Labels

Years ago I remember a story about a kid who wanted to do the grocery shopping,  It could have been in fact most likely was on one of those kids shows that used to be on the radio.  I remember Saturday’s riding in the back seat of the car while we went grocery shopping or out to visit kids in my parents Sunday school class or whatever we would do. Anyway the kid in the story was supposed to do the grocery shopping and prepare a meal or something,  money in hand she (I remember it being a she) found a cart full of cans that had all the labels torn off.  She saved money and got stuff she wanted at the same time.  Of course when it came time to make the meal she had all sort of things from the cans that didn’t go together.  There was some sort of moral involved, you can grab whatever that is on your own.  I’m using the memory more as a launching point for my thoughts.

You look at a label and it tells you what is inside…that’s how it’s supposed to work, except as I have been going over the labels I have lived under over the years I have come to a realization…

A few important definitions:

evangelical

adjective evan·gel·i·cal \ˌē-ˌvan-ˈje-li-kəl, ˌe-vən-\
  • : of or relating to a Christian sect or group that stresses the authority of the Bible, the importance of believing that Jesus Christ saved you personally from sin or hell, and the preaching of these beliefs to other people

  • : having or showing very strong and enthusiastic feelings

conservative

adjective con·ser·va·tive \kən-ˈsər-və-tiv\
  • : believing in the value of established and traditional practices in politics and society : relating to or supporting political conservatism

  • Conservative : of or relating to the conservative party in countries like the United Kingdom and Canada

  • : not liking or accepting changes or new ideas

republican

noun re·pub·li·can \ri-ˈpə-bli-kən\
  • Republican : a member of the Republican party of the U.S.

  • : a person who believes in or supports a republican form of government

liberal

adjective lib·er·al \ˈli-b(ə-)rəl\
  • : believing that government should be active in supporting social and political change : relating to or supporting political liberalism

  • Liberal : of or belonging to the liberal political party in countries like Canada and the United Kingdom

  • : not opposed to new ideas or ways of behaving that are not traditional or widely accepted

progressive

adjective pro·gres·sive \prə-ˈgre-siv\

  • : moving forward

  • : happening or developing gradually over a period of time

  • : using or interested in new or modern ideas especially in politics and education

The list is actually longer, and includes different types of political leanings, different sects of Christianity, different ideologies that become subsets under these main headlines.  Taken in turn it’s safe to say that I have lived under each of the labels at different times throughout my life.

Believe it or not, for a brief time at the end of college and for a couple years I would probably have identified as a Evangelical Republican…I would say a soft right winger, but things always bothered me on the right, still do.  The problem with these two labels well three actually is at some point they became interchangeable to many in each of those movements.  If you were an evangelical Christian you were a republican, only thing you could be.  You stood for all sorts of things that the Bible tells you to stand for, except that if you were to dig a bit deeper into the Bible you may find that things that people in power in the popular evangelical movement say are important or things we should be standing for may not necessarily be there.

Then there was that time when I decided I was going to be emergent, except you can’t really decide to be emergent, because the moment you label yourself as emergent you are becoming part of what emergent people try to not become.

The whole progressive thing is still sort of around, as is the liberal label I guess, except when it’s not.  I’m a bit conflicted there but that’s okay.

I get frustrated with people who have messed up my labels as well.  Names like Dobson, and Franklin, and Jerry have destroyed the evangelical label for me in some ways, they aren’t alone either but they seem to be the most vocal.  People who look at right wing evangelicals and get frustrated I’m okay with but when those same people begin to get antagonistic and start telling people that they have to be more progressive and ignore heart felt convictions and practice tolerance without being tolerant well that is equally annoying.

The thing that gets me is that on both sides of these issues regular every day people are not the ones that I have issues with.  I have found that on both sides regular every day people are very understanding, willing to listen, caring, and not militant in their interactions.  It is as always the vocal minority that makes the issues larger than life.

