Monday, May 10, 2021

Five Coming Church Splits by Carey Nieuwhof

 

Post pandemic, the church in the United States will not be the same. Here are some coming church splits that are likely to take place - and are already taking place. Your church will not be exempt!

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

The most important trait of a church leader


In the years that I have worked with church leaders I have come to the conclusion that the single most important prerequisite for serving in leadership is a deep level of humility. The immediate pushback on this is that clearly, church leadership requires someone who knows and loves Jesus. That is true. But here is something that is also true. There are many leaders who claim to know and love Jesus but who are not humble and they often destroy the work of a healthy board. All other factors aside, without humility one cannot lead well.

Consider:

Humility is the key to leading on behalf of Jesus, the Shepherd of the Church. Church leaders are under shepherds and their role is to lead the congregation on behalf of Jesus. He sets the agenda for the church, not us. Many church leaders have agendas for the church. It takes a humble, Christ centered leader to lead a people to where God wants them to go. 

Humility is the key to ensuring that a church is a "Church called TOV" to use the title of a recent book. TOV is the Greek word for goodness and too many churches are not places of goodness (amazingly enough). It is often the lack of humility among senior leaders and board members that prevent TOV from being the prevailing culture because other personal agendas get in the way of God's agenda. 

Humility is the key to treating others with dignity, respect, kindness, and to empower others to flourish in their God given lane with their God given gifts. Proud leaders control others. Humble leaders empower others. The need of a leader to get their way, control those around them and "use" people for their own purposes destroys a TOV culture.

Humility is the key to creating an open learning culture. Proud leaders don't listen to others. They listen primarily to themselves or the yes people they surround themselves with. It takes humility to create a culture of robust dialogue - where any issue can be put on the table with the exception of a hidden agenda or a personal attack. 

Humility is the key to making decisions because the best decision making is not by one person alone but by a group of called, gifted leaders. Which means that there are times that I must submit my preferences to the decision of others. That takes humility and a theology of the giftedness of the group.

Humility is the key to personal spiritual growth and ongoing transformation. Proud people think they have it all together while humble leaders are very aware of their need for ongoing growth and transformation. And, they are willing to go there because they are not stubbornly holding on to their pride. There is no true personal growth without a spirit of humility.

None of this should surprise us as Paul points out in Philippians 2 that humility is a core feature of Jesus himself. In fact, in Matthew 11:29, Jesus says, "I am gentle and humble in heart." How many of us can say that about ourselves? How many church leaders and pastors can claim the same? Without humility we cannot be like Jesus or lead like Jesus.



Tuesday, May 4, 2021

What should you know about a church if you are considering a pastoral or staff position?

I had an interesting call today from an old friend. He is interviewing for an associate pastoral position (in this case a campus pastor) and his question was a good one. How do I determine the health of the church since what is seen on the outside is often not what one finds on the inside. This last truth can become a source of real pain when one realizes the level of dysfunction that exists - in many churches.

The first thing I suggested is that he read A Church Called TOV which is the best book on what dysfunctional and healthy churches look like. In fact, if I were a potential candidate I would be interested in knowing whether the senior leader and the board had read this book, and if so, what their observations or learnings were.

In general, I would want to scope out the following information.

