Monthly Archives: July 2014

If Jesus Sought Help For His Problem

Recently, the Evangelical community was shocked by revelations that Pastor Mark Driscoll made intensely controversial statements (on an anonymous internet forum) some 15-years-ago.  If you need some context for the outrage, he ranted about women and homosexuals.

(Here’s the post I wrote about it. You may want to read it first, since it contains direct quotes.)

I’ve tried explaining that not EVERYBODY takes deep offense to colorfully-phrased opinions–that it’s actually more of a cultural preference to expect a thick coating of niceness slathered over every conversation.

(“A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down!” I guess the British like that approach, too.)

Most people want speakers/writers to avoid certain terms altogether, and then heavily use phrases like “in my opinion” or “that’s just how I see it.”  This makes things..,just…nicer.

On the other hand, I argue: It’s not wrong to cut to the chase, and spell out your beliefs with a little added “shock” on top. Certainly, it doesn’t make a person crazy, the way Rachel Held Evans claims…

But I know several of you are waiting to object.

“Okay, Amanda. Maybe shock-style isn’t MORALLY WRONG. But, compared with Mark Driscoll’s angry tirade, there are much better ways to make a point.”

(*wistful sigh*) If I had a dime for every time I said something similar, when I first got married.  My Life Motto goes something like this: “Some things are black and white–and then, in between, there are thousands of possibilities ranging from totally ridiculous to much, much better.”  (Guess which methods I found “totally ridiculous” as a newlywed: my own or Luke’s?  Go ahead, guess.)

Here’s a sample conversation:

Me:  Thanks for washing the dishes, Honey.

Luke:  (*as he’s still rinsing the last few*)  You’re welcome.

Me:  You know, I usually fill the sink with water instead of washing and rinsing under a constantly-running tap.

Luke:  Oh, do you?

*He continues doing it his way.*

Me:  Yeah, it really conserves more water. Ya can’t go wrong saving money!

Luke:  Well, you should keep doing it that way…

*He continues letting the water run, and washing each dish individually.*

Me:  (*shuffles feet*) Is there a reason you won’t do it my way?

Luke:  (*shrugging calmly*) This is how I wash dishes.

Me:  …Yeah… (*cough*)…but I just explained to you why my way is better!

Luke:  (*still calm and matter-of-fact*) You can’t always be so logical.

Me:  (*losing it*)  YES YOU CAN! That’s what life is ALL ABOUT! When something makes sense, we do it! Without logic, what is there!?!? WHY would you choose to waste water and money if there’s a better way?!?!

Luke:  (*also getting frustrated*) How did we go from, “Thanks for doing the dishes” to “you’re doing it wrong,” that quickly?  Why can’t I just do what works for me?

Me:  Becaaaaaaaause, I have good reasons for my method–and you don’t have any!

Luke: (*regaining composure and returning to the dishes*)  I DO have a good reason: this is how I do the dishes.

—–

I know, I know. You’re ready to object again. “Buuuuut, Amanda, there is a very big difference between appropriate dish-washing and appropriate speech.  Mark Driscoll crossed a line.”

Are you sure about that?  So, you’re ready to say that Driscoll was definitely, unequivocally sinning, by hitting “send” on his angry comments?

If there is one thing I’ve learned in marriage, it’s that different people do things differently, and it doesn’t always make sense.  Sometimes I don’t understand.

And I totally would be willing to agree that some techniques are just better than others–and we should just ask Mark Driscoll to BE NICER when he talks–because it MAKES MORE SENSE…

EXCEPT, unfortunately, Jesus throws in a stumbling block.  (As He is known to do.)

I just don’t know how to handle His whole Temple-Table-Flipping thing.

We’re so used to reading the story that we’re sort of numbed to the extremism involved.  But make no mistake: if Jesus waltzed into your church foyer today and put on the display He did 2000 years ago, it would make news.

People would be horrified.

Jesus–waving a gun over his head–starts yelling at the pastor and Sunday school teacher.  He calls a few people names and accuses them of horrible crimes against God. Then he dumps the coffee on the floor and pops the balloons on his way out…

Let me repeat: He was wielding a weapon and shouting at people!

I am NOT comfortable with this.

Rachel Held Evans would have called Jesus a “psycho” and demanded He seek counseling.

