Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The gods of our own making

What happens when we stay tucked into our familiar comfort-zones, the places and people that look and sound and feel most like us? 

For one, we can stop growing; if we’re not being pushed outside what’s comfortable, we have a tendency towards stagnation.  We can also stop seeing the forest and only see the leafless and wilting branches, nit-picking the theology and practices of those whom we claim as spiritual family.  Or like an inverted nautilus, we can wind more tightly into our own ideas so that our theology begins to more closely resemble the body which developed it than God himself.  This final tendency being perhaps the most dangerous of all.

There is, within contemporary Western Christianity a fascination with Love. With Jesus as not so much as prophet or good-guy-who-had-some-radical-ideas, rather, with Jesus as the ultimate embodiment of Love.  And only Love.  As if the totality of the Divinity of Christ could be so succinctly summed up: Love, and nothing more. 

Yes, God is Love.[1]  Yes, Christ did die for Love.[2]  And, yes, it is by our Love that followers of Jesus will be known. 

Yet we mustn’t forget from whence that very Love comes.  This Love can only come from God: the God of the New and Old Testaments.  The God of Christians and the Israelites.  The God of Love and the God of the Law.  Glennon Melton’s assertion, in her most recent post at Momastery, that Love trumps the Law, due to Jesus’ seeming flouting thereof as “Sinny McSinnerton”[3], is a back-handed rejection of the God from whither the Law first came.  It is the repudiation of Christ’s assertion that He came not to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it.  It is the narrow-minded, Western, one-quarter-world view that all we need is Love. 

What about Justice?  What about Righteousness?  What about Holiness?

Where do those fit in with the nothing-but-Love paradigm that is so flagrant and prolific and, frankly, seductive in our seeker-driven worship?  Because if Jesus (and thus by extension, God Himself) is only Love, then my sins are of no consequence.  My lifestyle, my choices, my actions are meaningless; because by golly, Jesus loves me.  And so long as I in turn love everybody else, all will be right with the world. 

But if my sins (and by extension, the sins of everyone else) are of no consequence, then why did Jesus have to die?  Why kill Love?

I maintain that Jesus had to die, because my sins (and yours and those of every other person ever to live) do matter.  Because my actions, my lifestyle, my human-ness and my very propensity towards sin twists and perverts everything about me and God’s creation, Jesus had to die to fix it.  To redeem it, to yank creation and me back from evil, and say, “Oh, no you don’t; this is mine!” 

Therefore, Christ wasn’t just a guy who loved people radically.  Yes, He did that.  But he was also the foretold Messiah, the Savior of the world.  He wasn’t merely a revolutionary who was also an outcast who loved other outcasts really well.  Yeah, he did that, too.  But the Divine-Incarnate Jesus, as Mrs. Melton posits in her article, could not have come today, or ever, as a black, lesbian teenager.  I do not say this because I agree with John Piper’s teaching that God is inherently masculine, and NOT because I believe Jesus hates anyone because their sexual orientation (I very, very firmly believe that God so loved the entire world—every person of every race and gender and age and worldview—that he gave his only Son not to condemn the world, but to save it; so that all who believe in Christ will not perish but have eternal life); but I say this because Jesus had to be who he was in order to fulfill the prophecies proclaimed about him in the centuries preceding his incarnation.  Jesus was exactly who he was supposed to be.  And he walked the earth at exactly the time he was supposed to walk it.

When we forgot or purposely neglect this, we have in essence forgotten the God who sent his Son to die in our place.  We make the Son greater than the Father.  We bend the Divine human to fit our worldly human desires.  We create a god who looks more like we want him to look than he actually does.

Had Jesus been anything else other than a 1st century Palestinian Jew, his very existence would have made God a liar. 

And you can call me a stuffy, old-fashioned, fuddy-duddy [or you can pick from other, more colorful pejoratives should you chose; trust me, I’ve both heard and used them before,] Christian.  But I have a knee-jerk reaction when anything we posit about God could be construed in such a way as to make him a liar.  Because doing so makes him not God.  And if he’s not God, then from whom was Jesus sent, and whose kingdom are we proclaiming?  A god of our own making?  

