Modern Evangelism: Your Church Sucks, Come to ours instead


I am a sword carrying idiot. I’ve been known to wrecklessly wield my good intentions at people and not only cut their ears off, but their heads as well.  This blog post is as much about me as it is THEM.

 

Remember when there used to be ethics in advertising? There was a day when companies would spend their ad dollars on themselves without ever once mentioning the competition. I miss those days. I could be wrong, but I think Burger King was the first nationally known company to advertise against someone else. That someone else being McDonalds.  It was only a matter of time before everyone followed suit and today some companies go so far trashing the competition that the only name I remember from the commercial is the other brand. Yeah that’s effective.

Politicians do the same thing. They spend their advertising budget slandering their opponent without ever saying what they themselves stand for.

What saddens me is churches and some pastors are following the same path. Not just in my LCMS world either. Follow Twitter for a while and you’ll see what I mean – pastor’s world-wide trashing other pastors and churches for being different.

You’re going to hell and I’m not and let me tell you why. – ooh love me some piety. With an opening like that, I don’t even want to be in the same room as you, much less be stuck with you for eternity.

The emergent church this.

The liturgical church that.

This conference is horrible and ours is much Godlier – wanna know why? No not anymore, I send my kids to that and you just accused me of being ungodly for doing so. Besides – the horse you’re riding on is so high, I can’t hear all the way down here in the gutter you act like I live in.

Marketing 101 says “Don’t waste precious resources (dollars and time) talking about someone else’s brand. Talk about your own.

Every worthwhile communication skills book I’ve ever read tells me not to start with you statements. You statements are confrontational and achieve nothing more than putting the other person in a defensive position. People don’t hear anything past a slam; it’s ineffective and childish. You’ve just told me I’m an idiot, bad parent, ungodly, whatever for supporting X and you want me to listen to you? Fat chance bub.

Insulting me – which is what happens with you statements, doesn’t make you look better in my eyes, it makes you look like, well… a donkey.

Imagine if we spoke to our spouses or kids like that? You never take out the trash. You’re lazy why can’t you keep the house looking the way I like it? You never listen to me. You… you… you…

Problem is, the real issue is rarely about you and really about me — I have a need that is going unmet and I while I may not be intentionally blaming you for it, I’m going to defend it even if it means cutting your head off. You statements breed rebellion or worse – little deaths of esteem, trust, respect and maybe even the relationship.

The only thing that can heal that is the supernatural touch of Christ.

Remember Peter and the night in the garden? He cut off the ear of a Roman soldier sent to take Christ to Pilate.

John 18: 1When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was an olive grove, and he and his disciples went into it.

 2Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. 3So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.

 4Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?”

 5″Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.

   “I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) 6When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

 7Again he asked them, “Who is it you want?”
      And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.”

 8″I told you that I am he,” Jesus answered. “If you are looking for me, then let these men go.” 9This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.”[a]

 10Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)

 11Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”

The Gospel of Luke Chapter 22 states this as well: 

47While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, 48but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”

 49When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” 50And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.

 51But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.

Poor Peter – just hours before this little skirmish he told Jesus he was ready to follow him to prison and even death. But Jesus knew better. Peter was passionate to be sure and his passion was actually a stumbling block for the progression of the church and the Gospel. Peter wound up being humbled through incredible failure – he denied knowing Jesus three times.

I’m a former Shaolin Swordsman. I know how heavy swords are and how to properly wield them. The laws of physical science also prove that Peter wasn’t going for the guard’s ear. He was wielding that sword perpendicular to the ground and going for his head. Fortunately the soldier ducked.

How does that apply to today’s world? Well meaning (I hope) and passionate people – people like you and like me – are wielding verbal swords at each other – intending I believe to defend Christ – only we mess it up and cut each other’s ears and heads off with you statements and arrogant piety, and Christ has to intervene and tell us to stop.

My passion for truth can be a stumbling block for many – and it takes the hand of Christ to heal the ears I’ve cut off in my life.

My actions in my life have also denied Christ a time or two. My sword has probably turned more people off than on when it comes to the Christian faith.

