The Right Stick

Out here in Seattle, you can’t swing a cat without running into someone disillusioned with Mars Hill Church and Mark Driscoll. Not just any stick is good for beating on Driscoll or MHC, so we ought to make distinctions between the good and the bad, the helpful and unhelpful. Sincere Christians should shun gossip–negative speech that helps no one–and strive to edify each other. Here are three unhelpful types of criticism followed by an attempt at a constructive one.

Malicious   This point is obvious, but someone who tries to tear down the church with openly sinful motives shouldn’t be listened to. I’m thinking of one blog post where the author offered to fist fight Mark at the end of it–not very subtle. Open bitterness, violence, slander, all the obvious signs of people who pick at emotional scabs should be pitied, not promoted. It doesn’t mean they don’t have anything right; they might. It means they’re not judicious, their motives are twisted, and the author of Hebrews warns us that roots of bitterness spring up and defile many (12:15). Many sympathetic readers of these attacks would never talk or write this way, but they are lured into giving ear to it. The enemy of your enemy is not your friend. He may well be an enemy of your Savior, though.

Self Pitying  These are not necessarily scurrilous but still extremely unhelpful, and when they continue they can define someone. How would you counsel someone who blogged about their unfaithful spouse for years after the end of the marriage? What if they justified doing it as a warning to others because they too might end up marrying this person or someone like them? There is a deep temptation in the human heart to classify ourselves as victims and to run this line in our heads over and over. It’s plausible because we are truly victims to some degree of the sins of others. But forgiving and letting go, knowing everyone will answer to their own Master, is freedom. Of course this doesn’t preclude appropriate and productive discussion of situations that occur. The question is whether or not it’s productive. Should you tell the whole world about this?

If you want a test whether your complaint is edifying or not, ask yourself, at the end of your conversation or blog post, are you rejoicing in the work of Christ? Or are you feeling like a victim and pitying yourself? The apostle Paul tells the story about his enemies preaching the gospel to injure him as an occasion of joy: “Only in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that a I rejoice” (Phil. 1:18). A true victim of malice, he was anything but victimized, and his whole recounting of it makes everyone thankful for him and God’s greater purpose in his persecution.

Inaccurate   For those further away from Driscoll, bitterness is less of a temptation, though envy might well be at play. Who is this upstart who began with no seminary education? But I don’t want to read hearts–critic caveat. Still, some conclusions like Carl Trueman’s–”The overall picture is one of disaster“–are simply false. The overall picture is lots of evangelism, complementarian integrity, a call to masculine leadership, aggressive church planting, lots of outstanding books published, and who knows what other good fruit will fall off the young, restless and reformed tree. Of course, all of these virtues are imperfect since the church is run by people, but they are virtues nonetheless. I’ve met a lot of people who have outgrown the info-tainment worship and other immaturities at MHC, but were either wonderfully converted or discipled or both there. If Paul is thankful for his enemies, how much more should we be thankful for these brothers and sisters and the good work that continues there?

Trueman also makes the point that “there is no real accountability involved”. He refers to the incident where the executive elders at MHC approved the strategy of a marketing firm they hired to spend $200,000 getting Driscoll’s marriage book up the NY Times’ bestseller list. This was a bonehead move but for different, and actually more substantial, reasons than Trueman states. It goes in the same category as the recent exposure of MHC’s policy of having their pastors sign non-compete agreements: worldliness.

The problem is not lack of accountability. The elders took responsibility for the marketing move saying it was “unwise.” It’s not like this was a shotgun decision by a rogue elder. This was something they decided to do, and such elders must steward the large resources they’re entrusted with. What they didn’t confess, but should have, is not that it was unwise, but that it was worldy, wanting to become great by other means than those Jesus allows. He says to become the greatest by becoming the servant of all, not by marketing tricks or by implementing policies that ensure numerical growth in competition with other local churches (!). These are policies that dozens of elders and maybe hundreds of deacons tolerate and de facto endorse, and we don’t need one-sided accounts of private meetings to see it. It’s public.

This worldliness doesn’t ruin all the other good things that are happening at the church for which, like Paul at Rome, we can and must be thankful for, cynics notwithstanding. If we see the situation rightly, this gratitude drives our hope and prayers for this part of His kingdom.

