Sex (leave it to the experts, you sound like a dork, and don’t call your wife ‘hot’ in public, she’s not a prostitute)
Psychology (unless you’re a trained psychologist)
Quantum Physics (reading Facebook does not make you a scientist, and basing your theology on science–human observations and theories on the universe–is syncretism. Letting science inspire you on your ideas of God is, of course, highly recommended.)
Money (God is your provider, just mention your needs once per service/podcast/video and then shut up)
Apocryphal stories from other preachers (these are the verbal equivalent of those chain emails your grandma still forwards you)
Humor is a very useful troubleshooting tool for the Body of Christ.
Any time you take your car to the mechanic’s shop, or take your computer to Geek Squad, the technicians will use hardware or software troubleshooting tools to determine the issue and find out how to fix it.
Humor is one of those tools that the Church has at its disposal, of which it is largely unaware.
Humor is vital for provoking change in society. Any time humanity determines, ‘this needs to change!’, out come the comedians.
This is on purpose.
“You mean God deliberately lets people make fun of the Church? Why would he do that?”
To point out what needs fixing, that the Church is blind to, because it is largely ignorant of the larger culture outside.
(Bill Maher is especially good at poking fun at the Church. There are others, but his name immediately comes to mind.)
Any time you see people outside the Church, poke fun at the Church, in a new and particularly painful way, after saying ‘ouch!’, here is the next thing to do:
Look very carefully at what they are making fun of.
Are they making fun of a particular belief?
It’s time to take a look at that belief. Take it apart, very carefully.
Analyze each piece.
Take it down to its roots.
If you run into a dead-end with the book you’re using, find better books.
Ask your friends.
Keep looking, until you have determined the problem.
Perhaps what you’re believing is wrong?
At this point, you can either cover it up, pretending you didn’t see that, or you can choose to change what you believe, and find out ways of telling others.
(Watch the Netflix movie ‘Come Sunday’ for an intriguing and, at times, heart-breaking, example of a famous Evangelical Charismatic preacher deconstructing his belief in hell in public. [It could be argued that Carlton Pearson went off the rails later, but that is an argument for another time.])
Perhaps what you are believing is right.
You’ve done the honest thing: consulting with other people outside your social circle, asked the scholars, and looked into the original languages, and determined, to the best of your ability, that what they are making fun of, is Truth.
Then why are they making fun of it?
Could it be, that you are saying it in a way that they do not understand?
Maybe you need to find (or create) a clearer Bible translation?
Or perhaps you need to find better ways of explaining the Truth?
If someone is making fun of you for preaching Truth, then that is on them.
But if you are preaching what is not Truth, then that, my friend, is on you.
Are they making fun of particular practices?
Perhaps those need to be changed, or updated.
Or, perhaps they need to be improved. Make it more beautiful than it was before. Touch up the paint a little. Tune up the instruments. Make excellence a priority.
If it’s a valuable practice, then learn to explain to the younger generations why it’s valuable. Otherwise, they will not appreciate it, and will not carry it on.
Recognize that this practice may not be valuable to everyone (that is where humility comes in), but explain why it is valuable to you, in leading you to a closer experience with God.
Sometimes these old traditions, need to be retired, or carefully stored away: the concepts in books, or the artifacts in attics, for future generations to rediscover.
If there is no one around to maintain the traditions, then, sadly, that is sometimes all that can be done.
If the tradition had value, do your best to preserve it, and trust that it will be rediscovered someday. You may not live to see it, but nothing that is valuable to God is lost forever.
The tears you are crying, right now, at the destruction of what was lost, will never be forgotten.
Music is worth mentioning again, here, as it is a passion of mine.
The Church has become very good at adapting itself to trends outside.
If an outside musician comes up with a particularly good guitar solo, you can bet that, in a contemporary church somewhere near you, there is a guitarist who is just aching to try that same solo next Sunday.
This can be good, and it can be bad.
On the one hand, it keeps the kids coming to church.
(They’ll ultimately leave, if your theology is garbage, or prove to be a bunch of hypocrites and sourpusses. But they’ll stay, for a while, if you have free food, loud music, and you’re willing to make an attempt to speak their language.)
On the other hand: worship music.
YOU DON’T ALL HAVE TO COPY EACH OTHER.
Figure out new things.
Push the edge.
The Church is supposed to lead the world. (I suspect we always do so, in all things, for better or for worse, but I will come back to that another time.)
