The purpose of this article is to find out whether or not it is okay to speak against The Church. In fact, is it okay to speak against a local church of which is a smaller part of the whole Body of Christ? Often criticism against the Church is popular among secularists and Christians alike. In fact, some pastors would seemingly speak in such a way to attract people to their church particular part of the whole Body. Usually this type of attraction is levied in such a way to try to get Christians to leave their church, or to reach those who say they are Christians who have rejected church. That might be another blog someday. While those on the other side, meaning, those outside of The Church universal would criticize The whole Body in general. Many of these are those who want nothing to do with Christ because they have rejected Him by determining to live their lives on their own without Him. In other words, they do not want to live lives influenced by Jesus Christ. In fact, this is God’s gift to them anyway because He allows them to choose freely to live without Christ. On the other hand, there are those who want the gift of life which only is available through Jesus Christ. Yet, these sometimes only want eternal life and, therefore, follow Christ in the way that they see fit. Sounds very similar to those who reject outright, but only God knows the heart; yet, Jesus does tell us that we will know them by their love, while Paul says by their Fruit. In other words, these do not allow Jesus to be their Lord, but will allow Him to be their Savior if such a distinction is possible.
When trying to put our minds around the idea of Church, the Bride of Christ, it is helpful to remember that The Church is both Human and Divine at the same time. It is important to understand this concept in order to properly address the question at hand. As a result, this simply means that churches can make mistakes and need correction from the Word of God as prompted by The Holy Spirit; hence, Human and Divine at the same time. This is usually needed when the church has gone outside of the boundaries of what is written in the Bible. In fact, when correction is needed, it is not necessarily from an individual who is not associated with The Church. Therefore, denominationally, there is usually supervision that comes from those whom God has placed in leadership and their charge is to hold a local Body accountable to operate within the boundaries of what is written in The Bible. These leaders are overseers that we trust that God has placed in these roles. If not, God will remove them. In fact, when governing a Body, leadership will seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit, The Bible, and historically from the early Church fathers. This should be a comfort for those who tend to be suspicious of churches.
It seems that many Christians in America, in particular, have not been discipled properly. In other words, it seems that many fall into the group of people who want to be saved by Christ, but they do not want to follow and obey Him. This may be the result of praying a simple prayer to receive Jesus as Savior and then believing that the finish line has been reached. This is far from the truth. In fact, receiving Christ is the starting point. Yet, most churches, unfortunately, do not disciple young believers (not young by physical age, but still new in their belief) into a healthy relationship with Jesus as their Teacher for life. Jesus is supposed to teach all believers not only how to live Holy lives, but also how to love and protect The Church while existing in a hostile world. After all, He gave His life for everyone to be incorporated into The Church (God’s Kingdom; the New Israel). In fact, Jesus said that a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand (Mark 3:24-25). Further, in this same passage, some accused the work that Christ did as being the work of Satan. This is blasphemy against The Holy Spirit. Jesus warned them about this type of accusation. Therefore, it only makes sense that Christians are not quick to make accusations against Christ’s Church and churches. After all, if God is doing something unusual through The Church or churches, it is better safe than sorry.
The Apostle Paul addressed the importance of The Church in the world, by dealing with the Corinthian Church which was part of the whole Body, in 1 Corinthians. In fact, contrary to popular belief, churches exist to hold members accountable according to this book. In this church, Paul said that there were those who were not Spirit-filled and seemed to build the church from the foundation of everything but the Cross. They did so because they operated under the influence of the world’s wisdom and not under the Spirit’s wisdom which is not of this world. Therefore, when listening to those who would criticize The Church, one needs to decide whether or not someone is has a unifying spirit or not. God desires that His Kingdom be united here on earth. If not, then it is usually because the person may not be filled with the Spirit. This means The Church should not listen to someone who fits this mold. In fact, if someone is not filled with The Spirit, The Bible seems to classify this person as someone who is part of the Kingdom of this world.
In answering the question of whether or not it is okay to make accusations against The Church, or part of the whole Body, one needs to see what The Bible said about it. In fact, Paul talked about the dangers of someone who believes he or she is wise. The issue he dealt with was that unity had been challenged by those who followed certain leaders and their particular teachings. Division was brought about because worldly wisdom seemed to help shape the Corinthian Church. Paul believed that those who created division and operated under the influence of worldly wisdom were actually destroying The Church. Here is his reply, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred and you together are that temple” (1 Cor. 3:16-17, NIV). This is usually a passage that some like to use to discourage Christians from drinking and smoking. But, in the context that it is found, and the plural “you” that is used, it is obvious that God has a major problem with those who are destroying His Church whether knowingly, or unknowingly.
Therefore, creating division and making accusations seems to be dangerous. It is true that people can have an opinions. Yet, those opinions must submit to the authority of God’s Word. At least if these who say they are Christians would desire to please the Lord. According to The Bible, Satan is one who accuses the Saints, those who belong to The Church, and with that knowledge it is a very serious thing to bring accusations against The Bride of Christ. Moreover, it seems that these Scriptures, along with others not listed, seem to exist to cause one to consider carefully what he or she says. In my opinion, it is best not to bring an accusation unless the accuser has had a Burning Bush experience. Yet, even then, signs and wonders would accompany such an individual.