  • What is the health of the board? Congregations and staff cultures rarely rise above the health of the church board. How would they describe their board health? Is the board unified and healthy in their relationships? Does the board have a written board covenant that delineates how they do their work and that hold board members accountable?
  • If you are applying for a senior pastoral position, what is the relationship of the board to their senior leader? Is it a permission granting leadership paradigm or a permission withholding paradigm? Is the senior leader a colleague on the board or simply an employee of the board? Are there any powerbrokers on the board who have the power to determine what does or does not happen? 
  • What is the vision/preferred future of the ministry? What you want to learn here is whether the senior pastor and board have clarified what it is that they are chasing after. Or, if they are simply doing accidental ministry. If they have a picture of the preferred future, what is their plan for getting there and how would they evaluate their progress?
  • How does the board, staff and congregation deal with conflict? Do they bury it or deal with it and if so how? Do they have healthy conflict resolution practices? Are there any elephants in the room, areas of conflict that exist but are not being addressed?
  • What is the health of the staff. Often you need to talk to other staff people about this. I would want to know how the senior leader treats staff, whether he/she empowers or controls and whether there is an open and candid culture where any issue can be put on the table with the exception of hidden agendas or personal attacks. I would ask other staff if there are issues that one cannot put on the table. They will know. I would want to know from other staff the positive side of the culture and the negative side. I ask want permission to speak with a number of staff to understand the culture from their perspective. If a senior leader is unwilling to give you that permission it is a sign that not all is well.
  • Regarding staff culture, is there significant alignment of staff around common values, ministry direction and priorities? Or, do individual leaders simply do what is right in their own eyes? 
  • I would want to understand the vision of the leaders for disciplemaking, staff culture, local and world outreach, diversity, generosity, community impact and those things that I believe are important for a church to pursue. 
  • What is the history of the church? What have the high points been and the low points? Where are they in the life cycle of an organization today? On the decline, plateaued or moving forward?
  • What is the leadership style of the senior leader? Do they empower their staff to do their work or do they micromanage, change and control what staff does? Are they secure in themselves, generous in giving opportunity away and treating staff with dignity, respect and appreciation? Or, are they ego driven, insecure and threatened by other strong and competent individuals.
When you ask questions like this you quickly determine the level of clarity that the church has regarding its priorities, direction and alignment. Speaking with multiple individuals allows you to determine how reality compares to stated answers. When looking for a pastoral job it is way too easy to overlook issues that will impact you down the line. You want to go into the role with your eyes open. You may choose to take the role in spite of issues you discover but at least you are doing so with a healthy level of clarity.



Saturday, May 1, 2021

Minister to India today through prayer

 








God's heart is deeply grieved today as He watches the pain and suffering in India due to Covid. Imagine having a husband, wife or relative who is desperately sick and there are no hospital beds - anywhere! Imagine watching your loved one struggle to breath and there is no oxygen to be had! Imagine that there is nothing you can do as you watch your loved one die with no hope, no medicine, no oxygen, no pain relief. 

CNN reported the following:

"India on Saturday reported 401,993 new coronavirus cases for the previous 24 hours -- the first time the country has surpassed 400,000 cases in a single day.

That brings the country's total Covid-19 caseload to more than 19 million since the pandemic began, and marks the 10th consecutive day of more than 300,000 daily cases, according to a CNN tally of figures from the Indian Ministry of Health. It's the first time any country has recorded more than 400,000 cases in a single day.

India also reported another 3,523 related deaths, taking its total death toll to 211,853. It is the fourth day in a row the daily number of deaths has exceeded 3,000. 

As of Friday evening local time, 154,854,096 vaccine doses had been administered. A total of 27,889,889 people had received their second doses -- equal to 2.1% of India’s population of 1.3 billion people, according to a health ministry news release.

India launched its vaccination drive on January 16, and expanded the program to everyone above the age of 18 on Saturday."

Pray for India because God's heart is with the hurting. And our hearts should be like Jesus. Pray for the church there that is struggling to meet its own needs and at the same time minister to people around them who have no hope. Pray that in this time of hopelessness that many would find hope in Jesus. 

But above all, pray. As we care about those things that God's heart cares about, we become more like Him. Perhaps as you pray, God will show you ways that you can make a difference. If not, prayer is still the main thing.

The pictures above were taken by me as I travelled in India many times. A wonderful, beautiful people with a vibrant church that lives in many places with great persecution.



Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Thanking God for the ministry of John Stott

 


It would have been John R.W. Stott's 100th birthday yesterday. He was a man who impacted by own life significantly. I met him in 1971 when he did a "mission" at the Anglican Church in Hong Kong where I lived. I was 15 years old at the time. Before and after those services he would chat with those who were present and I will always remember his warm smile, rosy cheeks, warm demeanor as well as the cogent and clear way he presented the gospel.

Those messages inspired me to read the Scriptures from cover to cover with I did in a two week span not long after and in many ways he taught me by example how to communicate the text. 

His books over the years fed my soul and caused me to think deeper. But his character was what rubbed off. He was one of the most humble theologians we have had. Perhaps not correct on all counts but which theologian is? He cared deeply about the gospel and about people and had a pastoral heart. It was not simply truth but it was truth with love and grace.

His books continue to challenge me. And his heart. And his humility.

Here is an excellent article from Christianity Today on John Stott.