And, if Jesus were a true diplomat, interested in keeping the peace, He might comply. He might seek help for his anger problem.

That exchange might go like this:

Counselor:  So, tell me about your outburst, Jesus.

Jesus: My people have eyes but can’t see. They have ears but can’t hear. Somehow, I need to get their attention.

Counselor: But you understand you’ve caused a scandal, right? Some people think you’ve gone too far!

Jesus: Those walking in darkness will find light painful at first.

Counselor:  Well, if you really want people to listen, it helps to be gentle–and earn their trust! It works muuuuuuuch better than raging in like a bull.

Jesus: No doubt, there are situations which require tenderness. “Do unto others,” and all that.

Counselor:  Sooooo, you want people to call you names and throw your drink on the floor?

Jesus:  I want people to love Truth with a fiery passion.

Counselor:  (*sigh*)  Just answer me this, Jesus.  WHY be so rough this time?  WHY cause a scene and scare people, if there’s a better way?

Jesus:  Better according to whom, Friend…?   (*shrugs*)  I AM what I AM.

—–

So, there you have it. Jesus sought help for His issues, and they’re worse than we thought.  He won’t even try to explain Himself. He just says, “This is how I wash dishes.”

It’s not how I would have done it…

As far as I’m concerned, there’s not much logic to it.

My Jesus just isn’t easily understood.

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Rachel Held Evans Says Driscoll’s Not Just “Wrong”–He’s Crazy!

I haven’t blogged about Rachel Held Evans in awhile.

In the past, I’ve been critical of her definition of femininity and her view that Christians should just agree homosexuality doesn’t REALLY matter.   But lately it seems the popular blog mistress is moving from bad-theology to psychiatry–and diagnosing Mars Hill Pastor Mark Driscoll as “disturbed” and “in need of counseling and discipline.”

Ah, feminism: that glorious utopia where women resent the term “crazy,” yet sprinkle it on their opponents without blinking.

Anyway, the most significant thing in Ms. Evans’ post is she doesn’t even have to build a case for her opinion. She just announces, “His quotes are misogynistic and homophobic and disturbing,” and then includes a link so you can make her voice heard at Mars Hill.  (Oops. I mean YOUR voice. You can make YOUR voice heard at Mars Hill.  Pardon me.)

She doesn’t have to explain what’s wrong with Driscoll’s comments, because the majority of her readership already agrees. All of them have been submerged in the same rigid, Feminist doctrine since they could crawl–so they recognize heresy when they see it!

(And, wow, did Pastor Driscoll lay that heresy on thick. CLEARLY, he is NOT a Feminist–if you can imagine something so ridiculous.)

But, unfortunately for Ms. Evans, not everybody who reads Pastor Driscoll’s heated comments is holding the same base-assumption that some words/topics are off limits.

And those of us who haven’t completely assimilated to the feminist culture would like more explanation about just exactly why Driscoll’s phrasing is unacceptable.

Humor me, and spell out the reasons no person should say what he did…

I think you’ll have a hard time defending your thesis. (Let alone arguing, “When you talk about women and homosexuals, the use of [these words] means you’re disturbed.”)

I’m afraid the best a person could do is complain Driscoll’s words aren’t very nice. (And that’s true.)

He uses lots of terms that many people consider no-no’s.

Is that it?

He’s worked-up and spitting fire about various issues in the Church, and we aren’t able to consider his points because we’re stuck on the word “pussies?”

That’s what makes him insane?

Because it just sounds to me like he’s carrying a message of life-or-death, and he’s using colorful language to hammer it through the more clogged ears among us:

“…the culture and families and churches sprint to hell because the men aren’t doing their job and the feminists continue their rant that it’s all our fault and we should just let them be pastors and heads of homes and run the show.”

“…At some point you will all learn that I don’t give a crap about how you ‘feel.’ Why? Because I am not talking about your right to your feelings. That is the result of feminism, psychology, and atheism which says we are all good and need to have freedom to express our goodness and receive goodness in kind. If you are a man, I want to teach you a new word: ‘Duty’…”

[sarcasm] “I have been thinking and praying about this whole string, and I am really sorry if I hurt anyone’s feelings. I am sorry if men of God had their inner child spanked. I feel terrible for all the tears you guys have shed over the pain of my words. Please forgive me. Please come to my house right now so I can hold you tightly in my arms and draw you to myself and whisper oh so sweetly in your ears…shut the hell up.”

