Propheitc/Social Justice

When Social Justice Loses its Way
Dr. Steve Minor
Administrator Church Politics

“And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed;
for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.”
Isaiah 5:7

Liberal Ideology tends to make social justice a high regard.  Some liberals, in discarding the transcendent nature of Christ in his church, go the extreme of making social justice not only a great emphasis, but in fact the “only” emphasis.  Everything becomes interpreted according to Social Justice.  Eventually they are left as the sole guardians of defining what qualifies as Social Justice and what does not.  Thus, they leave open their own biases to make those decisions.  Partisan politics then becomes very blurred and evolves into personal agendas posing as Social Justice.  It becomes more of a cover for their personal opinions.

“When social forces press for the rejection of age-old Truth, then those who reject it will seek meaning in their own truth. These truths will rarely be Truth at all; they will be only collections of personal preferences and prejudices.”
— Dean Koontz,  Forever Odd

Genuine justice will be recovered when we seek objective thinking, forfeiting the loose, relative ideal of “social,” which changes with every generation as well as every four/eight years with new elected officials.  The authentic pursuit of justice in not waged on wavering social opinions, but upon objective prophetic convictions.

The first step is finding a way to remove your own ego from these matters.  Would you be willing to stand with different labels, especially if those labels have staunchly contradicted your own sentiments in times past? Will a generations established Democrat stand with Republicans to seek greater renewal which benefits everyone instead of choice biases?  Will Republicans join Democrats to assert openness in all of politics?  By shedding these shallow labels we can begin to discard the easy manipulation of political spinsters and begin to think for ourselves instead of how we are told to think.  We gain a greater strength and effect when we unite in the name of God instead of the narrow thinking of political parties.  Stepping out of these artificial shadows will not only save our own souls, but genuine prophetic justice will have a chance to assert righteous paths for all the people.

What have the prophets sent by God fought to achieve?  What moved them to risk their lives to establish for God’s sake instead of their mere preferences?  Prophetic Justice will require purging egos from the considerations and renewing concerns of how God might seek this difference.

 

Responding to Verbal Aggression

When Criticism Becomes Hostile  
Dr. Steven Minor
Church Politics Administrator

Proverbs 26:4, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
or you yourself will be just like him.”

Proverbs 26:5, “Answer a fool according to his folly,
or he will be wise in his own eyes.”

Not every comment, criticism or remark deserves a response, especially when they come with a hidden agenda, evolving into outright and hostile attacks. As a rule, any question coming at you with a hidden agenda must never be answered with a direct reaction.  Unworthy verbal assaults do not deserve a valid answer; in fact you are only enabling subtle undermining when you do.  Do not play along with their game; set your own course.

Following is a list of responses designed to stall out attacks and redirect conversations back into your control.

  • “It must be hard for you to feel like you must always be in control of everything.”
  • “What’s with the drama?”
  • “And she still can’t figure out why she can’t get a boyfriend.”
  • (When compared to another church), “Were the people friendly to each other, everyone felt welcomed instead of just a choice few, no criticizing or bickering, any people gathered into gossip huddles, anyone trying to undermine the Pastor and the work of ministry and mission within the church? I wonder if there is a connection between those things and a good church.”
  • “Uhm, well . . . anyway.”
  • “And here is another example of how little you understand the work of ministry.”
  • “It’s easy to stand on the outside and criticize where you only have to complain about problems and safely avoid dealing with solutions.”
  • “It looks like you are trying to create issues here when none exist.”
  • “It seems ever since _________ had her feelings hurt about _________, there has been quite a charged degree of ill will lingering.”
  • “How would you have preferred the response?”
  • “Well how about that . . ..”
  • “Is that your idea or did someone put you up to ask that?”
  • “Do you own a Bible? We would be glad to get you one, because you don’t seem to be very familiar with Biblical teachings on this point.”
  • “Reality is not your strong suit, is it?”
  • “Just exactly how much daytime television are you watching?”

 

 

FIP’s, NIP’s, KIP’s, and WIP’s

Pastoring Seniors

Generational differences can drive a Pastor crazy trying to discern the various needs and priorities of their congregation.  What is absolutely vital to one generation barely garners notice to another.  The retirement segment of a church bears this in greater distinction.  Their needs are not as they once were.  Disengaging from a career poses serious transitions.  They may transition to a fruitful life even more distinguished than their previous career, or it can lead to utter failure, filled with bitter regard to all around them, even themselves.

Following is a simple four part guide marking the various challenges of ministry.  Understanding their estate will open new possibilities of reaching them at their most urgent and “authentic” self.