Here is a list of songs that my mother and I enjoyed back in the 1970′s. These songs are not listed in order of personal preference or in popularity. These were simply songs that we would turn the radio up on while riding in the car taking trips to the local mall or for various other reasons. These are likely 8 track tape classics.
- Thunder Island
- Rock and Roll All Night
- Tiny Dancer
- Shake Your Booty
- Bad Moon on the Rise
- Surf City
- Dead Man’s Curve
- Right Back Were We Started From
- Don’t Go Breaking My Heart
- Love will keep us Together
- Jackie Blue
- Car Wash
- Shop Around
These are just a small list. When I hear these I think of good times.
Evidently Phil Robertson shared what he believes with GQ Magazine. I read the story on CNN’s website and was a little concerned for some of the colorful language about body parts he used. In fact, I was struck with his presentation of his beliefs and felt that he could have been gentler about it. Nevertheless, he quoted Scripture and what was quoted is what the Bible said. In my opinion, Scripture is truth.
While reading through some posts on blogs and Facebook, I continue to notice that each Christian has an opinion. In fact, as I read through what each Christian post I found myself agreeing and disagreeing. Sometimes I just didn’t like how they presented their view even if it was, in the end, right. As a Protestant, I am reminded that our basic background is that we believe we can read our Bible and develop our view point of Scripture. In other words, we do not have someone setting doctrine for us because we, as individuals, do that for ourselves.
As a result, I listen to other Protestant pastors from time to time and I think that they are just wrong on their interpretation of different passages. Yet, in Protestant churches this is what makes us unique as groups. I always caution my congregation where I serve about my sermons too. I encourage them to read the Bible themselves to hold me accountable.
As a pastor in the United States, I also hold Constitutional rights. My dilemma is that I’m a citizen of Heaven while a citizen of the US at the same time. This means that I am accountable to be as civil to others as expected by God first, then by the Constitution. The problem for me, as a pastor, is that I am supposed to share biblical truth when asked. This is where those in The Church and those outside of The Church need to give a little understanding to Phil in my opinion. As a minister, he was asked a very touchy, because of our political climate and culture, question. As a pastor I have been asked these very tough questions. Questions much like Phil was asked so I can imagine the tension that was in the interview because I feel it too.
As a Christian I am called by God to love Him and others. In fact, that is what I want to do. I think the possible result of my answers can be abrasive from another pastor’s, Christian’s, or citizen’s point of view too. While my answer would have been hopefully less colorful, it would have had to be the same if I want to stay true to Scripture.
Another concern that I have right now, and it seems to be a big one, is that many Christians and non-believers are saying that this is not a freedom of speech issue, but a contractual issue between Phil and A&E; in other words, a business issue. My thought is that if true, then a small church pastor like me who is bi-vocational may be at risk to lose his job too. After all, I may be under contract with my other employers who hold a different point of view of sin than I do. Unlike Phil, I and many other pastors, have to work another job to provide for my family. I’m not a millionaire like Phil. I’m just trying to make ends meat.
Now I’m protected, for now, by the Constitution to have free speech. Yet, the bigger issue seems to be that the government isn’t going to protect me from losing my job for practicing my rights as a citizen of the US if people I’m employed by do not like what I say. So now do we as Americans want to introduce this type of discrimination into the conversation? The LGBT’s say that this is who they are. Can I not say that a Protestant Christian is who I am? Thankfully, homosexuals have been able to make Americans aware of discrimination that happens to them.
So can we really say that this is not an issue of free speech? I find it alarming that CNN ran a story about a sermon that Phil preached. A lot of the terms he used came out of the Bible. CNN interpreted it as a type of hate speech and wondered if A&E, Phil’s employer, heard this before he was hired. Just consider what I just said for a moment; especially in this digital age where we find ourselves as pastors on Internet media. As a Protestant he can preach his interpretation how he wants; or can he in the US? So what is next? Are the news agencies going to start pointing to those who preach against certain types of sin as hate mongerers and fight to have our employment taken from us? If so, how dangerous is that for America? Is it okay for what happened to Phil to happen to me and others?
Small churches become aggravated at megachurches because many leave the small church for the megachurch. On the other hand, megachurches have a way of defending themselves that seems to lash out at small churches who criticize them. Both groups have stereotyped the other side. One side will say that the other only entertains, while the other side will say that the other is old and is not a church that people want to attend. This is counterproductive to the Kingdom building that is supposed to be taking place. After all, people leaving one for the other is not an increase in God’s Kingdom. In fact, this back and forth between these two sisters has brought much confusion to many believers. What is more, it has brought confusion to those who find themselves in a place where they are not committed to a church, but may actually be in the process of looking for a church. What I mean is that they have heard the echo from those in both camps of this issue. So this means that they are hearing this discussion between the two sisters, and I would argue it is a negative discussion, which is aiding people who are not committed to Christ choose the church in which they worship and serve at that may not be the Spirit’s leading. With one side pointing out the imperfections of the other, it seems appropriate to outline those characteristics of what aright church looks like. There are four universally, historically, marks that someone should look for in a church so that he or she may decide whether or not they have found a right church or a wrong church.
