Thursday, July 19, 2007

Hating the church

“And you shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake…”

- Matthew 10:22


After reading this verse, one would be inclined to think that people respond negatively to (or hate altogether) Christians because of Jesus. If you look at it in a certain light, it sounds like we can some form of assurance knowing that we’re doing things in accordance to God’s will if so many people hate us and what we’re about, right? Well, I’m not so sure.

One of the problems that I have with this idea is that many Christians use this verse as a license to approach the unsaved any kind of way and without an ounce of consideration or humanity. It’s somehow considered well within reason to just beat “sinners” over the head with “What saith the Lord”, condemn them, and walk away. Little, if any attention is often given to the idea of listening to those to whom we’re ministering, discuss their beliefs, befriending them, building relationships, etc. "Believe what I believe or you’re going to Hell. End of story," is often the message we share. From there, when people reject us we go back to our friendly Christian groups feeling a little better about ourselves for taking one for Jesus. Who cares if we don't have “people skills”? Who cares if our approach could irreparably offend someone? All we need to do is lay down the Gospel and be done with it.

But is that all to it?

So using Jesus’ declaration in Matthew as context, I have to ask a simple question: When people "hate us", are they hating our message of the Good News or are they hating our delivery?

For the record, I have no doubt that the Gospel has been; and will continue to be rejected by many. In fact, some of my closest friends criticize just about every aspect of my beliefs. That’s to be expected. But I often ask myself if the hatred and rejection we face is as much a product of how we treat those to whom we’re ministering as the message itself. After all, wouldn’t you want to develop a relationship with a person before you compel them to make a life decision about believing in God?

I remember once a few of us were in a meeting at church. It was after hours so the Pastor and the church staff were gone for the evening. During our meeting, a woman called; frantic about something (if memory serves me correctly, she was about to have her electricity cut off and was calling the church for support). The lady who took the call callously and rudely told the woman that the Pastor wasn’t available and no one was there who could help her. She then hung up on the caller ended the call and continued with the meeting. I was amazed.

Now, I suppose you could make a defense for this woman; and I wouldn’t challenge it. Perhaps this particular lady doesn’t perform well off the cuff. But all the same, she left a negative imprint on this woman’s life that may never be erased. Using that phone conversation as a context, do you think this woman or any other Christian would be able to successfully share the plan of salvation with this caller now? Would the caller reject what we had to say? Would it be because she hated the Gospel or because she hated Christians like this lady who hung up on her while she was getting her electricity turned off?

True, I’ve never believed that successful evangelism should be about what gimmicks we use to lure people (one of the reasons why selling the Gospel using “prosperity” has always bothered me). I believe that it’s by the Spirit that people are drawn to Jesus. Yet, even when I don’t think we play a role in captivating people to Christ, I do believe that we can – and often do -- get in the way of captivating them.

To steal a quote I once heard: “The world doesn’t reject Jesus. They hate the package in which we deliever Him.” I couldn't agree more.

-ACL

14 "Insiders" spoke their mind. Join in...:

Andre said...

In the woman's defense (the one who was rude)


I'm the one who originally answered the phone before she took it away I know that the woman wasn't calling because of that reason. She was really inquiring about the church, more so needing someone to talk to, and she wasn't hung up on, Andre. She was told, quite curtly and shaprly, that the office (not the Pastor) was not open and that she should try calling back. I'm certain that she wasn't hung up on.

You know like I know that I didn't agree with the way that it was handeled, but I know that you are exagerrating the story for two reasons:

1. You have a SERIOUS dislike for the lady who did the talking

2. You want to pull more "ratings" for your story

I'll respond to the rest of your post after I read it again

:)

Joslyn said...

*Slaps hersel on the head*

Joslyn=Joslyn

Andre=Andre

I keep putting your name in because I'm addressing you

Sigh, I need some rest....

Cynthia said...