FIP’s  —  Formerly Important Person

Once upon a time in their career they really did hold an important position in their company.  They really did work their way to Vice President of Something, or even a CEO type with plush office and benefits.  But now, some years on the other side of retirement things are different.  No one is demanding their time or holding their life by what they may decide.  Their grasp of power is only a memory.

They may hold to a sense of privilege, but now it only looks like a self-deluded sense of entitlement.  Burn-out may have ended their career prematurely, which may now bring a liberating break from the confines of an oppressive past.  No longing desiring to uphold their past life, they are very free to move on to greater satisfaction of their soul, but only if they can navigate past resentment and grudges.

“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
— Philippians 3:13-14

MD’s and other professionals will feel the harshest brunt of their lapse of power, as they still imagine their power over others and will direct the good doctor in the details of his training.

Their big challenge is to live in the here and now, but how can they find personal value after all the glory days are past?  Some never do and end up bitter, contrary and toxic to anyone who tries to help.  Short of a visitation from Jacob Marley and three seasonal ghosts they must learn to let go of the deceiving past and embrace who they might be now.

They must reinvent themselves.  They were once successful in their career, that inner drive is still present, but it needs to alter course into new adventure.  Instead of high profits, it may now need to refocus into helping others achieve financial comfort in their post-retirement years.  It likely will involve nothing of materialistic gain, but in the deeper spiritual cleansing and security of heavenly assurance.  They may now finally be free enough to embrace the ever illusive life of personal contentment, which never did require a great bank account; just happiness in their self-fulfilled life in Jesus Christ.

NIP’s  —  Never an Important Person

Here’s your first clue to the Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  The stories of superior human accomplishments eventually become remarkable; too remarkable.  Rev. Philip Travers noted one situation that one need merely to use a calculator to see the absurdity of all the claims.  This person would need to be at least 180 years old to have accomplished all that he claimed.  It really did get just that ridiculous, but like a psychological addiction they could not stop the bragging.

As Jung put it,

“The great problems of life — sexuality, of course, among others — are always related to the primordial images of the collective unconscious. These images are really balancing or compensating factors which correspond with the problems life presents in actuality.”
Psychological Types; The Psychology of Individuation (1921)
Ch. 5, p. 271

What they need is their own claim to social benefits for others, not themselves.  They will never truly be happy just trying to bolster themselves, as fading away as that really is.  Only in giving themselves away will they truly find the contentment within themselves.

“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it,
but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.”
Mark 8:35

KIP’s  —  Knows an Important Person

Forget the personal accomplishments, even by bragging like a Narcissist, they take the safer road of “actually” knowing someone important.  This person may be in the current zip code, or across the country or even in the distant past.  But by golly, they know someone they consider famous.

The attitude poses a danger when they may try to choose someone they perceive with power.  Should that person have control fantasies, the seeds of division have already been planted.

How can they be helped to let it go?  They are trying to claim value through an outside means, not believing they are important just as they are.  Their humanness is what gives them the right to be part of this planet.  They are valuable in themselves; no more and certainly no less.

“The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection.”
— George Orwell

 WIP’s  —  Wanna-be an Important Person

Their displays of knowledge and ability get way over the top in a hurry as they assume to know how to run things better than anyone else.  Although they lack the education for it, nor the experience, nor the accreditation … they still know all they need to run this show better than the Pastor or anyone else.

It’s a classic example of the Dunning-Kruger Effect, that people will claim superior ability in spite of their ignorance.  It’s all compensation again for a lack of ability which they crave to obtain, but do not have the gumption or determination to take the time and energy to achieve the training.  In short, they are not smart enough to realize they are not that smart.

“It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”
Attributed to Mark Twain
(see Proverbs 17:28)

 

 

Protest Futility

Productive Protesting

Dr. Steven Minor
Church Politics Facilitator

Protesting is back in fashion.  The 60’s – 70’s has returned with all its zeal and people just can’t seem to get enough of seeing themselves on TV, even if it’s just an aerial view, thousands of feet above that reduces them to a mere “dot,” in a sea of other dots we assume are a great crowd of people.   Ground level, the excitement of parades and shouting down the opposition may provide such a cathartic cleaning which psychologists can only fantasize might be achieved for their soul and maybe the whole nation — ??

But apart from all the intensity ushered in by egos demanding their way, or just the thrill of marching in a parade, we must finally evaluate these measures to see how effective they may or may not be.  We would encourage protest organizers to reconsider some strategies in favor of old, yet established methods to go beyond merely venting disapproval to gain the results our country urgently needs.  We need to reacquaint ourselves with the voice from Birmingham, Alabama, Martin Luther King, Jr.

1) Be Proactive — Never allow your enemy to choose the battle field
Let your protest focus on the real problems we face as a community.  Publicize pledges of “Respect the people” is far more effective than “We Hate Trump!”  Never play their game.  Take control of these situations and guide them to higher places of dignity that will shame your adversaries.

