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Christian Cannibalism

I recently and regrettably entered into a Facebook thread that I wish I would have never even seen. It was impossible for me to miss. I pulled up Facebook on my computer and it was literally the first post my eyes connected with. I think God wanted me to see it. It disturbed me all day. It reminded me of something that is terribly wrong with our Christianity. I have, in the past, been guilty of it and I think that’s why I am so bothered by it. When I was guilty of it, I was younger, and arrogant, and pretty quick to be critical and I lacked compassion. Let me share a part of what I first read when I set my eyes upon Facebook. It was posted by a Pastor and members of his church followed his lead. Throughout this blog post, anything “blocked in” is an exact quote from the Facebook thread I am referring to.

“I have observed over the years concerning ministry leadership. Accountability is a great thing. The truth is not everyone wants to be accountable to someone. Men do not like to be governed. But I believe if pastors were more accountable to other pastors it would prevent a lot of ungodly behavior and harness the rebellious, independent and selfish inconsiderate attitudes that seems prevalent today. Accountability would mean that you allow someone into your life to question you, to give you wisdom. You give them permission to speak into your life. You cant correct someone you don’t have a relationship with.”

What is written above, in my opinion, is very accurate and right on. Accountability is a great thing. Everybody needs accountability. If the post would have stopped with just what is written above, I would have enjoyed the post and been challenged by it. I would have been encouraged by it. It would have caused me to double check where my checks and balances are and what health they are in. But the author of the post didn’t stop there. The paragraph below is the finishing touch the author chose to express. It is his finishing touches that have inspired this blog post.

“These men cower from true friendships because they want to do it all on their own. They want to be the entrepreneur. They want to say “I did it my way.” Or worse, they are hiding their private sin. If you do try to correct them, they will call you religious, a zealot, a Pharisee. You can’t win with certain people. They don’t want to submit. They don’t want to be accountable to you….they want to be superior. They want to hide the secrets of their hearts.”

The author of the paragraph above is a Christian Pastor. He is publicly writing about Christian Pastors and Christian Ministry Leaders. The second half of the author’s post is highly critical, judgmental and an irresponsible action due to the very nature it is posted for the whole world to read. I completely understand that there seems to be an epidemic level of Pastors having moral failures in our culture today. I am in full favor of accountability. I am not disturbed by the fact that the author of this Facebook thread I reference is screaming that we need more accountability. I’m disturbed, deeply by the fact that the Facebook post I quote above is something that I would fully expect to originate from a secular author, a critical atheist, or at least from Kathy Griffin. If it were written from any of them, it would have been expected, but for this to be posted by a fellow Christian and Pastor is only what I could call Christian Cannibalism at its best. It is said that Christians seem to be the only ones who shoot their own wounded. Why is it that so many Christians are so nasty with other Christians? Why do we bicker about things in such a public fashion. When this happens we only hurt our own cause for Jesus Christ.

The Facebook thread, I refer to, was inspired by the actions of a pastor who was caught in sin and it hit the headlines in the local newspaper. The news of another failure brought the cannibals out for a fresh bite of fallen Christian flesh.

Sin is appalling, by no means does my post make light of any kind of sin. I give no excuses for sin. My post is about the sin being committed by a group of people who are publicly condemning a fellow Christian for his own sin. It is no surprise to anybody that everybody has sinned and falls short of God’s holy standard. The Bible confirms this in Romans 3:23. However, what is actually more appalling to me is public judgement and shaming of Christians by fellow Christians. Please don’t misunderstand me, I am very familiar with the passages in 1 Corinthians 5 about being commanded by Paul to judge one another as Christians. What is disturbing to me is doing it before the eyes and ears of the unchurched on Facebook. Paul actually warns of such cannibalistic behavior in 1 Corinthians 6:1

“If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints?

The passage above is technically referring to lawsuits, however, the principle of the matter is the same. I think that Paul is saying, “air out your dirty laundry privately, please don’t do so in front of unbelievers.” To take it even further, Jesus commands us in Matthew 18:15 to personally/privately confront a person who has offended us. Jesus said that if the offender doesn’t listen, then take two or three others with you, if the offender still doesn’t respond then go with the elders of the church. If there is still no change, after the privately grouped confrontation meeting, then Jesus says to treat the person like a pagan or a corrupt tax collector. By the way…HOW DID JESUS TREAT PAGANS AND CORRUPT TAX COLLECTORS?

