Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Untouchables of the American Church

          As I begin this blog, I want to make it clear: the Pastoral calling, and indeed the calling to 5-fold ministry (Eph 4:11-14) is one of the most daunting and rewarding calls one can recieve from God. As a minister who is called to 5-fold ministry, I count it an honor that God counted me worthy putting me into ministry. I am also blessed to have been discipled and trained under pastoral leadership both past and present that has been full of integrity and full of the Holy Spirit's empowerment. I know that many people complain about their church or Pastors, but this is NOT a complaint. I hope to encourage the 5-fold ministry while at the same time provoke my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to good works and greater relationship with Jesus Christ.

         Jesus said that those who are not saved, are already condemned. He came to provide good news, news of salvation and deliverance, news of healing and forgiveness. Once we have recieved that message, and been grafted in to the Body of Christ, the fold of God, through justification, we emark on a lifelong journey with God in fellowship, in discipleship, in community with other believers, and along the way, we mess up. We screw up royally. We confess, we repent, we ask for God's forgiveness, and faithfully God provides it (I John 1:9).

But, what happens to us when we no longer want to hear the message of the cross? When our walk becomes comfortable and we take a laissez-faire, "let it be" approach to sin? What happens when church becomes just another thing "to do" instead of another opportunity "to change", to be renewed in the spirit of our mind, to understand what it means to put on Christ and not fulfill the desires of the flesh/carnal man?

Well, we come upon what I call The Untouchables: things that many pastors are inceasingly having a hard time addressing over the pulpit or have stopped addressing altogether for fear of losing membership, social or political reprisals (losing a pastorate), economic reprisals (decrease in tithe and offering to support church ministry), and as our laws becoming increasingly "anti-Christian", time in jail. Though there are many more, here are 8 of what I call The Untouchables of the American Church and the attitudes that go along with them.

1. "Don't preach to me about music."
"Yes, I will sell my soul for a Jay-Z, Beyonce, etc. concert ticket, and don't expect me to show up for service if the concert is on the same night as Bible Study...So what if their lyrics mock/deny Christ, and make fun of all that is good, glorifies sex outside of marriage, hustling, drugs, gang violence...the beat is thumping, you can't deny that.

2. "Don't interfere with my love/Sex life."
"So what if I want to be with more than one partner? That wait until marriage idea is archaic. Besides we both agreed to this open marriage...its what's in right now. You've got to try the relationship out first before you settle down with one person, right?"

3. "Don't preach to me about "rights to life."
"Its my body and I can do what I want with it...despite the fact that most abortions are not occuring because the mother's life is in danger, or because of incest or sexual what? If I want to use abortion like its birth control, who are you to tell me what to do?"

4. "Don't tell me homosexuality is a sin."
"Look, you just need to get over this, okay? People have been doing this for centuries and its not going to stop. Besides, my Mom, BFF, Uncle, Grandpa, and favorite singers are gay and they're nice to me, so, what's the big deal? You should be able to be with who you want to, right?"

5. "Don't tell me my political views are wrong."
"My president is black, and that's all that matters to me, and if you say another word, I'll shut your mouth for you...besides, faith shouldn't play a role in how you vote and what bills you support, right?"

6. "Don't tell me my appetite is out of control."
"Look, you're not Richard Simmons, so don't even try to tell me what to what my blood pressure is a little high, and I'm ignoring all the medical advice I have recieved from medical professionals...I'm going to eat, drink, and be merry. End of discussion."

7. "Don't preach to me about my social life."
"You're on thin ice,now. I've sacrificed to join this organization, I've given my time, money, blood, sweat, and tears, I've got too much invested and I'm not giving it up...besides, if you just give me some time, I know I can win them over."

8. "Don't preach about my vices.(Drinking, Obscene Language, Gambling, Smoking)"
"I know, I know, they're bad for me, but everything in moderation, right? My habits aren't really hurting anybody, as long as I only socially drink, and I don't smoke around my what if I fly off the handle? Everybody gets angry and has an off day, right? Oh, and if I hit the jackpot, I fully intend to donate to the church, okay? Just, leave me alone! I'm only human."