Or the Lord God Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth, of all that seen and unseen, whose thoughts are not human thoughts, and whose ways are not humanity’s ways? 

Then ask yourself: Upon which would you stake eternity?   

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”

A. W. Tozer


[1] 1 John 4:8
[2] John 3:14-18
[3] Glennon Melton, “I Think Jesus’d be gay…Or No She Didn’t,” Momastery, 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Only Ecclesiology that Matters

Ecclesiology:  Theology as applied to the nature and structure of the Christian church

As with so many other things, I am guilty of this myself; and, I truly believe it’s rooted in pride.  I, until very (milliseconds ago) recently, thought I had the lock down on ecclesiology.  I’ve thought this before, in different seasons of my life.  Yet each time I think I’ve got it all figured out, I’ve learned something new, I’ve grown in a different way, and I’ve come into a deeper and more beautiful experience of the grace of Jesus Christ. 
But after reading/listening to yet another Christian-bashing-Christian blog/podcast, I am ever more convinced that neither I nor any other fully-human-and-not-divine person completely understands or practices the ecclesiology of Christ himself.  Nobody has ever expressed the perfect praxis of the gospel that should be the nature and structure of the bride of Christ.  We’re too myopic, too self-oriented, too prideful, too fallen.

Like ancient Israel, we busy ourselves with the daily preening that comes with I’m-better-than-my-fellows-because-hold-the-patent-on-God’s-truthiest-Truth.  And like the ancient Hebrews, we are very, very wrong.  In our fractured version of the Church, our us-versus-them or me-above-you theologies, we have lost sight of the very tasks to which we have been called.

I doubt that the father trying to hold his child through the tangle of endless tubes and amidst beeps and alarms and the acrid smell of sanitation, will care whether I’m pre- or post-trib; so long as I’ll pray with and for them both. 
I can’t see the mother, racking her brain to think of how she’ll feed her kids their one meal for the day, caring about whether I’m Calvinist or Arminianist or Molinist; so long as I give her children food.

I have a hard time believing that the girl, who is trying to lance her pain out of her very skin, actually gives a rip about whether I’m complimentarian or egalitarian; so long as I walk with her on the road to her healing.

I don’t think the homeless person, who hasn’t showered in months and who hasn’t been called by his name in decades, cares if I’m Catholic or Reformed or Non-demoninational; so long as I look him in the eye, ask his name, and speak to him as though he were a human being.   

I can’t imagine that the boy, whose father has run off and who now lives with his mom’s abusive boyfriend, cares in the least whether I’m fundamentalist or liberal; so long as I can protect him from the hurt. 

In the darkest nights of our souls, these labels don’t matter.
Yes, a well-reasoned apologetic is necessary: to reach the lost and defend the truth.  Yes, sound doctrine is essential: to maintain the gospel and follow the Lord.  And, yes, appropriate theology is crucial: because we can’t love a God we don’t know.  Without these, works are meaningless and faith is dead.  But we have to stop slaying one another over the minutia of human systems and labels. 

Because Christ didn’t become human to give us labels.  He came to remove them.  Christ didn’t die on the cross to divide people.  He came to unite us in him.  Christ didn’t rise again to keep people out of his kingdom.  He rose from death to gather all those who call him Lord into his house, that he may call us friend and beloved. 

That, cherished friend, must be our ecclesiology.  Faith in the Truth and Love in our praxis. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Exacting Grace

“Grace always shocks.  Grace always stuns.  Grace is always what we need.” 

~Anne Voskamp

In the uncluttering of my spirit, the spring cleaning of my soul, I happened across a memory.  Something long burried in the back of my mind that, with hindsight, I find holds more value than I imagined at the time.  A truth, hidden away when it was too immediate and raw to recognize.  But truth, whenever it is given is always a treasure.  Sometimes one just has to rediscover it.

It had been a dark day.  One of the darker in lengthy memory.  My skin wasn’t racking just yet, calling for the pain to be lanced out of it.  But I was at that precipice.  The swirl of three- day long conversations churning in my mind.  My heart expanding panic, and my spirit tweeking like a meth-freak, unable to sit still, wringing and clawing at the cause of all of this. 