So there’s just an excerpt. Blunt and crass.  And if you read the whole thing, there’s nothing gentle in the entire rant. He never even ATTEMPTS the smooth-and-understanding approach.

But, is he saying stuff that’s really, universally, morally wrong? Or are we shocked mostly because his words aren’t suited for a culture as “nice” as ours?

“I speak harshly because I speak to men. A woman might not understand that…”

And I would agree that feminine cultures DON’T “understand that.” Most of us are aaaaaaaall about cooperation and gentleness and peace-making, because that’s what society emphasizes.

On the flip side, there’s very little room for “frank” and “angry.”  (Unless it’s Mama Bear anger, I suppose.)

American culture says, “Speaking plainly is rude.”  American culture says, “You catch more flies with honey…”

American culture says, “Love can’t exist next to harshness!”

The tone used by Driscoll utterly scandalizes most Americans, because we’re used to having things cushioned and sugared and gently whispered past our delicate ears.  We don’t even care if the speaker is being slimy and insincere! He could be gritting his teeth and crossing his fingers behind his back, but he still better go through every one of those polite, social motions.

We value PC-speech so highly, we assign labels like “disturbed” to those who don’t use it.

In my opinion, that’s at least 98% of the “problem” with Driscoll’s quotes.   Not what he believes; but how he said it.

For most Americans, the responsibility for “keeping the peace” rests entirely on the writer/speaker, and everybody else holds unlimited power to stop them, if offended.  (Here’s a post of mine in defense of my tone. And here is Matt Walsh’s explanation that Christianity isn’t the same as “Niceness.” That’s just two examples of people being told they’re saying stuff “wrong.”)

In contrast, there is virtually no responsibility placed on the listener–to toughen up a little. 

That’s “just how it is” in a Nice Society.

But, my question is, are we upset with Mark Driscoll because he actually, truly is “homophobic” and “misogynistic” (do you believe he HATES gays and women?), or are we upset because he didn’t tow the line and present his opinions the American-proper way?

If you’re not entirely sure, maybe it would help if I translated some of his comments into the standard language.  Maybe he won’t sound quite so “crazy” if I take some of those scary words out…

(My regular readers know I’m not exactly fluent in Sugar-ese, but I’ll try.)

He said: “It all began with Adam, the first of the pussified nation, who kept his mouth shut and watched everything fall headlong down the slippery slide of hell/feminism when he shut his mouth and listened to his wife who thought Satan was a good theologian, when he should have lead her and exercised his delegated authority as king of the planet.”

More palatable translation:  “In my opinion, the trouble started when Adam followed Eve into sin.  I could be wrong, but I think Adam showed poor leadership by adopting the first “yes, dear” approach. This seems cowardly. Now, I’m not saying that Eve was worthless and stupid  [insert five minutes of over-explaining what he “doesn’t” mean, and listing the good qualities of women, etc.]  But when the woman was deceived, I feel strongly that Adam should have stood up to her.”

He said [on homosexuality]:Every man knows you can’t build anything with bolts and bolts. Damn freaks… [the] sympathizers contend ‘But they really really love each other.’ I love dogs, but I don’t stick my tongue in their mouth and lobby congress for a tax-deductible union. ‘But we need to be nice.’ What the hell for?  …Should we form some form of homo Promise Keepers so we can all…hug each other and cry like damn junior high girls watching Dawson’s Creek? I’d tell you to kiss my ass, but I’m afraid you’d take me up on it.”

More palatable translation: “I feel strongly that homosexuality is unnatural. Of course, the sin of gay sex is no worse than when a straight person lusts… [insert five minutes talking about other, just-as-bad sins] …But I struggle to accept homosexuality for the same reason I can’t support bestiality.  Please, oh please, don’t take this the wrong way! [insert five more minutes of back pedaling and fire-extinguishing]  I’m just saying, like…This trend is fairly upsetting, and I’d say more except I’m tempted to use shocking adjectives in the process.

