I grew up in a “separatist” Church. Secondary separation was normal, as was protesting, if not boycotting, various stores, restaurants or manufacturers of toothpaste. We tapered our hair, forced girls to wear culottes, and demanded only one version of the bible was good enough to use. This English bible was so good that if you were a missionary to a foreign field, speaking a foreign language, translating the bible into this language – you’d better translate it from this particular English version (instead of the originals) or we’ll drop your support. We made our children memorize an evangelistic flow chart – it didn’t matter if they weren’t believers – they need to know how to “win souls”. We shunned movie houses, movie goers and then during our “Watch Night Service” on New Year’s Eve we’d show “The Burning Hell” or “Like a Thief in the Night” and freak everyone under the age of 12 out, so that they wouldn’t sleep for weeks. We’d rail against liberals, against other denominations, other versions of the bible. (I was in my mid-20’s before I even knew there were more than 3 versions of the bible: KJV, NIV and the Living Bible. And I knew that reading 2 of those 3 would condemn my soul to hell).
We’d read papers published under the name of “Sword of the Lord” and read rants and sermons about communists, leftists, and those pesky democrats. We’d run buses all over the neighborhood and compete with some fella out of Hammond, IN for the record of converted bus children. Our evangelists would be sweaty, overweight and full of wind, but we still wanted them to sign our bibles. It was no wonder that the community around us thought we were odd, almost cultish. And please, I’m no seeker-sensitive pastor, but I am concerned about the way the Church presents herself to the community in which she lives. It’s as if we had missed grace somehow.
What kind of people does that Church produce? How does the community in which that Church resides view the people of the Church?
Today I read an article that I would like to share with you. It’s entitled, “The Danger of Defining Yourself by What Your Against“. Written by Byron Yawn over at the Cripplegate. I’ve reproduced the first paragraph or so, but you’ll have to click through to read the rest. I think he explains some of the concerns that the Church really needs to hear.
I spent a brief portion of my pastoral ministry under an “angry prophet.” You know… “that guy.” He’s the preacher-pastor who somehow finds his way to the kindling and accelerant in every sermon, or writing project. The “Battle Hymn of the Republic” is on a loop in the background of his life. I loved the gentlemen and still do. He loved Jesus Christ and still does. He was well intended. I learned an awful lot from his ministry and am grateful for almost all of it. But, some things I have had to unlearn. One such lesson was the danger of incessantly defining your ministry by what you are against. My fundamentalist background made the warning emphasis of his ministry especially appealing. I watched this man unnecessarily alienate himself from everyone around him and eventually implode. I took copious notes. I looked inward.