Copyright 2005, Joshua Wood
I was recently told that being blunt excludes being effective.
A little context: I was calling on a self-proclaimed follower of Christ in a leadership position in the community of faith (that’s the church for our lesbian readers) to challenge other self-proclaimed believers to behave in accordance with the example and teachings of Jesus – the one they self-proclaim to follow.
In addition to being told that Jesus’ way wasn’t “practical” for this particular situation, I was told that I would never be successful in a church if I, in a fit of prophesy** challenged the members of the church to cut the crap and like Christians.
Challenging people to live like they claim doesn’t sound so unreasonable. So, what’s the problem?
Apparently, someone called by God to equip the saints ought not to step on any toes (except mine) in the process. It’s the cuddly, warm-fuzzy version of being a shepherd.
Of course, I’ve never met a shepherd that won’t tell you in an expletive-laden instant exactly how stupid sheep are.
I guess Jesus’ analogy about sheep isn’t “productive” either.
Instead we’ve got seeker-sensitive churches built around “models” of effectiveness and “productivity” that have an uncanny ability to disguise the gospel more effectively than Satan. Of course, he was so busy during the Dark Ages. Why wouldn’t we give him a few millennia off while the church takes care of the subtle misleading?
But in the scheme of things isn’t it about preserving the shoes?
We don’t want the church to offend people. We don’t want anyone “turned off” by the truth, so we lie about it. We water-down the life-altering demands of Christianity. We do cleverly subtle dramas and have non-offensive discussion groups; we tolerate misguided theology for fear of embarrassing someone with the truth. It’s sort of like outcome-based education for the spiritually dumb. (2 + 2 = 5 until you figure out that it means four. Your feelings are more important that what’s right or wrong.)
Hey, at least the buildings are full… of something.
But the seeker-sensitives are at least trying to reach out, right?
Those “congregational” churches have absolutely no excuse.
They just vote for the sake of voting for the sake of establishing power groups and ruling dynasties that will eventually have doors and window-latches dedicated to them.
“Please, don’t let your children play in the Dave and Eleanor Charleston Memorial Elevator. And as a side note, the hinge on the James L. M. Everest Memorial Fellowship Hall Door is loose, so don’t tug too hard.”
I was once in a parsonage of a Baptist church that had dedicated a recliner to a former member.
And for all the ridiculousness, I blame the pastors.
Too afraid to offend – especially the money people – too many pastors have watched their churches become stages for a feel-good theology that neither challenges nor equips. Members are allowed to come to church and leave feeling good that they have come to church.
I want to leave church passionate about addressing what God told me, through a passionate pastor, needs to happen in my life.
I couldn’t care less about angel wings.
And I’ve got no respect for this image of Christ as “Mr. Nice Guy.”
Jesus was not nice.
Yes, he was kind, merciful and compassionate. Oh, and lest I offend the hippies and women, he was loving.
But love isn’t nice either.
What’s this obsession with “nice.” Nice isn’t helpful. Nice isn’t instructive. Nice doesn’t change lives.
Jesus didn’t heal just to be nice. He healed to challenge. Jesus didn’t feed simply because people were hungry. He fed them to teach them. Imagine you were blind and instead of just being “nice” and helping you to see again, you were commanded to “sin no more.”
What a jerk! I just wanted to see. “Jesus ruined my life.” (Thanks to Mike Yaconelli for the phrase.)
Worse is the notion that ministers ought to be “practical” or “realistic” in their challenge to the church. We must adjust our expectations to take into account the “reality” of whichever situation we find ourselves in.
That reality – the one you want me to accept and mold my ministry around – it’s called sin. The reality I’m shooting for is Christ. I’ve said it before (and was called “myopic” by the same aforementioned leader in the church). It offends me that you think Christ only wants to stretch us to the limits of our sin. My savior wants to eliminate the sin in my life – not take it into account.
Jesus didn’t lower the bar to make people feel good about their condition. He set impossible goals that would demonstrate their utter helplessness – so they would understand their need for him.
And Jesus didn’t tolerate meaningless traditions simply because they were traditions. And he challenged anyone that thought he should. He valued ministry over religion.
And he didn’t call his followers to an easy faith.
We act like Jesus’ command was “Take up your marshmallow and follow me.” And we’re offended when our marshmallow feels a little more like a cross.
I believe we’re called to something far greater than our ability to smile all the time. I’ve got no use for a feel-good faith.
I’m willing to be as “nice” as Jesus was. And if that’s not “productive” enough for you, then I’ll let you discuss that with him.
** Prophecy - Not fore-telling, but reminding of and interpreting, not from a foreign language, but from the Bible into one’s life, what we’ve already been told.
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