The Facebook post written by Christians that took a fallen Christian leader and rubbed his face in the mud publicly, is simply what is called Christian Cannibalism. It is epidemic amongst Christians and if Jesus is to ever use us effectively, we must stop this disgusting eating habit.

As I, regrettably, tried to squelch the cannibals from continuing their public feast, I found myself the target of their starvation. The group didn’t know who I was, but the Pastor did. The group accused me of not living in the real world. They said, without knowing who I was, “that I didn’t have clue and obviously had never been hurt by a Christian leader before, and that if I had, I would be in full agreement with them. They said, I “lived in a different world than they did.” My gut hurt from that response, because I have partaken, erroneously, in christian cannibalistic feasts back in my stupid days. I am glad that my heart hurt as a result of this Facebook thread, because it verified that I have grown in my lacking areas of compassion and wisdom, and it hurt me to see this group repeating mistakes that I wish I had never made. One lady typed into the Facebook thread…

Too many people have left church because of corrupt leaders! Thank God there are still godly ones!

Again…I do not question the truth of her Facebook comment. It just chills me to imagine what unbelieving bystander might be reading the cannibalistic frenzy, and what they might be thinking about how Christians behave and treat one another…especially the wounded and fallen. The world knows that Christianity has dirty laundry, and it doesn’t help anyone, when the Christians want to hang that dirty laundry in everybody’s front yard, and then yell at each other from their front porches while their unbelieving neighbors watch. Its a freak reality TV show, just minus the TV. The lady’s who I quoted above about too many leaving because of corrupt leaders, seems alarmingly blind to the dangers of her own behavior and its effect on people who are checking out the church. The pot seems to be calling the kettle black.

What is shocking to me, and curiously has me asking a question of the lady of the last quote, is, “how does she know her pastor is one of the “godly ones.” Didn’t the congregation of the fallen pastor, believe he was “one of the godly ones,” before he got caught in his sin?

Its a whole other blog post for another time, but the members of the Church have struggled with loyalty to people and pastors way too often instead of keeping their loyalty and followership on Jesus. He’s the only who can really be declared, “Godly One.” The rest of us…well, not so godly.

When I asked the group to be more kind to the fallen Christian leader, I mentioned that it seemed fair that Christian leaders have a special target on their backs that the devil loves to shoot at. Christian Pastors are high on the devil’s hit list. I typed, that it made sense, to pray for our Christian leaders, especially the fallen ones, and not publicly attack them. That only seemed to fire up the Christian mob even more, one lady gripped her fork and knife and licked her lips for another bloody bite and replied…

oh yes! blame it on the devil… boo hooo hooo! the devil made me do it!

There was no good in the Facebook thread I was engaged in. I immediately went to each post I had typed and removed myself from the thread.

I don’t have some creative line to end this post. I’m saddened by it all. The older I get the more I recognize that we all need Jesus stronger and stronger living inside of us. God never intended the world to be this way, and God commanded his followers to never behave this way.

If I were the devil, I would be targeting the Pastor who started this Facebook thread and who also has a very diligent and passionate and “hungry” following. If I could get this pastor to screw up too, then all his followers will be so heart sick that I would win some huge battles in striving to pull people from Jesus.

We must stop following people, and simply appreciate each others gifts within the body of Christ. I have personally experienced what happens when a large group of people put their faith and hope in me as a pastor and then the instant I am gone from the scene, it all falls apart. The solution for every Christian is to keep our eyes on Jesus. He is our Lead Pastor!

Most of all…what must stop…is the cannibalistic behavior amongst us as Christians. Jesus warns us about not being able to get into the Kingdom of Heaven if we have hate towards our Christian brothers and sisters. The public bashing of each other must stop. We must handle ourselves like Jesus commands in Matthew 18:15. We must forgive one another and carry one another’s burdens.