Those who are looking for a church should be looking for distinctive marks that seem to help define church on whether or not it is a right church, or wrong church. Of course this type of discussion is nothing new. In fact the Early Church set forth The Marks of The Church, which can be observed from the book of Acts. You may recall that the book of Acts is a book that describes the birth of The Church as a result of the Holy Spirit coming to indwell those who receive and follow Christ. According to H. Ray Dunning, in 381 B.C., The Marks of The Church were stated formally for the first time in the Creed of Constantinople” (529). Four Marks were named in the Creed, Unity, Holiness, Catholicity (which means universal), and Apostolicity. Dunning further pointed out that these marks are produced by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. ”They are not the result of organization or administration but are the creation of the Spirit” (529). This last statement is another discussion for later, but it certainly should cause one to pause at the role of leadership, and administration, in many Protestant churches today. Since these marks are understood to be the creation of the Spirit, this means that people, both inside and outside, of the Church, should be able to see these traits as reality. If these traits are not seen as reality in regard to a group, then it is possible that group may not be a right church. Here is a little more clarification to aid understanding these marks.
The first mark in our list of four is Unity. This mark is one that both small churches and megachurches need to consider again. Remember the discussion in my intro of this article. Each side tends to point out what the other side believes to be wrong with the other. Jesus’ teaching to His followers should be applied in this situation, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, Let me take the speck out your eye, when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:3-5). If both sides rightly understood this, then each could be beneficial to the other which would glorify Christ. Consider a statement that makes a great point, and should be a rule that is kept in mind, James B. Chapman said, “The Christ in me will never be at variance with the Christ in you” (Dunning 531). This obviously should demonstrate the unity of Christ’s Church. These two statements are important for each side to consider because these were made in reference to what leads to disunity, and what should help to create unity. Christ is not divided against Himself. The Holy Spirit should be aiding to keep this from happening. Our goal as those who are part of The Universal Church is that we be united as part of, and by taking part in, God’s Kingdom. When we work against each other it creates disunity and this means there is no benefit to the Kingdom.
The second mark is Catholicity. This term is not about being a geographical location, or part of any particular tradition of doing church. It means that it is universal by embracing Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you (Christians who have been saved by the Blood of Christ and have the Holy Spirit dwelling within them) are all one in Christ Jesus.” This again seems to be another way of saying unity too (532). Clearly, this is what Paul had in mind here, and in his other epistles. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit ties us to all who are in Christ. This means that those who have the Spirit are part of The Universal Church. This is important because this means that there isn’t a worship style, or a particular way of being the church. Instead, it is an outer reality, that exists on the basis of the inward reality of the Spirit that makes the church be the church. After all, there is only one Savior; and He is not divided in Himself. We are “doing” church right, when we are being the Church through the aid of the Spirit.
The third mark is Holiness. Holiness, unfortunately, sometimes is understood in a variety of ways. For example, does one become Holy simply because Jesus automatically gives it to those who He calls His? Or does Jesus offer Holiness to those who surrender themselves totally to Him so that He they can receive another helping of Grace? This is a debate without end. Yet, as a Wesleyan, I believe that Holiness is imparted by Christ. From John Wesley’s point of view, “Holiness of the Church is attributable because of a real, rather than imputed, holiness” (532). It should be pointed out that the Church does have within her those who are babes in Christ. In fact, we are becoming Holy by allowing the Spirit within to mold and shape us. We also are learning from the Great Teacher, Christ. This means that each person is walking in the light they are given at that particular point of their new life in Christ. If this be so, there will be issues each church will have to deal with because of the universal impact of sin in our world. Further, corporate Holiness also involves accountability within the church. I recognize that writing this some might say that this leads to judgment and condemnation and more legalism in the church. By the way, both sides of this discussion have this element to contend with. On the contrary, I believe it is about motivation. Holiness that comes from the Spirit is centered on love for God and others. It is not involved in lording over other people. Instead it is driven by the heartfelt need to keep a brother or sister from sinning. This in turn helps to keep the purity of the Church’s witness. In fact, this is why Covenant Memberships exist in many churches. This, too, will be a topic for another discussion. Holiness, as Dunning puts it, is “the conscience of the church” (533). Moreover, it is time that we Christians understand that we are Saints; and that we should no longer be sinners. This is the common cry of many Christians today. It is important that we remember that God still has expectations of us. Therefore, right churches will remain aware of this.
The final mark in this list is Apostolicity. This is not to be understood as an office what one can seek. Instead it is what should be present within the Church through her members. Members who are empowered by the Holy Spirit who dwells within. This is the same Holy Spirit who dwelt within the Apostles. In other words, in regard to Apostolicity, “It is the truth of the gospel proclaimed in the power of the Spirit” (534). In fact, this is why each person receives spiritual gifts. These gifts are meant to build up the Church. If we localize this by saying build up the church, which is part of The Church, then we realize that it is not about one person, or a few, who have the ability to attract. It is about the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit who dwells within the corporate Body, and in individuals who make up the Body. Therefore, it is not really about the greatness of the speaker, singer, or leader. It is more likely that it is about the greatness of God who is present in His believers and among them as well. With this type of understanding it easy to see that each person has a gift, or gifts, which they bring to the local church so that they too can help build up that particular church. In turn, if the church being built up has these marks, then the Kingdom is being built up. In fact, The Bible said that the Holy Spirit places in you in a church to do just that.