     “Never allow you enemy to choose the battlefield”
             — Napoleon Bonaparte, Maxims of War

 

2) Empower the Media — Give them something to write about.  Let’s face it, the battle is not about you, it’s about winning the hearts of the people watching all this and trying to decide where they stand with it all.  Show the media respect and strength, good order with clear objectives that help the many.  Win the heart of those on the sidelines still deciding what to make of these causes and never assume everyone naturally agree with you.  Be the real people and forbid even a moment of pity for people with hateful motives.

P.S. and make sure your ranks are agreed to not be those kinds of people yourselves.   Guard against those hypocrisy story by-lines.

 

 

3) Never Empower Your Enemy — deny counter exposure

When good Dr. MLK planned marches they were normally on the “other” side of town, not the other side of the street.  When the counter-protest is held too close the news media has its lead story on the point of contention.  You have accidentally built the media’s push for a good story by intensifying the situation.

The original point of protest will receive the headline and attention.  By issuing your discontent through hostile measures you have served their purpose of free advertising for their issues (AKA, “news coverage”).

 

 

4) Sequere Pecuniam, Go After the Money — starve those resources

The allies won World War 2 on their superiority of resources.  They first of all fed supplies into Europe through marvelous fetes such as the Red Ball Express, and kept the resources flowing.  And then they depleted the resources of the enemy through bombing raids of factories and supply depots.  They denied their enemy resources to fight.

Modern protests needs to do the work — Google often supplies the information — and find out who supports these malevolent protests for white supremacy and other oppressive movements.  That’s where the pressure needs to be applied.  Who are the people supporting the efforts of hate?  Then expose them as broadly as possible.  You do not even have to mention much of the supremacists; but shine the light bright on their supply depots and banking resources.

Cui bono can be a helpful strategy for uncovering the plots behind the scenes, with the driving question of “Who benefits?”  Sequere pecuniam is another help, “Follow the money.”  Who is keeping these power forces functional and viable?  Who is shipping in their resources?  Who is making those signs? Who is providing their water and lunch?  Those are the ones to bring out into the open for public shame.

Believe in your cause and clarify your faith in it.  Show your passion and you will win the hearts of the people.  Our culture has much too much hypocrisy and self-absorbed agendas.  Be the true people of God practicing the heart of Jesus’ cry for peace, healing and reconciliation.  His message of love, not the spun religiosity meddling in his mission, is always good and strong.  That will win the hearts of the people.

Matthew 5:38-42

38 “You have heard that it was said,
    ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’
39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person.
    If anyone slaps you on the right cheek,
    turn to them the other cheek also.
40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt,
    hand over your coat as well.
41 If anyone forces you to go one mile,
    go with them two miles. 
42 Give to the one who asks you,
    and do not turn away from the one
    who wants to borrow from you.”

 

_____         _____

I am thankful for the guest blog to the Church Politics Consortium from a good friend, Johnnie Tigner, to affirm the call to spiritual renewal and transformation which fully energizes real and effective calls for justice and righteousness.       — SM

 

Black Lives Matter feedback:

The statement concerning Black Lives Matters as a movement has failed to employ Christian idiom (phrases, sayings…) undermined their ability to persuade white Americans to accept a change to a more inclusive economic and political system in America.

I agree with that statement, our black youths and a few old black guys like me, are not interested in getting white Americans to validate our position. Today, thank God, our Black youths appear to be more interested in real change that can be measured and evaluated and sustained over time. Some see the fight for change should initially involve whites taking a more responsible role in getting whites to change their racist behavior. Recently, Heather Heyer, one of that young white leader gave her life for the Black Lives Struggle (she was the victim of a hit and run 20-year-old white bigot) as she was protesting for parity between the races in the political arena.

Honestly, real and lasting change can only happen If it is ordained by God. If this nation of sinners kneels on their knees and wait on his presence and guidance. Through prayer and spiritual guidance this nation can experience a spiritual step towards a covenant experience with God. However, it would not eradicate troubles or sin, but it would give America a chance at experiencing a unity that would be unparalleled in history. The trick would be how close could we get to God and His will for us in the interim, before we mess it up with petty prejudice and unsubstantiated fear again, because of the color of our skin.

The primary issues would begin with how to line up with God’s will and not our greed. Man, without God, is not capable of sustaining a moral revolution. We are the enemy until God changes our heart and resets our spirit. So, PRAYER IS PARAMOUNT in seeking His face!

