So far, I shared the real-life conversation I’ve been having with my sister, along with her epiphany that children must be TAUGHT how to be adults. You can’t just wait for them to figure it out on their own.
Then, in Part 2, we looked at what happens when Leaders disagree about how to discipline the kids, and so the “Good Cops” start throwing the “Bad Cops” under the bus.
For Part 3, I’m going to peel the lid back on the Leadership Problem in the Church by using actual quotes from real-life pastors/leaders.
Many of these Christian leaders are struggling to accept that their desire to be “friends” with Toddlers actually stunts the growth of the Church–it is NOT the “Bad Cops” who are to blame for trying to talk about Doctrine too early…
Step #1: “Bad Cop” Pastors Publish a Straightforward Church Creed; “Good Cop” Pastors Question the Need to Upset People
In 2017, several hundred church leaders composed and signed a document clarifying what Christians believe (and don’t believe) regarding the nature of humanity, the purpose of sex, and the scope of inclusion for members of the LGBT community in the Church. They called their creed “The Nashville Statement,” and they intended to combat the cultural Confusion which has crept into churches unnoticed throughout history. (Other famous creeds written to clarify official Church positions during times of confusion include the Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene Creed.)
Unfortunately, not everyone saw the benefit of the Nashville Statement.
Perry Noble, and many other Good Cop Christians worried that being TOO clear about what we believe could drive the unchurched people away, because it sounds judgmental.
One pastor told me, explicitly, that the Nashville Statment “shut down the conversation” because it didn’t sound very nice.
“The Mean Christian”: How does the Statement shut down conversations? It could be a perfectly good START to a conversation, if people were really interested in a give-and-take relationship…
“The Passive Pastor”: Everyone already knows what the Church believes about homosexuality. This just comes across as more judgment heaped on homosexuals.
Mean Christian: Which part of the Nashville Statement would Jesus disagree with?
Passive Pastor: Don’t put words in my mouth! I didn’t say Jesus would disagree. I’m just saying it makes it harder for me to earn trust from people who are Unchurched. You have to establish a relationship before you earn the right to tackle those deeper topics.
Mean Christian: Ah, so even when something is TRUE, it still shouldn’t be discussed openly until…later? (When the Unchurched person allows it?) Wow, it kind of sounds like the Lost people are the ones driving the tour bus over there…
Passive Pastor: I just want to give people the chance to learn about the love of Jesus! And it’s hard when they’re upset!
Mean Christian: Just because a person is upset does NOT mean that you or me or the writers of the Nashville Statement did something wrong.
Step #2: People Inevitably Get Upset Either Way; Bad Cops Wonder if NOW is a Good Time to Talk Theology? (Good Cops Say, “Nope.”)
In 2019, we saw several high-profile cases of former pastors who left their churches and renounced their faith.
Many people pointed out that a big contributer to this problem was the spiritual shallowness of the churches those apostate pastors had helped create. But not all of us were willing to re-evaluate the watered-down, intellectually-starved messages being popularized by Big Brand Churches.
(Note: these are ACTUAL EXCERPTS of a conversation with a Large Church Pastor.)
Mean Christian: When an ex-Pastor is leaving because he doesn’t agree with the Church’s stance on homosexuality, I’m thrilled! It’s great news! The guy admits he grew up in the Church and still doesn’t have answers for basic Apologetics questions. The last thing we need is for him to keep pretending to understand Christianity for the sake of a paycheck, vanity, or both. I’ll hold the door open for him.
Passive Pastor: When you say those things, you’re actually making gospel work more difficult for my church.
Mean Christian: It’s the gospel itself that makes gospel work so difficult.
Passive Pastor: We are trying to walk this situation out with both grace and truth, letting people know that while we do love the ex-Pastor, we don’t agree with his lifestyle. Those who are spiritually mature understand. Those who are newer to faith (which is a large portion of our church) don’t understand. To the less mature believers in our congregation, your words simply substantiate the Ex-Pastor’s claims of being hurt by Mean Christians.