Jesus also commands us to treat others like we would like to be treated. If I blew my credibility because of sin, I sure would hope that people would not publicly bash me on Facebook. Would I deserve it? Yes. But does that make it right? No. I would hope that my Christian brothers and sisters would surround me and privately kick my butt and at the same time love and restore me in whatever amount of time it would take.

As Christians we must stop the cannibalism. We must stop shooting our wounded. The Bible says, that we will be known by our love.

Since I’ve been quoting the great Apostle Paul throughout this post, it is fitting to finish with one more of his writings. Its Colossians 3:16-17, “16Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. 17And whatever you do or say, (or type in Facebook threads), do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.”

I love you, and I commit to do my very best to always demonstrate my love for you.
Be patient with me as I continue to get better at doing it.
I will work on being patient with you.
Deal?


Attending Church


Most of us, in a regular and personal pattern, have the part of Church attendance confidently mastered. Our Butt in seat, smile on our face. It’s, for sure not wrong to have such a pattern. I personally think it has worked for the Church over the past 20 years or so. I think everything has phases. I’m curious to know what will happen to the Church, that has as their key strength, a focus on pretty much only Church attendance. Those who don’t attend Church look at that pattern and see Church people show up, talk to their friends, sing some songs and take notes as they learn from what they are sitting and watching. Repeat next Sunday. Those who don’t attend Church truly believe they do the same thing, just not on a Church campus or building. They show up to their local hang out, like a great coffee shop. They talk to their friends, listen and even sing some songs playing over the speaker system. They take notes as they surf the internet looking for information, current stories, and realistically get more information through 30 minutes of web surfing than they would listening to one speaker make at least 3 points. Repeat at least twice a week. They could argue that they are more productive in accomplishing more while at a coffee shop, doing the same things Church people do, when attending Church.

I’m not being cynical or rude, just wanting to converse on this subject. Don’t be offended. I think Church Services will continue in the phase they are in. The more we try to do Church differently, the more we realize Church is the same and has been the same. Church really hasn’t changed much…even from Jesus’ day around 2000 years ago. Church is Church. Always will be. It’s a good thing.

But…Some things…some very little tweaks…could make a big difference in the mentality of those outside the Church, watching us and wondering if its worth it, to even show up some Sunday and try it.

Church Attender…Showing up and taking notes isn’t your job. Its your practice. Its your good habit. Keep it up. While you do this weekly practice, please don’t forget your job. Your job, while completing your weekly practice, is to surprise and delight others that are around you, while you honor God, who lives in you. Your job is to raise the bar of personal encounter, open your circle of friends so that there is a space where you surprise and delight a stranger because you invited them to fill the space, yet never closing the circle. That job cycle must never end. Your job is to create encounters with people who have expectations of what their experience will be while attending a Church service. Your job is to shatter their low expectations with your love and verbal curiosity about who they are. Your job is to make your spiritual leaders so grateful that they have people like you teaming up with them to impact lives and work hard in Church. Do your job and the eyes of the Lord will lock in on you and you will be proven as faithful. That’s your job. That our job.

Just attending is overrated. Necessary, but not nearly what you ultimately desire.
I can’t wait for Sunday.


THE THREE _______________ ? (Ecclesiastes 4:12)

Ecclesiastes 4:12 says, “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”

I love that Bible passage. I have seen it spiritually lived out in so many different ways. I’ve seen it work for good and I’ve seen it work for evil.

I haven’t posted in awhile, so before I get a new routine going again with some blogging about the Teachings and Commands of Jesus, I want to blog about and epidemic crisis going on throughout out too many churches around the world. If what I’m about to write is offensive then I would suggest that “the shoe is fitting you” and God might be using this post as a way to ask you to change.

A triple braided cord is not easily broken. Obviously true or it wouldn’t be in the Holy Bible. If you want to physically experiment the truth of this statement then go grab some dental floss. Take one strand of it and wrap it around a finger on each of your hands and pull and break it. Did you notice how hard you had to pull to break the strand? Now, take 2 strands of similar length and twist them together and repeat. You had to pull much harder to break it…some might not have even been able to break the two strands. Now repeat it, but use three strands that you have actually braided together. Its incredibly hard to break them, nearly impossible!