I can say with certainty, not everybody in this culture is offended by Driscoll’s method of conveying his beliefs. (*raises hand*) I was able to filter out his “saltiness” and define his platform without a problem.

Contrary to what Rachel Held Evans suggests, it didn’t even hurt me.

In fact, I belong to a sub-culture which prefers when people say what they mean (and use fewer “I thinks,” and “in my opinions” and “please don’t think I’m sayings…”), because–in my opinion–it’s tedious and unnecessary.

What one person considers “unacceptable,” may sound to me like “just loud and urgent.”

What one Feminist calls “disturbed,” just seems like “direct and passionate” in my view.

But why not let Mark Driscoll himself explain why he’s so fighting mad:

“…I am screaming at you to [change]. And, yes, I am screaming. Why? Because listen to all the noise we’ve got to cut through…”

The dramatic accusations of Rachel Held Evans are perfect examples of Feminist “noise.”

If you don’t stick to certain topics, and use only female-sanctioned terms, you are “troubled” and “unhealthy.”  Thousands of women will rally together and actively work to get you fired…because… well just read the quotes! He’s ANGRY! And he said “pussies” and “homo-erotic!”

Yeah, I can see why someone might resort to screaming over that nonsense.

(Part Two:  If Jesus Sought Help For His Problem)

Unveiling the Sacred

Americans are told we’re not really proud of something until we display it for the world.

For some reason, we interpret “quiet and modest” as “low self-esteem.”

We can’t imagine hiding or covering something, unless we secretly feel ASHAMED.

So, we praise women with “the strength” to bare their legs in a mini-skirt, or their stretch marks in a bikini. (“Way to show off your stuff!”) And we swoon over pictures of pregnant bellies and openly-breastfeeding mothers, lamenting that we need even more proud displays of intimate moments like these–“because it’s too taboo!”

But, I have to wonder:  does anyone have any treasures anymore? You know? An item or activity they keep close and personal–as opposed to laying it out on the lawn (with a big, neon sign over-head)?

It’s like we don’t know how to enjoy life’s most basic gifts without involving Instagram.

Once upon a time, our most intimate parts and spirit-stirring activities were kept private not because of shame, not because we were a society of prudes who needed to loosen up and “get in touch with our bodies,” but because sharing those beautiful moments with any old stranger breaks the spell.

Not every veil is meant to mask the ugly and shameful; some veils shield the sacred

—-

I’ll be the first to admit my life is a pretty wide-open book… But maybe that’s why I felt the need to bring up the topic today.

Nothing is sacred anymore. We flaunt everything we hold dear, and call it “confidence” or “self-esteem.” And if anyone dares blush, we tell them to lighten up and deal with it. (“This is what you do with beautiful things! You share and share and share and share!”)

But I’m afraid we’re losing something special with all of this veil-removal.

There’s a very fine line between flaunting our treasures and desecrating them.

The Mommy Wars–the Cultural Epidemic of Dirty Minds

My dad often says prudish people actually have the dirtiest minds.

You know the ones who say– “You really shouldn’t do/say that!” in regards to something you thought was pretty harmless? And when you ask, “WHY?” they explain, “Because THAT can mean THIS OTHER THING which implies THAT BAD THING, and if you wouldn’t do/say THAT near your grandma…

…then you definitely should think twice before doing/saying the supposedly-harmless thing ever, ever again!”

Do you know what I’m talking about?

The problem is, once you start looking for reasons to avoid a phrase or action, you’ll find problems with others…and then others. And, pretty soon, you’ll have the dirtiest mind in the room. Through constant focus on being unoffensive, you’ll discover things become offensive the more you over-think.

Furthermore, when you explain to other people everything that’s offensive, they start to lose their innocence, too. And though, at first, they won’t understand why you’re being so uptight, eventually you can teach them to see evil everywhere the same way you do…

You might say dirty minds are contagious.

And if you need an example, you should spend an evening with my family, after my brother-in-law starts up “that’s-what-she-said” references. (*giggles*) Truly, ANYTHING can be a euphemism, once the tone has been set…

And THIS phenomenon–when a group develops a “tone” of spotting offensive things–is largely responsible for the “Mommy Wars.”

For years, mothers have been coached about what they can/can’t say to each other (because it’s rude! Or competitive! Or insensitive!), and now we’re trained to see conflict everywhere we look.

