Last night we hosted the first of our church summer series of Group Studies. I had originally intended to use the Max Lucado curriculum for “The Cure for the Common Life” because it is a great book, but after I bought the study and tried to go through it, I realized that it really wasn’t a good study for our group at this point.
I looked around a bit and decided that the best thing that I could do would be to use the Nooma series from Rob Bell. Each of these videos are not only well put together, they are also short, and interesting to watch. Each video is certainly provocative and inspires great discussion whether you agree with the whole theme or not.
*I should also mention here that I am saddened by the huge number of people who seem to be dying to find holes in the theology of Rob Bell. I think it is comical that every seminary student as well as every Driscoll wanna-be seem so eager to show that they know more than Rob Bell, or that one or two of his points about Jesus might not be historically perfect. It’s really too bad. Rob Bell seems to be one of the few pastors who is eager to engage the mind of the people who listen to him. He doesn’t just want to change people, he wants to inspire them to look for themselves and think in new directions about old topics.
Anyway. We were watching the “Bullhorn” video where Bell was talking about the street corner preachers that yell about hellfire and damnation and try to scare and argue people into repenting and giving their lives to God.
I love this video because it takes us a step further. It takes us past the step where we as Christians who believe in a God of Love and don’t believe it is effective to “win” people to the kingdom by screaming at them, judge the judger. I have been around countless groups of Christians who groan and complain about the tactics of the street corner preachers and traveling evangelists. They say things like: “does it really do any good?” and “it just hurts the cause of Christ.” The funny thing about this is that, as much as I disagree with the street corner preacher, and as much as I disagree with Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Ryan Dobson, and all of those guys; I feel fine judging them.
Maybe it is because I can label them as Pharisees, but for years, I have felt comfortable judging the judgers. I have felt like it is my job to rage against their machines. I do this by blogging, or by preaching to the choir who already are offended and angry at these folks as well. Could there be a more cowardly reaction? Could I wuss out more?
I do believe that they are wrong, but just because I believe that I am right, am I given the right to be their judge. They are on the street corner preaching to people that want to beat them up, and I think that I am better by preaching to the tiny group of people that might stumble upon my blog, where the worst thing that can happen is that I could get a negative comment that can easily be deleted.
I don’t like what they do, but I have to repent to my reaction to it. They are out there, doing something, and here I sit writing about it.
This church planting experience is one of the first times in my life where I feel like I too am “out there” finally doing something. But if the extent of my “doing” is taking a stand against the judgmental, I am doing very little.
My question is: how can I do the right thing? How can I repent of my own judgmental attitude? How can I make a real difference?
After our discussion last night, here are some thoughts:
1. GO out there! I need to continue to get out and meet people and serve them. Bullhorn guys yell, preach and condemn, but what do they do? Jesus didn’t condemn and scream people into obedience. Jesus served. Jesus went out.
2. Apologize. This is huge. This is what is missing in not only the religious culture but also the political culture (which seem very tied together at times.) How often do you hear pastors, Christians, politicians etc repent, admit wrongdoing or wrongthinking, and apologize? Of course they do apologize, when they are caught in blatant sin and wrongdoing. It seems like the greatest currency that people seem to believe that they have in religion and politics is being RIGHT. In politics right now, each party seems to claim that EVERYTHING that the leaders of the other party do are wrong and that they themselves are more true to the founding fathers or the direction that our country needs to go. I want to respect leaders that admit that they were wrong, or are amending their perspective on issues and growing and changing. Followers of Jesus need to be far more willing to admit when they are wrong and forgive others when they are wrong. Perhaps in the economy of God, we are more right when we forgive and apologize than when we judge others and put ourselves in a superior position to them because we believe that we are right.
3. Courage. This is what the street preachers and bullhorn guys seem to have in spades. They certainly have the courage to put themselves in positions where they can get bashed and abused themselves. They have the courage to be hated. Do I have the courage to proclaim the truth so strongly that others won’t like me? I hate it when people don’t like me. It is one of my biggest fears and motivating factors. Too often, I choose to NOT put myself out there because I am afraid of the reactions of others. I am afraid of failing in my church planting endeavor if some choose to not like me or what I am doing. I need the courage of the Bullhorn guy, not to do what they do and say what they say, but to be THAT intentional about my calling, to know that not everyone will love me or my church, to GO out there and be OK serving.
When it comes down to it, bullhorn guy has some things to teach me. His theology might not be perfect, but I am arrogant if I believe that I know everything about God too. I might owe him an apology for judging him, but I really owe the apology to the people I sometimes fail to serve because of my own lack of courage. I owe the apology to the people who don’t know the REAL me because of my own fear of rejection and failure.
The question that challenges me is: If bullhorn guy is screaming his belief in hellfire and judgment through his words and actions… am I screaming my belief in God’s grace and love in my own way, through my actions and intentions? What is coming out of my bullhorn?