Thursday, August 12, 2010

Quick Hits #8

#1 My first contribution ever to The Resurgence appeared today: Why New England is the New American Missional Frontier. Many others and myself are praying hard for a fresh increase in gospel-toting planters and pastors called to New England. We need you, brothers.

#2 Someone told me today that last weekend one of the visitors to our church had never been in a church before. Ever. It was an interesting Sunday service, out of the customary order of worship, featuring personal testimonies and a message about "raising the sail for revival." I'm praying the Spirit applied it to her heart. But it got me thinking, and I suppose I'll just ask you to ponder this: If somebody showed up at your church, and it was the first time they'd ever been to church, what would they walk away saying they thought was most important to you?

And that leads me to some continuing thoughts . . .

#3 I think the pastor of the "motocross church" was irked by my post on the awesomeness-driven church. I'm sure he'd never heard of this blog, but somebody probably linked him to it, because the same night that post appeared he tweeted something about critics claiming their issues are theological when in actuality they're just jealous. Assuming the timing wasn't a coincidence, I would only say he's welcome to think that -- and many pastors who receive criticism do deflect it in that way -- but it's just silly. The post wasn't really even about him, or even about motocross in the sanctuary. (Otherwise I would have named him and his church.)

I have blogged before on the pervasive lack of self-reflection in the attractional church movement, but I think this is a prime example: instead of considering the criticism for any merit it may hold (and maybe it holds none!), psychoanalyze the critic. This is a sign of hollowness.

And that leads me to this:

#4 Yesterday Rick Warren tweeted:
I challenge any church in America to match the spiritual maturity, godliness and commitment of any 500 members of Saddleback.
As many of you saw, the Christian twittersphere's head exploded. (The tweet has since been removed.) Many of us took this statement to the woodshed and smacked it. Such smacking begins to make more sensitive folks uncomfortable, so it wasn't long before the defenses of Warren and explanations of "what he really meant" started popping up, as well. Now I'm seeing some quoting Paul's boasting in the church as justification for the tweet. (You can just as easily quote Paul saying he boasts only in weakness or only in the cross too.) That's all cool.

Here's what I think: It's cool to be proud of your church, to even announce how awesome it is. We should think our churches are great, and we should say so. Stating (unsinful) pride in one's church, however, is different than challenging others to measure up to its awesomeness. "I challenge" you "to match" us? This is beyond pride in one's church and into boasting in one's superiority over another.

Warren doesn't need to be attacked over this. Those who are hammering the man need to check themselves. We all say stupid stuff sometimes. But it's also okay to treat stupid stuff as stupid. It's okay to hammer the statement. I really believe that. There once was a day when a pastor of Warren's stature and the size of his church could make claims of superiority like that and the response would have been lockstep nods. The few who felt uneasy by it would have kept their mouths shut for fear of being called jealous, old, traditional, boring, unwilling to change, disrespectful, etc. It's the same "touch not the Lord's anointed" thing that holds so many sway in the charismatic movement when anybody wants to dare question one of its many charlatans. Not that Warren is a charlatan. He's a great man. But I am happy we live in a time when people are no longer respecters of persons but willing to treat a dumb statement like a dumb statement.

I saw a similar effect back when Andy Stanley said that thing about expository preaching being "cheating." Some of us said that was wrong. And dumb. So some of us, without attacking Stanley, disagreed with the statement. Many of Stanley's defenders engaged on the biblical level and really wanted to talk that out. That's awesome. But some were content to say those of us who took umbrage just needed to keep our mouths shut because who were we to think we could respond to a man like Andy Stanley with anything other than agreement or silence?

Success that elevates someone above others and insulates them from engagement with others is dangerous to the church. The ground is level at the foot of the cross. You and I stand there together, side by side with all of Saddleback's members.

25 comments:

Stephanie said...

Well said.

Paul W. said...

As far as a first time visitor walking away from our church, I believe they would truly know we treasure Christ and His word, each other, and our unbelieving neighbors.

Aaron E Elmore said...

Favorite line, "The ground is level at the foot of the cross." Amen.

toequipthesaints.com said...

Great post. I like what you said about the fact that it is okay to treat stupid statements as stupid, while not attacking the individual who made the statement. The truth is exactly what you said, we all make stupid statements sometimes. We are all sinners. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. We speak stupid, and sometimes evil, things because we are being perfected. We haven't attained perfection yet (Phil 3:12). Good stuff.

Bob said...

Excellent, althought #4 was the most unquick "quick hit" I've seen! BTW, I linked to your resurgence.com article on my blog this morning. As a New England I'll just say, "You betcha!"

Whitney said...