I used to believe the Mommy Wars don’t exist at all. But I’m ready to admit that’s not totally true. Instead, I’ll say the Mommy Wars exist in the same way a banana is “dirty”… It totally depends on your frame of mind.

If you’re part of a culture that talks about “the Wars” (ad nauseum)–it slowly teaches you to see the negative connotation behind every mother’s testimony. Eventually you’re filtering every situation through the Mommy Wars lens, whether you realize you’re doing it or not.

It has gotten to the point where, unless a mother starts every personal story with a disclaimer (“This is just my family, and it doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone…”) we feel like we’re being judged and discounted.

Even the most innocent stories or comments now “seem” or “sound” or “feel” like attacks, because we already believe we stand on a battlefield.

—–

Recently, I asked my friend Stephanie for her definition of the Mommy Wars, and she gave one I think most women would support:

 “When I think of Mommy Wars, I think of criticism and competition over ‘gray’ areas that are not black and white [or] right and wrong. Examples include breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, sleeping in a crib or co-sleeping, working parents or stay-at-home parents, etc., etc.”

Again, this definition represents most people’s opinion, so please don’t think I’m saying, “Look how ridiculous Stephanie is!” (She’s not.) Technically, I’m the strange one for disagreeing with the majority.

Nevertheless, I DO disagree that mothers are regularly criticizing each other over “gray areas.”

Breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding. Crib-sleeping vs. Co-sleeping. Cloth diapering vs. Disposable. Staying at home vs. Working. Organic vs. fast-and-cheap food.

I honestly have never seen what I would call a “battle” (let alone a war) waged over this stuff.

What I have seen are lots and lots of discussions about why one family found a particular choice to be better, usually followed by comments from other mothers, like: “Thanks! I think I’ll try your suggestion!”

OR

“That won’t work for us because ________.  But thanks anyway.”

OR

“That worked for my firstborn–but my second one is totally different. Any ideas?”

Soooooo…I have to ask…what “war” are we talking about?

I mean, occasionally someone will get defensive and say, “You just think you have all the answers. But there’s NOTHING wrong with my choice to (blah blah blah), and you should butt out!”

But those are fairly rare…  And, more importantly, I don’t believe those mothers are reacting to what was said.  Is it possible they’re dealing with a deeper, internal issue of insecurity? (Or guilt? Or jealousy? Or…something?), and not an overarching “Mommy War?”  Because, again, I’ve never heard anybody say, “You’re going to Hell for feeding your baby formula.”

Nor have I heard, “You should be jailed for using disposable diapers.”

I know, I know.  “It’s not what they say, Amanda.  It’s what they imply!”

But that’s why my message for today is: “Take your mind out of the gutter!”  🙂 It seems to me we’re seeing “wars” between the lines, just because our culture says they’re there.

Nine times out of ten, nobody means to “imply” anything negative about you personally, when they say/do a seemingly-harmless thing. (In other words, the seemingly-harmless thing actually is harmless.)

Most things that offend us are done completely unintentionally. But I don’t think you need convinced of that.

We already know other mothers aren’t trying to hurt our feelings, because we say so every time we begin lecturing about what they did wrong.  “Well you had good intentions–BUT.”

There are hundreds of posts (like this website, featuring things you shouldn’t say to different categories of people) which seek to “educate” mothers about how to “properly” talk to each other–and all of them say the same thing: “You didn’t know you were hurting me….you meant well…BUT–”

“But” nothing, I say!

Hear this, Mommies. If another person doesn’t intend to wound, then that’s all that matters. God looks at the heart–and if another mother’s heart is in the right place, then it’s not an attack. 

And if it’s not an attack, then again I ask, where are the Mommy Wars?

—-

I humbly suggest that the real war happens within each woman, when her insecurities are revealed in light of another (less-insecure) mom.   When one of us already feels uncomfortable with a choice we’ve made, it’s hard to hear about how well another mother’s plan is going…

When somebody asks questions about an issue we haven’t resolved completely ourselves, we feel uncertain and exposed…

Unfortunately, our culture gives us the chance to blame the whole thing on “Mommy Wars”–rather than fighting the battle of doubt in our own hearts/minds.