John Stott Would Want Us to Stop, Study, and Struggle

Monday, April 26, 2021

The sin of slander, an evangelical preoccupation

 


Slander is to speak something untrue of another individual and it is a common way for believers to hurt those who they don't agree with. Recently I was intrigued by an interview with a well known evangelical leader, Francis Chan, who talked about the things that he had heard over the years about other Christian leaders, repeated those things to others and now has found many of them to be untrue.

This is what Jesus says about slander. "For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander." Matthew 15:19. To slander is to lie, besmirch the reputation of another. If, as Jesus says, we will held accountable for every word we speak, many of us will be sorry for words we have said about people we don't know based on information we have heard second and third hand. 

Think of gossip we hear and repeat. Think of innuendos we drop about other people. Think about assumptions we make about people based on things we have heard or assume but do not personally know. When you think about it, each of us have been guilty of slander! It is so easy to assume that which we don't know, pass on that which we have heard but have no personal knowledge of and make statements to others which have no basis in fact. And it destroys the reputation of others.

If you want examples of this, look no further than social media, or think about information you are told by friends or acquaintances about others. Think about those things we tell others about people we don't like. Things meant to hurt their reputation. Things meant to pull you into their (or our) unhappy or bitter orbit. We love to hurt those we don't like and we do so with sharing information meant to hurt their reputation. If you have been on the receiving end you know how painful it is. 

What is the Jesus way? Consider these words from Paul in Ephesians 4:29-32. "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."

TOV is the Greek word for goodness. A church called TOV is making the rounds in evangelical circles and is long overdue. One of the practices of a TOV congregation is that we don't slander others, speak the truth and those things that build others up. Think of the pain that would be avoided and the culture that would be developed if we simply lived by the words of Paul. Or Jesus.

A person of goodness does not slander to speak to issues they don't know of. They don't repeat information that they are not clear on. They build others up and resist tearing them down.





Friday, April 23, 2021

A willingness to reconcile is a sign of Christ in us


I have written recently on the propensity of people to cancel out those they disagree with, the lack of kindness and love among church board members and evangelicals at large. It is as if the church has lost the ability or desire to be peacemakers in the midst of conflict. To be willing to take on the humility of Jesus who "made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross" (Philippians 2:7-8). All for our benefit

How often we are unwilling today to initiate a conversation to say "I am sorry." How often we are unwilling to enter into a conversation to resolve conflict and differences. We would rather walk away - and in that act - we carry our animus and bitterness or sense of offense with us. How often we are unwilling to take the first step toward reconciliation. Instead we insist that the other party do so. How often we refuse to forgive one another and instead carry our offenses with us.

In doing so we drop friendships, leave churches, leave conflict unresolved, carry a burden Jesus never intended us to carry and deny the power of God who came to reconcile us to Him and then to one another. In fact we are told that we are ministers of reconciliation just as Jesus was with us (2 Corinthians 5:11-21). And, He took the first step when we didn't deserve it. Otherwise there would have been no reconciliation with Him. "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).

Yet, too often we refuse to reconcile and hang on to our pride. I have done it and you have done it and it is a denial of the One who chose to forgive us when we didn't deserve it. So we cancel one another, split congregations, leave churches, refuse to talk to those we have differences with (unless they repent) and in the process deny that Jesus is Lord in our own lives. 

I am sad for the church today with its conflict and strife. I am sad for my heart when I contribute to the same. In fact, in my Easter journal entry I wrote down these commitments regarding how I want to treat fellow believers:

In my relationships with other believers,

  • My goal is to understand and seek peace
  • To refrain from judging when it is not necessary or productive
  • To think the best rather than the worst
  • To forgive freely even when I am hurt
  • To ask forgiveness when I have hurt others
  • To pray God's blessing on those I would rather cancel
  • To ask God to change me before I ask Him to change others
  • To be as gentle, patient and kind with those who irritate me as God is with me
  • To seek to apply the Fruit of the Spirit with those who I don't like as well as those I do like
  • To think about my relationships in light of eternity
  • To give up my "rights" to my attitudes, judgements, harsh words, gossip, hard feelings and desires for retribution in pace of the attitudes of Jesus
In several conversations over these issues, people have said to me. "I am not ready to do that," or "that is too hard." Or, "I don't want to do that and don't intend to." There have been times when I have said that as well so I do not and cannot cast stones. 