The purpose of writing this is to help those who may wonder whether or not their church is a right church. At some point, All churches who claim Christ as their Savior must stop acting as if they are the only church who is really right. Beware of that type of rhetoric, whether it comes from large or small. It seems more likely that God uses both megachurches and small churches. As a small church pastor, I want people to know that I understand these marks. In fact, I wanted to write this because my church is small and can easily be labeled as a church that doesn’t get it. Therefore, if Christ is in me and in those who attend my church, then it is dangerous when other pastors make blanket statements about churches who are not right or productive, in their opinion, because of a certain tradition that may seem to be out of touch with this new age. Likewise, it is dangerous when smaller church pastors preach against what God is doing in larger churches. The damage that is being caused is only to the mission of Christ to make disciples by using His Church.
There are more developed Marks of The Church, for example Mark Dever wrote a book called The Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. I have looked though this book, and it looks to be a good read and teaching tool. However, I elected to stick with what I see as the earliest work on this subject. I say this because I am aware that there are other variations of The Marks, but each should be developed from The Creed of Constantinople in my opinion. I believe Dever’s is. But his is a book, and this is only article that is meant to be basic.
Once one establishes whether or not a church is a right church, and there doesn’t seem to be division of Christ taking place, he or she needs to seek and hear from God whether or not that is the place to serve. This should be helpful for those who are wondering what a good church looks like.
Dunning, H. Ray. Grace Faith and Holiness. Kansas City,
MO: Beacon Hill Press, 1988.
Here is a list of characteristics, skills, requirements, and yadda yadda yadda, that are needed to be successful in as a Christian pastor; or at least to feel successful.
- You must study leadership, over and over, so that you can play the part of a professional. After all, you are the leader of the church and possibly Jesus wants you to become very successful so that one day you can write a book. You need to know how to exercise “power” among people to hold them accountable toward reaching your goals. What you will learn is that you are a good leader when you are successful, but when you are not successful, you don’t have good followers. You will learn how to get rid of those who are standing between you and reaching your, I mean, God’s goal.
- You must move on from the CB and Ham radio to Twitter. Once you are on Twitter, you have to tweet simple sayings about leadership. Preferably, you must let others know that you are a person of vision and they must develop one too. Never Mind the vision that Jesus already gave His followers. A great tweet to consider might be something like, “Leaders lead from influence.” Or, “Leader, let the people see you sweat.” These are short enough to likely get retweeted by those you followed, and after they followed you, you dropped them, so that you can have it listed on your Twitter account that you have 6,000 followers. Plus, it is great to show that you are only following 60 people who are worthy enough to gain your followership. With 6,000 followers, you have now become a person of influence even though you might be pastoring a church of 45-100.
- You must have an attractive appearance. It would be helpful if you could attract the same type of attention that King Saul did when he was not king. Looking hip is a big help in the 21st Century. A gym membership is a must, along with hair coloring and very intellectual eyeglasses. How you dress will help keep the undesirables away too. A classy wardrobe simply lets people know that you only hang out with a certain group. This way you will gain an audience that may have enough money that you won’t have to get bogged down in their problems.
- You must travel back and forth to major conferences routinely so that you can mingle with other professionals. Successful ministers budget for the top conferences. These are a must even though many conferences are centered around the same topics. The point is that you are traveling, and this helps to maintain your professional appearance. What is more, you can possibly squeeze in some golf during one of these conferences too. Hanging out with professionals will build your network that will bring you clout for leadership. This was where the Apostles went wrong, they caught peoples’ attention, but at the end of the day the people realized that they were uneducated men and were not professionals.
- Your vision must include reminiscing about your awful experiences with church growing up. This will help to communicate to everyone that your church has finally developed the formula that will keep humanity from ruining the experience. The experience has to outweigh the disappointment every week, even though God seems to mold and shape His people through disappointment with church experience and others. In addition, you will help to eliminate the competition of those smaller churches that have to make use of their older facilities. Likely, these were the churches that messed you up when you were younger, before you found the right formula.
- You must attach yourself to every new trend that comes around in the Christian world. Warning, this may require a new wardrobe and younger look if you have been around for a while. You never know when something new will make a splash sent in from the Christian writer’s world of thought. For example, those who went for the attraction movement may now have to jump into the missional movement. Be warned though, poverty is beginning to gain traction in the Christian world. If so, this will change the path to success dramatically.
- You must be able to recite the Starbucks menu by heart. Even if you are not a coffee drinker, it is in your best interest that you begin acquiring the taste for it. After all, whoever heard of an up and coming minister that did not have meetings with potential white middle-class church attendees anywhere else? It gives a sense of an artsy appearance and intellectualism to those who frequent the coffee house. While there, don’t forget to tweet about it. Something like, “Working while at Starbucks, love the private atmosphere, it keeps me close to the real people.” This will help remove any guilt you might feel while your lay people are working; because they now know you are working too.
- You must have the newest Apple technology on the market. You cannot run around with a flip-phone, or just a regular PC. You have to have a Mac. You need an awesome IPhone too (I have an IPhone also). I keep mine in case I have a trendy Twitter thought about leadership that I would need to post. This will simply give the appearance that you are on the cutting-edge of things. We all know how important that is for ministers who are successful to blaze a trail before others.
