Tuesday, September 09, 2014

PREACHING A NON-OFFENSIVE GOSPEL

I recently read a blog written to show that no one should be surprised when non-believers dislike us as believers. It went on to point out the danger some mega-church pastors face in the watering down of the teaching of the gospel and even some standards of behavior in the scriptures because of a desire that non-believers not be offended and thus closed to the gospel or refuse to come to their church services.

The comment section of that blog also spoke about Christians who often disagree with the teaching being done and the problems it can cause. I didn't comment on that blog. But if I had, here's what I would have wanted to say.

I believe that I, as a preacher or pastor, am NOT to compromise or water down the gospel at all. It is by its own nature offensive to the lost. Nor am I to alter out of any kind of fear what I see or believe is being said in any biblical passage when I speak or teach on that passage.

But, I AM to be careful to do two things. One is to remember that I am just as human as my audience and can err in my conclusions about revealed truth on occasion. Two is to remember is that whatever truth I think I'm delivering is to be delivered in a loving and gracious way, without shaming or condemning those who might differ with me. 

If some Christian does disagree with me about what I'm teaching and talks to me about it afterward, I would want to listen to that person and clarify if possible what I'm saying, all the while checking the validity my own conclusion. Then if that person still takes issue with what I believe I can and will need to learn to live with that difference. They're not my servant after all

Further, if some non-believer gets annoyed or even offended at a standard of behavior I hold to and am teaching, that is an issue between their conscience and God with any eternal ramifications out of my hands entirely. My responsibility is to love them where they are.  Only the Holy Spirit can convict or convince someone of truth. That convicting or even convincing job is not mine to do.

But, for me to be offended, much less shocked, by either a disagreeing Christian or an offended non-believer, or even surprised by either, is a little silly, if not a bit naive. And, for me to COMDEMN either of them is just wrong and for me to get ANGRY at either is beyond the pale.

Finally, whether someone chooses to agree or disagree, returns to another service of the fellowship I'm pastoring [remember that I am, in fact, no longer pastoring] or does not return, likes me or chooses to despise me, while not unimportant to be sure, is FAR DOWN on the list of concerns I might have when I stand to preach or teach the truth as I see it as the pastor of a fellowship.

It seems fairly simple to me. Am I missing something here?

Paul B.

Friday, August 29, 2014

THE TELLING OF A TALE WITH LABELS

Labels are telling. They can tell us the amount of cotton to lycra ratio in a garment. They tell us how long we can trust the milk to last. They tell us what symptoms to watch for when taking a medicine. All this is good. Thank God for labels.

When we use labels for people however, it tells a different story. It may tell us as much about the one using the label as it does about the one who is the  subject of the label. For me to call someone a liberal, politically or theologically, may reveal that I'm a bit [I wonder where "a bit" is located on the continuum?] to the right of where I perceive them to be in whatever subject is being addressed. If someone were to call me a fundamentalist [which is absurd by the way] it may show they are a bit to the left of wherever they think I am in reference to whatever area of theology we are talking about. It is a rare occasion when labels actually reflect reality about someone. 

It could be that labels are good or bad depending on the motivation of the label giver. For me to determine in my own mind that someone is a bigot/racist because of their hatred for a person of another ethnic, religious, or societal group, can be a healthy thing if my motivation is to help protect the one/ones judged or to avoid being like the one judging. That label gives me fair warning, as I said, in my own mind. 

But if I call someone who disagrees with me a trouble maker [a label] because I don't like being disagreed with or am fearful of rocking the boat of an appearance of unity [which isn't true unity at all] because of what I think someone on the outside looking might think, it is an unfortunate, if not unfair label I've assigned to another person. That's REALLY unhealthy.

To feel the need to label someone publicly, with condemnation, because of a position or thought they hold on some issue may mean that I have a problem no matter the subject being debated. That kind of public use of labels with a condemning attitude seems to me to be just cause to challenge any person's motivation.

As I said, labels are telling. It is what they actually tell us about ourselves that we have to eventually get to if we're going to be effective in building communication. 

It may be wise to limit labels to products entirely and just flat out eliminate public use of them in our communication and conversations.  


That's my thought about it anyway.

Paul B.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A SIMPLE WORD ON A SERIOUS SUBJECT.

Our culture does not like much of what we Christians hold to as revealed truth in scripture. [Even Christians disagree among themselves on the meaning of many passages and truths.] That's a given and it's OK.

But for PASTORS to be surprised, shocked or offended by this is a bit naive. To condemn our culture [or Christians with differing views of some things in scripture] for this is just flat out wrong. To get angry at them for it is beyond the pale. [Which often leads to the characterization in the picture on the left of this post.]