But whenever we choose the route that is easiest rather than the route that Jesus calls us to and which reflects His character toward us we choose a life of bondage over freedom.

Here is the thing. The evil one comes to steal, kill and destroy - and that includes our friendships, relationships, the unity in the church and our own well being. The good shepherd on the other hand comes to bring life and life abundant (John 10:10). This includes reconciliation of relationships, something that is often difficult without the help of the Holy Spirit. 

Years ago, I held on to an offense that I felt justified about. Another brother in Christ said to me, "you are the more mature one here, go and make it right." It made me angry because I was the one who was wronged. But he was right and I eventually did so. Jesus said, Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall see God." Why? Because that is the nature of who God is and He calls us to the ministry of reconciliation.

Who is it that we need to be reconciled with today? Are we willing to act and encounter His freedom in our lives, or will we refuse and live with a burden of our own making? It is always our choice.

But it is a choice! Either way it is a choice!




When Martyn Lloyd-Jones confronted a pastor who loved controversy and denunciation - from the Gospel Coalition

 


We live in a day when Christians are quick to denounce other believers. Here is a remarkable story of a pillar of the faith who challenged someone who loved controversy and denunciation.  It is from the Gospel Coalition.

When Martyn Lloyd-Jones Confronted a Pastor Who Loved Controversy and Denunciation




Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Twelve Traits of a Humble Leader

 


There is much discussion about humility in leadership. It's a good discussion for all leaders to have. However, it is the behaviors of humble leaders that are most important. Humility in leadership is seen in how a leader acts in very tangible ways. Here are some of the most important traits of a humble leader.

Humble leaders:

  • Listen far more than they speak. They genuinely want to know what others think and they listen carefully.
  • Seek a diversity of opinions rather than simply listening to those who agree with them. They want to know as much as they can and listen to a wide variety of advice.
  • Ask many and good questions. They engage in dialogue and conversation rather than telling people what they think.
  • Serve those who work for them rather than expecting others to serve them. Like Jesus they come to be served rather than to be served.
  • Are non-defensive when challenged. 
  • Engage in robust dialogue where any issue can be put on the table with the exception of a personal attack or hidden agenda.
  • Do not ask staff to do what they are unwilling to do themselves.
  • Are deeply introspective and understand their strengths, weaknesses and vulnerabilities.
  • Live with an attitude that they have nothing to prove, nothing to lose and nothing to hide.
  • Are appropriately transparent regarding their areas of growth and personal challenges.
  • Are not easily angered and keep their emotions in check. 
  • Treat all people with respect, dignity and kindness.
It is one thing to believe that we are humble. It is another to actually live with the traits of humility. 


Friday, April 16, 2021

Refreshing your church's governance and leadership paradigm

 


Few things impact the life of your church more, but are thought about less than that of your governance and leadership paradigm.

Recently I was in a board conversation where a board member said, "this is the first time in decades that we have evaluated ourselves or how we do our work as a board." Think about that. All major ministry decisions go though a leadership board in most churches, but we rarely pay attention to how well we do the governance/leadership role.

Why do we regularly update our ministry strategies to meet the needs of a new day but rarely update our governance/leadership strategies to meet the needs of a new day?

Jesus designed the church to be the most effective, flexible, and missional organism on the face of the earth. Yet, our leadership systems are often clunky and difficult to negotiate. Remember this:

  • In many cases our leadership systems come from many years in the past when the church was founded. A different day with different needs and a different understanding of leadership paradigms. 
  • Governance/leadership systems were put in when the church was small. If your church is over 150 on a Sunday it is no longer a family church.
  • Nearly every growing church has reexamined their leadership/governance systems to ensure that it serves them well today. What got you to here, got you to here but it won't get you to there.
  • Boards and church leaders should examine their systems annually, yet many have not done so in a decade if ever.
  • Church leaders often have frustrations about their leadership paradigms that could be eliminated if so desired.
  • All this matters because the return on our ministry investment is eternal. The stakes matter and our ability to remain effective, flexible and missional is always at stake.
If you have not examined how you do leadership/governance in your congregation in the past five years, I would encourage you to do so. My book, High Impact Church Boards can help you understand how to evaluate and organize for maximum spiritual impact. 

