Land of Disenchantment
Our culture is becoming more polarized. The right and left of almost any issue are drifting ever farther apart, and the church is not immune.
In The Courage to Be Protestant, David Wells broke down the evangelical world into three streams: marketers, emergents, and traditional Protestants. A couple years ago, I asked Dr. Wells if he would maintain those three circles described where the church would be going in the future. Nope, he said. Now we’re heading into a much more polarizing time where the church would be divided in two extremes.
The Easiest Way to Build a Platform
Want to know the easiest way to build a platform these days? Set yourself up as the antithesis to a person or position of influence. Be the contrarian or critic who rides the coattails. It’s easier to be known for what you’re against than what you are for.
Many of the most prominent bloggers sell advertising and more subtly, and I think more influentially, are not just “bloggers” but also speakers and authors. (Even more, those decrying evangelical celebrities have un-ironic speaking request links on their front page.) Their ability to make a living is based on site traffic and conference invitations, and they build their reputations—and traffic—by walking over others.
The problem is, those people we’re against? They are usually people who are near to us—not close, but near. Dave Eggers said it best:
Too cowardly to address problems of substance where such problems actually are, we claw at those close to us. We point to our neighbor, in the khakis and sweater, and cry foul. It’s ridiculous. We find enemies among our peers because we know them better, and their proximity and familiarity means we don’t have to get off the couch to dismantle them.
The sad reality is, in our polarized culture, that’s what sells. And when that sells in the church, Satan laughs.”
A Prophet Can’t Be Bought
Please don’t read this as a bland plea for tolerance or a wishy-washy ecumenism. Sometimes lines need to be drawn.
My concern is this: are we staking ourselves and our reputations on truth, or are we drawing lines based on a wildly profitable animosity? Find the difference between shilling your opinion and proclaiming a truth.
The result of all of the above is a general confusion, chaos, and a sense of instability. The good news of Jesus as Lord, God, Savior, and King must be exalted above good advice and individual branding.
In Philippians 1:15–18, Paul says this:
Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.
Yes, and I will rejoice.
According to D.A. Carson, in his exposition on this epistle, the men preaching from envy and rivalry were more than likely saying some ugly things about Paul, along the lines of:
“It really is sad that so great a man as Paul has frittered away his gospel opportunities simply because he is so inflexible. After all, I and many others manage to remain at large and preach the gospel. One must assume that Paul has a deep character flaw that puts him in the path of trouble. My ministry is being blessed, while he languishes in prison.”
We know that Paul has no problems calling out heretics (2 Timothy 2) or correcting wayward brothers (Galatians 2). Yet, in this case, he doesn’t correct these men or feel the need to vindicate himself. Paul simply points out their motives and then says that as long as Christ is preached (Philippians 2 and 3), even in our most foolish pretentious ways, he will rejoice.
Is Christ being preached? Rejoice!”
Don’t confuse a different style for a wolf. And don’t rush to label a differing opinion heresy, a serious charge. Trust that you’re not the Holy Spirit and that he will use even someone’s most pretentious efforts as long as Christ is preached.
Pastor, be known for proclaiming the truth of Jesus.
Blogger, be known for writing about the truth of Jesus.
Christian, be known for loving and rejoicing in the truth of Jesus.
The church must be the one place where this truth is most clearly, passionately, and wonderfully proclaimed.
Jesus, his gospel, his church, and the lost are more important than all the rest of it—especially your SEO.