Bad for the Church.

Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Now there’s a look in your eyes, like black holes in the sky.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
You were caught in the crossfire of childhood and stardom, blown on the steel breeze.
Come on you target for faraway laughter, come on you stranger, you legend, you martyr, and shine!

You reached for the secret too soon, you cried for the moon.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Threatened by shadows at night, and exposed in the light.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Well you wore out your welcome with random precision, rode on the steel breeze.
Come on you raver, you seer of visions, come on you painter, you piper, you prisoner, and shine.

Pink Floyd, Shine On You Crazy Diamond

“Selling out is a common idiomatic pejorative expression for the compromising of a person’s integrity, morality, authenticity, or principles in exchange for personal gain, such as money.”

image

So, here we are all.

Some of you are not like me. You are Jonathans, raised in the house of your father, Saul, and fated to die alongside of him. You are the products of a Boomer age and the best that you have – or will ever – accomplish is a slightly more hip and relevant version of your daddy’s church.

Some of you are compulsory outsiders. Always feeling the call of God but never having the clarity, calling or focus to make a stand on your own. After all, it is easier to hide and throw stones at the system than to do anything about it yourself.

And then there are those of you that are perhaps like me. We are not the 99%, not by any stretch. We are also not the 1%, we have never had that much going for us. Perhaps we are the bottom .03%.
That kind of marginalization carries with it a certain hubris. But before we determine your membership in such an elite group as that however, we had maybe try to determine what it is that I am so you can see whether you feel the similarity or feel the repulsion.

Let me say that regardless of the final outcome and the ultimate revelation of your final designation, let me convey from the very start that I can’t speak for you, though I might want to. I have always had the conceit to believe that I could be the voice of the lonely lurker – the marginalized, outcast, whatever, give it a name.

Now I no longer believe that I can be a voice for the voiceless, I can just speak with my own voice and let the chips fall where they may.

I don’t make many friends in church, it has always been that way. Some stuff that seems to be a requirement for admission to the boy’s club, I just lack apparently. Like those signs at an amusement park that read “Must be this tall to ride”, except in church circles it would actually read “Must be of this stature spiritually to play”, I just lack that certain something that allows me to calm down and just go with the herd. I am, I have been told, bad for the church.

I feel self-conscious about that every once in awhile for about two seconds, I really do. But I have finally given up trying to understand the viewpoint of the average churchian, it is just of no use. It is a crazy bizarro world, this modern church.

Here in this wonderland, it is all plastic perma-smiles, like as if all of the mannequins in Old Navy suddenly sprang to life spouting christianese like some kind of sanctified Tourrette’s Syndrome.

And sort of like that elf that wanted to be a dentist that ended up on the Island of Misfit Toys, I am hopelessly out of touch with the rest of the elves here. I place a high value on being real, not being your posterboy for church assimilation.

The fact is that I just can’t make sense of your methods, standards or ideals and honestly, I just don’t care to try to at all.

This past year a well known preacher took issue with me because of two things: I practiced MMA with my men’s group in the church I was Pastoring and because the church all got together and watched UFC events together and we prayed for Christians who fought. Now, we didn’t like intercede while the fight was going on, that would be sort of strange. But all of us remembered those guys in our prayers and asked God to help them to fight to the best of their ability in the fights.

Anyway, this guy took issue with this and decided to not attend an event that I was holding. That’s fine, whatever, right? Well later I heard an audio clip of him talking about it to his group and comparing my “error” with gays praying together and then telling others about Jesus. Needless to say, I beg to differ.

I am responsible for my generation, much like he was responsible for saving flower children. And all that I know to do is to reach out and touch their heart with those things that touched mine. Sounds simple enough, right? Well it is not in this day and age, not at all.

Today, if God’s grace touches your heart, you can only tell that to someone in the grace crowd. If you were crushed with conviction, only tell someone sympathetic to that clique. If I see truth in something from the prosperity movement, I should never tell anyone. There is a very real pressure there, sometimes obvious, sometimes not, that forces us to hide who we really are and what we really feel to please the status quo.

The circles I have been around are constantly paranoid of error, so much so that they hide what they really feel for fear of being branded a heretic. Or they embrace this horrible Saducee cessationist Gospel for fear of being considered ignorant by the doctrine Nazis.

It is a sad state of affairs, boys and girls, and one that I am all too happy to bow out of.

I am a repentance – grace – prosperity – consecration based – Reformed – evangelistic – anti-kooky Full Gospel preacher with definite leanings towards the teachings of Nee, Calvin, Wesley, Luther, Whitefield, Allen, Bounds, Tozer and Lloyd-Jones and I can get something out of Copeland, Winston, Sumrall and Kenyon sometimes as well.

Color me too diverse if you will but I would rather grab what gleanings I can out of the field of Boaz than ever be considered someone who was potty trained at gunpoint and is taking it out on the world at large.

Yeah, bad for the church.

I guess I am just a bit world weary in the end. In the day, when I was young, every time you took up with some new group you were expected to conform to that group’s style, worldview, music and lingo. Punks dressed like punks, talked anarchy, listened to the Vandals and used the proper terms so that everyone would know that you were “in”. The same was true of the skaters, Goths, Skins, whatever.

And your garbage in the church is no different and I reject it with all of my being. I stopped reading Finney because I don’t like the guy’s style, so sorry. I don’t like other preachers for the same reasons and guess what? That is my prerogative. But like being a punk and hating the Sex Pistols, some things are just anathema. If you didn’t like the Pistols you weren’t a real punk and if you don’t like the current flavor of the month preacher, you probably aren’t even really saved…

Well, I am saved- I just don’t dig them.

Besides, they didn’t save me, deliver me or justify me, Jesus did. And I don’t remember seeing liking certain preachers as being a requirement to make heaven. In fact, I don’t see very much of the things that we do in the Word at all. It is a terribly confusing time for all of us, I think.

In the end, truth can’t be found in anyone’s sermon or teaching series or memoirs or articles on revival. Because truth must be experienced in order to be truth. It is not some cold fact of proper theology that saves you, it is the experience of forgiveness that saves you. It is not having all of your “I’s” dotted and “T’s” crossed with some little internet or church faction that gives you righteousness, it is grace through faith in Christ Jesus alone that can do that.

As for me, I will happily be an iconoclast. Shoot, I will even brave the outer darkness and look for some gleaning to help me to get my bearings in one of the books from blacklisted authors just waiting for the ritual book burning.

I will gladly poke your religion in the eye and wear street clothes to preach or a full collar even if that’s what it takes. I will teach MMA, pray for fighters, allow hardcore bands to play or sing ancient hymns, whatever it takes. Because you can’t judge me, only God can do that, pal.

Besides, those who would take issue with this are like those that Jesus spoke about,

But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market place and calling to their playmates, ‘We piped to you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn. For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!

To some people, no one is right enough, holy enough, doctrinally correct enough unless it is them.

In the end, I guess I am in good company after all, Jesus was considered bad for the church too.

-JC

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