In addition, I am available to meet with church boards and dialogue with them on the challenges they face and possible solutions. With zoom technology, this can be done easily at low cost to you. If interested, you may contact me at tjaddington@gmail.com.

If your leadership/governance system needs to be refreshed. Do so for the sake of the impact that God desires your congregation to have. 


Wednesday, April 14, 2021

When Christians become the barrier to others hearing the Gospel

 


We live in the age of the "nones" and the "dones." The nones are those who claim no religious affiliation and the dones are those who are fed up and done with the church. Believers rightly decry the secularization of society and the shrinking church but they don't understand that they have directly contributed to both. 

In the early days of the church as recorded in Acts 4:32-35, we see a remarkable picture of healthy relationships among believers. "All the believers were of one heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they  had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put them at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need."

It was the quality of relationships among believers in the early church that attracted the attention of unbelievers. Today, it is the lack of quality in relationships among believers that repel people from the church. As such, believers have become one of the major barriers to people responding the the Gospel. 

This is nowhere more evident than in the public space of social media where as a group, those who call themselves believers display a lack of any Christian love or Fruit of the Spirit in their responses to others they disagree with. Many are despicable in their attitude and content, even demonizing those they disagree with. The interesting thing is that almost no one calls out the disparity between what we profess to believe and how we relate and act. 

In local congregations, it is often no different. After our recent Easter service in the church I serve, a parishioner sent in a comment to staff with profanity around a small issue they didn't like. I responded by telling him that I was very sorry that our staff needed to see his words and that they were not the words of Jesus. If you have been to those hallmarks of the American church, congregational meetings, you know how harsh, unkind and selfish many of the remarks are. And the thing is, all this vile stuff comes from the heart, according to Jesus.  What is inside us will inevitable come out of us. So it begs the question of how much of Jesus is in our hearts!

Why would an unbeliever want to join a group (evangelicals) that is often angry, lacks basic relational decency, is candidly selfish (what's in it for me), participates regularly in gossip, evaluates you by your politics and lacks the love that is supposed to characterize believers who have the Holy Spirit living within them? Many of the dones would say, "I love Jesus but I don't like a lot of Christians. They are mean and churches can be mean." No fa├žade of welcome teams or "great worship" can hide the underlying meanness of many congregations.

As one who has worked with hundreds of church boards I can attest to the same kinds of behaviors at the board level, and these are people who represent Jesus as leaders of the church: Ouch! In many cases, if parishioners knew what happened within the confines of the board room, they too would become dones. 

If this sounds pessimistic, recent studies show that many in our country just don't like Christians. They don't find Christians to be kind and accepting but harsh, unkind and judgmental.  In other words, they don't see Christians as reflecting Jesus. We can be like kids throwing sand in one another's faces in the sandbox and then inviting the kids outside the sandbox to join us. Why would they do that?

All of this points to a failure of discipleship. How we treat one another matters a lot. When we violate not only basic standards of decency in our words and attitudes to say nothing of the much high level we are called to in displaying the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5), we push people away from Christ and we fail to see that our own lives are not reflective of the teaching of Scripture, the example of Christ and the needed transformation of our own minds. As a result, rather than attracting others to our loving family as in Acts 4, we give people every reason not to join our families because they are often not loving at all.

One of the most powerful evangelism strategies any church can enter into is that of developing a church and relational culture that looks like Jesus and reflects His character. Is that easy? No. Culture change is always difficult. Can it be done? Yes, but it involves some hard teaching and a willingness to declare some behaviors illegal in the church because they are not pleasing to God. If we look like Jesus we will attract those who need His love and grace. If we look like something else we won't.

For each of us, it starts with us. Let's evaluate our own relational interactions. Our own words and attitudes and compare them to what we see in Jesus in the Gospels. If we want others to see Jesus in us, we need to become like Jesus.

My fear is that a large segment of the evangelical world today have become Pharisees rather than disciples of Jesus. And the Pharisees didn't attract others but alienated them. Let's develop congregations where the goodness of God is evident. People will respond. 


Monday, April 12, 2021

If you want to know the health or dishealth of your church board, pay attention to the quality of relationships

 


One of the key indicators of a board health the quality of relationships between board members. As you read this list of poor interpersonal relationships, ask yourself if any of them apply to your church board. If yes, it is imperative that you find a way to resolve the issues because these never just stay on the board but spill out onto the congregation as a whole. Ask me, I have worked with many such situations.

