Over the past two (really six) years, I have seen among my Christian friends, church members and family members an unhealthy, illogical, and hypocritical allegiance to unbiblical and un-Christlike matters. Both as a pastor and friend, I have tried at times to address these unbiblical allegiances. However, as I have done so, many of my church members and friends have turned the accusation back on me claiming that I am the one displaying an unhealthy allegiance to or preoccupation with political matters.
You might be one of those friends. And I want you to know that I love you. And I want you to know that I know your accusation against me might be right. And I hope you recognize the same might be true regarding my accusation against you. If either of us has embraced an unhealthy allegiance to unbiblical matters we owe it to each other to do some iron-sharpening-iron work. We owe it to each other to speak the truth in love.
I’m currently attempting to write a book on the issues from my perspective, but since that is taking a while and since the chances of it ever getting published are slim, and since the chances of people who need to read it ever reading it are also slim, I thought perhaps I could use this forum to grab your attention for just a bit.
I’m going to write you some letters about some hard things. Feel free to write me back.
This is the first letter, so I want you to hear my heart.
Through my life, I have always loved the Church of Jesus. Born the son of a pastor, my life trajectory should have led me to be cynical of the church. After all, I saw the emotional beatings my dad took at the hands of church people who disagreed with him on some matter. I remember the debates over church decorations, funding new projects, hiring and firing staff, launching a second worship service, killing off that second worship service, and what to call the leaders of the church—overseers, elders, deacons? I remember the exasperation my parents would express through whispers when they didn’t know my sister and I were still awake in the car after long business meetings. I learned early on that the church was an organization adept at shooting its wounded. But I loved it anyway.
I loved the message of the cross and the resurrection. I loved the promise of the Holy Spirit even if I didn’t fully understand his presence. I loved the idea of reaching the lost, sending missionaries, being missionaries globally and also at home. I loved the preaching, the singing, the call to holy living, and the promise of eternal life.
And whenever I saw the failings of the church, I knew in my heart that I was only seeing one bad apple. Even when the leadership of the church where I grew up pushed my dad out of his job as their pastor, I didn’t resent that church or the people in it. And even though I was taught my church had its doctrine right while the other churches had it wrong, I still fell in love with the other churches. People in my life were critical of the church with the rock band, but I thought it was great. People in my life were critical of the church where people raised hands and spoke in tongues, but I was intrigued. People in my life were critical of the Catholics as idol-worshippers, but I wanted to learn more about them.
Despite all the odds against it, surely by God’s grace alone, I fell deeply in love with the church of Jesus and wanted to give my life to her. Despite all my own spiritual failings and the practical skills I could have used in another industry, prompted mainly by an unrelenting sense of God’s call, I pursued the path of career pastor all the way through graduate school, part-time associate, full-time pastor, and eventually church planting pastor.
I love the Church of Jesus, and now, after years of him working on my heart, I can also say with true authenticity that if you are a part of the Church, if you are a follower of Jesus, I love you too.
However, my heart is breaking as I see people I love and the Church I love shift its allegiance so swiftly and so strongly away its first love—the love we have for Jesus, the love he gave to us, the love he commanded us to have for God and each other. I am overwhelmed with the dilemma that either something has swooped in to replace that first love or that perhaps the first love of many had not been Christ all along! At the same time, as I said above, other people I love have begun to see me as forsaking my first love in favor of something else. Which of us is holding onto the authenticity of following Christ? Which of us is still holding to the true first love of the Church?
Of course, I think I’m holding to the faith, and I’m heartbroken that those I love are not.
Of course, the same is being said by some of you, about me!
But since I am called to speak the truth in love, since I am trained in the understanding of Scripture, since my life has been devoted and is still devoted to the Church of Jesus in this present world and to the cause of Christ and His Kingdom, I have to share with you what’s on my heart. I have to open up the pages of Scripture with you and humbly implore you to return to the authenticity of following Jesus.
There was a time when I thought all of our modern unhealthy allegiances of the faith would blow over or slowly decrease, but that hasn’t happened. Rather, they have intensified. More and more, I continue to see my friends and loved ones hold onto these unbiblical allegiances, and so the option of remaining silent is no longer available to me.
There are many ways to frame this discussion, and there is much I have to say about it, but at least here at the beginning, I should let you know what is of concern to me. For a little while, I will be posting “open letters” to this blog addressing the uniquely inappropriate and un-Christian ways that my brothers and sisters in the North American Church are responding to the following issues:
- COVID protocols, masks, vaccines, and fears of government overreach.
- Biden, Trump, “No One Wants to Work,” and the evangelical allegiance to Conservative talking points and politics.
- Racism, “Wokeness,” Critical Race Theory, George Floyd, Black Lives Matter, etc.
- Cancel Culture and Political Correctness
- QAnon, 2020 Election Fraud, Fake News, and “Research”
I know there is more to address, and I don’t even know if I’ll have the stamina to keep up with these letters once I begin, but if I can prompt us to think critically about some of these issues for the cause of Christ, perhaps that will be enough.
For further reading, here is an informative albeit disturbing article from the Atlantic that fairly well represents my current angst.
And here is another article that illuminates some historical reasons evangelicals are more susceptible to our modern problems.
2 thoughts on “Real Talk: A Series of Letters to My Friends”
May we all listen to what “The Sprit is saying to the churches.”
Much is said/done in the name of Christ which is not of Christ. It grieves the Father’s heart … and mine!
Jeffrey, This was well written and it is a good introduction to what I hope is productive discussions. Many blessings.