WE are supposed to be the ones with the cutting-edge music.
Maybe stop listening to other people’s music altogether, for a solid month, and do nothing but work with your band or collaborators.
Switch genres. If you’re a rock ‘n roller, listen to nothing but classical, or jazz, for a solid month.
(*Not ‘smooth jazz’, that Muzak is poison.)
If the scene in your town isn’t doing anything for you any more, maybe you could move somewhere else.
The point is: mix it up.
Take a break from your usual routine.
Then come back, and see if what you have in your notebooks and scribbled on napkins, is worth developing.
If not, still, always save it for later. I recommend saving everything you can. Maybe you’ll see some value in it down the road, and it will be the next hit song in ten years’ time.
Or, if you become famous, you can get that napkin auctioned off for millions of dollars and have some good retirement income, or donate the money to a favorite charity.
The point is: push your creativity to the limits.
Don’t do drugs, those will just kill you early and make you hurt yourself and others.
The Church has discovered better drugs: it’s called being ‘high on God’, or the Anointing. It will get you, and keep you, high as a kite, healthy and whole, for decades to come.
Get some sleep. Research proper nutrition. Your body as as much of an instrument as that sweet Fender or the latest hotness from Zildjian.
Take care of yourself, and you’ll feel better.
The better you feel, the better music you’ll make.
When people are making fun of the Church, it’s because there is something valuable there.
Find out what is valuable, and either improve it, or purify it.
If it can be improved, punch it up, without making it into a parody of itself.
(Or make a parody. But make it funnier than what the world is doing. The Church BADLY needs instruction in how to do humor correctly. The Steve Martin MasterClass comes to mind. I haven’t taken it yet, but I might.)
Maybe it needs to be purified. Most doctrine taught in the Church is not Pauline in nature. Listen to what John Crowder and Matt Spinks are saying. Hell, you’re already listening to what I’m saying, and I’m trying to outclass and outperform all of my friends.
(Competition is great. That’s just the way I’m wired: I want to know everything, I want to say it better than everyone, and I want to do it yesterday.)
We badly need to learn Greek, and Hebrew, and take this thing back down to its roots.
We need to learn ancient cultures.
We need to dive deeper than we ever have before.
(Somebody’s going to crack time travel, so we can answer the questions that books can’t. It might as well be a son of God.)
The point is: do better.
And if you can’t do better, find out who can.
I will help you, if I can, and I have a number of big-hearted friends who can do much better than I can.
Excellence is what everyone is looking for, everyone in the entire world.
They are looking for an uncompromising people, who will do everything better.
I had a friend on Facebook ask me what ‘identity politics’ was. Rather than copying-and-pasting from Wikipedia, I decided I would do the caring thing and try to sum it up as succinctly as I understand it. My response, somewhat expanded, is below.
Identity politics is when you join a group and it becomes ‘us vs. them’.
Too many Christians have, in their deconstruction, decided, ‘well, as a Christian, I have been a member of the wrong team(s), then, so I will now join the opposite team(s)’…
…whereas (as far as I can tell) Jesus does not join human teams.
When the Angel of the Lord appeared to Joshua (Joshua 5), Joshua asked him, ‘are you for us, or for our enemies?’
The Angel’s response (part of which I will quote below, the rest I will leave to scholarly debate) is instructive:
We either join Jesus, or not, and become a part of the Body and Bride, or not.
It’s his idea, his initiation, his guidance, his rule, and his love, or nothing.
This is what ‘Jesus is Lord’ means.
Galatians 3:28 includes everyone at the table of Christ.
Everyone has a seat, of every political party, of every gender or gender identity, of every skin color, tribe, creed, clad, or nation.
All of humanity.
We need to expand our notions of what ‘inclusion’ really means.
It’s not about switching from (this is speaking to Americans) ‘praise Bush’ to ‘f*** Trump’.
It’s not about switching from anti-LGBT to pro-LGBT.
It’s about loving everyone.
Even if they hate you.
Even (and especially) if they hate your group.
As near as I can tell, Jesus never joins human groups.
We join him.
And then he leads us to others, with whom we are loosely affiliated, as joint heirs, as priest-kings: as family.
I don’t have a lot of childhood memories. Perhaps there is some defect in the way my brain stores information, but I only have little snippets of memories here and there.
If I am ever famous enough to be called on for an autobiography, I’m sunk. Because I just can’t remember much.