Re: That part about how "we live in a time when people are no longer respecters of persons" - exactly. Yes, a thousand times, yes, I am also grateful for that component of today's generations. I enjoyed this post - thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Jeff Anderson said...

One of the problems presented by social media forums like Twitter is that we become tempted to pass judgment on people based on 140 characters.

However, I think Twitter posters can also be reminded that with only 140 characters, you've got to be careful (this is especially true for pastors for whom brevity is rarely a skill). You could pull the pebble from the pond, but you cannot stop its ripple.

Mark | hereiblog said...

I recently had an experience with a non-Christian visiting our church over the course of a few weeks. I will reflect on this soon. Your comments reminded me what she said.

On Warren, those are good thoughts. I didn't have time to think much on it when I was first told. I basically rolled my eyes at first.

I later replied: I might take you on that, but please tell me how we'd measure spiritual maturity, godliness & commitment? But I wasn't upset.

Someone replied to me about Warren was attempting to exalt man above Christ. Well, I replied that can't speak to his motives, but like you said, we all say stupid stuff sometimes. Some of us say it more frequently than others.

Jared said...

What's interesting is that yesterday many of the defenders were saying that Warren wasn't really challenging others to compare themselves; it just sounded like that. He was just boasting in his church.

But today Warren has unleashed a stream of tweets making it very clear that, yes, he intended to say to other churches they should compare themselves to Saddleback.

I'm not gonna say any more about this thing, because it becomes a vain disputation so quickly, but I think his clarifications today are unhelpful.

Jason said...

I disagree, Jared.

"This is beyond pride in one's church and into boasting in one's superiority over another."

I didn't him boasting superiority...I saw him taking joy in the way his church lives out the call of Christ and is challenging others to do the same. I truly believe that if a church took up the challenge and showed a solid commitment to Christ that Warren would celebrate it.

What's so wrong with our challenging each other to go deeper? To look at ourselves and honestly ask if we're strong in the areas he mentioned?

I just don't see where is statement itself is really that stupid. If you read into it that he was implying superiority, I can see your view. I just don't see that supposition.

Jared said...

What's so wrong with our challenging each other to go deeper? To look at ourselves and honestly ask if we're strong in the areas he mentioned?

Absolutely nothing. Let's do that.

jonwellman said...

At the very least, what Rick said was thought-provoking. Might not have been wise necessarily, but I think we all to some extent considered our own "spiritual maturity, godliness and commitment" when we read that tweet.


http://jonwellman.wordpress.com - Not a Camouflaged Soul

Chris said...

Hi Jared,

I don't believe the statement was stupid whatsoever. There is nothing wrong with challenging other churches to live out what God has called us to. I think that its easy to misunderstand that statement if you don't know the heart behind it or the actual church he is referring to.

At this point its easy to make assumptions and we all know what those do. I think wisdom would say, if you read a tweet that seems controversial or that you disagree with, maybe wait an hour or two and think through what your response might be. This is both respectful and honoring of church leaders who have gone before you and helpful and edifying for those who might read your tweets.

I am not saying Warren is above correction, I am saying no correction is necessary, you misunderstood what Warren was encouraging churches to do.

Andy Stanley's "cheating" line is not a good comparison. Stanley said that in an interview and made clear that he believes expository preaching is not the way to go. Yes we should confront Stanley on this.
In this situation, Warren sent out a tweet, it was misunderstood, no confrontation (or mocking)was necessary. Also, this is not the first time that you have had twitter "run-ins" with Rick Warren. He seems to be your favorite punching bag for what is wrong with the church today, just being honest.

Jared said...

this is not the first time that you have had twitter "run-ins" with Rick Warren. He seems to be your favorite punching bag for what is wrong with the church today

Chris, I'm sure I've responded to one or two things he's said before, but the punching bag thing is simply not true. Please pull up previous times I've "punched" him on Twitter to remind me of what you're talking about. I rarely think about him at all, and usually when I do it is neutral or favorable thoughts.

The last post I did on this blog "about" Rick Warren was in his defense, actually:
http://gospeldrivenchurch.blogspot.com/2008/12/blessed-are-you-when-men-hate-you.html

And I've done a couple of posts that quote him favorably. (Like this one, for instance: http://gospeldrivenchurch.blogspot.com/2008/03/quotable.html)

Put "Rick Warren" into the search field of this blog and then see if you still think he's my favorite punching bag.

I love the man. Just didn't love what he said yesterday.

Ally said...

I guess perspective is everything. I read the same tweets from Rick Warren that you did and didn't at all leap to the same conclusion as you. I don't think he meant it in the way you insinuated simply because his character isn't what you insinuated. In the world of 140 character tweets, it's dangerous to leap to conclusions.

