#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.