Mean Christian: I have a really crazy philosophy that a person needs to know WHAT A GROUP BELIEVES before they can decide whether they want to belong to that group.
Passive Pastor: That sounds like a catchy slogan I coined a few years ago, except I told my congregation the opposite: “People Need to know they Belong before they can decide what to Believe and How to Behave.” Are you referencing that with a mocking tone?
Mean Christian: Maybe.
Passive Pastor: (*sigh…) You are right to say that Gospel work is hard simply because it’s the gospel… that’s why I’m asking you, as a brother in Christ, not to add unnecessary difficulty to the work we’re trying to do. I am simply asking you to remember I am trying to point people to Jesus. You and I are on the same team! I can’t fastforward hundreds of baby Christian’s faith and change their points of view over night. I can, however, build their trust over time… grow their trust in Scripture… and hopefully see them trust in Jesus if they don’t already. Your words make it harder for me to gain trust from those in search of truth.
Mean Christian: I’m glad to hear we’re on the same team! Can you please tell your congregation to stop making my ministry harder? I’ve had a couple dozen of your members tell me I’m not a Christian. I would appreciate if you mentioned to them that I’m not the bad guy.
Passive Pastor: ….I can see that it’s pointless to continue this conversation. Have a good night!
Mean Christian: That’s cool. I’ll just go talk to the people who have ears to hear.
Folks, if you know that Christianity is full of difficult and controversial tenets, but you’re saving those for later because you want to bribe people with coffee and pizza first, you are the reason babies are being elevated to places of leadership and then falling.
If you actually say things to your congregation like, “There’s no point in debating” or “You can’t put too much emphasis on Theology/Doctrine” or “You can’t PROVE God to people; all you can do is share your story,” then YOU ARE THE MAJORITY OF THE PROBLEM.
Babies need more than bottles and backrubs. They need to be taught right from wrong. They need to be given clear boundaries (and disciplined when those are crossed).
And babies need to be told NO when they start inviting other babies to “follow them” on a “journey” to Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.
If certain leaders just want to be the Good Cops, that’s fine. If they don’t want to deal with Tantruming Toddlers, I’ll do it. I’ll tell those kiddies that their “questions” have been tackled by actual millenia of Church scholarship, and I’m sorry they were so busy singing “You’re a Good, Good Father” that no one gave them anything to fertilize their minds.
I’ll do it.
But I would appreciate if the Good Cops would back me up instead of defending the babies and insisting that Jesus would be just as timid and close-minded and theologically ignorant as they are.
Step #3: The Passive “Good Cop” Pastors Learn the Hard Way that You Can’t Save Discipline for Later…(or Maybe They Don’t Learn at All).
I’m very proud of my sister, Tabby, for recognizing her temptation to become “passive” and wrestling against it. She loves her stubborn toddler so much that she’s willing do the hard work of discipline, because it’s for the toddler’s own good.
Tabby would love to sit on her hands and avoid confrontation for the next 18 years, hoping that Marci figures out how to be a well-adjusted human without much intervention. Tabby would LOVE to simply bide her time…”growing trust” and keeping the peace…until eventually Marci trusts Jesus in the exact same, shallow way: blindly and because it feels good…not because Jesus actually has authority and Truth on his side.
But Tabby recognizes that this would harm Marci in the long run.
And, thankfully, she doesn’t blame ME for “making motherhood hard” whenever the Toddler gets upset and they both grow tired of each other. Nor does Tabby ask me to shut up while she’s doing her Special Good-Cop “Gospel Work,” thinking everything would go perfectly fine if I didn’t keep ruining it.
Tabby is an example of a Passive Person who is still open to guidance and ready to put the needs of her child ahead of the child’s wants.
But, unfortunately, there are plenty of “Good Cop” Pastors who aren’t there, yet.
They STILL do not see how their own leadership style is contributing to the perpetual Babyhood of their congregation. (It doesn’t even seem to give them pause when they see their own co-leaders falling!)
They are convinced there is a way to interact with the toddlers so their “relationship” will always be friendly, and they’re blaming OTHER CHRISTIANS for making their job “too hard” whenever there’s a crisis.