  • Poor interpersonal relationships between members (whether a few or many)
  • Factions on a board that are unable to come to consensus
  • Unresolved conflict and an inability to resolve that conflict because board members will not submit to one another
  • The pastor is seen as an employee of the board rather than as a full member of the board. When a pastor is treated like an employee you have set yourself up for factions, us them and poor relationships
  • The inability to deal with certain subjects because one or more board members block the discussion
  • There is a powerbroker on the board who uses their influence to get their way and refuses to be accountable to the board as a whole
  • A significant amount of directional clarity. It is hard to get clarity when any of the above behaviors are present
  • There are personal agendas or hidden agendas that one can sense but are not named
  • A lack of concern for one another
  • The Fruit of the Spirit is not evident in relationships and discussions
  • Board members make up their own rules and operate independently even though that violates basic board practices
  • You cannot hold a board member who is causing issues on the board because either the board will not hold them accountable or they refuse to be accountable 

Recently, in a discussion with a friend about issues like this on a board they serve on, I said, "your church is at significant risk and if the board cannot get their act together I would resign rather than be complicit in a leadership situation that your board cannot or will not deal with.

What is interesting to me is that in many churches where such behavior resides at the board level, they insist that the same behavior cannot be resident in the congregation as a whole and even use church discipline to enforce their way. How can a board that cannot police itself have the conviction that they can enforce right conduct in a congregation? What right does a board have to tell a congregant to humbly submit to their will when the board cannot submit to the will of the board? It is hypocrisy, and it is sinful and it will hurt the very people that they are charged with protecting.

Sometimes the congregation needs to be protected from the very board that is charged with guiding them.

These are spiritual issues and they demand reformation. There is no Church called TOV when these behaviors are present. TOV or goodness, starts with the leaders of a church. Many people and many congregations have been hurt when the board itself becomes the largest violator of TOV or goodness. Unfortunately it is not a rare occurrence. 

Here is an interesting question to consider. If the average parishioner knew what transpired in your board room, would they be motivated to stay or leave? To love Jesus more or less? To be confident in the leadership or less? 

You can fool a congregation for a time, but not forever. I plead with any who are in this situation to get help for your board.


I am available to meet with church boards and dialogue with them on the challenges they face and possible solutions. With zoom technology, this can be done easily at low cost to you. If interested, you may contact me at tjaddington@gmail.com.




Monday, April 5, 2021

Redefining Christian relationships in a cancel culture world

 


I have been mulling in recent months on the fragile nature of relationships among Christians. And the rise of the Cancel Culture has had its impact among believers as well. It is very easy for what one assumed was a long, fruitful and close relationship to be dissolved overnight and for that relationship to be cancelled, sometimes permanently.

Now, relational wreckage is not new. Paul and Barnabas parted company over John Mark with deep, raw emotion on both sides. Paul had to ask the church to help two woman friends of his reconcile. In the first case we know that reconciliation took place years later. We are not sure of what happened with the two women. Then there was the time when Paul publicly rebuked Peter which I am sure caused significant relational issues. And they were both Apostles. 

My conclusion is that even though we live with the Holy Spirit within us, seek to exhibit the Fruit of the Spirit, are called to live in unity and peace with one another (to the extent that we can), are to forgive one another as God in Christ forgave us, that there are times when relationships end up in the ditch anyway this side of heaven. This is a tribute to our sinful and broken condition. There are also times when reconciliation takes place between brothers or sisters who have been deeply at odds and that is a tribute to the power of the Holy Spirit.  These two conditions, our sinful and broken condition are always at war with what the Holy Spirit wants to do in our lives. 

How odd it will be that in heaven, those who were our worst enemy in this life but who know Jesus, will be someone with whom we will have perfect harmony with. And yes, even like and love, without any hint of whatever it was that separated us here. In fact, in heaven we will not be able to despise or marginalize or cancel or live with any kind of animosity as our hearts, that have been redeemed fully here, will live out the implications of that redemption fully there. Just reading those words makes me want to try to start living out the implications on this side of heaven.