I “get” Peter. I understand his love, his wellmeaningness and his passion. I used to carry his sword with me and wielded it any chance I got, confusing those who disagreed with me, with the enemy. Maybe that is why I kinda like some of these younger missionaries I see passionately supporting their stand. They are in the Gethsemane season of life – praying lest they fall into temptation – defending Jesus with all their soul and might – thinking they know what lies ahead, but they really don’t. Not yet. They are living on the dark side of the resurrection if you will. And what I mean by that, is they see the Law – Jesus having to suffer and die for our sins – and they have not lived long enough yet to see the Gospel – The Ressurected Christ, the grace and mercy bestowed upon our lives. They’re not there yet.

They too will be humbled and they too will be restored – just like Peter and the rest of us sword carrying idiots – and soon enough they will learn how to fish again.

Who is the swordsman in your life? Is it you? Or is it someone else. How do you deal with swords that come your way?

This blog post written by Deana O’Hara for Redemption’s Heart. All rights reserved. July 16, 2010

16 thoughts on “Modern Evangelism: Your Church Sucks, Come to ours instead

  1. Thank you for this commentary. I read it at a very appropriate time (just after I had wielded the sword of my tongue in defense of Jesus on a confessional Lutheran forum). I just went back and asked that God heal the wound I caused.

    25,000 kids praising the risen Lord at NYG….’nuf said! I know it is a sweet, sweet sound in His ear! Just as the 2,000 kids at HT praising Him with hymns and liturgy was also!

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    1. Well put — I think both are excellent and bring Glory to God. Several years ago, I had a brutal experience with a few pastors and it took me a while to calm down enough not to slay every one that crossed my path including my present day pastor who can be a handful at times.

      Jeff and I walk a middle line – we see value in both liturgy and praise. There is room for both within LCMS. Granted we have friends who are black and white on both ends of the spectrum and that makes our conversations interesting to say the least. We visit a local church from time to time that uses the historic lectionary – my boys hate it with a passion, but Jeff and I go in part to learn more about thier cause and in part because it is beautiful and it is worshipful. But having that be our only spiritual diet? It wouldn’t sustain. Same is true of pure praise and worship — again, not a sustainable diet all the time. Some view the high church aspect as legalistically demanding and therefor sinful in it’s lack of faith in grace and others view P&W as sinful for it’s lack of reverence. Both conclusions are extreme and erroneous.

      We like the balance that our home congregation provides. If we joined a purely liturgical church our boys would never attend church again and we know that. While our church is confessional – it also provides both liturgy and praise. We really like that.

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      1. I feel as though we’re living parallel lives…only I have two girls. I am presently in that place you were several years ago because I was so exposed to the planning process for this convention worship. I also have several friends and co-workers on stage at NYG leading worship so my last few weeks have been full of hateful criticism from the far other side. Your sword analogy and reflection on Peter has been more helpful today than you can possibly know. I think it literally helped to lower my blood pressure.

        I think you would like our church also. The church (not the building) is over 150 years old and we have been there 24 years. We have wonderful “lifers” who’ve been there for upwards of 90 years, yet the average age is in the mid-30s. We worship together (all 1200 or so of us) in one service every Sunday using the pipe organ and a full band. If you are ever in the Houston area you will have to visit us. I think you would feel very at home!

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      2. Oh I would totally love that. I’m also a huge Beth Moore baby so if we ever lived in houston, I’d be at her church on Tues nights.

        Our lives do sound parallel wow. My former boss is down there at JOY Lutheran — he’s got a good balance going I believe. Hoping good things for his church as well.

        And thanks Pam — I know it’s not just our side that gets beat up – there are some people on the liturgy side that get just as beat to snot by the P&W extremists. FORGIVEN was a great conference title to be sure.

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  2. Way too often I’m as clumsy with my sword as a toddler is with a Ferrari. When I first came back to the faith after 15 years of being an atheist I did my best to go after everyone who disagreed with me with the same enthusiasm that I had tried to make my case for atheism. I thought I was right simply because I was a Christian and if you thought otherwise; I went for your jugular. There are few things more dangerous than a former atheist who has been given the gift of faith trying to prove to everyone around him that he is right. Thankfully, those days are mostly gone.

    How I deal with people now depends on whom I’m talking with. My evangelical friends will hear a different side of an argument than my contemporary worship service preferring Lutheran friends who will hear still a different argument from the one that I present to my confessional liturgical acquaintances. It now depends on whom I’m chatting with as to how I wield my sword and make my case. Do I do this perfectly? No, not by a long shot. Too often I screw it all up and slip back into old and sinful habits.