 

 

Jesus Loves Sinners

“A father looks not so much at the blemishes of his child as at his own nature in him; so Christ finds matter of love from that which is his own in us. He sees his own nature in us: we are diseased, but yet his members. Who ever neglected his own members because they were sick or weak? None ever hated his own flesh. Can the head forget the members? Can Christ forget himself? We are his fulness, as he is ours. He was love itself clothed with man’s nature, which he united so near to himself, that he might communicate his goodness the more freely to us. And he took not our nature when it was at its best, but when it was abased, with all the natural and common infirmities it was subject to.”   –Richard Sibbes, A Bruised Reed

Faux Tolerance & What It Means for You

It’s time for everyone to get out their copy of 1984 and read it. That CEO Brendan Eich treated everyone at Mozilla equally and still was forced out in the name of tolerance because he gave $1000 to a Prop 8 Campaign six years ago is official Newspeak, where a thoughtcrime is defined as the “act of holding unspoken beliefs or doubts that oppose or question the ruling party.” The fact that at that time Eich simply agreed with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton who said “Marriage has a historic, religious and moral context that goes back to the beginning of time. And I think a marriage has always been between a man and a woman”,  is simply material for the memory hole. Clinton only came out last year in favor of homo marriage with no apologies for her past crimes against human rights.

It’s not accurate to identify the ruling party as homosexuals because they aren’t ruling and they are only 2-3% of the population. The president of the old homosexual movement was Andrew Sullivan who said the firing of Eich disgusts him as it should anyone who wants a tolerant and diverse society. Sullivan is what used to be known as a liberal, that is, someone who can actually stomach the views of those who disagree with them without calling for their careers and heads. He also continues to admirably stand against the defenders of Gaystapo coercion. 

Some will think that this heresy hunting is limited to the upper echelons, CEOs and lawmakers and such, but it’s not. People in the grip of this myopia are willing to go after florists and photographers, and most recently a local grocer in Sellwood, OR–what were they thinking trying to move into an “open-minded” neighborhood with all that dissent and diverse thought? Irony is lost on these people.

Mainstream news networks didn’t mention the Eich story last week, and this tell us the shaming of faux tolerance is working. Cowards fear shame and will ignore injustice, shouting down voices who stand for it, even when the voice in Andrew Sullivan’s. Anyone who believes in freedom of speech, much less freedom of religion, has no option but speak up when they have opportunity. They must speak first to their own children and not refrain due to the idea that “this is just politics.” No, this is the freedom for your neighbor to own or work at a grocery store while holding the opinion that sodomy isn’t a good idea. This is the smallest example of live and let live. So first, you must speak . Second, you should know what’s coming when you do, when you profess to agree with Hillary in early 2013. You’ll be labeled by Newspeak with all of your hate speech and unevolved opinion. But that’s okay. The opinions of those quashing diversity in the name of it are hilarious and need to be laughed at and pitied, but not taken seriously as every insecure bully demands.

 

He is easy to please

“Every human activity, except sin, can be done for God’s pleasure if you do it with an attitude of praise. You can wash dishes, repair a machine, sell a product, write a computer program, grow a crop, and raise a family for the glory of God.” –Rick Warren

The Called Out

As the church we must always remember that we are God’s summoned people. We are the ekklesia, the called out ones, drawn to the Father through the Son by the Spirit in relationship. As one big family we are brought together each week on the Lord’s Day to be renewed and blessed.

What we do in gathered worship is not like the Kiwanas or any voluntary association where we decided to have a meeting and therefore could decide to cancel it or not show up because we found something better to do. This doesn’t mean God calls us to meet with him against our will; if we are loving him, this becomes refreshing and our greatest joy. This is a weekly day of rest, rejoicing, fellowship, and covenant renewal with our creator and redeemer.

But we want to be disciples in worship, and remember that everything we do here is about God, and not us. We’re not the customer, nor are the unchurched. Everyone is welcomed and in fact also called by God to taste and see that he gracious—but God is the customer. He is the one we are trying to please.    Continue reading

Enflesh the Bones

“The true way to get rid of the boniness of your sermon is not by leaving out the skeleton but by clothing it with flesh. True liberty in writing comes by law, and the more thoroughly the outlines of your work are laid out, the more freely your sermon will flow, like an unwasted stream between its well-built banks.” -Phillips Brooks

 

Keeping the Fast

Happy, or, maybe sad, Ash Wednesday! Here is a good article over at Mere Orthodoxy on why you should keep eating sausages during Lent. Maybe you should buy an extra sausage since they’re always better with a friend. And here’s another article over there consisting mainly of quotes from wise people who reject common pitfalls that come with observing Lent.

I have no doubt that Lent can be observed wisely and helpfully by the kind of people who recognize the wisdom and cautions in the above articles. Jesus went to Jerusalem to conquer death, so this is cause for celebration and a wonderful reminder to take up our crosses. This is why Lent provokes discussion, because it makes us ask the question: What does it mean to take up our crosses? That is a huge question, but here I only want to briefly address the topic of fasting which is central to the way Lent is typically observed. Continue reading