Though I don't agree with it, I understand why the religious right and people like you mentioned in this post are they way they are. It's pretty easy to use your belief of the truth as your authority. In an evangelistic sense, our acceptance of Jesus makes us feel different than the one who hasn't accepted Him. So we don't respond to unbelievers the same as we would our Christian buddies. Many unbelievers reject us because we make them feel like outsiders and that the only way for us to accept them into the "group" is if they accept what we believe. Even then, the church is filled with so many cliques and factions. When my church goes out into the community, one of the first things our Pastor insists that we not to is use the word "we"; unless we say it to include the people to whom we are ministering.

Very nice post, Andre

Saved Sinner said...

Andre, effective ministry has always been a trouble area for the church. The Bible tells us to be bold in the faith but we have to be careful not to allow our boldness to be misinterpreted as forcefulness or as offensive to the people we are ministering to.

If we allow the Spirit to lead us in our effort (instead of relying on our wherewithal), we can tell the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). We will be able to accept those different from us as they accept us.

Another solid post for the record, my brother. You've blessed me yet again.

Joanne said...

Ooooh, this is a toughie. But not really. I’ll explain in a moment.

Just like your other post with the lady in the sweater, this is another difficult of example of what our message should be about during ministry. We have to basically find a middle ground between “Repent from your sins of suffer eternal fiery torment” and “Jesus loves you and so do I”. I think that both stations hold truth and need to be shared; but subtly needs to be used in the former. Instead of condemning people, love needs to be used first and foremost (thank you Saved Sinner for leaving me with that passage from Ephesians. I have to remind myself of that one every day. LOL!). Anyway, this post can be boiled down to one simple question. We should stop getting in the habit of accentuating the negative (the sinfulness of the unbeliever) before we focus on the positive. Otherwise how can we expect people to listen to us; much less accept us?

If we go into this thing pointing fingers and condemning others, we won’t be able to get to the best part about God’s plan for our lives and freedom from bondage. Delieverance is everything.

Andre said...

@ Uh...Andre: True, I don't remember all the who, what, and where's (this happened, like two years ago). So my specific details may be off. But the thing that stuck out to me the most was that (1) somebody had a need; (2) that need was met with antipathy and rudeness.

The point of this post is how that type of approach is the REAL reason why people reject Christians; not the message of Christ itself.

@ Cyn: "It's pretty easy to use your belief of the truth as your authority."

Nothing turns people off more than by saying "I'm right, you're wrong. You better get like me or you're gonna burn." Sadly, many people turn ministry into some sort of power trip. The end results aren't usually good. Great points.

@ Saved/Joanne: Balancing our 'boldness' and our compassion is no doubt VERY difficult. But you're both right in that we should not leave this to our devices. Being able to tell the truth in love is one of those things that only the Spirit can do for us. If we leave it up to our own doing, the number of people who live without exposure to the Spirit will grow exponentially.

Thanks for your input.

GA girl said...

Hi Andre. I really enjoyed this post. I read it earlier but I didn't have an immediate response. Even after I read it a couple of times, I stil don't have a truly profound reply. All I can do is reiterate what you said but provide additional text to support it. Peter reminds us in 1 Pet. 3:17 that we should "suffer" for Christ. But it doesn't say anything about us suffering because of how mean, arrogant, and sanctimonious we act toward others. I agree with the majority. This was an excellent post.

Ga girl said...

By the way, would you mind if I use this as a part of my Vacation Bible School discussion?

Andre said...

@ GA: Thanks for adding to the discussion. The additional scriptural references are much appreciated.

As it relates to using this, be my guest. I'm curious to know what type of discussion you generate. Besides that, it's not like I would know anyway. Contrary to the (c) in my title, none of this site is actually copyrighted. I just thought it would be cool to add that little thingy at the end.

Diane J. said...

None of us are perfect, saved or lost. I can't speak for the rude, uncaring woman, but I sin and make mistakes every day.

All I can do is my best. I say that knowing that I rarely achieve my best but this life is a journey. Some days I walk closer to Jesus than others. Some days I'm ashamed to have to ask His forgiveness yet again for my stinking sins.

