I will not judge those who hear me but don’t obey me, for I have come to save the world and not to judge it. But all who reject me and my message will be judged on the day of judgment by the truth I have spoken. I don’t speak on my own authority. The Father who sent me has commanded me what to say and how to say it. And I know his commands lead to eternal life; so I say whatever the Father tells me to say.” (John 12:47-50)
Relate: Israel Houghton, Mark Driscoll, Tullian Tchividjian, Sunday Adelaja, and Michael Gungor. Do you know what these names all have in common? They are all influencers in the Christian community that I have very recently seen bloggers blast for things they said or did. I honestly believe that some of my fellow bloggers have been rubbing their hands with glee at the opportunity to take aim and snipe at those that have been placed up on a pedestal. If you are reading this and you are one of those bloggers or are guilty of some such motivations… shame on you. Three of these have to do with divorce and/or infidelity and I will leave that for another time and place. While keeping in mind that Christ has come to save the world not to judge it, I will do my best now to briefly weigh in on the other two.
Five days a week I listen to a podcast sermon during my commute. Currently those podcasts are from Chris Hodges, Perry Noble, Stephen Furtick, Erwin McManus, and Herbert Cooper. In the past that list has also included names like Francis Chan, Mark Driscoll, Rob Bell, John Piper, and TD Jakes among others. Nothing comes to mind for Chris Hodges or Herbert Cooper but for all the rest I have, more than once, heard them say something I have disagreed with. Sometimes those have been serious disagreements on rather large issues. That’s OK. I read a lot and outside the Bible it is a rare thing for me to go through a book cover to cover without disagreeing with the author somewhere along the line. Disagreement stretches me. It forces me to evaluate what I believe and why. It forces me to understand why someone would publicly espouse a differing viewpoint. Honestly, I haven’t dug too deep into the issues that brought about his forced resignation at Mars Hill. All I know is that he was accused of arrogance, bullying, and plagiarism.
The first two don’t really surprise me since I was listening to all his sermons for roughly two years. Some of the things that he has said from the pulpit were quite dumb. I know I’ve said some dumb things from the pulpit a time or two myself. I just thank God I don’t live under the microscope he did. He liked to stay right on the controversial edge and it was often is an effective way to keep people listening. Apparently he stepped right over the edge and it seemed like it is a long way down. I just pray that he will take what he has learned from this storm to more effectively lead his new church in Scottsdale Arizona. For me… I will likely return to listening to his podcasts. There is still a lot I can learn from him as a preacher and I am a firm believer in radical grace.
Now as for Michael Gungor… I mostly agree with him. [Dramatic pause] Yes, you heard that right. Before going further please understand that at my sending church, Two Rivers Assembly, we have a philosophy: In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In everything, charity. There are others in leadership who do disagree with me, but I personally believe that the age of this earth can be measured in the millions, not the thousands of years. I’ve looked at the science and, more importantly, at scripture and I believe I am in agreement with both. Gungor has written two excellent articles here and here that I believe demonstrate a spirit of love and grace even while standing firm in disagreement. I do not agree with everything he has written but I love the spirit in which it is said. Before reading these I would have said I casually enjoy his music but now I would truly call myself a fan.
React: There is a time for judgment. There is a place and a means for it. That time is not now and that place is not here. It is possible to disagree with someone and to hold passionately to the truth (or the truth as our limited finite minds perceive it), while still abiding in unity and walking in love. If we are to be about the work of Christ, then we should be ministers of reconciliation. Are we? Am I? Whenever we sit down to write on an issue that might be deemed controversial, and every time we open our mouths to speak the same, we should first stop and ask ourselves three questions:
1) Am I standing for the truth?
2) More importantly, am I fostering unity?
3) Most important of all, am I speaking in love?
If what I say is not said in love, promote unity among believers, and lift up truth then perhaps I should just shut up and say nothing at all. If all of us held to this principle then perhaps the world would recognize us as the Church and want to join us. As it currently stands we are all too often seen as a cadre of infighting judgmental hypocrites to be avoided.
God, forgive me. There have been times in my life when the need to be heard, to be right, to be seen has kept me from speaking in truth and with love. There have been times when winning the debate has been more important than walking in unity. There have been times when I just could not shut up when You were telling me to just let it go. Forgive me. Help me to speak and walk in compassion. When I see a brother or sister slip up in what they say or do, keep me from that all too enticing urge to kick them while they are down. Instead help me to stretch out my hand to help lift them back up. You are about reconciliation. You are about restoration. You are about salvation. help me to be all about You.