I do remember a few things, though. A few memories surfaced today, of a time I prayed, and many years later, I realized my prayer had been answered.
I don’t remember how he and I met, or how old we were; it was probably because we lived on the same street and used the same school bus stop. We both played Nintendo, so I went over to his house after school. He introduced me to some good music, and we didn’t get into too much trouble. I do remember one time when he scared off some neighborhood bullies with a weed-eater (it didn’t have a cord, but they didn’t know that).
In any case, I got saved when I was 12, and of course I was told that I needed to tell everybody about Jesus. Of course, they didn’t explain very well how to do that, and I didn’t have any friends at church, so I just muddled through the best I could.
I don’t remember what I said to him about Jesus, but I did talk to him, and prayed for him at some point. I don’t remember any details, just that I prayed for him multiple times, that he would give his heart to Jesus.
We drifted apart, probably sometime in middle school.
Many years later, I found him on Facebook, and to my surprise, he was a Christian, married, and had a family.
All these years later, I’m not a Western Evangelical Fundamentalist anymore. I’ve been in the middle of deconstruction for years.
I don’t pretend to know much about Christianity, or faith, or salvation, or witnessing, or discipleship, or really much at all.
“The next time the devil reminds you of your past, remind him of his future.”
This phrase came up in my mind this morning as I was once again pondering a flashback to my past.
I get them fairly often, as I imagine others do. At least I hope it’s not just me, ha!
They’re just random glimpses of stupid stuff I have said or done in the past. The feelings (embarrassment/shame) associated with them are almost as fresh as they were back then, when I realized that I’d made a mistake.
The question is, where do such reminders come from?
Is it a foreign entity, or just something that naturally occurs in humans?
Do our brains just suddenly decide to short-circuit every now and then and present past realities as current?
Are we all a little crazy?
I don’t think addressing random perceived-demons is the answer. I think that on that edge of a map, that there be dragons…that a lot of ‘demonology’ in the Western Church is simply mental illness disguised with Biblical language to sound plausible.
But I don’t know a solution. I’d much rather not remember that dumb thing I said in an email ten years ago. I’d be willing to bet that nobody else remembered the email. So why do I?
I’m *quite* certain that the solution here, if there is one, is NOT to scream randomly at invisible gremlins, ‘You’re going to burn in hell!’ There’s far too much of that going on already; this is one of the reasons why the word ‘Charismania’ exists.
I’m not sure that anyone really understand what being ‘born again’ or ‘born from above’ really means, or entails.
For me, I was one way, I prayed a ‘sinner’s prayer’ in a typical Evangelical church, and then I was a different way. Completely changed.
Some people never have an experience like this. I’ve heard of folks growing up in Christian homes who basically always believed, so there wasn’t a ‘conversion experience’, per se.
The Apostle Paul had an interesting experience (Gal. 1:15-16) where he reports Christ was revealed as already having been in him. I don’t pretend to understand his perspective on the whole thing, except that the mystery of salvation is indeed, something mysterious, and probably much deeper than we know.
Was I ‘saved’ when I prayed the sinner’s prayer?
Or on the Cross when we were co-crucified with Him?
Or ‘when Christ was crucified before the foundation of the world’?
I don’t know. It might be all three. Maybe there are degrees to this thing.
Whose faith was involved? Jesus’ faith? My faith?
Does my belief, or lack of belief, somehow affect the outcome?
A lot of people give pat answers to these question, without really thinking how much mystery is involved here.
Mystery is beautiful.
Mystery can be frustrating to those who insist on doctrinal surety, who demand that everything be put in neatly-organized theological boxes, with strict guidelines.
But, as has been said many, many times, God refuses to be put in a box.
God refuses to be strictly categorized.
God is way, way too mysterious for that.
And that’s OK.
We have Jesus.
We have Jesus, so we can see what God looks like, how he feels, thinks, and behaves.
We can see the character of Jesus. We can see what he did after his life on earth, through the letters of Paul.
We can see what Jesus is still doing, today, right now.
But there is so much beautiful mystery out there.
Study! Study the Scriptures. There’s always more to learn. Don’t be ignorant if you can help it. Learn, and be diligent to teach others.
Intellectual Christianity was tried and failed. The world was not changed and instead became bitter and hardened at these moral people with words but no power.
Mystic Christianity is the only real Christianity. True experience with God cannot be faked or replicated. All the world is looking for the sons of God. The sons of God are the mystics who have encountered God.