But we can’t keep expecting other people to avoid our hot buttons.  And we can’t keep worrying that we’re accidentally, unintentionally fueling some type of war, because it actually encourages over-sensitivity.

As a culture, we’re becoming thin-skinned–that is, even more “dirty-minded”–because we keep banning certain thoughts/phrases from Mommy Conversation instead of figuring out why they bother us so much… Now that it’s “wrong” to tell somebody when you think they’re wrong, fewer and fewer people can tolerate scrutiny of any kind.

When I said mothers don’t criticize each other, I didn’t necessarily mean it was a good thing.

How can we improve, if we’re not allowed to compare results?  How can I make better parenting decisions, if everybody is afraid to admit that “better” exists in the first place?

The biggest “war” that I see is one against dialog. It’s a war of political correctness that makes us water down our opinions (if not withhold our story altogether) because being too comfortable or too convicted or too passionate might intimidate someone else.

And, if you intimidate someone, you must be “judging.” You MUST be “implying” something negative about her choices, whether intended or not–even if your words/actions seem harmless at first glance.

“Trust us,” we say.  “It’s time to stop the wars…and that will happen when we stop doing this, this, this, this, and this.”

No, I don’t believe it.  That’s like saying we’ll cure dirty-mindedness by hiding all the bananas in the world.

I tend to believe my way of doing things is better, so let me share about the choices I make. (And yes, I think others should do this as well… *wink*)

#1. I remind myself that opinions aren’t bad. It’s not bad to strongly believe you’re right.  In fact, it’s not even bad to write an article flat-out stating, for example, “I think anybody who is able should homeschool their kids”. It totally depends on the lens I’m wearing…

#2. I ask God to help me with my insecurities. And, when I notice I’ve become too easily offended, I ask Him to help me control my “dirty mind.”

I don’t want to be someone who walks through the produce department giggling.  (“Bananas! Cucumbers! Melons! Oh my!”)  And, usually I’m not, unless I’m still recovering from a holiday with the in-laws, I suppose…  (*giggles again*)

In the same way, I just don’t see the same “conflict” and “judgment” and “competition” so many others notice, when they hear mothers talking with each other.

*shrugs*

—–

——
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On Professional Preaching (and Other Ministry Careers)

Allow me to address this thing we Western Christians refer to as our “calling.”

Am I wrong, or (in truly American fashion) are there many ways we’ve found to make careers out of the ministries which technically ALL Christians are called to do?

Think of teaching and counseling and caring for the poor…etc.

Long ago, these weren’t simply options for youth when selecting a college major. Yet, now, it’s standard procedure to ask graduating seniors, “Well, what do you LIKE to do? Where is your passion?”

And, if they’re passionate about serving God, we ask, “Where will you go to seminary?”

I think there should be another question, all of us are asking each other:  Who hasn’t been called to teach, counsel, and care? Aren’t all of us expected to do those things?

Well, okay, Amanda, we see what you’re saying. Yes, all of us should be prepared to use those skills, on special occasions (like at the store or bus stop), if the Holy Spirit prompts. But not everybody is called to PROFESSIONAL preaching, teaching, counseling, evangelizing…

I knew you’d say that.  (*wink*)

So, let’s discuss more about lay-ministry vs. the “professional” side of ministry with which we’re very familiar.

Just what is the difference–and is the separation good?

(God, grant me the wisdom to be helpful and clear–not just argumentative–while I tackle yet another sensitive topic.)

—-

It’s no surprise Americans have made a business out of ministry.  We’ve been raised on a steady diet of Capitalism since our very first lemonade stands–and that’s not totally a bad thing.  Let me repeat:  I am not anti-capitalism or anti-profit. 

Generally, if you can make money doing something you’re good at doing, it’s kind of silly to refuse.

But, I can see several downsides to constantly using the word “calling” as a synonym for “paying job.”  It starts with idolization of “education” (and the College Degree Machine) then ends with clear lines being placed between degree-holding spiritual people and everybody else.

It’s important to note, this hasn’t been done intentionally by God-fearing individuals who went to school for ministry. By and large, most of them have pure motives because–as I described above–they’re genuinely passionate about God.

Teachers/preachers and social workers just want to help people; it’s our culture which pushes them toward the career.

What am I saying?

