Five Things to Remember Before Sharing Truth with Someone

truth telling

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My work with individuals — students, parishioners, and clients — is built squarely on the critical role of truth and truth-telling. Below are some of my core beliefs about truth, and these core beliefs determine how I approach the truth in my work with people. I think more people (especially, but not only, religious people) need to be aware of these principles and observe them carefully.

1. Whenever possible, truth should never be forced on anyone.

We can force truth on a person in twenty seconds, whether they accept it or not. It may take them years to discover it on their own.

It’s worth the wait.

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Thoughts about gay people and Christianity

 

church in a gay friendly city

Sitges, Sspain – March 3, 2012: Church of Sant Bartomeu i Santa Tecla in Sitges, Spain. The 17th century church next to the sea is an iconic building of the gay-friendly city. (123rf.com)

I don’t understand the gay people and Christianity thing. I’m talking about the extent to which the evangelical church is willing to alienate one of our society’s most persecuted groups in the name of doctrinal purity, or what they usually call, “holiness.” When this word is used in regard to the gay debate, it is nearly always used inappropriately, as least as far as I am concerned. Holiness is ultimately about wholeness, about being pure, being “one,” seeing the world in a unified way, being shot through with only one thing, which Christians say is supposed to be love. Only usually it isn’t.

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Personal Pan Pizza Jesus

pizza-personal pan pizza

image courtesy of 123rf.com

It’s evening.

You’re hanging around at Pizza Hut with your friends. After some discussion and a bit of debate (and a brief filibuster from Zac, who’s allergic to everything), you place your order.

The pizza comes and everyone digs in.

When the evening is finished and everyone goes home, there are one or two slices of pizza still on the tray. Every time you get together.

Why is this? It’s because pizza, when ordered as a group, is community property. No individual feels entitled enough to it to take the last slice. In fact, as soon as the pizza arrives, some people even start doing, in Kevin James’s words “the pizza math,” figuring out how many slices there are and dividing by the number of eaters, to arrive at the maximum number of available slices per eater.

Imagine now that this same group of friends, on the same evening, decides to not haggle over toppings. Instead, every person just orders a personal pan pizza.

The pizzas come to the table, and everyone digs in. When Jeff is done with his pizza, he reaches over to take some of Alan’s. Alan slaps his hand and says, “This is mine. You already ate yours.”

Forget about sharing. Forget about community property. It’s every man for himself. Not only will no pizza be left on the table, but each person will take home any pizza they did not eat. It belongs to them.

American evangelicals have a personal pan pizza kind of Jesus. He’s my personal Savior.

Hear that? He’s MINE! You may also have one, but you better have placed your own order for it (the sinner’s prayer, anybody?), because you can’t have mine. Even if I do give you some, I’m being generous. I’m not obligated to give you any. After all, Jesus is mine. He’s my personal Savior.

To evangelicals, then, evangelism is not sharing with people the God who is already theirs, but telling them about the God who is “mine” and telling them how they, too, can have their own personal pan pizza Jesus.

“If I was the only person on the face of the earth, Jesus would still have died for me.”
“When Jesus was on the cross, I was on his mind.”

Beautiful sentiments, but what if that’s not how God works? What if God actually belongs to everybody (and therefore nobody!), like the pizza shared by the entire community? What if Jeff has a right to Alan’s pizza? That is, what if God remains “community property” even when someone has what they think is their own personal Jesus?

That would mean that, as much as someone might think “He’s my God and he belongs to me and my group,” the truth would be that others get some too. Others who didn’t come to the table soon enough, others who don’t have the right information, or pedigree, or reputation. If God belongs to everybody, then he’s doing something worldwide, something the whole creation is going to get in on, something a lot of people are going to find outrageous. Something deeply, fantastically good.

This is not only the God I believe in, but the God I am positively counting on.

 

Question: How did this strike you? How do you think it is or isn’t fair? Let me know in the comments!

Is it time to break up with your church?, prt. 2

time to break up -- scissors cutting heart

image from 123rf.com

…continued from a previous post

5. It may be time to leave now

If you feel that because of all the money you have given, or all the time you have spent at the church, you deserve more power and recognition, and you are resentful that you are not getting your due, it is time to break up. In this state you are toxic, and the sooner you leave your church, the better off your church will be. No church has any use for people who feel entitled. Churches for too long have been way too accommodating of selfishness and immaturity among their people and this has often made church an uncomfortable place for everyone else. Pastors, be more gracious with addicts and those who commit the “hot sins” like adultery, and much less tolerant of gossips and people hungry for power — even, and especially, when those people are your closest friends.

6. Every spiritual journey is a journey to find truth, face truth, and follow truth. Your pastor has a responsibility to model this for the congregation.

If he does not, it is time to break up. You deserve the chance to learn from your pastor’s mistakes. If your pastor acts superior, never talks about times when she falls short, or struggles chronically with certain issues and refuses to admit it and move through the truth journey, it is time to break up. If your pastor is constantly critical of you or others, chronically insensitive or harsh, frequently manipulative, speaks unkindly to you about others in the church, is chronically angry, or is lacking in grace, it is probably time to break up. A pastor like this may have a basically good heart, may even be moving the right direction, but is simply lacking in maturity. Though being immature is not a sin, immature people should not be leading others.

Our congregations often accept immaturity in their leaders because immature leaders are unable to produce maturity in their followers, therefore followers simply do not know what to expect. As a result, they end up expecting perfection where no one can be perfect, and not expecting things that are actually doable, like basic integrity, honesty, grace, kindness, humility, and love. If your pastor seems to be drastically lacking in those qualities (and I mean drastically — we all deserve some slack!), it is time to break up. If you cannot respect your pastor as a human being, then you certainly have no basis on which to respect her as a Christ-follower. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT continue going to a church led by a pastor who consistently acts immaturely or reprehensibly and tries to cover it by insisting that they are under God’s authority. That is spiritual abuse and no one who abuses others is under God’s authority, and this is true regardless of what board, or committee, or conference/district team of people put him in charge.

7. Finally, there will be times when you feel very strongly that the church you are in just is not right for you

Someone in my church once approached me and told me that though he loved Wildwind, he felt someone else in his family really needed a particular type of ministry Wildwind didn’t (and doesn’t) offer. He took the time to explain this to me, with love, and though I will always miss that family, I respect what he did and I believe he probably did the right thing. I will always consider him part of Wildwind’s extended family.

If you ended up reading this series before my other one called How to break up with your church, I strongly encourage you to read that series if you come to the conclusion that indeed it is time to break up.

Question: What did I miss? Any caveats you would add?

Is it time to break up with your church?, prt. 1

time to break up -- scissors cutting heart

image from 123rf.com

I recently wrote a five-part series on how to break up with your church. This, of course, presumes that the question of whether it’s time to break up with your church has already been resolved. However, for many people, deciding whether or not this is what needs to be done is the most difficult part. In this post I will provide some thoughts on when it might be time to break up with your church. I will do this by laying out some general principles it is good to follow and explaining the implications of those principles to the question at hand.

1. The most important thing to keep in mind when you are at a church is that you are there to grow

Your most important growth will not come from things you learn in sermons, but in the way you learn to handle challenges and disagreements in the church. Value your relationships with your fellow parishioners above all else, including the pastor and leaders.

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