This latter fact makes me want to see my relationships not in light of my life here but in light of eternity. If the unity of the Spirit will be lived out throughout eternity is God's desired plan why would I not want to do all that I can to capture that unity in this life since Christ lives in me? The fact that I would rather carry my hurt, pain, unforgiveness or give up my prerogative to put others down or slander their character are of course not good excuses to God. He calls that sin - and sometimes we love it. Yet, we know that one day we will regret it.

So where does all this leave me? That which consumed my journal on this past Easter morning. It leaves me with these commitments that I will imperfectly live out but which I aspire to. In my relationships with other believers,

  • My goal is to understand and seek peace
  • To refrain from judging when it is not necessary or productive
  • To think the best rather than the worst
  • To forgive freely even when I am hurt
  • To ask forgiveness when I have hurt others
  • To pray God's blessing on those I would rather cancel
  • To ask God to change me before I ask Him to change others
  • To be as gentle, patient and kind with those who irritate me as God is with me
  • To seek to apply the Fruit of the Spirit with those who I don't like as well as those I do like
  • To think about my relationships in light of eternity
  • To give up my "rights" to my attitudes, judgements, harsh words, gossip, hard feelings and desires for retribution in pace of the attitudes of Jesus
All of these are countercultural because they reflect Jesus. The harder it is the more I must acknowledge my own brokenness. But one thing I do have to do is grapple. Jesus does want me to act on earth as I will in heaven. In fact, I believe we pray that every time we pray the Lord's prayer. So the answer to my Easter musings are not easy answers which I guess is why Jesus implanted His Holy Spirit in each of us. God help us to do better.




Wednesday, March 10, 2021

The decision by Beth Moore to leave the SBC is a day of reckoning for the SBC and other denominations

 


Beth's announcement that she is leaving the Southern Baptist Convention hit like a bombshell today. As a gifted teacher, writer, leader and a critic of the behavior of the former president, her popular Bible Studies, books and teaching have made her a lightening rod within the SBC both by those who don't like her politics and by those who believe a woman should not teach men - even though Beth has played by the SBC rules on this issue. Her ministry, Living Proof Ministries has significant reach around the world. As part of her announcement today, Moore also said that Lifeway would no longer be her publisher.

A reading of the twitter feed in the wake of her announcement indicates that the SBC can be a very tough place for a gifted woman teacher and writer. She was called "a false teacher," someone who places her "feelings above Scripture," "brainwashed by Satan,"  "outside the pale of orthodoxy," "an entertainer enamored by herself," and the list goes on. 

Moore has spoken to the issue of Christian Nationalism within the SBC, the lack of concern about sexual victims in the church, sexism, and large racial divides that are resulting in the departure of many black pastors and congregations from the SBC. 

What is particularly interesting in the comments regarding Moore's departure on Twitter is that a large percentage of the comments are about President Trump and the need for the church to support him. This is an indication of how closely aligned the SBC has become (for many of their churches and leaders) to a political figure and a political party. When politics becomes the deciding factor of debate over the Gospel and Jesus, a rival God has raised its head. 

One thing can be said with certainty. The SBC is not a friendly place for a gifted woman teacher. This is not a debate about whether the church should be complementarian or egalitarian as the boundaries in many parts of the SBC are stringent and unyielding. 

This is a day of reckoning for the denomination that is already immersed in political battles. When a high profile woman (a New York Times Best Seller) can no longer minister freely within the SBC I suspect that many are going to take note and over the coming years follow her out. This is not because she wants to hurt the movement but because her efforts to raise awareness of important issues in the church have been met with derision and personal attacks. 

The truth is that Moore is deeply loved by many within and outside of the SBC. Those who love her will pay attention to what happened to her. Further, it is deeply disappointing to many that there was no longer a place for a gifted woman in the SBC.

All of this raises important issues within denominations as to whether a woman is able to use her gifts. In fact, it is ironic that the vast majority of the mission money in the SBC is raised in the name of Lottie Moon, a Southern Baptist missionary to China, but there seems to be nor enough room for Beth Moore. 

Regardless of one's theology regarding complementarianism or egalitarianism, if women are treated as second class citizens in the church, disrespected and cannot use their God given gifts, there is rot in the church. The treatment of Aimee Byrd, another popular author in the conservative ranks has been despicable and sad. 

For more on this story, see the Christianity Today Article on Beth Moore's decision to leave the SBC.