I’m trying to avoid sounding angry or confrontational. (I’m neither.) Plus, having grown up in the church, I know lots of people who fall in the category of “professional” minister (in one category or another). I need to stress it’s not always WRONG for Christians to use their spiritual gifts to make a living.

I just think it has gone too far.

We’re to a point where we’ve forgotten that “teaching” doesn’t require a Teaching License. Counseling isn’t just for church-payroll counselors.  And–most shockingly–the head-of-the-church, weekly-sermon-delivering role of “Preacher” can’t be found in the Bible at all. (I’ll get to this.)

Instead, ALL of us are priests. We ALL received the gift of the Holy Spirit. And we ALL are “called” to minister to each other, whether we’re paid or not.

I know we say we believe these things.  We hear our preacher explain something along these lines quite often. But then, wouldn’t we operate a little differently if we really agreed that ALL of us are called to ministry?

Why, if we’re ALL priests, do we continue belonging to a system where only some of us are paid to do the work of one?

We come to church on Sunday (or for counseling on Thursday) while one staff member or another says, “I’m no different from you. We’re all ministers of the Holy Spirit.” But then we go back to our other jobs at home or the factory or the office building, while the Speaker spends the rest of the week studying his/her Bible and calling on the sick.

Why should only some of us do “full-time” Christian work?

Or, let me ask it this way. If only some of us do full-time ministry, what are the rest of us doing? By definition, we’re PART-timers. We contribute on Community Outreach Day, and maybe take a missions trip now and then. (Or, sure, we “witness” at work–or at the store or bus-stop–whenever the Spirit prompts.)

But, does the Spirit prompt professional ministers more than the lay-person? If not, then what IS the difference? What is the role/purpose of the modern pastor?

Let’s think about why we’ve been training and hiring and electing specialized ministers for so long…

And where does the system stop?

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As a reminder, I’m not upset.  🙂

I’m not trying to be scandalous or confrontational here.

But there are some very real problems that come from setting apart 24/7 “professional” ministers, from the rest of the Body.  It’s important that the Worldwide Church address some of those.

If you’ve ever thought “the Church needs to do things differently,” you simply must read Pagan Christianity by Viola and Barna.

You’ll never see the traditional church service the same way again.

Here are some of Frank Viola’s Explanations of why the professional preaching system actually hinders the Body of Christ. (And, I would add, the systems we’ve attached to professional teaching, counseling, and poor-caring (i.e. social-work) apply as well.)

1. “The Charismatics and the Third-Wavers have a copious supply of apostles, prophets, and teachers in their movement. However, to my mind, a first-century teacher, prophet, and apostle is a far cry from what typically carries that label today. These terms have been invested with hierarchical power and ‘official’ authority. In the Bible, apostles, prophets, and teachers are terms to describe a spiritual function. They were never used as offices or titles… aside from the apostle, who was itinerant, prophets and teachers were local people who had regular jobs. None were clergy in any sense of the word.” (from Tentmaker.org)

2. “The Sermon makes the preacher the virtuoso performer of the regular church gathering… There is no room for interrupting or questioning the preacher while he’s discoursing… It fosters a docile priesthood by allowing pulpiteers to dominate the church gathering week after week.”  –from Pagan Christianity.

3. “The sermon preserves the unbiblical clergy mentality. It creates an excessive and pathological dependence on the clergy. The sermon makes the preacher the religious specialist–the only one having anything worthy to say.  (While this is not usually voiced, it is the unspoken reality.)”  –from Pagan Christianity.

4. “Today’s sermon is often impractical. Countless preachers speak as experts on that which they have never experienced…” –from Pagan Christianity.

5. “The church needs fewer pulpiteers [professional teachers/counselors/spokes-people] and more spiritual facilitators… the Christian family needs a restoration of the biblical practice of mutual exhortation and mutual ministry…”  (from Pagan Christianity. Emphasis mine.)

I know this is a lot to throw at you, especially if it’s your first introduction to the core problems with Institutional Church System.  But I hope it’s not TOO much to chew…gag on just a little…and chew some more.

There is a LOT more in Pagan Christianity about the subtle ways we’ve systematized the Gospel over the centuries, but let’s start the dialog here.  What are the pros/cons of “professional” ministry?

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