I have enough of a personal ministry network across the USA that allows me to hear and see many circumstances play out in the every day life of the local church. I hear stories that make me want to fall to my knees and thank God for such incredible news. I hear stories that make my heart ache for the pastor who is having to walk through the valley of the shadow of death. I have personally walked through both scenarios. I’ve been around long enough to personally experience both scenarios and seen enough scenarios play out in other places that I have been able to see and link patterns. Its quite fascinating, actually.

The pattern deals with people and leadership.

The stories of triumph are preceded by a church that has a pastor that is connected with his elder board through honoring each other’s strengths and having intense team and trust. I love that kind of triumph.

The stories of walking through the valley of the shadow of death are typically preceded by a gathering of a pastor with a board. Usually the lack of team and trust and the lack of acknowledging each members strengths, this board typically and eventually dwindles to three. I don’t know why three, but I think somehow, someway this Ecclesiastes 4:12 passage ungirds it all.

I don’t need to go into too much detail about the Leadership Board built around strengths and team and trust. You can call the circle of people anything you want because when you boil it all down it’s the same thing. Elders, Deacons, Administrative Team, Corporate officers, Trustees, committees. ITS ALL THE SAME. People with positions of power. When this team of people come together and honor each other’s strengths and rely on each other’s team and trust, this team can accomplish nearly anything. This group of people live the Holy Scriptures in their personal lives. This group knows how to laugh and most definitely do not take themselves too seriously. This group is a group of people that are inspiring to be around. When this group comes together, success happens naturally through organized thinking, holiness, planning, prayer, and vision that is united in what Jesus wants. Period! This group naturally and without resistance rotates its leadership because not one single individual in the circle needs to have the position. Each individual in this group has developed their identity in who Christ says they are, instead of needing the position so they can have an identity. There is a lot of depth in that last sentence. If you pause for even 30 seconds you will be able to think of people in your life that fit both those descriptions. Which person are you? Which person would you rather spend time with…especially in a meeting?

This group of people very rarely, if ever, has the problem of the group shrinking to just 3 people. This group is of such that its actually fun to attend meetings and as birds of a feather flock together, this type of group attracts more people just like them. There’s never a shortage of people to ask to be a part of this type of rich environment. So cool when this happens.

So, there is a flip side to this environment. Again, call the group whatever you want, its all the same. However, this type of group usually has such an environment that it typically ends up only having 3 people who are left in it. Its hard to find new people to fill the absence of those who just couldn’t survive the walk through the valley of death type meetings. Death by meetings. What’s the difference from the description above? Why is there typically just three people left? The difference is simply the opposite of my first description. The Valley of Death environment is lead by a group of people who create their identities based off their position. This position puts them in such a spot that it allows them to pursue their personal interests. When you have a group of people in a meeting where three or more in the group are always vying for their personal preferences, you have, eventually, just three that are left and you end up with an organization that is full of things that these three people wanted. Everybody else in the group just shriveled and then disappeared. There voice wasn’t heard, because the big three continually cut them off and ignore their suggestions. The three people that typically remain are of two different types of people. The first type of three that might remain are the three that are very out-spoken, tend to be a bit arrogant and have a bully type personality about them. They control the meetings. They fight, endlessly, for their personal preferences. This type of person will say that they know what they are doing and that their ideas are God directed. The problem with this, is that they use God as the excuse to pursue their personal interests. The real problem is that each of these bully types will argue for their personal preferences and say that God has given them this position of authority to pursue their idea. Many times they will say that God gave them the idea. Then the next guy will say that God told them something different and has given them the position of authority to make the idea come to fruition. What you have is a meeting where God seems to be schizophrenic and can’t make up His mind, telling one person one thing and the next person something else. These meetings are maddening. They are made up of a few people all fighting for their personal preferences. There is a serious lack of Christ-likeness in these meetings and in a matter of time, there usually are only three left. If its not the 3 bullies that are left, then it usually means that even the bullies got impatient and left, leaving the very kind and gentle people sitting around the table wondering what to do next. This group will be too nice to make any tough decisions so the meetings usually last for hours while the group simply talks about ideas and never activating any of them. This last group of three remaining is very rare… most of the time all you have left in these leadership meetings are the three bullies. They love their position. They get their identity from their position. They individually try to win more followers over so they can get popular vote and power. These kind of people have a lot of meetings before and after the “official” meeting. I call this group of three, “The 3 Kings.” Self-appointed of course. The very kind and soft spoken group of three that rarely remain, we can call them “The 3 Stooges.” Kind of mean, but you get the point.