Case in point. I am for gun control.  I don’t have a problem with the second amendment, I don’t mind you owning a gun, however it shouldn’t be as simple as strolling down to the nearest Walmart to buy one.  Or heading to a gun show to avoid a background check.  Now to hear people that make the most noise on both sides you would think that everyone that is for common sense gun control laws wants to march into peoples homes, grab up all the guns and leave, you would also think that anyone that is a member of the NRA and owns a gun wants to own an assault rifle or sub machine gun with armor piercing rounds.  Real conversations however yield different results.  With several gun owners not only willing to have background checks but for them, and gun control advocates not saying take them all away but use common sense.  These voices of reason are drowned out by the louder elements of each side who are alarmist and make their money and points by stoking the fire of partisanism.  (Yes I know that’s not really a word.)

In issues of faith though, this trend really bothers me.  It bothers me that all the flavors of Christianity tend to look at each other with anything from misunderstanding to outright hostility.

Listening to people who claim to follow Christ “hold the line” on things as they watch a world full of individuals they claim to love and have answers for shake their heads and walk away from both sides of Christianity be it conservative or liberal has lead me to a discovery and a statement.

I am not an American Evangelical, Nor am I an American progressive.  I am determined though.

labelsblog

No matter where anyone in the Christian faith stands, this is the anchor point, at least it should be.  If we are all striving to make this the jumping off point for everything we do I believe that the differences that separate us don’t have to alienate us.  There will be differences.  We will not agree on things,  we will see things differently, we will reach out to people differently.  That’s okay, but if we make this the foundation that we base all our interactions with each other on, we will be able to disagree on things and still find common ground for a common mission, the only common mission we were given.  Preaching the gospel. That ultimate act of love, made by the God we serve.  The acceptance of which will, by necessity, dismantle the life we know and have so carefully built and guarded and championed, only to be put back together by the One who designed humanity in the first place.

So no I’m not Evangelical, I am trying to follow Christ.  No I’m not Progressive,  I am trying to follow Christ.

No I am not a Republican…but you already knew that.   No I’m not a Dem…wait yes, yes I am…

Thanks for reading.

 

Where it counts…

Parenting is a challenge.  I’m sure the people who have kids that read my blog are shaking their heads right now and saying with a copious amount of snark in their voice…No Really….Having an almost teen I would say that there are times when Mark 9:29 seems more apropos than the idea that children are jewels or arrows or anything resembling such.

There have been challenges lately, nothing that can’t be worked through, nothing in the earth shattering, more small rumblings, in the middle of the rumblings I had a conversation with one of the kids… I took her to the sanctuary of the church that I pastor, mainly because doing so helped me get some perspective, kept me calm, for some reason being in the church makes my reactions more thought out, less frustrated, more calm, I don’t know pick an adjective.  I react in a nicer way in front of the church than I would, say in our living room.  Don’t get me wrong, I know that’s not the way it should be.  We shouldn’t act one way in public and another in private.  Our lives should be a constant striving to be more like Jesus, but lets face it, we are becoming more like, which is a process that, if I read it correctly, will last until we leave this earthly existence and make the transition.  So yea sometimes I don’t react the way I should and being in front of the church keeps me calm…

I realized something though when the conversation was over and the kid went down the stairs, and I sat in the church…my church…without any noise, without any music playing either loudly or softly in the background, the smells of a hundred plus year old sacred space subtly working their magic, I saw something for the first time.  Don’t get me wrong, I see this thing every week, several times a week, as I’m working around the church, getting things ready, planning, walking through the church praying.  I saw this…20141123_145227, and I realized something.  Something about myself and about the churches that I have been in and the churches that I have wanted to be in.  The ones with thousands, the ones with hundreds, or like ours the ones with a few.  We have forgotten this…in our desire to reach the world, which I have, to grab un-churched people, to appeal to a group that is increasingly finding other ways to connect with people and God.  I’ll admit that in looking at the front of our church there are times I envision an uninterrupted space, but…