God has shown us in the Bible how HE intended for us to live. I believe we all have seen that little babies and toddlers are not born with prejudice, they must be taught to hate and overtime without parental intervention they will suffer from the illness of racial prejudice. I suggest we accept this challenge and set up an early educational system that follows God’s plan to validate and appreciate His creation regardless of their skin color. I truly believe God really appreciates diversity.

If we earnestly seek God’s face and turn from our wicked ways, He will bless our heart, and open our mind to hear the word of the Lord by the reading of His Word, and patterning our walk after a spiritual mindset. We will respect the garden, God wanted for Himself. Our time is short, and our impact will be minimal, but God is not limited on any level.

Johnnie Tigner
PapaJohnTigner@blogspot.com

 

 

Tragedy of the Commons

More simply titled, “jackassery.”

The theory believes that humans will usually exploit shared resources, pursuing their own selfish interests.  It was originally proposed in an 1833 essay regarding overgrazing on common land in England.  Ranchers would corral as many of their own cattle, or sheep, onto “the commons” as possible.  The core of the problem warns that the shared parts will be abused and everyone will eventually when grass no longer grows for anyone at all on the commons.

Viewing the church as a shared ventured, the “Tragedy of the Commons” has insight for us.  Being human, we will have a tendency to resort to self will and thus our carnal nature till deprive strength in the entire spiritual concept of Fellowship.  Instead of positive power through “Synergy,” we weaken our vision and hope through a few draining the active flow of potential.

Solutions:

1) Job Descriptions, clarify and not assume committee duties.  Go ahead and list the objectives in summary, bulleted fashion should be sufficient to guide the tasks.  Do whatever you may to kick out any assumptions, which leave vulnerable holes in any venture.

2) Board clarifications – clarify and rule on committee boundaries, like an NFL referee.  An important reason for a “report and permit” emphasis in meetings.  It may be a primitive method, but we should not stray too far from it.  Informing Board is good so they may clarify plans and vision for the rest of the church, but also as a means of keeping everyone honest and on track.  If conflict has been an issue in the past, then make sure the Board Chair/Moderator has a regular checklist for all tasks, and do so before problems may arise.  Be proactive and undercut potential conflict before it can generate steam, Who will do what, when, where; and who will not do what, when and where?

It may feel like you are stating the obvious because you are stating the obvious, but when dealing with humans you must continually remind them about their tasks parameters.  It will keep them on course and expose any selfish preferences which may arise that might tread on another’s work.  Do it like a girlfriend reminding her boyfriend that “after all, we are in a relationship.”  She is smart enough to know that sometimes wayward thinking boys need altering to wayward courses.

3) Shaming:  confronting the “greed is good” influence in our society, which has been eroding social integrity for decades.  Expose it for what it is, selfishness; Shame the adolescent behavior, but with some effect of empathy.

Dr. Steve Minor, Administrator
ChurchPolitics.org

Bully Pulpit Abuse

AKA, “Waging a Personal Vendetta”

How do you preach fairly and faithfully when you have been under fire and deeply challenged with simply surviving, let alone projecting energy for uplifting sermons?  Let’s be honest.  The sermon you want to preach involves the specific agonies of your renewed faith in the existence of hell.  Explain how the flesh burns mercilessly off their bones, with no hope for relief.  They may want a simple glass of water, but never.  Their suffering must be complete, feeling every moment of pain you yourself has suffered.

Think about it for a few moments . . . is it out of your system, yet? … OK, may we return to reality now?

Does that help?  It may feel good.  Get it out of your system if that’s what you need, but in the need your woes will only be worse.  Seriously, you must guard the Gospel itself as Christ’s call against your own personal grievances and vindictive retribution.  Your sermons may not be as harsh as previously noted, but pay attention.  Some of that hate will manifest itself without realizing it.

Teddy Roosevelt is credited with animating the expression of “bully pulpit,” but it’s probably not what you may suspect.  It does now really have to do with turning pulpits into clubs and proceeding to war with a strong, yet heavy, club in hands.  Roosevelt held “bully” as a term of endearment.  In his time, it held a sense of wonderful.  It was his favorite adjective to describe a good time.  William Safire, Political Dictionary, defines it as

“an active use of the president’s prestige and high visibility to inspire or moralize.”

It’s an advantage providing the intentions are noble enough.  Allowing your preaching to seize an unfair advantage over your adversaries is an abuse not easy to live down.  Once this sin is committed, you may never live it down.  Your preaching can easily be spoiled with such selfish use of God’s grace.

The Problems with Personal Vendettas.

1) You will damage your own esteem in this church.

  1. a) you are tipping off your opponents about just where you are holding on. When you are in the midst of conflict, you must play with care; holding your cards close always guarded without benefit of others peaking.
  2. b) Grinding your issues does not help. You are reliving pain and now you have expanded it into a public arena. Preaching is never a means to vet the pressure. You will only increase the pressure by continually reliving it every Sunday.  Digging this up every week will only renew its toxic effects upon your soul.