If you and the Pastor and others witnessed that scene, any or all of you should have spoken to her in love and gently counseled the woman that she had done wrong. If none of you spoke up, you were in the wrong as much as she was, in my opinion. Allowing the woman to go on with her behavior without calling her on it was the same as condoning it.

Confronting a fellow Christian is never to be done in anger or with a condescending attitude, but with love and compassion, knowing that next time, it might be you who needs to be corrected with love.

Okay, Sunday School lesson concluded. :-)

Good post, Andre. It made me really think about my response.

Love and hugs,

Diane

Andre said...

@ Diane: Hey Granny. Long time! How's Jessica Jr.?

"None of us are perfect, saved or lost. I can't speak for the rude, uncaring woman, but I sin and make mistakes every day.

All I can do is my best. I say that knowing that I rarely achieve my best but this life is a journey. Some days I walk closer to Jesus than others. Some days I'm ashamed to have to ask His forgiveness yet again for my stinking sins.
"

Me too. One of the beauties of grace, huh?

"If you and the Pastor and others witnessed that scene, any or all of you should have spoken to her in love and gently counseled the woman that she had done wrong. If none of you spoke up, you were in the wrong as much as she was, in my opinion. Allowing the woman to go on with her behavior without calling her on it was the same as condoning it."

Ouch. True, but ouch. :) Well, the pastor wasn't there. But I highly doubt that if he was made away of what happened he would've done much about. Nevertheless, you're absolutely correct. Since this lady (and others like her) are older, more traditional types I discounted any possibility that they would listen to anything I had to say. I do remember frequently speaking out about things I hated about our church practices. But usually my discontent was met with their indifference. I got to a point where I just said "Forget it" and out of frustration just gave up; instead of making rethinking my approach. So to that end, your reprimand is pretty justifiable.

"Confronting a fellow Christian is never to be done in anger or with a condescending attitude, but with love and compassion, knowing that next time, it might be you who needs to be corrected with love."

Again, ouch. True, but ouch. Interestingly, many Christians I know don't correct in love, but just to prove that they're right and I (or the person they're talking to) wrong. I'm guilty of that too.

"Okay, Sunday School lesson concluded. :-)"

Forget a Sunday School lesson. That was a sermon. I feel the urge to collect a love offering for you...

"Good post, Andre. It made me really think about my response."

You and me both, Di. You and me both.

Andre said...

Typo. I mean to say, "I got to a point where I just said "Forget it" and out of frustration just gave up; instead of maybe rethinking my approach."

Also, I think the aforementioned point emphasizes the motivation behind this post. As Joanne said, deliverance is everything. Much like how people ignored and wrote off the issues I raised (more than likely because I was being a rebellious smartass), unbelievers turn themselves off to the Word if we sell it incorrectly.

As crazy as it might sound, I think I'm preaching to myself here.

Joslyn said...

*Feels the sting from what Dianne said*

Yup, you're right!

HeiressChild said...

i think sometimes people forget that Jesus came to save the lost--the sinner--the unrighteous. Jesus said, "with lovingkindness have I drawn you," yet people try to draw others thru fear, dishonesty, and other negative things.

if we would remember what drew us, and minister to the NEEDS of the people (their needs, not ours) with love and wisdom, being guided by the Holy Spirit, the message may be received differently. of course, just like in anything else, there will always be those who'll attack the messenger regardless of how the message is delivered, going back to your topic of the church being hated.

sometimes people are hating the message, even if it's delivered in love, because they may like the way they're living, and may feel condemned by the message, but sometimes people are hating the messenger (church) because of the delivery.

the Bible is written to the believer, God's children, because He knew we needed teaching about how to do things. God knows each of our hearts, so it's one thing to turn people off due to ignorance, but i think it's another thing when we mistreat people because of pride and thinking we know it all and our way is the right way. ignorance doesn't justify bad behavior, but at least we can recognize it and change our ways.

this topic really does make one think, and it's been some good comments given here, even to making me take a good long look at myself and the way i do things.