That Sunday, as I sat in the front pew, alone I came to a realization, and so I stood up, and instead of doing what I normally do when I pray, instead of walking back and forth I knelt, not on the steps, not by the pew, I knelt right here.  It was exactly what I needed.  It’s what we all need, I think.  In our world full of anger, bitterness, fighting and prejudice there’s a place for this.  I have it in my head and it’s increasingly making it’s way through the rest of my being, that if we were more concerned with what we do in this spot, personally one on one with God, the other spots would take care of themselves in ways that we could not imagine.  If pastors were more concerned with their own time in this spot, the worries about who is allowed in church and who isn’t, who can be “saved” and who can’t, who deserves a seat at the table and who needs to be prayed for in love would morph into a realization that whosoever is an all inclusive word.  If church council, church board, elder boards, decon’s whatever your church calls them were more concerned with what happens in this spot on their own dealing with their own walk with God, there would be nothing a church couldn’t do in outreach and service to the community, if members and attenders could see their way to spending even a few moments at this space, I believe that the church would look different because in the time, in that sacred space, in those moments of silence, reflection and prayer, at a place designed, built for kneeling, God would give those attenders, those members a glimpse of the whosoever s in their life.

I have to admit I’ve been wrestling with this post for a while.  I took the picture that day as a reminder to myself and knew that there was a blog post in it, mainly because writing is how I make things real.

So many churches look at the picture above and see an obstacle, an old fashioned throw back to a time that was quaint, and nice, but that really doesn’t fit in with today’s world.  That Sunday something clicked for me.  That Sunday I realized that there is a better way to see this old fashioned piece of church architecture. Instead of an obstacle, a bridge, a bridge that allows us to connect in a much needed way with the God who lived, loved and died for us.  A bridge that when used on a regular basis will begin to expand our understanding of who God is, what He desires for our lives, and how we can be instrumental in showing others what it means to fully live and move and have our being in Christ.

Moving on.

It’s no real secret if you read with any regularity where I stand with regards to my faith.  Anyone that has been around the blog for a while can see a common thread.  If you go back a bit you may even be able to see where things started to change.  I have given disclaimers on several occasions so that everyone would understand that I am not running from God, or forgetting my faith.  I am sure there are some that would question my motives, my understanding of being a Christ follower, and even the depth of my faith and if I even have the same relationship with God that I had back when they knew me.  

Time to answer that one.   Nope I sure don’t .  My faith has changed.  My understanding of scripture has been and continues to evolve, the deeper I dig, the more I study, the time spent doing word study and really thinking about and taking context and history into account the more my idea of being a Christ follower morphs.  My understanding of what matters to Christ, and what matters to denominations or movements has changed.  

In 1517 Luther published his 95 Theses challenging the then current religious absolutes.  Questioning  doctrines, calling to account abuse by those in power in the church.  Raising a voice against a form of Christianity that had strayed from the purpose of the Gospel.

I am convinced that the following statement could be applied to many leaders in the church today…

33. Men must especially be on guard against those who say that the pope’s (George Wood, The Counsel of Bishops of the Methodist Church, Rev. Ronnie Floyd,  Rev. Matthew Harrison, the list could go on and include any number of religious leaders who are in the public eye.) pardons are that inestimable gift of God by which man is reconciled to him.  

I fear this is where may Christians are today.  They have forgotten that we are not supposed to look to a man or woman or denomination for absolution.  Humanity as a whole is flawed, we are broken and don’t really have the answers that we like to claim we have.  On any given Sunday you can find a pastor in a church somewhere that will validate whatever world view you have.  It’s easy to find a church that wants to play the martyr, claiming that they are persecuted that they alone stand in the gap and that they alone understand what it means to suffer for Christ.  It’s equally easy to find a church that has given up on the idea of salvation through faith in Christ because it’s not really popular to tell people that they are incomplete without a relationship with the one who created humanity in the first place.  These churches tend to soft peddle on the idea of the fall of man because it may offend some people.  

