I follow some of my favorite pastor-role-models on Twitter and while reading something an author I really admire wrote, I decided to go and google him to see if I could find a message he had written on a topic I was interested in. So I typed in his name and up popped a page full of links to stuff he’s written, but also to stuff that’s been written about him. This is the pastor of what you might call a mega-church and a man who has far-reaching influence. Let’s call him “Pastor M”. I was struck that there were several articles and blog entries fairly high up in the google rankings that were very critical of him and his ministry. In the results were things like “He should step down…he should give up his position…he should repent” that sort of stuff. So I decided to read some of them to see what the hubbub was about.
The first article which accused Pastor M of being unworthy of the pastorate did so because he doesn’t wear vestments. Like myself, he dresses casual, speaks plainly, doesn’t pull any punches, and is a “tell it like it is” kind of guy. I really admire that about him. In fact, in many ways, I have modeled my pastorate after this example. I’m a firm believer in keeping it real. So Pastor M isn’t worthy of the pastorate and he “disgraces the ministry” because he dresses casual? Is God really impressed with our clothing? Where exactly does the scripture teach this?
The next article talked about how he is “pornographic” and “indecent” in his preaching. Hmm, now that’s a serious accusation. I read on to find out what messages by this man they were referring to and decided to look them up online at his church’s website and on youtube. In these messages, he addressed topics like sex inside marriage and warned against sexual sin outside of marriage. I actually enjoyed the messages, not in a sensual way, but because I appreciate frank talk on such sensitive matters. Look, we all have sex right? It is how babies are made after all. I suppose for many, it should only be used for baby making, but are these the views of most people we minister to? More importantly, what’s the Bible teach about it? I’m of the school of thought that sex was designed by our Creator for more than baby making. I believe it was designed as a continual expression of affection and love for married people. And yes, I believe it is meant to be enjoyed. So why not talk about such things in church? Why shy away from a subject that is so vitally important to us? I say we need to discuss it more in church. Perhaps we need to hear from God more on this subject considering how prevalent sexual sin is. Why should the church stay silent? Pastor M, in his messages about marriage, love and sex talked about things which I think are on the minds of ordinary people. He didn’t shy away from saying some things that are quite frankly true in my opinion and which need to be said. Since this blog may be read by young people, I’ll keep these next comments as clean as possible. Pastor M talked about a subject that many pastors have written about as an immature, naughty, un-godly, act. Of course I have never read about any such thing in the Bible and I can’t help but think that these pastors come from the perspective that God’s children should never want to experience sexual pleasure. This is a draconian view and one which has no basis in scripture. So how is it such people can condemn a pastor for speaking about it? One may not agree with Pastor M about such issues, but how does this make him unfit for ministry? It doesn’t.
One of the big problems I see in the Christian Church is that many have this idea that if you aren’t like me, you aren’t fit for ministry. “I’m (we’re) right and you are wrong”..ergo, unfit and should step down. Again, is this Biblical behavior? After all, we’re not talking about a man who denies the person and work of Christ. He does not deny the sufficiency of Scripture. He just doesn’t wear vestments and talks about sex plainly once in a while. In my opinion, he is to be applauded for his plain-speak and he’s to be commended for caring enough about the issues people need to hear about. He should be praised for his willingness to take heat from fellow pastors because he understands how important it is to discuss what people are needing to learn.
These beliefs are why I am the way I am. I don’t pretend to live on a different spiritual or moral plane as the people I minister to. I struggle with the same stuff. I laugh at many of the same jokes. I want to enjoy life as much as the next guy and I certainly enjoy my relationship with my wife. I believe in holiness, but I believe that holiness is a product of Christ in my life. He has made us holy. Our job is to do our best to rid ourselves of sin. I agree with many of my fellow pastors in that regard. However, I find many of the criticisms of Pastor M to be Pharisaical. They are based in opinion and personal bias.
Regardless I see a rift in the church which need not exist. At a time when we should be banding together and working for gospel in a unified way, it seems we’d rather fight with each other and accuse good men of God for silly reasons. I prefer to take the attitude with many issues that we often just have a “different take” than someone else. To have a different take doesn’t necessarily make one a heretic or unfit for ministry. To me, this sounds a lot like the old Calvinist vs. Arminian controversies that ripped the church apart. It sounds a lot like the King James Bible only controversy which divides churches. It sounds like the old “we’re full-gospel and you’re not” deal…as though churches that don’t speak in tongues only have half the gospel. All these attitudes do is cause division.
I’ll never get on that train man. It ain’t gonna happen. To be honest, there’s too much kingdom work to do, so I don’t have time to worry about your different take on stuff. As far as I’m concerned, we’re on the same team whether I’d say what you said from the pulpit or not. Call me a compromiser, call me a heretic. I’m ok with that…I’ve been called worse. LOL
Young and up-and-coming pastors, don’t let the establishment destroy your barbarian spirit. Keep it real. Don’t be afraid to say what is on your heart and avoid irrelevancies and controversies that have no basis in scripture. Don’t allow yourself to be imprisoned. Stay free and keep bringing Christ into the areas of life He needs to be brought into. Be bold, be strong, and be real. After all, no one really buys the act anyway. (oops, did I say that?)