- You must woo people by talking about their potential. I mean, never mind talking about them decreasing so that Jesus can increase; that is outdated. Instead, talk about how they too can become a great leader like you. Further, talk about how God wants them to be happy and that life is not supposed to be hard, especially once you teach them how manage properly their sin. After all, Dr. Phil has been successful with doing this too. I wonder if going to conferences regularly helped him.
- You must have trendy clothing that goes well with the Christian culture of today. I prefer special caps along with this piece of the success puzzle. Shirts with the Phoenix are slipping as I type, but it appears that shirts with patches and jeans with holes are sticking right now. Shoes . . . that is a huge statement about the character of the successful minister. Try to live with flip-flops and hiking shoes. These demonstrate your oneness with nature. You know going Green is a great trend to attach yourself to also.
Now this post has been written in fun. Nevertheless, there are still truths in this post. I won’t say which of these 10 I struggle with, but be assured that many do struggle with these. It is time that ministers start distancing themselves from CEO role playing and consider people as those whom God treasures and not buildings or the work they feel called to.
My battle is to make sure that I’m not role-playing with a motive that is really more about me than it is the church that Jesus has entrusted to me. If nothing else, this list could be a way for lay people and ministers to hold each other accountable so that we can be re-aligned with the purpose that Jesus has for His Church; the Kingdom of Heaven is near.
I often wonder what types of things that I would think about and do if I wasn’t a Christian. In particular, I wonder about those situations that occur in my life that I didn’t create. In other words, would I handle certain situations different as a person who doesn’t care about what God thinks? I think the obvious answer is yes.
On the other hand, I wonder if there are some things that I would like to do differently as a wiser Christian. What I mean is maybe there are some situations and issues that I found myself in as a young Christian that I would like to do over. My guess is that anyone who thinks there isn’t anything they would like to do over is full of self and likely thinks, “I am right.” “Everyone else is wrong.”
Since I’ve been a Christian I have seen an evolution take place in my life; maybe I should say a type of transformation in my life. When I came to Christ I joined the “fight.” All I knew was that I wanted to “do” for Jesus. I remember yelling at family members who did not want to get saved. Some of them I talked to them daily about getting saved. Needless to say, they avoided me after a while, and looking back I don’t blame them.
Some of the “fight” was to “re-take” America. I remember boycotting Walt Disney, shopping malls because they allowed certain “bad” stores to do business in them, ABC, and the list goes on. I assure you that my motives were not bad. I just wanted people to live for Christ. Politics and preaching were important to me if “we” were going to take back America.
What happened to me was that I realized that we Christians who want to take America back actually created an “us” and “them” scenario. There was a wall built between “us” and “them” that created a disconnect from God and His children. The children being those who He created in His Image. This includes both “us” and “them.” We Christians were in one camp, and many still are, while those who did not believe the exact way we did were in another camp.
In our camp, we knew that the other camp was going to get theirs one day for all of the bad they have done to America. But, the funny thing is that we in our camp never realized that we might what we deserve for all of the bad we have done to the Kingdom of God. After all, we are the “enlightened ones” who know the will of God and understand His mission. We should realize that there will be accountability for us too.
Consider that there are two camps, at least according to our thinking and behavior. This means that those who follow Jesus are not living among them like Jesus did; and still does through the Holy Spirit. Our message to the world has been, “Think and act like we do or we are leaving your behind to suffer.” We haven’t communicated that God loves them and wants good for them and us. He wants to be the Father that many of us haven’t had and wants to care for us while teaching us to care about others.
As a result of this misguided motivation, we have caused those in the other camp who try to venture to ours, to think that they have to get themselves together. In other words, they need to clean up their lifestyles and then come to church. At least that is what they’ve heard from us, whether or not we meant to communicate that. Wow, Jesus is still cleaning me up because I can’t do and would never be able to do it; that is why we needed saved by the Savior. In fact, they don’t see this because we have avoided contact with those who do not believe the way we do.
Thankfully, God began to remake me and to work on my focus. I learned some time ago that those political fights lead us no where. In fact, seeking a political solution to certain issues instead of a spiritual solution has created disdain from Christians toward those who practice different lifestyles. Further, it has created disdain from those who are secular toward Christians too. After all, before I was a Christian I didn’t care what Christians thought of me. What is more, I didn’t care what the Bible said, and only a little about what God thought. In fact, I’m not sure that I was afraid to go to hell. I heard you gasp. Listen, I felt that my life had always been hell. I was used to it.
Now we come to the fight that The Church should’ve been more vocal about rather than political issues. We Christians must learn to put coercion aside and focus persuasiveness when it comes to sharing Christ with those who are not living for Him. Notice I didn’t use the term “Those who do not know Him.” Newsflash! There are many who are aware of who Jesus is, or at least a version of Jesus, but sadly, we established the wrong fights and communicated that some shouldn’t even try to be saved.