Paul talked about being all things to all people, a concept that is abused on a daily basis by some who use it as an excuse to indulge in things that they would normally question.  Still others talk about the importance of taking a hard stance on sin, of course the sins covered under that stance very depending on the person in charge, and I would argue the sins that they may or my not have to deal with in their own life.  It’s easy to come out against murder when you don’t deal with that particular issue, harder to take a stand against gluttony when the point of Sunday morning service is to  find out who you’re going to over eat lunch with.  Apply this concept to any of the lists of iniquity found in scripture.  Laziness is intolerable, gossip is okay as long as it happens in the context of sharing for the purpose of helping or remembering the individual in prayer… You catch my drift. 

My faith is not the same, because if it were then I would not be working on my own salvation with awe and reverence.  I instead would be happy to revel in my own ideas of what Salvation, love and service to others and God meant.  The problem that I see with that is that I have done the same thing that the Pope did back in Luther’s day.  I have become the one that dishes out forgiveness, or discipline both to myself and the people I pastor.  Sure I can couch it in the right rhetoric, I can talk about how important it is to not compromise my faith, but is attempting to be more like Christ, to walk  in his steps, to love the way he did, and even at times look at myself and other church leaders with the same eye he did and in loving anger call them and myself on it, because hopefully when that happens eyes are opened compromising the faith that God calls me to or is it compromising human expectations of what true faith is?  

Being a Christ follower is more important to me than being a Christian.  Becoming more like the man that died for me, that rose for me, and that has promised to return for me, is the goal, not fitting the picture of what a good christian is supposed to be.  

Safe to say I have moved on in my faith, and I hope and pray I keep moving on, going further up and further in to borrow a phrase from one of my favorite authors.  As far as I can figure that’s what we are all supposed to be doing.  Luther called the leaders of his day to account, hundreds of years later the vast majority of Christian leaders look at this as a good thing, but at the time his actions touched off controversy, and some even say war.  I fear that we are at a crossroads, actually I fear that we have long passed the crossroads, I see the spirit of Luther in some today, be it Brian McLaren, Donald Miller, Jeff Hood, Andy Stanley, Carey Nieuwhof, or Perry Noble.  These men are pushing at the edges of what it means to be a Christ Follower, I find myself doing the same thing. I’m okay with that…I hope and pray that you my readers are as well.  It’s time for all of us to move on when it comes to our faith.  And then when we learn what He is trying to teach us. move on again.  

 

The Evolution of Faith…

I think it’s important that I put a disclaimer at the beginning of this particular post.  I know that the things I’m going to be adding to it in the coming days are going to make many people question my faith…here’s the disclaimer…

1.  Humanity as a whole is broken, mainly because they have lost the thing they were created for, relationship with God.  This loss was a choice, and remains one.

2.  We don’t know…I think this is one of the hardest things for us to realize and to accept I know it is hard for me to know and accept.  I don’t know answers to some of the questions, the funny thing is I used to think I did, now not so much.

3.   Balance is not a bad word.

4.  History is written by the victors, distorted by future adherents, rewritten by the skeptics, and used to further personal agendas.

5.  Jesus was real, he really died, and I believe really rose from the dead.

6.  No one is always right, and no one is always wrong…

I’m sure there are other disclaimers I should make but that will get things rolling.

I think it’s safe to say that I really never saw this coming.  Being the senior pastor of a church was such a stretch for my brain to reach too.  I’m excited about it, in fact really love what I am doing now.  I love the people that God has placed in our lives. As I have begun the process of leading a church I have also begun the process of a deeper examination of my faith, a deeper study of scripture, and a need to wrestle more with where I am as a Christ Follower and as a Church leader.

On balance I think the church as a whole is afraid. Afraid of a faith that must evolve, afraid of the changing culture, afraid to reach because in doing so it may mean a very real need to examine the things that they hold as true. When the church world realizes that what they are comfortable with no longer works, when they are faced with multiple generations who start almost all interactions with skepticism not just religious ones the tendency is to become defensive and angry. That is unfortunately what most people see when they look at the majority of christians today, an angry bunch of people who are more concerned with the rules of engagement given to every good Christian soldier than they are with the people who need someone to see them as more than their issue or struggle or sin.