2) You will empower your antagonists

Expressing too much rage will assure your opponents that their strategies are working, you are wearing down.  Expressing strength will discourage them, but stooping to low standards will expose a weakness.  They just might interpret such rants as close to collapsing and opening the way for their full coup.

Typically, they tuned you out long ago, but an occasional word will perk the attention.  If they interpret themselves as the focus the only result for them will be pure ego.  Despite the rambling rhetoric, which they never catch, they will be on the phone this afternoon to brag about being the headline of today’s sermon.  The moral of what you meant to reveal will never see the light of consciousness in their minds.  They will only hear, “it was about me, me and me!”  You will be handing them an adrenaline rush on a silver platter.

3) You have let down the faithful who came to church this morning searching for some degree of hope to deal with their own problems.  They will be walking away today confused about what that was all about.  They are outsiders to all this.  Remember, antagonists are typically less than 5% of your church, which means 95% and more are present with pure hearted questions about faith.  Using your pulpit to grind an elusive and confusing ax will fail your church.  Pay attention to those wanting to be there for good.  Why would you waste such an opportunity focused on such a small percentage of contrariness?

4) You have failed God.  He has drawn people to hear the gospel and find hope, and how have you responded?  You have made it forum of your wounded ego.  How terrible to let God down.  You have betrayed your calling to “rightly divide the truth,” and proclaim good news of Gospel hope.

Try some of these precautions,

1) Benefit of long range planning.  If anyone reads a personal affront this morning you must be quick to point out how many weeks/months ago this topic was selected and the basic flow was set.  It has not risen from this past week’s tension.  It’s a safe out, and it will help you to stay focused in more neutral time of planning.

2) Just do the lectionary.  Whatever your reluctance may have been, here is a significant asset to use it.  It will ease your own tension in sermon prep and keep you on a safer path to avoid controversy and save your energy for better things.

3) Recruit a Sermon referee to make judgment calls.  Look up your wedding vows, maybe there is something in there you could contrive to persuade your spouse to help.  Talk to your peers.  Run the theme by your Board Chair of Elder Chair.  They may give you good “objective” counsel which stress will have exhausted.  And even if they never say anything, just knowing someone will be making a “call” on your work may be enough to keep you honest and on track.

When the stress is running high, you must pay close attention to your sermon topics, themes and general scripture references.  It will reveal what is “really” going on inside which may disturb you to see your deeper pain of resentment.  Your targeted abusers will probably have phased out anything you may say from the pulpit, but if they catch any of your preaching gone into “ranting,” you have made yourself vulnerable to very unnecessary, renewed attacks.

Dr. Steve Minor, Administrator
ChurchPolitics.org

Not That Smart — Really

Dangerous, but Inept

Ever notice the less someone knows about something the more they will talk, chatter and boast about knowing all the is to know about that particular something.  Confident (AKA, “honest”) people will never need to make an issue about what they know.  Ignorance tends to make on bolder, but not actually smarter.  Concisely stated in their own words,

“This overestimation occurs, in part, because people who are unskilled in these domains suffer a dual burden: Not only do these people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it.”

From their 2009 paper, Unskilled and Unaware of It: “How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments,” published on-line, http://psych.colorado.edu/~vanboven/teaching/p7536_heurbias/p7536_readings/kruger_dunning.pdf

This is the work of David Dunning and Justin Kruger (his student turned colleague), from Cornell University, known as the Dunning-Kruger Effect, a psychological study based on the human tendency to boast about what we know nothing about.  As Phil Travers notes, “If you can’t do content, volume is the next best thing.”

“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance”
Confucius (551–479 BC)

“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool”
William Shakespeare (1564–1616) (As You Like It, V. i.)

The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt. Even those of the intelligent who believe that they have a nostrum are too individualistic to combine with other intelligent men from whom they differ on minor points.”
— Bertrand Russell, The Triumph of Stupidity (May 10, 1933)

“I am wiser than this man, for neither of us appears to know anything great and good; but he fancies he knows something, although he knows nothing; whereas I, as I do not know anything, so I do not fancy I do. In this trifling particular, then, I appear to be wiser than he, because I do not fancy I know what I do not know.”
—attributed to Socrates, from Plato, Apology

Dunning-Kruger investigates the limits of our self-knowledge and basic naivete in personal awareness. Their findings show that people unskilled in an assumed competence do not realize just how inept they really are, because they do not realize what understanding would involve.  Thus, human naivete will allow a person to continue meddling in church affairs despite not really knowing what they are doing.  They are oblivious to the results of their deeds.