    When it comes to defending ones position on matters of the faith, I question anyone who spends fifty minutes out of an hour attacking someone else’s position and ten highlighting the attributes of theirs. My approach is to flip those numbers around and spend fifty minutes making my case from the clear passages from Scripture and the Confessions and not so much as bring up the opposing viewpoint so as to not put the person I talking with on the defensive. Productive discussions are more productive when done this way.

    This is not to say that the condemnatory statements cant and shouldn’t be used. If someone insists on rejecting the clear teaching of Scripture or inserting into the texts that which is not there, he or she must be called to repent. This is or should not done out of pride but rather out of love for our brother so that he repents and returns to be in communion with the saints of all times and all places; the catholic faith. But this admonishing needs to be done first and foremost out of love.

    “How do you deal with swords that come your way?” Much like how I choose to defend my side of an argument, that depends on whom is wielding the sword. I find I have very little patience for folks (especially church leaders: on any side of an issue!) who wish to introduce “new” practices and doctrines into the Lutheran church that have clearly been spoken against in our confessions as being a detriment to the faith or wish to teach as fact events or doctrines that are not taught in Scripture or have any historical legitimacy.

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      1. I don’t see how a pastor or even myself can make a case for such concern by calling you ungodly. If you have to resort to name calling then your argument is probably pretty weak. It’s also childish.

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      2. Frank you are right it doesn’t make for a good case when we resort to name calling — what do you think of inferred name calling? When we trash something in a general sense – say NYG since that is the example I’m using here – and refer to it as displeaseing to God, (which it isn’t) we are in essence calling all people who attend the same thing? You feel that when people put down liturgists, right? because you relate to the group as a whole. While people are using scripture to make their stand, they are picking and choosing parts. It’s really broad sword put down. That’s what i was getting at with the HT adds I’ve been seeing and people (not just pastors) who chose to slam NYG on opening day. Hense the title of my blog post – because I did draw my swrod and wound up stopping just short of cutting a pastor’s throat. Thankfully I remembered that I was talking to a human being before I did any collateral damage – nowt he damage he did? Loss of respect. That will be hard for him to earn back.

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      3. “You feel that when people put down liturgists, right? because you relate to the group as a whole. ” Yep!

        I had a pastor tell me last week that if we only followed one liturgy then we would all get along and not have any theological differences. I told him that he was off his rocker and what he just did was turn a liturgical service into a work that defined unity instead our confession of Christ and what He has done for us. Sometimes we liturgical types get it wrong too. When we do, we are ungodly and we should beg forgiveness of those we offend.

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  3. Another thought about Swords and the Word of God, likened unto a Sword. When Jesus was tempted by the devil in the wilderness, he fought back using the Word of God. It seems to be the weapon of choice against the enemy. But as any soldier knows, it takes discipline and training to assume that awesome responsibility of wielding a weapon.

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    1. Susan – you bring up a good point. I wasn’t really speaking about the sword of the spirit – though that definately gets misused as well and we need to be equiped to handle it properly. I was refering in this case more to our tongues and how we speak to people.

      Politics is a key place where we get abusive with eachother as well. I have Christian friends who voted for Obama, and while I didn’t and I don’t agree with everything he’s doing, I’m not about to publically attack him or my friends. I can’t say the same about everyone and I can’t point fingers because I’ve been guilty of doing just that over other issues. We’ve forgotten how to be kind with eachother.

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  4. Thanks Jeff.

    You’re nicer than I am Susan, I don’t just block with a sword I go for the jugular. Granted, I have drawn my sword – in error – only to have them return fire with uzi’s. I think sword fighting comes from fear — Peter drew his sword that night because he was afraid of losing something important to him, Christ. Isn’t that usually what is behind it?

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  5. It indeed takes maturity, skill, and wisdom to handle a sword well. So it is with words and especially the Word of God. And I’m still learning. When someone comes after me with a sword, my reflex is to block it with mine.

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  6. If people just realized that straightswords were better than broadswords, there wouldn’t be so many earless people! ( I was a TaiChi straight-swordsman). Kidding aside, it’s unfortunate that this statement is somewhat true. Thinkabout it, if broad strokes are “generalisms” then pointed jabs are specific and personal. While broad strokes hurt the masses, pointed jabs kill the person, the potential, the relationship (you fill in the blank).

    Great blog Deana. It’s hard enough to discuss our differneces in the church when we start with broad differences in preference becasue it often turns into pointed (and painful) jabs. But when we start the argument with jabs, the converstaion never even gets off the ground.

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