When we become more concerned with the laws of the land, the leaders of our nation, our rights as citizens than we are with the person sitting in Starbucks full of questions and hurts and pain there’s a problem. When it becomes more important to be right, both meanings of the word, than it does to be relational there’s an issue. When we put our personal comfort ahead of the way Jesus sees people and would treat them we drive a wedge between ourselves and the world, all in the name of holiness.

Be holy as I am holy is frequently used as an excuse for elitist Christian behavior , yet I (Jesus) hung out with sinners in places the good religious people wouldn’t set foot…

If we are to have the type of impact that we must have in the world, we can’t make it so difficult for the world to interact with us. We can’t sequester ourselves away as the chosen ones and hope to fulfill the mandate the commission we as Christ Followers were given. Christianity and church should be messy because people are messy.

Big Differences

Who’s allowed in church, who’s allowed to have an opinion? Why does it matter.

These questions have been knocking around in my head for a while now. In my estimation the church is supposed to be a place that anyone can come to and find rest, a listening ear, and tolerance. The town square has been a place where people are allowed to go with their viewpoints and are given the ability to express them how they want.

In our country we are given so many freedoms that we forget the responsibility that comes with those freedoms. People on either side of the political, religious, whatever it is spectrum forget that with freedom of anything comes, out of necessity tolerance. I find though that neither side in any of the most recent debates is willing to extend much in the way of tolerance.

I would love to be able to say I have friends, but that’s really not the case. I have friends on all sides. I have liberal and conservative friends, I have friends who are different nationalities, friends who are gay, friends who are strait. I have Christian and non-christian friends. I have friends of different faiths. I wish it were possible to just say I have friends but it’s not. I also wish it were possible to be allowed to have the friends I have, but it seems that all the different sides find it difficult to handle the fact that it’s possible to have friends that you don’t agree with all the time. It’s hard to have friends that allow for different opinions, different interpretations, different readings of rules, and laws and religious texts.

Everyone wants to be right, everyone wants to be validated, everyone wants to be accepted but they don’t call it that, we don’t call it that, we call it tolerance. We all want to be tolerated.

It’s sad really, in it’s desire to hold a line on sin, the church has forgotten that all have sinned, all are sinners, all are lost. In it’s need to be accepted humanity at large dares anyone that has a different opinion than their own to share it, and if for whatever reason, be it political, religious or just personal feeling that opinion differs, suddenly oppression is happening, or a denial of freedom. It becomes important to completely shred the person, their beliefs, their convictions, whatever it is. This is when things really heat up. People start to dig for historical evidence, they start to look at the way things always were, suddenly armchair theologians look for ammunition and start shooting at anyone and everyone in their line of site. Back yard scientists start looking for proofs of the oppositions idiocy. I am ashamed to say that there have been times I have done the same thing.

The last few weeks and on through Easter Sunday we are in the middle of a series at the Church I pastor, still something I am wrapping my brain around, called From Carpenter to Christ. We are looking a bit deeper at the life of Jesus. It goes without saying that I am doing some serious digging in for all of this and what I’m finding is a Jesus who was tolerant of a lot, who accepted people wherever they were, in whatever state with whatever issues they have. He tolerates them, he accepts them, the person. He doesn’t condone sin, he doesn’t say it’s no big deal, but he doesn’t make the person into their sin, that’s a modern day evangelical thing. People say love the sinner hate the sin, but if people were honest, if they would sit down and really be honest, it’s hard to separate the two in our minds. Christians as a whole forget this..

Genesis 1:27 (NLT)
  So God created human beings* in his own image.
In the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

Being created in God’s image is hard to believe and well, because of the fall of man, that did break the relationship with God there is that nasty little problem of sin that has to be dealt with, still if Jesus chose to not define people based on their sin, why do Christians? John 8:1-11 offers one of many pictures of Jesus refusing to define people by their issues. I love the last part of this set of verses. I don’t condemn you, now go and stop doing the thing that brought you here in the first place. He didn’t even focus on what the issue was, he just said stop. A far cry from what the church as a whole does.

