel of the Word of God.

I think that some pastors are failing.

I don’t say that because I feel superior to anyone.  I say that because some pastors are not teaching their congregations all of God’s Word, but only selected portions.  In doing so, they are not making mature disciples, but only meeting the felt needs of the people.  They are teaching from the Bible, but they are not teaching the Bible.  There is a huge difference between those two practices.

Chicken Legged Disciples and the search for deeper teaching…

Read more »

Mar

5

The Unconscious Ill-Equipping Of The Saints

By pastorbillwalden

The good Bible teaching that occurs in many churches is not enough to equip Christ following congregants to interact effectively with the world.  In fact, I believe that some pastors are unconsciously hindering their flocks, and are, as a result, “ill-equipping” them for the work of ministry.  

I recently heard a tremendous quote, and I will try to paraphrase.  The speaker spoke of the American Church and said, “We are a subculture of a sub culture.  We read each other’s book,  we sing each other’s songs, and we scratch each other’s backs”.

I completely agree that the Body of Christ is a sub culture, and that each movement or denomination is a further sub culture, and finally, that each individual church within a movement or denomination is a sub, sub, sub culture.  There is nothing wrong with that…to a point.

Each culture and sub culture has its own language.  The lack of awareness that we (the Church) have regarding our sub, sub culture language is the thing that concerns me. What do we sound like to the world?

Read more »

Sep

10

The Biggest Peer Group

By pastorbillwalden

Pastors and church leaders make many valid efforts to promote church unity.  In any city, there is the church universal.  Each of our particular churches is a sub culture of the City Church, and then within each church, there are sub-sub cultures, such as youth groups, 50’s plus groups, college groups, etc.

We are conscious to understand each sub-sub culture, to speak on their terms, and be sensitive to their world.  We seek to promote activities that appeal to those sub-sub cultures, and to bring age appropriate blessings to them.

These efforts are good efforts, in that they reach into people’s worlds.  We meet them where they are at.  We become “all things to all men that we might save (and bless) some”. 

Human nature is such that we love our peer groups.  Birds of a feather flock together.  We all have that tendency.  Like attracts like. Little or no effort is needed to mingle with people like ourselves.  It is an unconscious human response to seek out peers that understand us, accept us, and approve of us.  And so, sub-sub cultures exist within our church.

While recognizing and ministering to sub-sub cultures in our church has its benefits, it can also create problems regarding church unity.  The blessing of attending church can revolve around easily fitting into our sub-sub culture peer group.  There is almost if not actual immediate gratification in peer groups.  Social and cultural mores are understood, and have been previously navigated.  People enter into sub-sub cultures, and though the balance of things changes at times, lesser adjustments can be quickly made.

Most people that I know have little time to expand their circle of friends, much less try to break into a different sub-sub culture.  The thought of learning another social language, another culture, etc., is not only not natural, but troublesome and too challenging for most people.

Yet this is what must happen if our churches are going to continue past one generation, and if they are going to be trans-generational.  Younger people need to learn from older people, and older people need to realize their responsibility to raise up the next generation.

The Apostle Paul teaches that in Christ, we are created as “one new man” (Ephesians 2:15).  There is a new culture called “Christian”.  There is a new man called “Christian”.  There is a new peer group called “Christian”.

If a man or woman or teen can see that the greatest oneness they have is not the cultural “sameness” of  this present fleeting moment, but the eternal oneness of being one in Jesus, then suddenly that person’s “peer group” is no longer a sub-sub culture, but has grown to include the entire Body of Christ.

If a person can capture the idea that they have settled for the ease of living in a sub-sub culture peer group, but have missed the greater blessing of knowing the entire church, they just might be motivated enough to push past present cultural trends, and actually try to understand another Christian from a different sub-sub culture.

We all understand that the best evangelist for a teen is another teen.  Kids come to church because their friends convince them to. Like attracts like.

I submit that if a pastor can convince a few teens that their peer group is the entire church, and not just the youth group, that those kids will begin to reach out to older people in the church.  They will convince their friends to go with them as they do it.  The same is true for every sub-sub culture peer group.  All you need is one or two people from a sub-sub culture to break out and be convinced that their true peer group is actually the entire church.