The above attitudes may surprise you, but what surprises me the most is that these attitudes are reflected by Believers in conversation and demonstration. When you have attitudes like this, it is no wonder 1,500 Pastors daily on estimate leave the ministry. If Pastors can't address the things in our lives that fuel carnality and unrighteousness, then where does that leave the church? We have to be a body of believers willing to hear the truth regardless of whether it is socially or politically correct. Our main concern should be whether it is Biblically correct. Is this for my spiritual good? Is my lifestyle leading me to eternal life or eternal death? Pastors have a serious charge to provide us with truth, to mature us in righteousness, and to give account for our soul, if we have been placed in their flock.

The Apostle Paul and other apostles throughout the letters to the church (not unbelievers) addressed some of these very same issues: sexual immorality, reveling, unnatural affection, sobriety of the saints, filthy language & communication, and so forth. Yet, at a very critical time in world history, and indeed church history, it appears the church is still needing milk. We must go on to maturity, but we must be a church committed to holiness, righteousness,truth and purity, which by the way are required of all church regardless of denomination or non-denomination. God is coming back for the  Church, His Bride without spot and wrinkle, not a church that excuses or makes excuses for a stained garment.

I encourage you, as I was challenged by the Lord, to examine yourself and see if you are in the faith. I encourage Pastors to not back down from the hard issues, the "untouchables" and preach the unadulterated Word of God. We're counting on you!

Blessings, Peace, and Church Love

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Hidden Curriculum of Church

The term "hidden curriculum" has been used by educational professionals to describe the sub-culture or unwritten code or rules that develop unchecked over time in a school setting, some to the detriment of that educational system. Here, I will briefly examine some that develop over time in church culture. These attitudes blend into our worship and mode of operation and seep into our protocols. If left unchecked, these attitudes can become poisonous to the unity that should exist amongst the body of believers. Though, presented in a comical way, I hope you will be challenged in your thinking and encouraged in your examination of your faith. Here's some hidden curriculum thinking:

1. "Nobody is greater than Sis. Applesauce"- yes, Sister Applesauce is good at what she does, she runs a tight ship, and has 5,000 responsibilities. The problem is that you will never know what anyone else is capable of doing because Sis. Applesauce insists on handling it all...and when Sis. Applesauce can't run the show, then the show is canceled.

2. "Only Bro.Shipshape can do that. End of discussion."- This type of attitude leads new members to believe that they may not have a place in service, that there is no compromise, and no teamwork needed.

3. "Feel free to visit, but only certain people who meet Bro.Society's qualifications can join our church." This smacks of elitism which should not be apart of the body of Christ. Salvation is a free gift. Membership in the body of Christ has bought with a price beyond the world's measure.

4. "Elder Moneybags can do what he wants, treat others how he wants, because of how much he gives." Giving is an important part of ministry, but it isn't the only part of ministry. When we focus excessively upon this it gives the impression that the church and its standards can be bought.

5. "Addressing Bro.Do-Nothing will only get you rebuked as he is well liked and entertaining." When we exalt personality above character we become nothing more than a place of entertainment rather than a place of discipleship and change.

6."Sis. Vacationer can serve when she wants even though she's never prepared and always late." This attitude sends the message that God, service, and worship are not important. If we only serve God when it's our turn or when it's convenient for us, what does that say about the quality of our devotion to Him?

7. "Don't even breathe too deeply around Mo. Fussbudget or disagree: she will slander you, and you'll never be viewed the same because of her influence in the church." Influence can be a good thing or bad thing depending on who's wielding it.

Many times we see these attitudes, and we ignore them, trying to go on in service our trying to press in to worship God. I'll admit, I've been guilty of that. Sometimes it is just easier to ignore it than to address the issues head on. However, if left unchecked, this Hidden Curriculum Church can kill, steal, and destroy the very fabric of unity. Hidden Curriculum leaves room and opens the door for:

                                        Controlling Spirits
                                        False Teachers

Exposing this Hidden Curriculum deactivates the enemy's plan to rule over the church and removes Satan's seat. The grace and salvation of God has been dispensed freely, but paid for with the precious blood of Jesus Christ. Let's do away with Hidden Curriculum Church. After all, everything is made bare before the eyes of God, and nothing is hidden from His sight. If we are to live in unity, our past identity, and only that should be hidden in Christ.

                                           Peace and Church Love