The Missing Piece
This has been on my heart for well over 2 years, but Iâ€™ve been too much of a wimp to write about it because I didnâ€™t want to cause waves. Then I started thinking about Jesus and the way He lived His life on this issue and, well, letâ€™s just say, â€œSurfâ€™s Up!â€
Seriously, one would need to be deaf, dumb and blind to miss the fact that Jesus was, is, and always will be, controversial. But, for the deaf, dumb and blind reading this by brail, get someone to read you this verse, and this one, and a whole slew of others that refer to the fact that Jesusâ€™ ways were stumbling blocks for a lot of people!
In fact, at one time of another, all people!
Even those who come to embrace Him and His ways. Even as Christ followers, this life often feels like 2 steps forward and 1 step back. Hey, itâ€™s still a net gain of a step! But itâ€™s difficult not to place all our focus on the steps backwardsâ€”the temporary loss rather than the net gain. Itâ€™s a kinda similar to my tendency to focus on that one critical comment even amongst 100 good comments.
You do it too.
But then comes the blind spot (here’s where ‘reverence’ enters the picture). To compensate for being too pessimistic, a lot of us have learned to plow ahead in each and every situation like Sherman tanks at a Legos building convention. And no where have I seen this more in recent years than in the ministry. I donâ€™t know for sure what started it all, but it seems to be an over-reaction to pastors today just not getting the respect they used to. I mean, that clearly happened a few decades back, and we really havenâ€™t recovered from it. The Jim Bakers, Ted Haggards and Jimmy Swaggerts of life really took the rest of us out at the knees. So how have we responded?
IN YOUR FACE!
In Jesusâ€™ name of course.
â€œWhat does that mean, pastor Rob?â€
Well, let me begin by sharing the title of a book I just read that pretty much set me over the edge. Itâ€™s also important to state right up front that I am not referring to any one pastor here (people love to claim that I blasted so and so on my blog, but, thatâ€™s all in their head. If I mean to blast so and so I will tell you who so and so is to remove all doubt. However, for the most part, I try to refrain from naming names. Itâ€™s not helpful to anyone). The book was about the new â€œEmergentChurch.â€ Of course, if you know anything about the church today then you also know that the whole â€˜emergent thingâ€™ isnâ€™t really new. Itâ€™s just some old stuff repackaged.
Anyway, the book is called, â€œThe New Christians â€” Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier.â€ Itâ€™s an interesting read in places, but more importantly, it confirmed what I already suspected. The emergent church doesnâ€™t bring much new to the table as far as what it really means to be a Christ follower. Most of its leaders seem to be disgruntled children of the Seeker Sensitive era rather than the majority of spiritually hungry, unchurched masses trying everything from Buddhism to wicka. So, right off the bat Iâ€™m afraid they have the wrong target. However, the movement does bring a new attitude. And that attitude is the â€œIN YOUR FACE!â€ stuff I referred to above. Seriously, from cussing preachers to heretical statements made by Starbucks theologians with a degree in cappuccino, to an almost obsessive desire to be so inclusive of everyone that the notion of sin is pretty much thrown out the windowâ€”this stuff is hard to believe.
Now, you need to understand a couple things here because this is where it gets a little tricky. You see, what’s ’emerging’ would never be described (by the leaders) as abrasive or ‘in your face,’ no, they pride themselves on being loving and inclusive, however, they tend to act the opposite when they are challenged. And, another thing we all need to understand if you’re planning on staying with me for this series, is that the ‘reverence issue‘ is not unique to the ‘emergent church.’ Many of those reacting to the emergents act the same way. No, the absence of reverence is almost a problem across the board, across denominations and non-denominations, emergents and non-emergents–even traditionalists and more contemporary folks (although the more traditional churches seem to have a greater sense of how important this is to God than many of their more contemporary friends).
Cool? Well, that much said, let me hasten to add,
It’s still hard to believe any Christ Follower with even a year of foundational truth under his belt would even consider this stuff. Let alone embrace it.
Well, I will talk about this over the next few weeks, but Iâ€™ll lay it out in general now so you all can think about it and, hopefully comment. Your 2 cents is worth a whole lot more to me.
Here it is. Iâ€™m talking about a new generation of pastors who cuss, scream, self-promote, act like rock stars, travel with posses, demand respect, hurt others almost daily, insist on being served but refuse to serve, surround themselves with â€˜yesâ€™ men and women, operate by a different set of rules than they ask others to operate under, and routinely dismiss those who try to speak truth into their lives.
One of my favorite preachers on the west coast is obviously a gifted communicator, but he canâ€™t seem to go more than 2 sermons in a row without profanity. Where does a holy God fit in that? Is it impressing someone? Reaching someone? Is there a target group who will only find Jesus this way?
If so, Iâ€™m missing it.
Now, at a time when congress is investigating â€œmen and women of Godâ€ we need to be more above reproach than ever, but instead, we carry on like the religious version of Madonna as the world looks on in disgust.
Is this how Jesus did ministry?
Not even close. But these guys are popping up everywhere you look.
Seriously, there arenâ€™t just 1 or 2 of them.
There are 100â€™s! And itâ€™s growing everyday because up and coming pastors think they wonâ€™t be heard unless they find a newer, more edgy way to say things. Unfortunately, edgy and new seem to be merging with abrasive and irreverent.
But pastor! Some would say at times that describes you!
At times it has, and for that I am truly sorry. Itâ€™s easy to get caught up in this stuff. But let me caution all pendulum swingers out there not to sway too far one way or the other. God didnâ€™t call pastors to be Stepford ministers either. We are to be men of passion and conviction.
But never at the expense of reverence.
â€œBut God is love, Pastor Rob! Surely He loves our enthusiastic support. I really feel like He wants me to be edgy!â€
Youâ€™re right, God is love and I hope you are edgyâ€”better that than irrelevant for sure. Itâ€™s 2008, not 1958. But again I say to you.
Not at the expense of reverence.
Weâ€™re quick to remind everyone that â€œGod is Love,â€ but slow to bring up the truth that â€œGod is also Holy.â€
Well pastor, what about some of the worldly series you do and the crazy names of sermons and all? What about, â€œThe Matrix, American Idol, and , dare I say it, Friends with Benefits?!â€
What about them?
Iâ€™m not glorifying â€œFriends with Benefitsâ€ â€” Iâ€™m exposing it for the empty, sad and depressing life it actually delivers. We have to talk about this stuff, butâ€”
Not flippantly toward God or His Word.
You say, â€œsounds like youâ€™re just splitting hairs, Rob.â€
I’m not, but I understand that it might look that way at first.
That’s why this is just part 1!