Therefore, whereas understanding and reaching into sub-sub groups can be effective, and ought to be done, I suggest that we never sacrifice the unity of trans-generational fellowship for the sake of reaching out to a slice of society.  Both are needed.  We may reach people by focusing on a sub-sub culture, but we need to help them mature into seeing the entire Body of Christ as their peer group.  Trans-generational love and nurturing must occur.  Kids need to know that the old people want them, not that they simply hire a youth leader to reach them.  Old people need to know that young people genuinely respect them for their accomplishments, and are willing to sit and listen to them.

Cultural awareness is important, but love always finds a way to navigate through cultural waters, and reach a kid, a single mom, or an elderly person.  Cultural relevance is a tool of understanding, but love is the heart of the matter.  Oneness in Christ is the banner that every Christian needs to ultimately see as the glue that not only builds the church, but holds it together, and pushes it forward into the future.

Feb

23

Having A Healthy Trans-Generational Church

By pastorbillwalden

It takes intention and effort to really hear what people are saying.  As water always runs downhill, it is natural for all people to get into social ruts.  We have our favorite people, groups, movements, and social tendencies, but (social) ruts limit lateral movement (awareness), and as Tozer has suggested, ruts turn into graves.

I have noticed that people often don’t see the need to cross the generational bridge to see what is on the other side.  Perhaps they feel too busy to put in the extra effort needed to enter someone else’s “foreign” world.  It could be rightly claimed that most of us can’t even keep up with our chosen friends, much less take the time to meet others who live in a parallel but distant world.

I have a hunch that in most cases, people don’t care that much about other people, and see no redeeming value in crossing the generational bridge. Why bother?  Is it really worth the effort to learn about the “other culture” that sits in the same church as me, but seems so different?  Some might argue that we ought to just “give each other some space”, and be happy with a peaceful but non-integrating co-existence.

The Bible teaches that Christians are “One Body”, and that we are organically and inextricably joined together in Christ, bur lack of social interaction seems to indicate that we don’t believe that, or at least are unwilling to pursue and enjoy it.

When is the last time a high school or college group sponsored an appreciation dinner for veterans of WW2?  When is the last time a 20 year old invited a 60 year old out to coffee, and ask to hear his/her Christian testimony?  The reverse is true as well.  When has a group of retired folks (who have a lot of free time), gotten together and plan an event for a college group?  How many high schoolers does the older generation know by name?

Why is this missing in our churches?  I am sure that trans-generational fellowship happens here and there, but it certainly seems to be the exception rather than the norm.

My encouragement would be that both sides reach out.  Meet someone from a different generation than your own.  “Adopt” a young person, and pray for them, mentor them, learn about them, and pour yourself into them.  “Adopt” an old person, realize the wisdom and experience that is available, and listen to them.  Retired people have much to give, including time and experience.  Older people might get rejected by some younger people, but keep trying.  Pray for that one young person who you can be a friend and mentor to.

Young people have time too, even though they “think” they are busy.  😉 I often read the facebook status of young people about how bored they are, and that they want to know “who wants to go to the beach or the movies”.  I suggest that young people find an older person to connect to, to visit with, to assist, and to learn from.  There are retirement homes full of older people who are extremely lonely.  There are older people in churches that would greatly benefit from the energy and presence of a young person.

The Apostle Paul stated it beautifully when he said of the Thessalonians, “So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us”.  (1 Thessalonians 2:8)

Paul imparted his life to others.  Other Christians had become dear to him.  May we impart our lives to others as well, and may we cross the generational bridge to do so.

Apr

23

Is Church “Just” A Hospital?

By pastorbillwalden

It has been said that the church is a hospital. A place where hurting people go to be healed up by God and His people. A place where the wounded can go and not be expected to do much. In part, I agree with that concept. Church should be a place where the wounded can go and experience healing.

But is church “just” a hospital.

Think about your last visit to a hospital. You went to be taken care of. You expected people to do things for you. If they didn’t help you get better, you got frustrated, because it’s their job to “make you better”.