I think he was simply excited about what God is doing in his congregation & wants others to think as big and possibly learn something, challenge yourself & your congregation. What's wrong with that being excited that your flock is being obedient, accepted a challenge & met it? Nothing.

Instead of being so quick to rip into the guy without even giving him the benefit of the doubt nor speaking to him personally to find out his meaning, why not think the best of him? I think his track record affords him that courtesy, no? Just sayin.

Chris said...

Jared,

Thanks for the link to those articles, they were good. I am not necessarily a respecter of persons either. Maybe my comment about being a "punching bag" was far reaching but I have seen you be quick on the draw with him before over twitter, thats all I was saying.

I guess what I meant to say was, maybe it would have been more helpful to point out that some people may misinterpret what he said and that he could have meant a number of things. (I think if you have read or followed Rick online for awhile you should have a general idea about his heart for God and the church, although perhaps one would have to meet him and spend time to perfectly understand that)

That being said, if you were one of those who misunderstood his tweet I can see why you would write what you did. :)

Jared said...

Chris, I appreciate your attempt at being charitable. ;-)

Pam said...

I just wanted to thank you for your post at the Resurgence blog. I'm from Montreal and I know exactly what you mean when you say that the churches up here are not Gospel-wakened.

The pastor of our small church is an American,a SBTS graduate and I'm grateful that he hammers the gospel week after week. There are many English-speaking churches up here but Christ is sometimes optional and the gospel is only for the unsaved.
We need your prayers!

Pam

OneBigHappy said...

This is a good example of why tweeting is so stupid to begin with. Let's purposefully put out short, cryptic statements, out of context, and see how people interpret them. I'm wondering if Warren's comment was a response to criticism against his church, perhaps criticism that his methods are producing shallow Christians. I have heard lots of this kind of criticism over the years against Saddleback, but I have no way of knowing if it's accurate or not. Not knowing the context, the tweet sounds defensive to me, not offensive.

Frank Turk said...

Yo Jared, I'm really happy for you, I'ma Let you finish, but that was one of the most awesome TweetMemes of all time!

Brandon Smith said...

Good thoughts. I will say this, after our little exchange last night and my initial half-serious defending of him even this morning, I was a little put off by his extensive comment stream in obvious response to the outrage.

Anonymous said...

Jared,
Thanks for the post; some great thoughts for us all to consider on how careful we should be with our words. I will not pretend to be a fan of Warren's, but putting him aside even, we should all learn something from this. First, we should be careful to guard our words. Especially anyone of considerable influence who has thousands of people looking to you as the under shepherd of their flock. Someone mentioned waiting before responding in haste to a tweet; I think even more careful consideration should go into what a pastor is putting out there for the masses to read. If it is something that can easily be taken out of context, then that should probably only be shared with those who will understand the context.
We should absolutely speak seek to stand for biblical truth even when it is a pastor that we are taking on. As long as we are motivated by love toward that brother, and all those that may have been influenced by the misguided words. The difficulty is not becoming prideful ourselves, and recognizing that the only way that any truth has been revealed to us is not our accomplishment, but what has been revealed by the Spirit.
Finally, these are the words that should guide our thoughts and words, I only pray that my post has not done anything contrary:
Matt5:3  Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4  Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5  Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7  Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8  Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9  Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10  Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blue Collar Todd said...

I like your assessement of New England as being "liberal" and "pagan". I think it is critical for Christians to understand that they cannot compromise their faith to such things. Charles Spurgeon understood the threat of Liberalism over a hundred years ago. Unfortunately in it's more radical form today, many Christians cannot see it for what it is.

Erik said...

Jared,

You put into words so brilliantly thoughts I've had about New England for several years. I was born and raised in central Connecticut and you were 'spot on' about the spiritual climate of these 6 states. Thanks...and may God continue to raise up more Pastors like yourself in this much needed area of the U.S.

nannykim said...

I just wanted to say that I grew up in New England. I came to know God through Christ when I was 16 (this was back in the late 60's). There was a new church starting up in my town (Somers, Ct.) and the daughter of the pastor of this new church rode the bus to school with me and attended the same classes. We often discussed Christianity and she kept inviting me to her church. I finally did visit her church, mainly to get her to stop inviting me! But the thing that really hit me at the time was how different these people were from the liberal church I had attended when I was younger. They were so excited about Christ. I could tell that they had a real relationship with God. They would have a testimony time during the service when they would tell something God was doing in their lives. They had a prayer time during the service and I could tell that their faith was very real and vibrant.They were loving and joyfilled and excited about God. This all provoked me to seek to see if the gospel was true. I must say, that the Holy Spirit, used the faithful witness of my friend, and the powerful witness of the church itself to more readily examine the faith.

I am glad there continues to be church planting in New England!