When Jesus established knowing false teachers/meddlers “by their fruit” (Matthew 7:16), the Dunning-Kruger Effect would reveal a profound and arrogant visions of grandeur.

The very personal skill of self evaluation is not present in people who meddle in church matters, who assume they are experts in their own fantasies.

“Ignorance rules the meddlesome mind.”
— Lucas Morgan

They are too incompetent to know how incompetent they are.

In the sports world, such semi-fantasy professionals are known as “Monday Morning Quarterbacks.”  After the big game day of Sunday morning, these rambling know-it-alls will tell you every misdeed of the QB from yesterday’s game.  Despite having no experience, perhaps never even been on a football field, yet they know what went wrong and if only they were the QB they would know this, that and everything else that could have happened.

Churches have the same types as well, — Monday Morning Preachers (MMP) — although sometimes you do not have to wait until Monday morning, they are ready to begin their criticizing by after church dinner or even by coffee fellowship hour.  Despite no seminary training, or any experience in ordained ministry, yet they know all there could be possibly be needed to know that the Pastor somehow does not know what they are doing, and if people would just listen to the MMP then we could clear up this community and usher in Christ’s golden millennium and etc., etc..

That’s what the Dunning-Kruger Effect is about.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
— Proverbs 1:7

Real knowledge begins with acknowledging what we do not know; our human capacities and limitations.  Then we can properly assess where we are in life and start with an honest foundation for the mind, built on reality not the clouds of delusion.

The effective Christian life requires the first step of getting over yourself,

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves (give up the ego ya-da-da) and take up their cross and follow me.”
— Mark 8:34

 

Dr. Steve Minor, Administrator
ChurchPolitics.org

Contentious Churches

Some churches hold a great and noble reputation for their love, faithfulness and sacrificing care for those in need.  Others churches carry a reputation, but not quite for honor.  We might call them Contentious Churches,

“If you bite and devour each other,
watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.”
— Galatians 5:15

They may assert a better mission statement, but their behavior is all too clear to their community.  The reality is too much and people are not just imagining such a place.  They really do exist in far greater numbers than anyone wants to admits.  In ministry circles these are known as Clergy Killer congregations, to be avoided at all costs.  Middle judicatory can fill these posts only with the most naïve or idealistic ministers.

“You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?”
— 1 Corinthians 3:3

“Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”
— Galatians 5:26

Contentious churches even have the warning in the resisted mission statement, “Or you will be destroyed by each other.”  They reap what they sow, Galatians 6:7.  You live by the deeds of malice and so you will by the same repercussions.  It’s like a so-called “Mexican Standoff” and too many people are trying to hold each other hostage to their personal power and control games.  Perhaps the only hope is they will finally exhaust themselves with such draining behavior.  After all, nothing nurturing or life-giving is found in hate and anger.

“In this way, they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last.”
— 1 Thessalonians 2:16

The best hope for such hostile environments is intentional ministries and probably a long string of them.  Send in pastors trained to break these cycles, but who know they will leave in one or two years without sacrificing their career.  Their only hope is to break the paradigm that accepts faulty worldly behavior and set right, biblical examples.  As Paul himself counsels these troubled churches, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).

Hosea 10:12-13
12 Sow righteousness for yourselves,
reap the fruit of unfailing love,
and break up your unplowed ground;
for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes
and showers his righteousness on you.
13 But you have planted wickedness,
you have reaped evil,
you have eaten the fruit of deception.

 

Dr. Steve Minor, Administrator
ChurchPolitics.org

 

Healing Society

You may have noticed that our world is struggling with many issues causing great strain, confusion, hostility and brokenness.   Frustration has mired our best hopes and we find it hard to simply cope through the weeks.

Faithful Bible students of the Word of God are finding prophecy links that reflect significant symptoms of the End Times.  Jesus was reminds us that we will never know for sure (Matthew 24:36), but we ought to always keep the possibility (“probability” ?) open.   This could be the winding down of history.

How do we bring healing to a broken world?  Is it pouting over the National Anthem?  Is it in the lashing out for revenge against injustice?  What does it take to begin the healing process of our country?

A voice from the 70’s remains ever so true.  It’s not a popular solution, but it’s a message we need to remind ourselves.  It’s not a matter of something “out there,” but much closer to “here.”  It starts with the resolve of each individual to step up to their part, saying “no” to what is wrong and “yes” to what is right.

“We have placed too much hope in political and social reforms, only to find out that we were being deprived of our most precious possession: our spiritual life.  … We hear a constant clamor for rights, rights, always rights, but so very little about responsibility.  And we have forgotten God.  The need now is for selflessness, for a spirit of sacrifice, for a willingness to put aside personal gains for the salvation of the whole Western world.”

― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
— 1 Corinthians 15:58

 

Dr. Steve Minor, Administrator
ChurchPolitics.org

Despair to Believe

A great task of ministry is to build faith within our churches, but so often despair and pessimism gets the upper hand.  Like a magical, toxic elixir our people are sucked into this awful grip of doom and gloom and the lamenting of awful days ahead.  Surely Chicken Little has nothing on a church group caught in the grips of Despair.

See what terrible behaviors despair roots into a church to cripple its appeal to its community and fall short of God’s call.

Church of Despair                                                                           

Focused on Problems.  No solutions will be found in the pit of despair, since the people are stuck in “anti-faith.”  Some are too busy trying to outdo others in their lament of storms breaking through the sunshine.

Paradigm Paralysis – stuck.  They are so locked in that despair is all they can see.  Just try to introduce a new idea and prepare for hostile rejection of your efforts of hope.

“Don’t waste your time with explanations,
people only hear what they want to hear.”    — Paulo Coelho

Brooding, Complaining, Blaming. Some people actually appear to be getting intoxicated with their peculiar joy of splashing darkness.

Depression.  What else could you expect of such harmful dosages?
“Despair is vinegar from the wine of hope.”
— Austin O’Malley, Keystones of Thought

Control (ego) Issues.  Who can rise up with something anything better?  Having lowered the bar of expectations so low, any idea is easy to produce.  To them, anything will look better – even to the point of over-riding the Pastor who allows them to commit spiritual Hare-kiri.

Hypocrites Are Us. Is the real moniker of this group.  They are not an outpost of Christ’s Kingdom; they no longer believe their commission.  They have sabotaged their own reservoirs of faith.  Overcome the “gates of hell?”  They couldn’t muster up enough faith to tip over a Dixie Cup of satan’s ploys.

Stifled creativity.  Who would dare to consider any rays of hope?  Everything will be shot down on the run way.  Nothing is appreciated.  Just let the lava of Pompeii do its work.

Nilsson Hope

Fatalistic.  The wagons are busy circling the outgunned settlers and only a nauseating melodrama of doom remains.  Please vision a fainting Marlena Dietrich, with hand on forehead and nothing more than a soft and sad “woe is me.”

If two people leave their church, how quickly this is explained as “all those people!”  Seriously, the exaggerations are mind-boggling to such a mentally distressed group, and this while ignoring 15 people having joined during the same time span.  This happens far more often than minsters care to admit.

“Despair … is like a gas, odorless, tasteless, without nourishment. You breathe it in, your limbs relax, you cease to care, even at the moment when the steel touches your throat.”    — J.M. Coetzee, Disgrace

Nostalgia – toxic.  Speaking of melodrama, here it comes, “In my days, our church had over 300 people every Sunday” (in our 150 max capacity sanctuary).  Those exaggerated memories will continue expanding in the minds of those who think they are in the know of the “real” problem upon us.  Like the people of Israel moaned to Moses, “those whips on our backs weren’t really that ban and the shackles on our ankles . . . we can get used to that again” (Exodus 16:3; Numbers 21:5)  Archeologists are still seeking the many empty Tylenol bottles which must surely litter the desert sands of Sinai, reflecting Moses’ despair.

Focused on the past – never on the present, let alone the prospects of an ever changing future.   Like the spoiled little girl complaining to her mother she is bored with nothing to do.  Her mother offers suggestion after suggestion until fully exasperated she offers to her little girl to go do whatever she feel s like doing.  To which the little grumpy girl responds, “I don’t want to do what I want to do!”   We can only groan.

Playing to lose.  Here’s the real destructive game plan.  They may not even realize they are laying out the scenario.  Depression so hinders and obstructs their thinking that actual solutions are ignored.  As C. G. Jung explains it, they are “living out their negation” (c. “The Symbolic Life”).  They only comprehend the strategy of delaying loss as long as possible, but no cavalry is really coming over the hill (now they abandon the melodrama which could actually help!)

Draining.  If you have been there, you know how spiritually exhausting such meetings can run.  If there was any positive hope in the room before it is deflated and gone now.  Such depressed groping is contrary to our human psychology.  The toxins will suffocate any effort to muster up even a grain of faith.

Dark banners of doom appear.  “It will never work” and “We’ve never done it that way before” will sabotage any call of hope from our Savior.  God’s word means virtually nothing to people committed to dark fate.

How we perceive a situation and how we react to it is the basis of our stress. If you focus on the negative in any situation, you can expect high stress levels. However, if you try and see the good in the situation, your stress levels will greatly diminish.     — Catherine Pulsifer

Repels people.  The very thing that would save them is “new members!”  Which is ironically the very thing are blocking.  They are fulfilling their own doom.  It is a pure anti-faith and no one will want to join such a sorry group of group therapy rejects.  And if anyone would . . . trust me, get that standard raised higher!!