But wait there’s more…I also have an issue with my friends on the left,or with any group of people that is all about tolerance and acceptance as long as it’s on their terms. Daring to have a different opinion than some people is grounds for being called a bigot, or intolerant. It’s amazing how easy it is to label a person as intolerant or un-accepting, or bigoted if they don’t agree with you a hundred percent.

Back around Christmas a Redneck Christian dared say that he believed a literal translation of scripture, now in a nod to all my liberal/left friends, I get it, I understand the argument that if people are going to espouse a literal interpretation of Scripture, that they can’t pick and choose, but lets face it we all pick and choose what we want to accept or reject when it comes to any number of things. People on both sides of this whole thing do it all the time. As annoyed as I get at my fellow Christians who keep entire people groups out of church and away from God, I get equally annoyed at my fellow liberals for crying foul every time someone doesn’t just agree with whatever they have chosen to believe. It’s really not possible to tell an entire group of people that they have to accept you and all that you bring to the table but the minute they question some of those things they are unenlightened bigots who need to have their rights and freedoms guaranteed under the constitution stripped away.

What makes your pursuit of happiness more acceptable than theirs?

Years ago my great grandmother said something that has stuck with me, and I am coming to realize that it has a lot to do with more than just God stuff. We were sitting around the table one Sunday afternoon after a great dinner of pasta and her home made sauce. We were talking about church and preachers and how sometimes they say things that don’t make sense or don’t seem right. She looked at me and said. “Aaron no one is always right. When we listen to people who are teaching about God we have to be smart enough to chew up the meat and spit out the bones.” This means more than what it first appears to mean, at least now it does. In my dealing with people I need to do the same things. There are things I will agree with and things I won’t. I have a choice to make do I maintain relationship, agree that there are going to be areas we are not going to agree with and spots that we will. Is relationship with others worth looking past the parts that I don’t like or understand?

As I move through life, as I get older, and as I pastor a church on the brink, I am realizing more and more that Jesus was more concerned with the person than he was with their mess. Mess can be cleaned up, mess can be changed, mess can be made into something new and beautiful. Lets face it as a whole humanity is a mess, and whatever side of the idiotic debates we fall on, we need each other.

Camping out at Grace

Philippians 2:12

Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear.

Humanity on the whole is lazy, or at least has a proclivity toward laziness, even the most driven and ambitious person, given the right circumstances, and the opportunity will slip into the nice warm comfortable pool of laziness. The thing is there is a misconception among many people that being lazy means you sit around watching TV and eating junk food, all while the house crumbles to shambles around you, and while that’s one way to define laziness, we can fill our lives with activity and be massively busy and still be lazy. In my mind laziness is not so much lack of activity as it is lack of impact. A lazy person is a person who has allowed themselves to have no impact on anyone or anything.

I’m the first to admit that there are times in our lives when we need to do things that in and of themselves have little intrinsic value to the wider world. We need to do things for pleasure, sometimes we need to do something that may be seemingly meaningless, mainly because we need to have a chance to recharge. The idea that we need rest is built into the fabric of our faith, in fact if you study other faiths they too have some impetus for taking a break. It’s important for humans to rest once in a while.

When I think of camping out at Grace, I think of the height of laziness for the Christ Follower. This takes many forms. Some use grace as an excuse, others use grace as a brush to paint the world into heaven, others make grace such a cheap commodity that they forget what it really is.

Cheap grace, is sad to me, mainly because it denies the continuing work of God in our lives, and it makes our faith weak. Cheap grace is not really grace at all, cheap grace is a grace that tells takes for granted the work that Jesus did on the cross, it allows for the initial acceptance of our sins as more of a self enlightened acknowledgment. With cheap grace Jesus becomes little more than a picture in a children’s Bible.

Grace used to make everyone okay is also dangerous. This type of grace takes for granted that while God is full of Grace, He is also Holy. Paint brush grace is a grace that is in practice in so many churches, mainly because churches have decided it’s better to skip some of the harder parts of the Bible. Paint brush grace is sad because it makes true faith un-necessary.