What the Church needs is a group of men that is described in the first group I wrote about above who all bow down to the real and mighty three. The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. That is the ultimate group of three that can’t be broken. If every Church/Org/Corporation/Gov./etc. were lead by such a group, wow…the world would be better.

Be careful what you think the role of a leadership group is. (Call the group what you want, its all the same.) Be careful if it seems the group that is leading your church carries a heavy stick. Jesus didn’t carry a heavy stick…except to the bullies. Jesus kicked the bullies butts all the time. They eventually killed Him, but then He kicked the bullies butts again 3 days later. What is it with the number 3! Be careful relying on a group of people to give you directions of how you should live your life. You have a Bible for that. I suggest we all follow the great 3.

The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. When those three are leading, incredible things take place, no matter the personalities of the others sitting around the leadership table. Take a look at your organization, your Church, your Government, your personal family. If there is dysfunction of any kind it can be traced, more often than not, to a group of three who are not listening to The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit, but are listening first to their personal preferences, which are being swayed by a group of people they are trying to please.

We as God’s creation are better than this. The solution to the problem of ending up with the 3 leftovers, is for everybody to follow the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. When you have a group of three left over that aren’t doing this…look out! Danger and Death with hovering everywhere. In the Church world, God nor the Devil is present in this kind of setting. The great 3 show the Lord that they don’t need Him and they lead on. This also dismisses the devil’s need to be present, for when people are in control, the devil doesn’t need to be around to cause chaos, it will be prevalent without him around.

What do you do?
Figure out a way to get the 3 removed. If that is impossible, then remove yourself from the organization and the dysfunction. Life is too short and…there are enough exciting and dynamic organizations/churches/families out there, that you don’t have to be trapped in one that is lead by the 3 Kings or the 3 Stooges.

Choose THE FATHER, THE SON and THE HOLY SPIRIT! It won’t be easy, but its what’s best!

A triple braided cord is not easily broken. This is true if the braid is holy or evil.
Don’t forget that the devil disguises himself as an angel of light.

So, I recommend that you check the fruit. A good tree produces good fruit. While checking, if you find a group of 3 people who say that they know what they are doing and that you just need to trust their leadership…well…choose wisely, your choice will have consequences. Remember that life is challenging enough as it stands and I would recommend that find a group of people who fully submit to only the will of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

They are truly the Great Three.
Keep their desires at the very center of your life.
It won’t be easy, but it will be right!


Sandy Hook Elementary Tragedy…WHY?

Every now and again I come across a really well thought out and written article that I can’t help but to want to simply honor by reposting it. It is written by Adam Hamilton who is the Pastor of The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas. You can read more blog posts of his from his website Adam Hamilton Blog

I want to insert a Teaching of Jesus’s before you get to the material that Adam wrote. It is from John 16:33. Jesus says, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” If you want to see the link in its context click the following link. Teaching of Jesus

Here’s what Adam wrote in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting in Newtown Connecticut.

“Everything happens for a reason,” he said as he reflected upon the terrible events that had occurred in Newtown, Connecticut. I suppose these words were meant to be comforting. Implicit in them is the idea that there is a grand plan, this horrible tragedy is a part of that plan, and that with time we’ll see and understand the good that was the result of this horrible evil.

But, is the shooting of twenty children and their teachers really a part of a grand plan – an essential means to a greater end? This implies that there is a script that has already been written by which the events of our world unfold, one leading to another, until the happy ending is finally reached. In this picture of reality, we’re all characters in the novel that God is writing. We merely do or experience what the Author intends.

