those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. Acts 6:1-6
I think I was made a partner in my law firm pretty close to the same year I was ordained as a deacon in my church. To be honest, they felt quite a bit the same to me. In both cases, I felt like I was being recognized for some qualities and characteristics which, in reality, I may or may not have possessed. In both cases it felt like an achievement, an honor, a privilege and a terrifying responsibility all at the same time. In both cases, it would cost me, but I was more than happy to pay the price. In both cases, it meant stepping up into both servanthood and leadership. Both occasions were spiritual markers in my life…and, in both cases, the “honor” raised a great deal more questions in my mind than it answered.
Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 1 Corinthians 8:9
I do not drink alcohol. I do have plenty of friends who believe I should…and there was a time in my life when I did. But when I got out of college and got married and began my “grown-up” life, I made the decision to not drink alcohol. I did not make that decision out of any moralistic reasoning, or because of any misguided belief that God frowns on alcohol…I do not believe that at all. I made that decision because, in my particular “flavor” of Christianity (the Southern Baptist church), there are still plenty of people for whom alcohol is a major “stumbling block” issue…people with whom I would lose my testimony if I did drink alcohol…so it seemed like a small price to pay to retain that ability to be a Godly influence in their lives. Thirty years later, it still feels like a very small price to pay.
That issue (alcohol in the Baptist church) is about as close as I can come to a contemporary example of the “meat sacrificed to idols” issue Paul dealt with in the Corinthian church. In that community, there was meat for sale in the market place at a discounted price, because it was surplus meat from pagan temples, i.e., meat intended to be sacrificed to pagan gods, but which was surplus and therefore sold into the market place for resale. Given the Jewish history with pagan gods and all, there were plenty of “traditionalists” in the New Testament church who refused to purchase or consume that meat and who were fairly judgmental towards those who did. These are the “weak-minded” people whom Paul is protecting when …
“Theology is the science of religion, an intellectual attempt to systematize the consciousness of God. If we take the doctrine of the Trinity (which is a noble attempt of the mind of man to put into a theological formula the Godhead as revealed in the Bible) and say – ‘That is God,’ every other attempt as a statement of the Godhead is met by a sledgehammer blow of finality. My theology has taken the place of God and I have to say, ‘That is blasphemy.’ Theology is second, not first; in its place it is a handmaid of religion, but it becomes a tyrant if put in first place. The great doctrines of predestination and election are secondary matters; they are attempts at definition, but if we take sides with the theological method we will damn those who differ from us without a minute’s hesitation. Is there any form of belief which has taken the place of God with me?” Oswald Chambers
My sister married a Lutheran. Of course, by the time of the wedding, Chad (my brother-in-law) had pretty much convinced most of us that he was OK and that he was not a pagan or anything. But still, my sister was getting married in a Lutheran church. It was not a huge thing, but for my very Baptist family, it was also not a completely small thing. I think it mattered a little to some in the family.
That was a long time ago, but even by then I was already being shaped into a peacemaker…and this peacemaker was a little worried about how my very Baptist and sometimes loud and argumentative family might behave in that Lutheran church. Oh, I’m not saying I stayed up at night worrying about it. I’m just saying…I wondered.…
I remember a couple of years back when First Baptist Church, Dallas, made the news with its simultaneous implosion of several buildings on its campus in preparation for a major building program. The videos were all over YouTube. Here is one of them.
I’m not sure what the psychology is behind this, but I am fascinated by imploding buildings. Feel free to comment about how twisted I am. But even as I watched this video, I thought to myself, “There are easier ways to implode a church.” I’ve seen it happen too many times. So, for those who are interested in imploding your church but cannot afford the actual dynamite, here is a fairly quick and easy formula…three easy steps, and you won’t even need a fund-raising campaign to pull it off:
1. Hold onto your pain and encourage others to do the same. This is not difficult. In fact, it is very human. Anytime anyone does something or fails to do something and it hurts your feelings (especially if it is a church leader…extra points for that pain), DO NOT go to them and DO NOT commit it to prayer…in fact, do not do anything at all which might actually cause you to forgive and let go of that pain. Rather, hold onto to it with every ounce of energy you have. Stir it regularly, just to keep it festering. Use it however you can. It makes a wonderful excuse for just about any kind of bad behavior in which you might care to engage.
2. Talk to as many other people about your pain as possible. Never underestimate the value of gossip for the whole implosion process. If you share your pain with enough people (NOT with the person who actually caused the pain, …
If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 1 John 4:20
“You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out God hates all the same people you do.” Anne Lamott
I’m not sure I have anything truly creative to say about this…nothing new or fresh or amazingly profound. I am just growing weary (that is diplomatic talk for “sick & tired”) of “churches” who take pride in talking about all the people they hate. They hate Muslims, they hate homosexuals, they hate abortionists, they hate democrats, etc. Then, when you dare to step in a little closer, it turns out they hate Methodists, and they hate Episcopalians and they hate Catholics and they hate Presbyterians, and they hate this flavor of Baptists or that flavor of Baptists, etc. Then, if you dare to come in a little closer, it turns out they hate pretty much anyone who dares to disagree with them as well. And that would include me, because I am truly fed up with them.
I would like to round them all up and stick them all on a deserted island somewhere and just rejoice as they inevitably turn their hatred toward each other and begin killing each other off. Good riddance, I say. I just do not like them at all. In fact, sometimes I am sure that I hate them. And I’m pretty sure God does too.
Do you see what just happened? I see it often in conflict situations. I sit down to talk with a party who is obviously a “player” in the conflict and is clearly one of …