Patriotism and the Church

Having lived my life on two sides of the same [Christian] track I have seen a lot of different things, especially when it comes to views of this country.  Growing up in a historic African American context I heard much about the United States but not much around National holidays and an unintentional differentiation between.  Now that I am in a mostly Caucasian context in the Midwest there is a major ramping up towards National holidays and an unintended conflation of church and state.  A great example of this comes around every 4th of July.  I have to admit I become uncomfortable in both context for the lack of balance and [right] understanding of the day.  My wife and I have had these discussions for years and they basically come to the conclusion that the differences in our culture backgrounds let us view it differently.  I have wondered for years how to balance this tension and recently I read an article that helped me better understand my own inner angst.  In an article written by Trevin Wax 4 reasons “Why Younger Evangelicals May Feel Uneasy In A Patriotic Church Service and offers many ways forward.  Here are his reasons (which resonate so much with me):

1.      Extreme Experiences in the Past

Part of the unease may come from experiencing a sloppy melding of “church” and “nation” in the past…

2.      Decreasing Patriotism among Millennials

Part of the unease may be rooted in a decrease in patriotism…

3.      Shifting Cultural Currents

Younger Evangelicals have a different approach to political engagement, and speaking within the context of generational shifts.

“Older Southern Baptists are more likely to see the U.S. as Israel. Younger Southern Baptists are more likely to see the U.S. as Babylon.”

4.      Failure to Fully Appreciate Time and Place

Some younger evangelicals see any patriotic expression as a compromise with worldly power. Their approach is to take the flag out of the sanctuary, never sing a patriotic song, and never mention a patriotic holiday.

 

I know that I am not alone on this (or maybe I am) but I would love to know your thoughts on the church and patriotism.  Does Trevin get this wrong?  Is there something else we can do? How do we balance this out?

Comment below…

Leading from burden

One of my fears in life and ministry is that I don’t want to be bothered by God; I want things to come easy for me, for the dots to always connect and for the story to always have a happy ending.  Am I alone in this?

The problem I have is as I read the Scriptures the more I see that the visions that resulted in the biggest impact were the ones that were the most disturbing to the people who received them.  They pushed them WAY outside of their comfort zones, placed them in situations that were not favorable, asked much more than they could have imagined…

  • Moses was shown that a nation was enslaved and for 40 years he dedicated himself to God’s vision.
  • Nehemiah was broken that the walls had been torn down in Jerusalem and he established a plan and relentlessly followed through on all that God had put in his heart.
  • Esther was burdened that her people were going to be destroyed and she placed personal preference and comfort aside and risked her life in order to do what was right.
  • The prophets in the OT were crushed that people were living in rebellion against the voice of the Lord and were willing to be unpopular so that His truth could be proclaimed.
  • Paul was troubled that religion was trumping a relationship with God…and ultimately gave his life for the spreading of the message that Jesus, not religion, saves.

Great servant-leaders are the ones who are willing to allow God to break them, to bother them to make His vision so personal that they don’t just think about it, they live it and feel it.  We are not called to seek comfort, affirmation from others, convenience, popularity, personal preferences or safety.  I am beginning to praying that God will help me to continue to shepherd out of a burden the He places rather than boredom or obligation.  I’m called to be broken over the things that break HIS heart and I wonder how much I actually am.  What about you?

How’s Your Physical Health—REALLY?

A lot of pastors are fat, including ME.  The other day I stepped on the scales and was promptly mortified with round mass of man I have become.  This is sad because a pastor that refuses to address his weight is hypocritical.  I will often tell people to have “self control” when it comes to sex before marriage or have “self control” when it comes to smoking…but I can’t seem to practice “self control” in a buffet line.  In Baptist world, the one I am most familiar with, many of the pastors have a problem with people drinking alcohol but they would NEVER speak against someone eating too many biscuits.  There is even a inside joke of “Baptist Butts” to refer to the oversized nature of our posteriors in our churches.  Statistics prove that way more people die every year due to obesity or obesity related (and preventable disorders) than alcohol yet the SBC remains silent on the subject and it’s literally killing us.

Here’s the deal, I am not comfortable telling you how much I currently weight but please know it is embarrassing and reflects my lack of discipline in this area of my life and no matter how hard I pray the fat would not go away (trust me I’ve tried).  I have realized my weight was a spiritual issue and I have to do something about it so I am letting the world know that I’m doing the following and you have permission to keep me accountable:

  • I am beginning to exercise at least 30 minutes at least 6 days a week.  I don not have the income to purchase a gym membership but last year I found the time and space to run 3 times a week and I know how to add 3 more workouts, I just need to do it.
  • I am cutting out ALL soft drinks those things (which I don’t drink all that often) alone were responsible for hundreds of extra calories a day that I did not need.
  • I will quit ALL snacking after 6:00 at night.
  • I will begin eating healthier.  This will be hard as I am always out eating and hosting people but I have to learn that if I “eat clean” most of the time then I can eat whatever I want some of the time.  I love salads salads and veggies and I can cut way back on the carbohydrates.

Our bodies are supposed to be a temple fro the Holy Spirit to reside and I an verging on a mega church and  need to downsize. If you think I am being tough on this one it is because I am.  I know how hard it is to take control back of this area, I know how if feels to struggle with this and I know what it is like to overcome, I have done it before.

