Stupid Things Christians Fight About #1

Can you follow up one successful series  with another one?  Is it possible?  Well of course it is.  George Lucas is clearly the poster-boy for that.  How does one guy come up with Star Wars and Indiana Jones?  (He does that and what do I do?  I make humorous, sometimes cynical observations about life and tell goofy, mildly-embellished stories about my kids.) 

Let’s be clear, Stuff Christians Need to Stop Saying is no Star Wars and this series is no Indiana Jones.  I might could say that SCNTSS is Wes Craven’s Nightmare on Elm Street and STCFA could be Scream, but the metaphor there is too painful.  Anyway, let’s see what happens.

In this corner:  Conservative Evangelicals who believe that the key to being a Christ follower is what you believe.

In the other corner: Liberal Mainline Christians who believe that the key to being a Christ follower is what you do, namely being socially active.

My History: I feel like I should start with a confession.  I spent the entire decade of the 90’s square in the middle of this battle.  I went to college at Hendrix College in Conway, AR.  I was a student leader and ultimately a staff minister for a college ministry there.  I ended up being at Hendrix, one way or another for 10 years, essentially all of the 90’s, from the fall of 1990 to Spring 2000.  We were the champions of the “being a Christian is based on what you believe” camp.  People who thought that it was important to be socially active by helping needy people were soft on the truth and were trying to earn their way to heaven.

On the other side, were a group of people who wanted to live out their faith not based on what they believed but living in a way that they believed Jesus lived.  Being a Christ Follower is less about believing certain things about God and Jesus, but were about following what Jesus did and the way he lived his life.  We were the Bible-thumping, narrow-minded fundies.

The Verdict:  Ridiculous, all of it.  Who decided that there was a fight to be had here?  How did it come to this?  Nerd alert!  In part these are rhetorical questions, a study of Christianity in the 20th century will answer this question, with the shifting of focus of many mainline denominations and the rise of fundamentalism in the 50’s in response to that. End nerd alert!  How does a Christ Follower say that it doesn’t matter if you do what Jesus did?  What does follower even mean? Not Christ Follower but Christ Believe-the-same-as-er?  Similarly, how does a Christ Follower say that it doesn’t matter who Jesus was or who he believed God to be?  That is not a Christ Follower but Christ Be-somewhat-like-er.

Someone who wants to follow after Jesus needs to understand everything that Jesus came to do.  He came to give us new life, forgiveness of sins, if we would believe in him.  He also came to show us the heart and values of God, to show us how to live in right relationship with God.  One of my biggest regrets in life is my participation of in this battle.  (When I’m older and bolder, we can do a series on my 10 biggest regrets and what I’ve learned from them) I can only imagine what more God could have done through our ministry if we had shared God’s truth and lived it out in the lives of the poor and needy.  Let’s not make that same mistake and let’s make a commitment to be complete Christ Followers, believe as Jesus did and live as Jesus did.

To choose one to the exclusion of the other is something, but it is not following Jesus. 

(Suggestions for this series are greatly desired)


8 Responses to “Stupid Things Christians Fight About #1”
  1. Sammy Grimes says:

    Suggestions, I have tons: Role-playing games, non-Christian music, gay marriage and gay rights in general, evolution, legalism (Matt Fries gave me an apology on that one), condoms, abortion, the whole culture war, Catholics, etc. I’m not saying that all of these have an element that people are going to find that is wrong or that you can’t find biblical principals against, but the whole way that Christians are adapting to the next century just isn’t working. Churches are perceived to be bullying people into following their light instead of just being a light and having people naturally follow them and even if you don’t they still think you are a bully. I know, dealing with all this stuff is why I am a church burnout.

  2. Heidi M says:

    As someone who was there for 4 of those years…

    Amen! Right on! Thank you for putting it into words. There are many times I wish I could go back and do things differently during those 4 years specifically.

  3. Ann P. says:

    RE: Sammy Grimes

    Good points, and food for thought on the topics you presented.

    My family and I have been bullied by “pastors”. These were not the church, but self-serving ego maniacs under the guise of shepherds. The way I have responded has not always been the best choice, given.

    A couple of counter-points:
    “just being a light and having people naturally follow them” NO ONE naturally follows Christ. The Bible says as much, in several verses. Ever since the Fall, man “naturally” wants his own way. That’s Sin. As the Church and as believers, we can point to and show the way, but only God can really call a person to change.

    “the whole way that Christians are adapting to the next century just isn’t working” You are right about that, as more and more “churches” are adopting social activism as their gospel, liberalism as their philosophy, and new age meditation and self-serving concerts as their worship.

  4. Aaron Reddin says:

    Yo dude. This BY FAR the best blog post you’ve written. By far. Thanks for writting it.

  5. Sammy Grimes says:

    I still content with the whole idea that your fundamental human “sinful nature” is changed and maybe “flesh” is better than that NIVism. Nothing changes about who you are because it is to me simply a fresh start in the eyes of God.

    As for social activism, if the Churches had never gotten into Civil Rights, where would it have ended up? As for liberalism, I have read Bruce Bawer’s “Stealing Jesus” and I have a hard time disagreeing with him even in my most fundamental phase, but then Shelby Spong’s “Christianity Must Change Or Die” or rather “Christianity Must Turn Into Hinduism Without The Polytheism And It Has To Look Like A High Church On The Surface Because I Want It To” made me want to toss the book in the trash after the first chapter. And as for Meditation and Concerts, really what is wrong with that, whether you have genuine straight from the Psalms Meditation on the Bible or Zen Buddhist Meditation on Mantras and Koans both have the same effect on the brain (according to MRI studies) and I have never supported “If it ain’t Gospel, it’s wrong” given that Gospel music descends from drinking songs from 18th and 19th century British Pubs.

    We don’t have an example of genuine 1st century Christianity in any church, anywhere in the world. Most protestant churches have practices that date back 200 years or so, Apostolic churches (Catholic and Orthodox) have practices that date back to Roman times, but the bulk is from Medieval and Age of Reason times.

  6. Scott fagaly says:

    Good stuff. Its a balancing act man…. take the verse that says “Confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that Jesus is lord….” that phrase right there shows the balance to be had in all of this. the Believe with your heart is where the “conservatives” corner comes from and the confess with your mouth is the call to action that the “socially active” corner is saying…. THEY ARE BOTH PRESENT…. belief and accepting the call to action are both necessary.

    Great Article… keep it coming

  7. Cyndi Williams says:

    I look forward to he Greatest Regrets series, i’s always easier to read or hear some else’s regrets and hink “oh, yeah…hat’s a good one.” insead of hinking abou our own!

  8. Peter Freund says:

    Well put. I might have put the point a little differently, although we both agree on the meat. I would probably say that it isn’t that both are equally important. The thief on the cross did not have the chance to behave, but only to believe. But, he was no worse off than those who believe and have the chance to behave. I would say that belief has priority over behaving because behaving naturally flows from believing, but not the other way around. Probably too, there are times in which Christians behave in certain ways because they “have to” not because they want to or really care. So, there are times in which you have both sides, believing and behaving, but it isn’t enough. There is a third thing lurking in the background: our behavior should flow for our believing.

    John 7:38: “”He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’”

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