Another problem with Evangelical Christianity Today

It’s easy to criticize, that’s why I do it. I’m lazy.

This blog is still in response to “I’m Not Being Fed (and other stupid things Christians say)” I already wrote why Christians should not use the word stupid. (no hair splitting here, You can’t say that someone said something stupid and not also be calling them stupid. We’re Christians not Pharisees.) In this blog I want to address why this problem occurs.

I will grant that is possible that the reason that a Christian might say to a preacher ‘I’m not being fed’ is because that Christian is weak and immature. If I were a preacher and someone said it about my preaching I would probably assume that the fault was with the preachee not the preacher. It takes a lot of spiritual strength to admit fault or the possibility of fault. I’m only that strong one day a year. That is why humility is so important to the Christian life. Before you can learn anything you have to be able to admit that what you know now is not enough. A wise preacher would listen to the criticism and learn from it even if the criticism came from a weak and immature Christian.

There is another possible reason that a Christian might say to a preacher “I’m not getting fed.” It might be because he is not getting fed. Again, a preacher can always put the onus on the non-preacher but what is gained by that? The non-preacher goes away and reads a book about the bible but unbeknownst to him it’s an apostasizer and with no one to correct the book’s lies he loses his faith. Or he faithfully tolerates church until his children are grown then he says ‘why go to church. I can read the Bible and pray at home’ but since he is forsaking the gathering together he eventually loses his faith also. Don’t think this only happens to the weak or immature or carnal. It happens to the best of them. The Bible tells us to meet together for a reason and he tells the teachers to teach for a reason. The question for Evangelicals is how to obey most effectively.

It is easy to see the problem, It is harder to solve the problem but hardest of all is to foresee the problems that will be caused by your solution.

One problem that we Evangelicals have is that we have muddled our church offices. Ephesians 4:11 says “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers”.(NAS) As evangelicals we expect the guy in the pulpit to be both evangelist and pastor. Then we made a new position in the church that we call elder but it is not like the scriptural elder. The scriptural elder got paid and taught and was an overseer and really looked a lot like what we now call a pastor. The modern position of elder is ‘a guy who has gone to the church a long time and who’s wife does a lot of church work so we let him think he’s important (yes I know, not always but a lot of the time). I grew up in a church that had the preacher,elder, deacon pyramid then attended a Baptist church for awhile and they only had a preacher and deacon because their view was that, Biblically speaking the preacher was the elder. Every now and then I change an opinion and this is one I changed; the Biblical elder is closer to our preacher.

If the guy in the pulpit is an evangelist, and what else can he be if we are using our church services to evangelize and what else are we doing if we are making our services ‘seeker’ friendly and by extension ‘found long ago’ unfriendly, who is doing the pastoring/shepherding and teaching and when?

One solution is to have a church that is large enough to have an evangelist and several overseers on salary. It also would allow for both newcomer and old-comer targeted services. Like I said, the problem is foreseeing the other problems that your solution causes. In this case we know the problems of large churches and they are legion. We risk falling into the same traps that befell the large protestant denominations from whom we broke away.

On the other hand.There is a bright side to the status quo. Maybe all of small evangelical churches function as a sort of large church with many choices. If you don’t like the music here then go there and if you don’t like the preaching there go … and so on.

Frankly I think we have missed something and it leaves us weak. I pray that God sends us leaders who can help us to deal with it.

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4 Responses to Another problem with Evangelical Christianity Today

  1. Don Bradford says:

    Joel,

    There is a problem with the evangelical system. It has become a business. The paid ministry has become a position that is similar to many corporations. There are performance reviews to determine if the pastor is doing his ‘job’. The ‘job’ has become a managerial position for many that is measured by the number of people that are in attendance for Sunday morning services. The more people, the more the staying power of the minister, that is until another church comes in with more money and a larger congregation. The position has also become a ‘job’ for many a minister who over time has lost the ‘call’ or real sense of ministry. It is a sad state of affairs.

    When I became the minister at Sweet’s Corners, you asked me what my intention would be in sharing the gospel with people outside my congregation. Was it to lead people to Christ or to fill seats in my congregation? My heart was to lead people to Christ and if they chose to come, that would be fine, but not necessary. It still is. Sadly, I have been a part of a fellowship or two that there were times that if I had shared Christ and a person wanted to go to Church, I don’t know if I would have recommended the place I was apart of. I would be able to now.

    I have become uncomfortable with the paid pastorate. I don’t believe it is really biblical. I have enjoyed the teaching and preaching of some men in the position to be sure. I find that I am more at home in a fellowship that has a shared ministry among the men in the congregation. The preaching and teaching is not professional, yet there is not that expectation to be so. In this type of ministry I find myself looking for a nugget to take in even if the one delivering the message is not very good at serving it. I may be able to do so at this stage of life, because I have mellowed in my expectations, and I have come to expect that the Lord is able to use a mule to get the message across if need be. That may also be key. What are the congregates expecting to be served each Sunday morning? Are they looking for rich platers or will they be satisfied with a piece of bread?

    Keep up you posts Joel.

  2. “In this type of ministry I find myself looking for a nugget to take in even if the one delivering the message is not very good at serving it.” This is a very good attitude; I’m going to make a point of learning from it. Thanks for your input Don.

  3. Jon Sprenger says:

    If someone is actually stupid (low IQ, or learning disability), it is cruel to address that person as such. In the same way, if a person has a facial deformity that renders him/her physically unattractive, it is cruel to call that person “ugly”.However, some people – although of at least average IQ – are, in fact, stupid. In those cases, it’s a matter of choice and calling such people “stupid” can’t always be considered wrong.

    • Hi Jon

      You are right of course; It is not always wrong. Personally I subscribe to the hyperbolic interpretation of sermon on the mount. For instance:
      Judging – sometimes I do, because I need to use my judgement
      to make good decisions.
      Forgiving – Whatever it means, it does not mean not turning pedophiles over to the police, no matter how much they ask for forgiveness.
      Turning the other cheek – I can think of lots of situations where it would be unchristian to turn the other cheek.
      Blessed are the peacemakers – Hypothetically it might be a good thing to get the bad guys to fighting themselves.
      Cutting off body parts that cause me to sin – do I even need to explain that one?
      Calling someone a fool – I can’t think of any situation where it is not better to say something like “I think if you thought that through you would come to a different conclusion” or ” I think you are trying to make the facts fit what you want to believe” etc. Mind you, if you say it with a sneer it still means stupid. Sometimes too people like to see insult where none is meant. It seems like only a decade ago that retarded became developmentally challenged now there are some people trying to say that developmentally challenged is insulting – but they are just stupid. (smiley face)

      Joel

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