So how’s your physical health?  Would you want to join me on this journey?  Let me know your thoughts below

landing the plane

Almost 2 years ago I announced that our family would be leaving the great city of Kansas City and moving 2 hours east to Jefferson City.  Quickly my time hear is coming to a close as the residency has moved into the dreaded interviewing stage.  Recently, I was invited to step into a process with the Rock Church’s Soulard campus.  Overall, our time there was great and as we continue to pray through this process I wanted to share the sermon that I preached.  This is not the quality of video or audio but hopefully you are able to enjoy God’s word.  The title of this sermon is “Sign or Savior” and was based out of John 4:43 – 54.  I hope you enjoy this as much as I did proclaiming it.

Video streaming by Ustream

Train wreck

As I sat in my “Introduction to Preaching” at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Rev. Dr. Charles Briscoe asked a question I’ll never forget “Which one of you want to be a preacher?”  Honestly, it seemed innocent enough so I, along with everyone in the class, raised my hand.  Dr. Briscoe chose myself and 9 others and made these statements, “I want the 7 of you to raise your hands.”

He then said pointing at us, “you will fall in moral failure.”  “

Another one of you raise your hand, you, you will fail because of financial impropriety.”

At this point we are all nervous, “Next one, raise your hand”, he did slowly, “you will either burn out or give up on ministry.”

Then he turned to the class and dropped this bomb, “Statistically 1 out of 10 of you (that’s only 10% for those of you counting) will be in ministry after 20 years.”

We were in stunned silence until he said “Now, which one of you still want to be a preacher?”

Dr. Briscoe then began telling us about the many ministers that he had walked with as a part of a ministry called Pastor Serve

“PastorServe is both a crisis response team and a disaster prevention team for the Kingdom… We provide support, direction, coaching and consultation on navigating conflict and crisis – confidentially.  More importantly, we can help ministry leaders, their family or their Church proactively preempt the pain and suffering that often follows a crisis.”

That day has stuck with me and never so much as the day as I was called into an urgent meeting at the church I was a new staff member at.  When I walked upstairs, turned the corner and there he was.  Immediately, I knew what we were about to hear and I was crushed but I didn’t want to admit it.  My Pastor, who showed me the Gospel, baptized me, challenged me, helped identify my call to ministry, encouraged me and so much more, had admitted to being in an affair.  If you talk to my wife and me we refer to this part of our life as “the train wreck”.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the first time I heard this speech and I’m starting to realize that will not be my last.  My heart broke as I opened up twitter today and saw that Pastor Bob Coy had resigned because of moral failure.  My heart broke as I realized Calvary Chapel Ft. Lauderdale was just involved in her own train wreck.

Pastor Bob was another man instrumental in my entering the ministry.  I’ll never forget telling my wife that I was not worthy to stand in the pulpit and preach God’s word.  She gave me a cassette tape and I listened to his testimony and realized that if God could use him He would have no problem using me. Pastor Bob is truly gifted, and God has truly used him and by His grace He will still use him.  I can’t imagine the heartbreak and confusion that is happening in the lives of those who are close to him. I am particularly praying for him and his family and the church.  While it will be tough and painful for all parties involved, the church and the Coys will get through it, God will reign, people will grow, and lives will continue to be transformed.

In the wake of this crisis I wanted to offer some things (some of which I’ve  learned from other pastors) that will hopefully help you if you ever find yourself in the middle of a crisis like this:

  1. Stay away from media:  Do not search the Internet and look for all the details about Bob Coy, but to scour your own life and “consider ourselves lest we also be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1) We now know enough. It’s bad. We need to avoid our natural tendencies to want to know more about the situation than what the church and the Coy family chooses to release. And, hopefully that will be minimal. More information only stirs more false information and broadens the damage.
  2. Bob Coy (and your pastor) can be restored: It will depend on his brokenness, humility, willingness to be completely transparent to those who need to know, and his acceptance of the grace of God but he can be restored.  If God used Moses, David, Noah, Jacob and so many others as Biblical examples, He can again use what is sinful for eventual good.
  3. Every pastor (even yours) is susceptible:  Stand guard. If we ever believe we are above temptation we have opened the door for the enemy’s plan to be effective.  No one wakes up and thinks about destroying their personal life and ministry. It happens gradually over time. The time to build our systems of accountability, support and protection is always now.
  4. This does not negate Bob Coy’s teaching:  I remember the decision to take down my pastor’s sermons from the web and I remember hearing people wondering what it means from all the things they learned under him. Under both men there are thousands who have been positively shaped by the teaching of those men and even more so in the case of Bob Coy.  Remember this, if the person was teaching truth, God’s Spirit is the ultimate teacher and that doesn’t change with this failure.
  5. [We] Do not shoot the wounded:  I am not sure why we have to say his but In this time Christians tend to become self-righteous and look down those who sin differently than we or have been in caught in the same sin.“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” – 1 John 1:8-2:2
  6. Christ and His church will survive:  The gates of Hell shall not prevail. Jesus promised this.  When it comes to popular pastors and teachers, many of us put them on pedestals on which they should not to be. While leaders are held to a high standard (1 Timothy 3:1-7;Titus 1:7-9), they are not to be looked upon as idols or “stars”. We all have our favorite teachers, I’m as guilty as the next man, but we must look beyond any pastor and keep our eyes on Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith and leader of the church. No man went to the cross for your sin except for Jesus Christ.
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