If they were successful, and you felt better, you left. In fact, you probably couldn’t wait to leave. You didn’t stay to involve yourself with other patients. You didn’t consider the needs of the caregivers, staff, doctors, or nurses. You got better, and then you left.

A church is a hospital, but it is much more. It is a family, a community, a body. If people come to be healed, then good, they should. But if, when they have become healthy (God knows when that is) and then they decide that “their felt needs” have been met, and then they leave, then they have missed much of what Church is designed by God to be. They have gone from being a patient to a consumer. They have gone from being needy to being self focused, or at least ignorant that there are other patients that could use their help.

It is true that one church might help bring healing to someone, who God then directs to serve somewhere else. That person sees the Church as more than a hospital. That’s good.

I am sympathetic to people’s needs for healing. But I know that the Church is designed by God to be much more than a hospital. It is designed to be a family.

Being a patient means you receive. Being a family member means you give. Let’s not do the first and neglect the second.

Oct

26

We Played The Flute For You

By pastorbillwalden

Perhaps I read too much from the multitude of burgeoning experts regarding this thing called Church.  I am finding sprinklings of truth emanating from many voices, but the conflicting suggestions and accusations from these analysts are getting to me.  The light bulb just went on. They… are… getting to me.  Time for a course adjustment. 

I am a pastor.  I am a preacher.  I am a teacher.  Among other things, I am called to explain and proclaim the truth of God’s Word, as I understand it, and then urge people to embrace those truths in such a way that their lives are changed for their good, for the good of those around them, and for the glory of God.

Unfortunately, I have recently found myself preaching from a defensive position, or at least that’s what it feels like.

The bloggers, authors, interviewers, and analysts are coming to many conclusions about me and my clan.  They are also offering suggestions or demands about how I/we ought to change.  Some of what they say is true for some of us, but we are increasingly being analyzed in such a way that one is prompted to respond to the analysis in order to prove that “I am not that way”.

This kind of reactionary thinking from the Body of Christ isn’t good.  I think the tail is wagging the dog.

By being a Christian and a pastor, it is assumed that I hate gays, that I have an unintelligent faith, that I unilaterally support the nation of Israel, that I am a Republican and a social conservative, that I am closed minded, intolerant, unloving, and don’t have a worldview that includes anyone but my clan.

Those accusations are true about some in the Church, but not all.  Public opinion, however, is increasingly aligning itself with these analysts, and I am feeling the pressure of being misunderstood more than ever before.

Anyone else out there feeling it?

The purpose of this article isn’t to whine and say how unfair life is.  What I want to emphasize is this: I cannot allow myself to become simply reactionary in my life.  (You too, if you follow Jesus.)  I cannot respond only to the accusers, the analysts, the “former Christians”, the victims of the church, etc.  There are legitimate complaints to be made, to be sure, but that cannot and must not shape my life or the life of the Church.

I believe that Jesus faced this same kind of “dead end” analysis from his contemporaries.

He said…

Matthew 11:16-19 “But to what shall I liken this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their companions, 17and saying: ‘We played the flute for you, And you did not dance; We mourned to you, And you did not lament.’ 18For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by her children.”

Regardless of what Jesus did, He was criticized.  Christians are not unique in this.  Everyone goes through it: politicians, soccer coaches, school administrators, etc.

But my world is Jesus, His Church, and how we are to live in the world, so that is what I am feeling.

What is the solution for me and my tribe?  It is the same as it has always been.  Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.

Answer the honest questioners with gentleness and respect.  Know when to move on to the next conversation.  Make sure that God is the One we respond to, and not the critics, regardless of their motivation.  Be led by the Spirit, and not just by the analysis of a rock star.  Be counseled by the Word of God, not by an “ex- whatever”.  Follow the leading of the Spirit, not the latest trends.

I do not discount the fact that God can and does use the public opinion to reveal truth to His church.  The problem with public opinion is that it is fickle, changing, incomplete, and biased.  Eat the meat, spit out the bones, and realize that there is only One Voice that leads us.