A New Fan

I haven’t posted in a while, but I thought I would close out this month by sharing with you a comment I received on my recent post entitled, ” Saddleback’s “On Fire” Church Growth Strategy“. It’s from Ray Harris, the lead pastor at The Point Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Here’s what Ray said:

You criticize what Pastor Warren wrote for a newspaper (internal or external)? Do you know him?

I don’t. But when I was 17, he spoke at a youth conference in Fresno, CA and the Holy Spirit used his message to call me into ministry along with several dozen other teens.

When I was in the jungles of Bambu, El Salvador, I met a pastor in the village of 60 people who was leading his congregation of 12 thru the PDL.

The associate pastor I work with daily was greatly influenced by Dr. Warren and much of our church’s success in reaching the twenty-something generation of Fort Wayne, IN has come from an PDC understanding we both embrace and use.

I am quite certain I could max out your blog with testimonies of how God has used Dr. Warren’s sacrificial way of life and teaching to impact others – not to mention the major global emphases that he is leading right now.

Perhaps you might take a moment to weigh the advances of the gospel that could be credited to God’s work in Dr. Warren against your view that he is promoting himself or Saddleback in a press release that was written in the heat of the SoCal fires.

This might bode well for you as we are promised that we will be judged as we judge. And the measure you are employing is going to take some significant work and effort on your part to weigh out.

You might want to start advancing the gospel by shutting down your blog and instead, sharing what Christ has done in your heart with your neighbors and friends. I say this with seriousness and not to start an argument.

I think you have a great deal of work to do to measure up to the level of judgment you are leveling.

Ray R. Harris

Now, I know I am gonna take some flack for what I said in response. I mean after all, he’s a lead pastor and I’m nothing but, well, me. But dammit… well… just read what I wrote.

Ray… I hope you read this.

1) Yes. I know Rick Warren. I have known him for almost 20 years now. And I would consider him a friend and someone I respect. I am not sure how this is relevant (but you seem to). Let me ask you something… you criticize me, but do you know me?

2) If you read this post and my subsequent comments you will see that I give plenty of praise to the good things Saddleback does… especially during this crisis.

3) Excuse me, but are you really so ignorant as to think that just because someone does plenty of wonderful, amazing things in the name of God… that they also aren’t able and capable of doing very self-serving things to advance their own name. The two are not mutually exclusive nor do they cancel each other out.

4) This is an age-old situation we have… but you find it ok to judge me and what I have done or not done based solely upon this blog. You do not know me personally yet you have concluded somehow that I don’t share with my neighbors and friends, for example. Apparently, you have prejudged my spiritual depth. Often church people like yourself do those sorts of things…and this is largely why this site exists… to point out how stupid that is to do to someone. I don’t fault you for this judgment… you are free to do so. I only point out that it weakens and silences your position.

Rick is promoting himself and his church. It’s a press release for God’s sake. You said it yourself. I personally think it to be somewhat (but not altogether) self-indulgent. You don’t. Why can’t we leave it at that?

No, instead you make it about judgment. Not just about what I wrote or said, but about me as a person. Certainly, I am self-serving a lot of the time. And I think Rick Warren can be as well on many occasions (all you have to do is attend his Sunday services and see how many times he mentions his books to know that). But I don’t think either one of us is a pompous judgmental ass…. that’s reserved for stupid church people.

The Nature of Belief

The nature of belief fascinates me. The reasons why people believe what they believe occupies much of my middle-of-the-night thinking. Actually, the reasons I believe what I believe occupies that time, but you get the idea.

I think for some simple belief in God is enough. And the phrase “simple belief” is not meant as an insult. I wish I could be that person. Life would certainly be easier. For whatever reason, I have been blessed (or cursed) with a reflective mind. Some would probably say it is my sinful nature at work, and for many years I felt guilty about my doubts, but I gave up that type of guilt long ago.

But I look at the people around me who believe in God and those who are very active in their churches, and I wonder: When they lay their heads down at night, and everything around them is quiet, do they really believe as strongly as they say they do? Or do they just say they believe because they always have and therefore it’s comfortable? Have many of them just gotten to the point that no matter what, believing in belief in God is paramount to actually believing in Him.

Ok, maybe this doesn’t make sense… but to me there is an important distinction. And I think it’s worth a few reflective thoughts.

Fascinated by Belief

Do you know people that proclaim that they love and believe in God, yet their lifestyle is the exact opposite of “God-likeness”? These are people, that if challenged on the how their life doesn’t match up with the virtues proclaimed in the Bible, would argue that they shouldn’t be judged since God doesn’t judge, that God loves them anyway, and would take offense if you hinted at their hypocrisy.

I guess I am fascinated by what people say they believe and how they actually live. Not just in the spiritual arena but in all areas of life. I struggle with this in my own life. What do I say I believe in versus how I really live my life.

I meet medical doctors that treat cancer and yet smoke cigarettes.

I meet a marriage and family therapist that counsels people in their relationships, yet has left his family and has no idea

Was Jesus a “Media Master”??

In my last post, I spoke of how I felt one church used a recent crisis to market and promote its church and services. Now I realize that this debate has taken place time and again, but something came up that I thought might be worth talking about. Did Jesus use marketing techniques to advance his ministry? Heather seems to think he didn’t and Marc thinks he did… here’s what they had to say.

Jesus was not media-savvy. I’m not quite sure why his followers find it necessary. (Heather)

Now that’s funny, you think Jesus wasn’t media savvy. I guess that’s why no one has ever heard of Him.

He was actually amazingly media savvy, He had the prophets publicize Him thousands of years before he was even born. He then worked miracles that were heard of across the world, even being recognized by the world leaders of his day,and then, in a stunt unprecidented [sic] in human history, He pulled a “David Copperfield” and arose from the dead starting His own religion.

Jesus wasn’t just media savvy, He was the media master. (Marc)

So, is that what Jesus was about? Was the purpose of the recorded miracles to advance his cause? Was the purpose of his death to start and grow a world-wide religion with millions of followers and churches?

Was Jesus a “media master”?

My answer is “NO”. My understanding of the Scripture is that Jesus didn’t want others to know about his miracles, often telling the ones healed to “keep quiet”. Also, his death wasn’t part of his plan for a religion, it was the path he had to take for man’s redemption. Man then took it and made it into a world-wide religion.

In my opinion it’s man that takes the good things (or bad) in this world and spins them to advance their own causes. God wants to purely and simply advance the cause of love. Local churches want to grow in numbers so they market using gimmicks or press releases. God wants the church to grow by loving others…and the rest will fall into place. OK, so I sound like a hippie.

What do you think?