 

Church of Faith

This is the kind of church our Lord calls us to be.  Here people believe their own message of the gospel.  Challenging the “Gates of Hell?”  Bring them on!  These people are excited with faith’s courage.  Spiritual adrenaline flows freely through the veins of their fellowship.

Focused on Solutions.  Despair? How boring and useless.  They have enough wherewithal that that makes perfect sense.  “Let’s stop wasting time and get going!” is the new battle cry and they are thrilled to pronounce it.  Problems are yesterday’s news.

Believes in itself.  They read the episodes of the Book of Acts and ask where they might insert their story next.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”    (Jeremiah 29:11)

Positive energy flowing.  Can you feel it just reading these possibilities?  People reluctantly open the door for the same of “whatever,” but put a challenge on the doorstep that might engage their whole self, the longing of finally doing something grand and purposeful and get ready to step aside.  People will give great parts of themselves if they see it is worth their effort and can bear positive fruit of their labor.  A brooding pity party will never bolster such energy.  Never!!

A special benefit of positive energy is that it always feeds off itself to create more positive energy.  Just as depressed people make depressed people more depressed, so with faith will energize faithful people to become even more faithful (see Matthew 25:21. 23).

Cooperation.  New ideas are flowing and the only question that needs to be asked is “how can I help with that!?”  Positive regard naturally fuels positive effort toward the common goals.

People focused.  “Things” are nice, but will never match the energy of witnessing a life transformed into victorious life.  Overcoming life’s challenges always captures and energizes the human will.  Give people just a taste of that experience and sickly souls start showing blimps on their life support monitors.

Mission focused.  We are after something much bigger than what surrounds us today.  Heraclitus said “we never step into the same stream twice,” because all things are ever changing – Panta Rei – and people with prevailing faith are brave enough to be excited about turning the next page.   And some believe their legacy might already be there!

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  (Joshua 1:9)

Play to win – believes in its future.  What a waste of time, energy and life itself to exert so much into losing.  Only a very depressed and defeated soul would participate in such foolishness.  We were never designed for such “anti-faith.” It runs too contrary to who are meant to be.

“So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.”
“I will put my Spirit in you and you will live …”   (Ezekiel 37:10, 14)

Invests in its future!  If people know that their financial support will mean something and has a purpose, the checkbooks will open.  We all need something to believe in and exert positive energy to rise above our limited self and limited time span.  If the purpose and urgency is felt, stewardship is a natural “response,” not compulsion.

Trivia question: how high did the stock exchange rise on the news that the Titanic hit an iceberg and was going down?  For some reason, no one puts too much hope in sinking ships.

Attracts people.  This is what Jesus had in mind when he sent retired fishermen and disillusioned business people into the world to turn it on its head.  If they live out the call and practice faith in his presence, they can’t lose!  It’s only when they cast off his call and ignore his participation that they begin the gradual process of sinking in dangerous waters.  Give something to believe in and they will take notice.  Give them a place in that drive and they will step up to any meaningful challenge

There’s too much at stake for us to take Christ’s instrument for world healing and peace – the Church! – and turn it into a mere fraternity/sorority of our own doing.  We do not have that right.

What churches are “supposed” to be doing?

“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”                               (Matthew 28:18-20)

Hope Again

Pilgrim’s Progress has held great lessons of spiritual truth for Christians, since John Bunyan wrote it back in 1678.

Christian journeying to Celestial City finds his pathway difficult, so he and his companion, Hopeful find another path, but in fact this other path is a full distraction to their destination of Heaven. Along the way, the Giant Despair captures them and imprisons them in the dungeon of Doubting Castle, a grim place. They try to sing, but the darkness overwhelms their spirits.

One evening about midnight they begin to pray and a little before day, Christian remembers a key he has on a chain around his neck, named “Promise.” He thinks to himself, “Surely the Key of Promise will open any lock in Doubting Castle.” And it does. Christian escapes from Despair and Doubt by trusting in God’s promise.

Soon he is on his way once more on a sure path of faith toward his destination of Heaven.

This story is full of lessons about the danger of distractions in our journey of faith, caught by doubt and despair while we hold the key of “Promise” which breaks the spell as soon as we put it to use.

We do not have to be held imprisoned by our despair and doubt. We can step out as soon as we recall the promises of faith and choose to walk in them. The path soon becomes sure and headed in the right direction, once we decide to “walk with our Lord” in the path of faith, believing his promises of care.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”                                        Proverbs 3:5-6

 

Dr. Steve Minor, Administrator
ChurchPolitics.org