I propose that The American Church get up in arms over all the hurting people who have felt pain all of their lives. What I mean, instead of fighting to get prayer back in school, we should fight to get it back into homes. In fact, we should be teaching “Christians” how to love like Jesus does. This eliminates disdain, since we can’t possibly lead anyone to Christ through disdain. What if Christians started caring for the community that they find themselves in instead of fighting against it all of the time. Can you imagine telling someone who has not known the love of a father and mother that Jesus loves them? How about telling someone that God never meant for them to suffer like they have? Of course, this would have to replace the famous, “Well, God has a reason.”
What if we focused on developing healthy relationships with those who have none? I think sometimes we Christians have become so used to our camp that we have forgotten to set those in the other camp free by persuading them to receive Christ’s love and ours. To do this, at least in my mind, we can’t just settle for a food drive event, or a clothing drive, and etc. Instead we have to be willing to develop a lifestyle, everyday way of living, that includes living among those who are not following Jesus.
This proposal eliminates the camps structure and leads to win others through love and compassion. Plus it takes the hope out of politics and places it back on Jesus Christ with a demonstration of the peaceful life, that if trouble comes, has hope for this life now through Jesus our Lord. This demonstration is not the type where we can put our Christian masks on for and event, but we have to be transformed because we are living among those who are learing about Christ and His love through watching us and trusting us enough to learn from Him through us.
I haven’t been a good citizen or a good pastor lately because I am on break from watching the news. I impose these breaks from time to time because it seems like there is a lot of bad news for the world, America, and me. Add to this that politically, I find myself in a dying breed category. Politically I’m conservative. You may be someone who is on the other side of the aisle right now and just felt a strong disdain for me. Or, you might just feel sorry for me since I’m such a poor misguided soul who just doesn’t get it. Nevertheless, if you are still reading at this point, I am aware that politicians, federal justices, and Americans are dealing with same-sex marriage again. Therefore, I felt that it is in order to remind Christians and secularists about what the Bible actually says about this hotly debated issue.
First, I want to Christians to step back and examine what their motive is that dwells in their hearts when they post statuses on Twitter and Facebook about same-sex marriage. I feel that honesty with what is going on in our hearts is needed in this arena. I fear that some Christians really are attacking a group of people who commit a particular type of sin, according to the Bible. What continues to be forgotten is that sexual immorality is a branch off of Original Sin that everyone, theologically, is born with. In fact, the self is always in contrast to God. If sexual immorality is a branch off of the tree of Original Sin, then a branch off of sexual immorality is homosexuality, and, a list that includes sins like adultery, sexual fantasy with people other than your spouse, all sex outside of the context of marriage, pornography, incest, and etc. These, and others that I may not have listed, are stems off of the branch attached to the tree.
The problem is that we Christians focus all of our efforts to grab the saw to remove the stem of homosexuality from the branch of sexual immorality. All the while, however, we simply try to manage the other types of sin with less vigor. In fact, we do not even really get upset when those sins are committed because we understand them; and most of us have committed them. Therefore, we become compassionate toward those people who struggle with those sins. And, could I say, that some “Christians” even practice some of those sins regularly. Here is the rub, pastors will correctly say that we have to work with these poor lost souls. But, not with homosexuals. Instead of acknowledging them as those who are in bondage to sexual immorality like most other people are too, Christians begin to call judgment down on them.
This is much like OT Israel who continued to long for The Day of The Lord, but prophets warned them that when that day came it would not be what they expected. In fact, it would be a day of justice for their injustice toward others. Yes, injustice was practiced in Holy Israel, where God was “their King.” They practiced racial hatred even though their Law called for them to care for those who were foreigners among them. They ignored the poor often, and the list goes on. The lesson that we Christians, The New Israel, should learn is that sometimes when we start calling down curses, like some disciples wanted to do, and ultimate judgment we might not get what we expect. We might just get what we deserve. After all, we never had the zeal to hold people in our churches accountable for those other sexual sins that they continued to practice. We settled for “loving” them and fighting against one particular type of sin that we personally did not like.
Further, I am shocked at how few Christians really know what the Bible says about this issue and how we are supposed to live in a world where this issue isn’t going to go away. Some Christians will post that God is fine with this type of behavior, but upset with those are not because they are “judging.” Christians continue to misunderstand what judging is. I make judgments daily, for example, I make the judgment that if I place my hand on a hot stove I will get burned. Therefore, I do not do it. In fact, I tell children, don’t do it. The problem is that some children have put their hand on a stove that was not hot before. In fact, they enjoy doing that. Nevertheless, I tell them not to do anyway. But they think I am judging them because that stove has not burned them before. Besides, what they do with their hand is their business and I should not care as long as it isn’t hurting me.
I used possibly a silly example, but the point is that I don’t believe that my motive, if I’m judging others by saying that homosexuality is a sin, is meant to intrude on someone’s right to touch a stove. My motive should be that I know that one day that stove will be on and it will burn the child’s hand so I don’t want the child to eventually get hurt. In fact, I deeply care about the child, otherwise I would not say anything to the child about the stove. I would simply sit back and watch the show. When it was over I would say, lol, I told you and walk away. Now obviously, I think that according to the Bible homosexuality is indeed sin. Those who practice it, along with the other types of sin I mentioned earlier, may not be getting hurt now, but they will. And one day Jesus will return and those who clung to their Original Sin will be sent to a place of judgment. These will be those who rejected Jesus and His teachings. They wanted the right to live their lives and touch that stove without people like me bothering them.