The worst though is grace as an excuse. This one is where many people sit. They have had a very real encounter with God. They have realized that Jesus fills that space in their life that they can’t seem to fill up, and can’t seem to ignore. Excuse grace is the height of laziness. It’s where we set up our tents, gather some firewood and look at the stars. Excuse grace is the grace that we give when we ignore people that are different than we are and decide that we aren’t “called” to minister to that group of people. Excuse grace is what we use to allow four people in our churches to do all the work. Excuse grace is what we use when it’s time for us to gather with fellow believers and we decide that we can just download the pod cast of the sermon, or find one from a different preacher that we like better. Excuse grace is the grace that we use when we don’t want to grow, study or change. Excuse grace keeps churches focused inward, keeps Christians on the defensive, and keeps the people outside of our world view away. It is what happens every Sunday when we step into our churches that look, sound and act like we think they should. When people camp out at grace they aren’t always using that tent as a way to “sin” the big sins that everyone knows are bad. Sure there are people who use grace as an excuse to continue living a life that was empty in the first place, the question for that person is one of real encounter with Christ as opposed to emotional response. The people that camp out at grace that bother me, and that I have been are the ones that have decided that they do church the right way, and that if anyone does it differently they are wrong. They put rules and regulations on everyone before they walk in the door, all the while resisting the change part of what it means to be a Christ Follower. Refusing to move, refusing to grow, refusing to go where God may be calling them. They are camped out in grace…

Itching Ears…

2 Timothy 4:3 (MSG)
3 You’re going to find that there will be times when people will have no stomach for solid teaching, but will fill up on spiritual junk food—catchy opinions that tickle their fancy.

I have always wondered at this verse, not that it’s that difficult to understand really.  Everyone needs a good yes man or woman in their life. You know what I mean the person that always agrees with you always tells you what you want to hear.

The thing about yes men and women is they aren’t really being honest.  For whatever reason they don’t want to offend, or hurt, or fill in the word that you need. 

Most Evangelicals use this verse to point fingers at people that don’t teach or believe the way they think they should.  They use it to prove their point, or to show how they are so much more spiritual than others, they use it to justify bigotry, and hatred, they use it to keep people that don’t fit their picture of a good christian away. 

Don’t get me wrong,  I believe what the Bible says,  I believe that there are standards, Godly standards, that Christ followers need to be working on.  It’s part of the idea of walking daily in our faith.  It’s part of the work that goes into our salvation.  As we spend time in God’s word, and as we talk to him regularly, as we shut up for a while and listen, actually listen to what he is trying to say to us.  We will make the changes that are ultimately for our good and his glory. 

What I’m trying to get at is this.  I have watched and listened and read many right wing evangelicals lately.  I find a disturbing trend.  Many of them, some of my friends even seem to be looking for other people who will tell them what they want to hear, the real bothersome thing though is pastors are willing to be the yes man or woman that they are looking for. 

The church today, especially the evangelical church, especially the conservative evangelical church, has taken up the cry of the oppressed, victimized, embattled oppressed standard bearer.  The disappointing thing is historically the church has been on the other side of things, and in many cases, not all but many they still practice the same thing toward the very people they are supposed to reach. 

At some point in the last 20 years the cannon of scripture in the evangelical church has been expanded to include select portions of the constitution, and the 1954 revision of the pledge of allegiance, and here is where the vast majority of today’s evangelical leaders start scratching at peoples ears. 

Be it the right to bare arms, homosexuality, universal health care, taxes, eschatology, social welfare, justice, grace, forgiveness, or the death penalty, name it they will tell the people looking for their side to be justified what they want to hear.

I have been running every other day, and on those runs I’ve been doing a lot of talking and a lot of listening,  I have come to a question.  On any given Sunday or Saturday or whatever day where would Jesus choose to worship, that is the church that I want to be part of, that is the church that I want to lead.  I don’t want to be a pastor that scratches peoples ears, I want to lead a church that reaches up to God in worship, reaches in to the body to train and equip, and reaches out to the community with love, compassion, and openness.  I have no clue where to begin, or even if this is a viable thing.  I just know that I need to know the next steps.