Pride and Prejudice

9 01 2014

Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. Luke 18:10-11

peacockThere is perhaps no smaller thinking in the church than when we start comparing our church to other churches.

  • God, I thank you that our church isn’t like those churches who are so traditional and so irrelevant.
  • God, I thank you that our church isn’t like those churches who are so “culturally relevant” they have lost the real gospel.
  • God, I thank you that our church isn’t like those churches who use all the wrong versions of the Bible.
  • God, I thank you that our church isn’t like those churches who are a mile wide and an inch deep.
  • God, I thank you that our church isn’t like those churches who are uptight and stuffy.
  • God, I thank you that our church isn’t like those churches whose worship is wild and disorderly and worldly.
  • God, I thank you that our church isn’t like those churches who welcome homosexuals.
  • God, I thank you that our church isn’t like those churches who refuse to welcome homosexuals.
  • God, I thank you that our church isn’t like those churches…

No matter where you find yourself in any of these prayers…

It’s ugly.  In the kingdom of God, pride always is.

© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.  Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com




Entitlement and the Church

31 10 2013

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.  Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.  1 Peter 3:8-9

entitlementPeter offers these words as a brief summary of his “submit to the authorities in your life” lesson he gave to the persecuted Jews who comprised his audience.  Being submissive to the authorities in our lives is no small challenge for most of us.  The essence, I believe, of his counsel is that we must work hard to preserve our testimony with all the various authorities in our lives so that they may see God’s glory in us and be changed by it.

The question is, what does this mean for the church?  What does the local body of believers take from this counsel?

Maybe it is because of two centuries of the “separation of church and state” in America (the interplay between two critical religious freedom clauses in our First Amendment)…or maybe it is because the American culture has become much more concerned about our “rights” than about our “responsibilities”…or maybe it is because the American church has deluded itself into believing that, somehow, we are a part of the “persecuted church” because our culture doesn’t seem to like us much…or maybe it is because we just don’t really trust God to preserve his church, that maybe He needs us to save the church by political power instead…or maybe it is because we tend to forget how much damage the accumulation of political power has done historically to the church…

Whatever the cause(s), the American church seems to me to have developed a sense of “entitlement” much more than a sense of “submission” such as Peter advocates in his letter.  We are “outraged” by a Court ruling which takes away our right to pray over the intercom at a football game, while our own scheduled prayer meetings in our own facilities have tumbleweeds blowing through them.  We are ready to take up arms to defend our “right” to receive tax exemptions on people’s large financial gifts to us while our brothers and sisters in China are not even permitted to legally assemble in the first place.  We will mobilize an army of voters to preserve the sanctity of marriage against gay rights advocates, but sit back quietly while 50% of the marriages within the church fall to divorce.

Doesn’t it seem to you that the church has developed a bit of an entitlement issue…just a little?

We can do better than this.  We can heed Peter’s counsel and we can begin to take responsibility for our testimony before a watching world.  We can put on humility and sympathy and compassion and unconditional love…for everyone.  We can further this revolution we call Christianity, not by creating voting blocks and political action committees, but by loving people and each other when it makes no sense whatsoever to do so.  That attitude, after all, is what has most effectively spread the gospel around the world thus far…it has changed lives, and it will change the world. Trust that.

© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.  Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com




The Pastor Your People Love

18 06 2013

Tuesday Re-mix -

One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple.  
Psalm 27:4

gaze-upon-the-lordI think I am a pretty good supporter of my pastor…I try to do the things he asks and I try not to do things I know he would frown upon…but he is going to HATE this post.  And that makes me happy.   I have learned a great deal about “shepherding” from watching my pastor.  In fact, in my work with conflicted congregations, there have been many times when I wished young pastors could just sit with my pastor for a few days and learn the balance between humility and authority, between assertive and quiet, between empowering and disciplining.  My pastor has shaped how I see many of the difficult issues pastors face today.

I am meditating this week on the 27th Psalm, and it made me consider what kind of leader David must have been in order to say these things.  Amazing and gifted in so many ways, but at the end of the day, he just loved God and wanted to spend “all the days of his life…gazing upon the beauty of the Lord.”  Those “mighty men” of his probably followed him for lots of reasons, but surely none more compelling than this.  He was a mighty warrior, a passionate leader, a visionary King, a loyal friend, and the quintessential complicated, flawed hero…lovable for so many reasons.  But all those qualities and characteristics of David boiled down to a shepherd boy who loved God above all else…”this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord…“.

That desire (and the disciplines which reflect it) is at the very core of every great pastor.  It is absolutely at the very core of my pastor.  Yes, we all want to be loved well by our pastor, yes we all want to be spiritually nurtured and fed and cared for, and yes we all want to follow visionary leaders who push us to accomplish things well beyond our imaginations.  But more than any of that, beyond our own selfish needs and desires, we need a pastor who adores the Lord and craves His presence above all else.  A few times a year, no matter what else may be going on at the church, my pastor pulls away for a few quiet days with the Lord.  I have watched in times of enormous stress as he maintains his disciplined prayer life.  I have walked with him through his own terminal illness and seen a peace that surpasses all understanding.  As with King David, at the end of the day, it is not the giftedness nor the charisma nor the huge pastoral skills…it is a solid, time-tested near-desperate thirst for the Lord.

Pastors and church leaders, do not be fooled by the cultural press to be awesome visionaries filled with charisma above all else.  Rather, make sure your disciplines reflect nothing short of this attitude…”this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord…“.  I will follow that all day long.

© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.  Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com







Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,766 other followers