I usually do not engage in what I deem evangelical politics or the evangelical celebrity culture. I find the whole clamoring game to be quite tedious and many times a making of all manner of men the center of our discourse. Our event features this person! Did you hear what he said?!? and her response!?!
Yet as evangelicalism is primarily led by big name pastors and publishing houses, the influence of people sort of wanders around a bit in various loosely affiliated crowds. As such, a local leader who is loving and serving his people must interact with the popular books and influential rock star pastors of the day. Some are good. Some not so much. Recently the bloggers, buzzers and tweeters have been lighting up about the recent video put out by Rob Bell and his coming book. The name Rob Bell even made the trending list of Twitter this weekend. I m sure those who like the buzz liked all of this very much.
The issues at hand are of great importance to the heart of the gospel and the message of the New Testament. It is right for people of faith to be concerned. Personally, I wrote a private note to my friends and leaders at Jacob s Well when all this starting going around. My care is for the understanding of our community and the broader movement of which I feel a part. Realizing I am a Protestant I also realize the spheres for which I am actually responsible. I do not know Rob Bell, never likely to meet him nor I am personally responsible for him or what he teaches. I am responsible if, by the strange realities of American church culture, he becomes a teacher for our people via blogs/books/videos etc. So I am trying to be responsible locally and have my head up and listen.
Others have and will be addressing the substance of Bell’s indirect communication and questioning that arise from his words and the performance in his recent video. What I am concerned about is how confessional evangelicals react to this sort of thing. My thoughts are only offered to my friends to encourage them about how they flow with the doctrines they hold. It matters deeply how we represent the truth to which we rightly hold firm. Some simple observations.
- Blasting men like Rob Bell with arrogant, harsh, reactionary, alarmist sounding tweets and blogs only reaffirms many people s rejection of the truth that you hold.
- If you hold true doctrine and hold it like a jackass you may alienate hearers and push many towards the pied pipers of our age.
- Many of these are simply echoing popular beliefs as they reject historic, biblical, Christian doctrine. The world will joyfully receive the teaching of heretics because many times they simply are sounding off with the current zeitgeist.
- In my experience, many people who are drawn away to these sorts of “New Christianity” are typically church kids who have witnessed a bunch of junk from those who hold to biblical truth. We need not add to this number.
- Believe me, I know that simply believing the teaching of Jesus and the apostles will cause people to say you are intolerant, narrow, etc. People did murder Jesus you know. Yet we should let it be the message of the cross and Christ himself that brings the offense. You can hold doctrines that people find offensive without adding to the offense by your own brash and arrogant rubbishing of others.
- 1 Peter 3 speaks to our offering our defense of the faith with gentleness and respect - I think we need to wear these virtues. Afterall, they look and smell a lot like Jesus.
- Yes, speak to your people directly about various types of philosophies and errors being peddled today. Yes, speak to the false teachers which are peddling their wares today. Yes, Yes, Yes. Yet do so as a compassionate friend and fellow sojourner. If you are a pastor, lead among your people with the responsibility, humble authority and the courage that you will need.
- Do I think there is a place for bold, personal confrontation? Absolutely. I do not think Twitter is the place for this. If you need to correct a brother or sister do so personally or by personal correspondence. We all know that the Interwebs can make cowards bold and remove many filters from our words.
- However, if something is in writing from someone and it is affecting your people of course you should address it. Even if Joe Blow is across the universe. To say you cannot speak to someone s published words (that they are pushing to the whole world) is just silly.
- I think the prophet and his boldness is ever needed in our day. In preaching the gospel, preaching the cross and preaching Jesus as Savior from sin, death, hell and the right and good wrath of God against evil (yes, even our own). Use your boldness here friends. This will bring you all the sanctified trouble you need.
In the second chapter of the book of Titus the family of faith was encouraged about their manner of life together. Men and women, young and old, slave and free were all encouraged about how they flowed in life together. They were all new Christians, all living life together as a new people in Christ. There is great teaching for us here.
2Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. 3Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. 6Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. 7Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, 8and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. 9Slaves are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.
There is a way of life that adorns the doctrine of God our Savior. What a humbling and shocking reality! There is also a way that serves to graffiti and deface that same doctrine. The doctrine of God is heard from and seen in the lives of Christ s followers today. If you flow like a jerk, you might just be shrouding the gospel and leading people straight to the teaching of nice leaders who may not even be preaching the truth. None of us are or will be perfect in tone, speech or reaction in our world. My failures here are many. Yet we want to repent when we fail one another in with jerkful tones, distracting speech and harsh reactions to those around us.
What you believe matters deeply. How we live with others matters deeply. Let us have the gospel of grace make us people of grace. We cannot just live with our audience being the church/Christian world, we have to hold firm to the word with grace before the world. It is from these grounds which we continue to proclaim the gospel and with deep sobriety. We must find refuge in Jesus from the wrath to come. Hell may not be an empty place but may our hearts pray and work to see that many know that they need not go there. Forgiveness is found in Christ alone. Go preach that message friends and adorn it well.