Sometimes 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 sometimes get to me. It is then that I know that it is 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.
Sometimes, I find 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 sometimes wags 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 sometimes feel quite misunderstood.
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.
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 sometimes feel.
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.