Category Archives: Life

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…

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.

Why I’m over it and so should you

I should begin this post by saying I have never once watched an episode of Duck Dynasty nor do I intend to. Yes, I know what the show is about and know I do not need to prove it to you, and yes, I am still a Christ follower (just kidding, though for some of you I not kidding at all).  The news of Phil Robertson’s comments came across my screen and left just as quickly as it appeared but I did understand what was coming next and I just braced myself.  It is in these moments that I dread social media and its ability to give everyone a public voice (but this is a post for another day).  After some of the Facebook posts I saw over the last few days, I have decided to say my 2 cents and then let the debate rage.

I wish [Christians]would care this much about poverty & abuse & slavery & caring for the marginalized and oppressed then the kingdom of God would be so much better reflected in this dark crazy world.

I am completely for anyone’s Constitutional right to free speech, people can say what they want to say and believe what they want.  What makes me sad is that these moments represent Christians to the world.  The internet is powerful, Social Media is powerful because it is distilled.  The things we say and do reflect what we truly believe and from the looks of things we care more about:

  • Guns
  • Duck Dynasty
  • Gay Marriage
  • Conservative/ Republican/Libertarian “values”
  • the Constitution
  • the United States and so much more

Even though we make very concerted efforts at connecting these things to the Kingdom of God, though they can not be connected.  I have met so many amazing people who live out their faith in such beautiful, humble, and brave ways.  They are opening the doors to the kingdom of heaven for people instead of wasting time defending positions for millionaires who can take care of themselves or TV stations shooting themselves in the foot.  They are outraged about things that Jesus is orphans, poverty, oppression, slavery, abuse, advance of His Kingdom and His Gospel, people dying and going to a real hell and the question is are willing to do something about these real issues.  So many people commenting, writing letters, starting petitions, but can not articulate the last time they shared there faith.  You might be fighting for the wrong kingdom.  The amazing people I mentioned, they reflect the incarnation of Christ and that’s what we’re supposed to be celebrating this season.

This is the Advent season that affords us the reality that Christ came for us and in that truth we are supposed to be turning the world upside down, our lives are supposed to be centered around.  It is for this reason [and others] I am over this “debate” and so should you too.

Let me know what you think by liking the post, commenting below, and/or sharing it and thinks for listening.

Blurred lines

The problem with drawing lines in the sand is that with a breath of air they disappear.

I remember driving around Kansas City with some friends while in college when I was first encountered this question that had plagued me for the entirety of my Christian life, “what is the difference between Christian and secular music?”  You see on my radio I was listening to “secular” music and my friend was becoming continually and visibly agitated with it.  When he asked me to change it, the question was raised by another friend.  Although it seemed an initially obvious answer, I did not immediately know that answer.  Actually, the more I thought about it the more I realized I am not sure.  Was it that a Christian song had to mention Jesus or God?  If that is true then what do we do with the books of Esther and Song of Songs (which do not mention either)?

Unfortunately, this is a dilemma that is not unique to the sphere of music.  We live in a world where the divide between Secular and Sacred is constantly and adamantly being drawn by both Christians and non-Christians alike.  We are frequently labeling things “Christian” that I suppose we fear otherwise might be confused for something else.

  • Christian schools
  • Christian groups
  • Christian movies
  • Christian books
  • Christian bands, etc.

If our music, our schools, our groups, our books, our actions do not point those around us to Jesus, and serve to redeem a broken world, then are they not indeed unchristian?  Instead of creating clear bright line, like we would like, Christ blurred the lines between secular and sacred, seemingly implying that the division the ritualistic religion of the day had crested a false division.  If All things are God’s, all things are in fact sacred?  IS this going to o far?  Why? Furthermore, He was criticized for almost everything he did because he acted as if things such as the purity and impurity, pious and impious, Jew and Gentile, powerful and weak, rich and poor did not exist as the world saw them.  When Paul came on the scene he preached this as he proclaimed in Romans there is no division, but “all are one in Christ Jesus.”

Is it easier to know who is in or out?   Is it that we wanted to be able to sit at the table with drunkards tax collectors and sinners, as long as we knew who was who?  Honestly , I’m not really sure, so I put the question to you, is there a Sacred/ Secular divide?

Shamefully, my bravest post yet!

I have been out and about for the last few weeks and I asked for a friend of mine to write a post for me.  Unfortunately, because of the state of the church I have chosen not to reveal my guest name but  I will say that shamefully, this is my bravest post yet.  Please take a few minutes and read  some of the bravest and honest post I have read in a while and then lets please begin this conversation.  I look forward to your comments below.

My father sits across from me. He points at me, and his voice makes it clear that he can’t imagine the possibility, even as a joke. “You’d better not be one.”

He doesn’t know.

Two older men in church, whom I respect greatly, nod in solidarity. “I wouldn’t allow those people as members.”

They don’t know.

A dear, kind woman looks at me in shock. “You don’t believe in that, do you?”

She doesn’t know.

My own convention expresses its ‘continued opposition to and disappointment in’ the Boy Scouts for allowing boys like I used to be membership.

They also act with great care to declare their love in Christ for people like me… regardless of ‘perceived’ sexual orientation.

They don’t know, but now you do. I’m a firm follower of Christ, and I’m also a homosexual man. I’d like to talk about how I feel in the church, and why I believe the church should be doing better.

A few years ago, in response to an increasing number of homosexual teens committing suicide, the “It Gets Better” campaign was started. The message was a simple one: offering hope, in the form of promises that the pain those teens were going through was temporary, and that life got better. It was a tremendous success, and that phrase has become a byword for anyone facing bullying and rejection.

Contrast this to my experience with some parts of the Christian community. Shame seems to be the dialogue objective, focusing exclusively on that one facet of life. With the usual combination of selective Scriptural sniping and heated argumentation, the Christian seems to desire driving away the listener, rather than drawing them closer to Christ.

Christians have forgotten that sin can’t be shamed out of someone. They have confused changing behavior for changing hearts, and the disapprobation of the Church with the conviction of the Spirit.

The world offers pride and celebration, the church shame and rejection.

We have to change that. We have to be a place where anyone can show their imperfections and temptations.

It works. Despite the above conversations, there have been those, like my pastors, who have welcomed me in church, who honor the difficult choices I’m being asked to make, and who will be there when times are rough. Their love in Christ is based on who I am, not who I am perceived to be.

Let’s start there.

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