For those who are secular I want you to know that we Christians are supposed to be showing you respect and love. If you experience those who do not, please know that they are not currently speaking the language of Christ. You are right that you should be able to live the way you choose. We Christians call that Free Will. From my point of view that is biblical, that is a gift from God to you. If you don’t believe that the Bible is the ultimate source of truth, then none of this matters. But, if you do believe that the Bible is God’s communication to His Church, then you need to know that homosexuality is sin. Plus, as Americans, even if there people misusing Scripture, or being hypocritical while quoting Scripture, it is their right to take part in the American process politically.
I do ask for forgiveness though when you experience wrong-motived Christians attacking you if you are someone who supports same-sex marriage, or someone who is homosexual. I want you to know that you would like Jesus, sometimes His people get a little edgy, but eventually we will grow to become more like Him. The Christian Church simply cannot support same-sex marriage, but she should not attack those who do. Christians are supposed to be ambassadors who persuade on behalf of her King. Jesus is not into coercion.
If same-sex marriage is legalized, then Christians you and I are still called to love God and love others. We will continue to operate as we have since they lowered the age for consensual sex, legalized alcohol, and in some places marijuana, divorce, and etc. We live in a fallen world. Do you really think that legislation will fix it? Or do you suppose that being motivated by love and compassion to disciple others will eventually impact your surrounding community? I can’t help but think of the Kingdom that was spawned by One Man over 2,ooo years ago who did not condemn, but came to save.
My candidate lost. Yes, my idea of what America should be like is not the popular view right now. Why is that? Well, I guess people have changed since I was a kid. Somehow the values that I grew up with were not taught to new generations. This is fine, because I still choose to live in America over any other country.
Why did I vote for Romney? It wasn’t because I am a Christian. In fact, I struggled to vote for him because he is a Mormon. This means that he operates under the influence different from the Bible. As a Christian that should have caused me not to vote for him alone. After all, if we want a Theocracy his religion should have been taken into consideration. A Theocracy is what many Christians want. I’m not especially for that though because we’ve seen throughout history how that harms the people. Soon enough the leader no longer listens to God and begins doing things his way. The Theocracy will work when Jesus returns.
I voted for Romney because of his business skills. I felt that he could reduce our deficit. I did not necessarily vote for him because of his morals. I think he is a good man, but I’m sure there is dirt somewhere on him just like there is on the rest of us.
It was annoying to watch so many Christians talk of Doomsday simply because President Obama was re-elected. First of all, Christians cannot pull this card if they voted for someone who follows a different teaching. Secondly, President Obama says that he is a Christian and was sworn into office with his hand on the Lincoln Bible. Is he a fruitful Christian? I don’t know. The better question is whether or not those who proclaim Doomsday now are perfect Christians. Unlikely.
It is appalling that so many people think that Obama is the AntiChrist. Come on people. If you believe that, then you need to re-evaluate who your teacher in the Scripture is. There are 4 different interpretive options for the book of Revelation. Here they are: The Preterist, or Contemporary-Historical view, The Historical view, The Futurist, or Eschatological view, and The Idealist, or Timeless Symbolic view.
It is ridiculous to think that God had Michael, Gabrielle, and His other angels lined up behind Jesus ready to come put an end to this sinful world simply because America re-elected Obama. Shame on us for teaching those who do not know Jesus Christ that this is the type of God He is. Nevertheless, it is true that the Lord will return soon. After all, He said He would. But why would He return soon on account of this election? There are children starving throughout the world. If I was starving in another country, and Jesus came back because of the election, I would have to wonder what I was really worth to Him.
It is offensive to hear people call our President the Anti-Christ too. He is nowhere near somebody like Nero. In fact, there are many who act like anti-Christs in the world, and in the Church. I see them when they get out of church and go to McDonald’s and mistreat the employees and other customers. We see it on FB and in blogs.
As a pastor, I realize how important a relationship with Christ is. In fact, I also see how important that relationship with Christ is to those who claim to have one. Often, most people quoting Scriptures about this election are nominal in their faith and church attendance. It is amazing that many voted against President Obama because he believes in different values openly instead of privately. What I mean is that those sinful things, like abortion and homosexuality are practiced privately by many Christians. In fact, many other forms of sexual immorality are practiced privately, but the Church doesn’t get in an uproar over those.
Christians should see this election as moment when secular society has truly rejected Christian influence. Is it because Christians are trying to influence people politically instead of spiritually? I think the case could be made. Why did President Obama get re-elected? Because the exit pollsters said that people felt like Obama cared about them personally. Isn’t this how we used to witness about Jesus before we were political?
I think it is time for Christians quit spouting off Scriptures taken out of context and focus on building a relationship with those who do not feel connected with us and definitely are not united with us on values. Side note; the government is caring for the poor because the Church isn’t. Some are in the Church, but most are not. Jesus called us to be Disciple-makers; not lobbyists.
Before I came into a relationship with Jesus Christ, there was a point in my life that I wanted to be a good person. In fact, I desired to become a good person for several reasons, such as, I felt sick about how I didn’t care for others, I wanted to be respected in the community, I wanted my wife to have a good husband, and I wanted to be different so that my children would not behave as I did. What I found was that while I tried to do these things, I could not achieve peace with myself about the results. Now the results were not simply centered around right actions; they also included right thoughts along with right actions. I soon found that I could not become the person I wanted to be.