For pastors to try to convince others of their rightness or to try to bring conviction on others for their wrongness [according to our view] would be an attempt at playing the Holy Spirit. That's as big a no-no as could be committed by Kingdom kids. 

So what are pastors to do? I don't think any pastor should compromise or water down what they believe the Bible says in any passage they truly study and share. [Even for other Christians who might disagree.] 

But ALL pastors DO need to be careful of a couple of things when disagreeing with culture OR with other Christians. One is to remember that we're just as human as our audience and can err in our conclusions on occasion. and the other is to make sure whatever truth we think we're delivering from our viewpoint is done so in a loving and gracious way, NEVER lording it over others with an interpretation. [Per the finger-pointing picture to the left.]

As I said above and it bears repeating, to be shocked by either a disagreeing Christian or an offended non-believer, or even surprised by either, is a bit naive. But to CONDEMN either is just wrong and to get angry at EITHER is beyond the pale. [Again, see the picture.]

Then there is this thing of always wanting to get people to return to our services whether they are Christian or not. [ Seeker friendly] If anyone chooses to return to another service or not return, agrees with our interpretation or not, likes us or chooses to despise us is, while not unimportant to be sure, far down on the list of concerns we might have when we attempt to share or teach as a pastor what we believe to be the truth of any given passage with which we're dealing. 

[You can see my assumption is we really do buy into the two things to be remembered. 1__We're just as human as our audience and can err in our conclusions on occasion. 2__Whatever truth we think we're delivering from our viewpoint is to be done so in a loving and gracious way with no lording over others, This is because delivering truth is NEVER more of a priority than is loving people.]

Paul B.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

ON BEING A RELIGION-LESS CHRISTIAN ___PART 1

Religion is a much misunderstood word. It is even the cause of real debate on occasion. [Not to mention wars.] The New International Version of the scripture says it quite well when speaking about religion that could be considered real and valid in James 1:27 when it says this, "Religion___[A derivative of threskos; meaning a ceremonial observance__religion__ worshipping__with emphasis on the external, says Strong’s Word Studies]___that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

Across the years I've been asked many, many times, "What religion are you?" I've always answered that question this way, "I don't have a religion. In fact, I may be the most non-religious person you're likely to meet." The person asking the question usually looks at me as if I'm a little odd. [Correctly so, perhaps!] Were they to then go on and ask me, [they usually don't] "Aren’t you part of the Christian religion?" My answer would still be No!  The "Christian Religion" can be totally different than having a relationship with Jesus Christ."

All of this is meant in a very serious and respectful manner, I assure you. But it is a simple statement of truth as I see it, and my purpose is NOT to try to get anyone to see it my way at all. I have some very good friends, even blog friends, who would disagree with my assertion and view of this. You know what? That’s OK! Our fellowship is not based on a certain view of a certain topic. 

I hold to my view because of my understanding of what I see as a biblically based principle that says being a Christian is more than simply saying one believes in Christ. [The devils believe that way too, and tremble, scripture says.] Christians are people [This rules out there being Christian literature, songs, schools, nations, etc.] who share His life. Our privilege is to say with Paul, "For to me to live is Christ."

For the Christ followers seen in the New Testament, Christianity was not a sales pitch to get people to make a decision about belief. [Though no one doubts that the will and even a belief system is involved.] They had no desire to share a carefully worked-out gimmick that would manipulate an on-the-spot decision to "get somebody saved." For them, witnessing was a spontaneous enthusiasm for a way of life, that was inexplicable except for the One Who is Himself the Source of that life, that on occasion brought about questions asked by others which allowed for the truth of the gospel of Christ to be shared and, hopefully, heard and accepted.
Someone I admire and deeply appreciate said it this way....

"The first century Christians were people who knew Jesus in a unique way. They were in love with Him. They were filled with His Spirit. Because He was their very life, His fruit [The Fruit of the Spirit] was evident in the way they lived. Peter tells us that as we live out that fruit as we're doing good to others, it will attract their attention and they will want to know and ask, 'why are you living life the way you do?' It is then that we can speak up and tell them as explained in this verse, 'Always with the utmost courtesy, be ready to give an answer.'  (1 Pet. 3:14-15 The Message) When this happens, God has placed the opportunity in our laps to share the Good News of the Gospel gently and respectfully."

So, witnessing is more than a "sales pitch" to get people to change their belief or their behavior by deciding in the moment that they accept certain thoughts about Jesus and are willing to do certain things for Him.  [Be baptized, go to church, say a prayer, tithe, etc.]  Christianity is simply not a life filled with doing certain religious things. [Even Southern Baptist things.]

So you see, Christianity is not a religion at all.

It is a new life shared with the One Who is Himself... Life.

Next time in Part 11, I will show the biblical illustration of this.