It seems I have taken a somewhat contrarian path over the last few posts, and I am going to be quite repetitive on a few points with this one. That all being said, I cannot ignore my compulsion to speak and warn against what I feel is a dangerous strain of shallow ecclesiology; I am jealous over the church of Christ. I am jealous over the Gospel.
I recently ran across a post by a pastor and church planter from Canton, Georgia. As mentioned in an earlier post, I have listened to him speak as a guest pastor at a church I once attended. Also, I have listened to a sermon or two by this pastor. Too, I gather that his church was mentored to a degree by my former church.
His post revolves around the theft of a church trailer that contained things critical to the functioning of the pastor’s church. There is no denying that this theft is a horrible thing. Let me state some things clearly and perhaps digress and ramble a bit before I continue with my thoughts on the aforementioned post.
It is not my intent to hurt, but to warn. Also, I do not intend to infer the attitude exhibited by the referenced post is universal amongst the seeker sensitive church movement; it is just that his church is one of the more extreme manifestations, and this church is not without influence. That being said…..
The Gospel is simple, but it is not shallow. The call of much of the church growth movement, though, is to decry the deeper things of the faith. Over and over and over, I hear these pastors state that it is not their job to feed the flock, but to create self-feeders. To a small extent, there is an element of truth to that exhortation in that we are all to feast on the infallible, inspired, authoritative Word of God, the canon of scripture. However, I have heard enough of these calls to ‘self-feed’ to know that there is more lurking behind this call than to encourage the flock to read the Bible for themselves. There is, first and foremost, a shallow, feel-good legalism. ‘Rather than go deeper, get out there and do things’ is the false dichotomy offered by more than a few of these seeker-sensitive church leaders. There is also an element of arrogant disdain these pastors hold for those who cry to their pastors for more food. I think, too, there is perhaps a laziness or inability on the part of many of these pastors to do the hard work and study required to preach the deeper things of Christ. Rather, there is a desire to be edgy, to be hip, to be relevant, to make the church more appealing to the world. The competition to the church is perceived to be Hollywood and Las Vegas. The thought is that the church needs to do the things Hollywood and Las Vegas does in terms of promoting the message of the Gospel. Much more could be said, but ultimately what this attitude represents is a contempt for the power of the Word faithfully exposited.
Alright, back to the pastors post. Again, the church trailer was stolen. Not good. Here are some quotes from the pastors blog regarding the theft:
- First let me say, God loves you. Second let me say we forgive you. We really don’t want to forgive you, but God says we should so we do. Third of all I want you to know that I think you are scum bags. I think you are lowlife degenerates who need a good butt kicking. Matter of fact I feel so strongly about the fact that you need a good butt kicking that I am volunteering to do it. I hope you believe in God because you should get on your knees and cry out to Him like never before because if we find you, I can promise we will kick the crap out of you. It won’t be pretty, it won’t be over quickly, and it will be very painful. I know that doesn’t sound very nice but I feel pretty strongly that is what you need.
- We are probably the only church you have ever heard of that will honestly break your legs once you are found.
- Get that trailer out of the county QUICK. As soon as I hit publish on this blog post a church of about 1000 crazy people will know that our black, children’s trailer has been stolen and I can promise they will be on the lookout for it. You would much rather me find you then one of them.
A lovely image the pastor paints…..better that the pastor beats the mess out of the sinner before his crazy church of 1000 gets hold of the thief. Try to harmonize the pastor’s desire for vengeance with the Sermon on the Mount if you dare. The pastor’s attitude seems to be more aligned with radical Islam. I find irony, too, in this pastors often stated disdain for ‘Pharisees’ and ‘religious’ people found in his rhetoric.
Unlike much of the errant neo-liberalism and overly generous ‘orthodoxy’ of the Emergent Church, the seeker sensitives proclaim an orthodoxy in their mission and belief statements. Where they sometimes err is in their ecclesiology. They are orthodox in their beliefs, but they engage in heteropraxy, in errant practice. The bitter fruits are sometimes shallowness and arrogance. In the post by Gary Lamb, we find such fruit. What we find is a theft that transcends the stealing of property from a church. What we find stolen from the church of Christ, if such a thing were possible, is the blessedness of a humble, broken, and contrite heart. What we find stolen by this church, if such a thing were possible, is the sense that but for the grace, forgiveness, and mercy of Christ, you and I are condemned sinners, no less so than the trailer thief, fully deserving the wrath of God. Rather, we find a ‘lets go break the legs of sinners’ attitude. One has to ask this pastor and his church of 1000, which of you will cast the first stone that breaks the legs of the thief when you finally run him down?
In closure and to further cement my concern, here is a response from another blog to Gary’s post:
- “I follow these guys a lot and think they are doing an incredible work for Jesus! It’s nice to see they have a little bite to their bark! Click below to read what happened…”
The heart grieves and mourns for a large swath of the American church. Alright, rant mode off………