Here’s why I think this is wrong: If everything happens for a reason, according to God’s plan, then the plot to kill twenty children and six teachers and administrators did not originate in the mind of Adam Lanza, but in the mind of God. God intended this, and put it in the mind of Adam Lanza, because it was a part of God’s plan. What kind of “god” intends children to be killed? What greater good could possibly justify the horrible pain their parents must endure? If “everything happens for a reason,” then every act of evil is ultimately God’s doing. Rape, abuse of children, terrorism, the cruelty human beings perpetrate on one another – are all of these really the will of God?

This line of reasoning does two things: It removes human responsibility for evil acts, and it makes God culpable for all evil, having intended it to happen. What kind of monster wills all the horrible events in this world, even if for some greater good? Can the ends really justify the means when the means are the murder of a child or the many other forms evil takes in our world?

A more accurate assessment is that the evil that happens in this world is not God’s will and is, in fact, a thwarting of his plan. The Bible calls us to love our neighbors, and to do justice and love kindness, not to indiscriminately kill one another. So how do we explain the kind of evil we saw in Connecticut last week? I suspect that here theists and atheists would agree: Human beings have within them the ability to choose evil or good. We wake up each day facing the age-old struggle of good and evil. In some situations mental illness clouds our judgment.

Our struggle with good and evil is manifest in a hundred small decisions each day: Will I text and drive, or leave my phone alone until I get where I’m going? Will I gossip about my co-worker or choose to speak about them the way I hope they would speak about me? Will I act upon my worst impulses or my best? Will I show mercy or seek revenge? Will I bless or curse? Will I live only for myself, or will I love my neighbor as myself?

The senseless killing of twenty children and their teachers and principal at Sandy Hook Elementary School was not part of God’s grand plan. It was a thwarting of God’s plan. It was the misuse of human freedom. Why then did God not stop it? For the same reason he does not stop you from texting and driving, or living selfish and self-absorbed lives; the same reason he allows us to ignore the poor, or to cheat on our spouses or to abuse power: Because the freedom to make choices is an essential part of what it means to be human.

Yet God has not left us entirely to our own devices. God seeks to influence humanity. This is at the heart of the Christmas story. It is the story of light coming into the darkness, of a Savior to show us the way, of light overcoming the darkness, of God’s work to save the world.

The Christmas story ends at a cross and an empty tomb. God becomes subject to the evil humanity is capable of. He is tortured and hung on a cross and dies there in agony. But this is not the end of the story. On the third day, the tomb is empty, and Christ is risen. Easter declares that death and hate and evil will never have the final word.

Even now, in Newtown, Connecticut, evil will not prevail. Every act of evil produces a thousand acts of goodness. We’ve seen this in the stories coming out of Connecticut. We’ve felt it in our own hearts. This terrible tragedy touched a nation, and aroused kindness and compassion in our hearts. While some misuse their freedom to perpetrate evil, millions respond by feeling compelled to use their freedom to do good. Everything doesn’t happen for a reason, if by this we mean evil is a part of God’s plan. But God does ensure that evil will not prevail and that light will always, ultimately, overcome the darkness. If we follow God’s lead, our work is to push back the darkness.
By – Pastor Adam Hamilton.


UNITY IS DIVISION

Recent experiences, in combination with the Lincoln movie has me thinking… Unity is a status achieved and maintained through battle. Unity never just happens. The Civil War was a Unity Fight. The fight for unity includes casualties. Groups that refuse to draw a line of Unity for fear of causing casualties will never have unity and actually cause greater casualties. Strange to think that unity is a product of partisanship. The day where 100% of all people in existence are in Unity is the day where everybody stands for nothing. It takes backbone to DRAW A LINE of unity. Unity is an act of division. The division sign is a dot divided by another dot. The division sign is one united group divided by another united group. Unity only happens through division/battle. Unity separates to gather. Only the courageous stand for unity. Draw your line and stand lovingly strong. Its a rare character trait today. Jesus said in Matthew 10:34, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” In this Christmas season, do not forget that this “Prince of Peace” was the great Unifier! Man, he caused incredible division. What a Battle He fought for Unity. There were casualties. Are you like Him?