After a few years of trying to be different, I decided to try God. I thought that if I got saved that somehow that would establish me as the person that I longed to be. I decided to read the Bible, mostly because I didn’t know many Christians who would help me and from my experience I did not want to be associated with them. As I read, I found that God had an entirely different plan for, not just my life, humanity as whole. This knowledge enlightened me to the point that it became about desiring to know this God of the Bible instead of simply being saved.
Many people who are not associated with a community of believers realize that there is something missing in their lives as I did. The problem is that God has outlined what is best for us in the Bible, but we generally do not find out for ourselves. Instead, we rely on other Christians to tell us spiritual things that will make us feel better. The problem is that most Evangelical Christians get stuck at the point of belief. What I mean is that most simply point out that believing is what God does to make you and I saved. Then the problem becomes that you and I, who have not been associated with church, find that we are still the same persons we were before getting saved.
Finding out that nothing has changed, both internally and externally, becomes troubling to those of us who have not been properly pointed to Christ. After all, Evangelicals simply believe that we should get saved to avoid hell and to be ready for when we die or Jesus Returns. This type of believing causes many of us who are giving church and Jesus a try to give up. We learn quickly that simply believing has not helped us in this life now. We are still in bondage to our poor attitudes and behaviors. Yet, those of us who will turn to the Bible can learn that Jesus wants humanity to believe toward freedom.
Believing toward freedom, means to me, now that we believe in Jesus Christ and received Him as our Savior, what does that demand that we do? Think about; the Bible is full of God’s plan for His people and continually communicating the importance of being different. This is where much of our problem occurs. God wants us to be different from who we were before we established a relationship with Jesus. Yet, we Evangelicals continue to be reluctant to tell those outside of the Kingdom, along with those who are new in the Kingdom, that God expects our belief in Jesus to bring us into freedom. Freedom is being free from the internal and external issues that troubled us in the first place, which is why we investigated who Jesus Christ is.
God wants us to do more than simply believe in Jesus. He wants us to become more like Jesus. In fact, if we don’t and simply are satisfied to just believe, then are we really saved? These are questions that are age-old, but these may need to be wrestled with again in the Evangelical circles. Consider the Fruits of the Spirit, these are those characteristics that I longed to have but could not on my own. Why? Because Jesus was not involved in the change. In fact, simply just believing in Jesus can also lead to Jesus being uninvolved in our character reconstruction. The Fruits represent the freedom to be who, I and Jesus, desire me to be.
This is what I call believing toward freedom. Freedom means that I am not locked into the hatred, jealousy, pride, and anger I felt all of time anymore. So if you are someone who believes in Jesus, but you are not free to love God and others that would demonstrate that you are becoming more like Jesus, then you may not really be saved. My Jesus came to set the captives free.
Here’s what you need to do. Seek Him with all of your heart. In other words, you have to desire Him for more than just avoiding hell. You need to seek Him while surrendering yourself to Him so that He has the freedom mold and shape you into someone He wants you to be; this better than the person you tried to become without Him. Pray to Him regularly. Read His Word regularly. Meditate on Him and His Word regularly. Incorporate His commands into your new lifestyle. Don’t give up. If you surrender you life in these ways, then you will have the freedom be the person that loves God and others.
We need Christians to start teaching lifestyle change instead of lifestyle acceptance. We need Christians to teach lifestyle change now instead wait until later change. The Church needs people who model this change in a positive light instead of an unhappy negative light. Believing toward freedom makes more sense than simply believe and you will be saved. So what are you going to do about it? Believe toward freedom.
Since we live in an age where college degrees are more common, and information is accessible, does it matter if someone has been trained to teach God’s Word? The easy answer is no. Yet, should someone who teaches God’s Word be trained theologically, have an understanding of the original text, and be familiar with Church history?
It is obvious that God uses those who do not have this type of training. On the other hand, it is obvious that God doesn’t use many either. In fact, there are many who have had this type of training that fail to allow God to use them. I’m always amazed at how people are so quick to follow someone who regularly misinterprets Scripture. The Bible calls these people “false teachers.”
What is good about denominations is that most expect their ministers to be trained in rightly dividing the Word of God. In fact, the Wesleyan Church offers those who believe that God called them into ministry the opportunity to receive training through various types of education. What is more, Wesleyans also have supervised ministry in place so that ministers can be trained practically while being supervised. New ministers are held accountable for various things, and also whether or not they are able to rightly divide the Word.
I write this post not to sound arrogant. My goal is not establish some type of hierarchy. Neither am I putting down autonomous churches. I believe that today it is important that people can depend on the minister to have a good grasp for dividing God’s Word.
Here is the rule of thumb: if the person who is teaches God’s Word has no accountability, then when is no accountability a good thing? Furthermore, Jesus said that we would know them by their fruit (Matthew 7:15-20). This is a biblical truth that continues to be the best deterrent from being misled.
My advice is be aware of who you agree with, because you may be misled intentionally, or unintentionally. The person who teaches me the Word must be formally trained and be accountable. This person’s teaching must be in line with historical understanding, along with accepted orthodox theology.