Knowing the conversation had to happen, if I were to ever rest.  Yet more afraid of the other side of those words, the potential of all I stood to lose. 
Barbed Wire Fence in Field, by Paul Mutton

Fences are hard to build.  Necessary to keep what’s important in.  And what’s harmful out.    
I had the conversation.  I swallowed, fear playing Zozobra in my stomach, and said what had to be spoken.  The tread finding purchase on this new road to healing.  Though the path is still entirely uncertain, the journey itself is begun.  Or at least restarted.  If one is honest, it was begun years ago. 

But what is there, after tears?  After boundaries raised, and respected?  There is quiet.  Too much aloneness.

Her e-mail came through, afterward.  These things have a dividing before- and after- effect on the soul.  Like a tornado, when one has lived through enough of them, you can feel them coming through the rain. 

She spoke only of a vivid dream.  “Jesus came to me and told me to email you,” she said.  “He said to tell you, from him,

I accept you.’” 
Tender explanation followed, because she couldn’t know that my heart didn’t need one.  “It was this encompassing I accept all of you--accept your heart, accept your belief, accept your love, and I hold it dear-- way.”  She woke and argued, why not “I love you?”  Why just “accept?”  Then she sent the e-mail anyway.  Because love is obedient. 

But he always knows exactly what to say.
The tears returned, though not the searing kind fraught with worry and pain.  These were cool, to wash the wounds of my soul. 

All of me.  Without reservation.  Without even a pause for breath.  The Yes! that precedes even the question. 

He knew that is what I needed.  Right then.  And not just from him.  But from a temporal mouth as well.  He does not exist alone; he is always* in loving relationship with his Father and the Spirit.  And we are not to exist alone either. 

His answer to my wounds isn’t just unconditional, all-encompassing love and acceptance, though it is enough; his answer is also a relationship.  A fellow warrior to combat the loneliness; to walk beside me, hurting when I hurt, covering me when I’m too broken, and dancing when I am filled with joy.

                A never alone proposition, straight from his heart and her computer.        

 Grace has many expressions.  But it is always just the right one, for precisely the right time. 

May you, dear one, be open to this surprising grace of his.  And may you have someone who is willing to share it with you, even when its forms seem at first blush less than expected. 

Because his sufficiency is exacting.  And his grace-filled love never fails.  For he can create beauty in even the hard places.

*The only moment in eternity when this wasn't true, the dividing, before-and-then-after moment when creation cried out in unison, was on cross.  When the Father turned his face away from the Son, and their eternal communion was broken.  For the sake of every soul ever.  So that those who would choose to accept this grace, might be saved.  And live.


Monday, May 14, 2012

To Pray or to Do, that is the question

What do you do in a state of absolute panic?  Or utter desperation? 

I have two people, my most absolute core, upon whom I can call at any moment.  In any situation.  One will spring to action, delegating and orchestrating, walk me through each step of the what-could-possibly-come-next scenarios.  And I know that when we hang up, or finish our frantic texting, she’s praying.  If she wasn’t already.  The other, because of geographic locale, will put down the phone and in that instant hit her knees.  They are one of her least favorite features; but I think they are her most beautiful.  She fights so mightily on them, she wields such remarkable power because of her willingness to bend them.   
To be clear, neither reaction is superior to the other.  I need both.  I need someone to remind me to breathe, and who will repeat until I believe it, “you’re okay.  You’re okay.  You’re okay.”  Someone who tends first to the immediate, physical needs of my person.  And then prays. 

Jesus did that. 
And I need someone to hand every shard of what I’m experiencing over, immediately, to the only One who can help.  Someone who sees the depth of need in my spirit, alongside the threadbare workings of humanity; and calls upon the mighty name of God for respite.

Jesus did that.
Thus, let me first encourage you.  Whatever your knee-jerk reaction to another’s suffering, be it of the fixing variety or the pray-it-out flavor, it’s okay.  Do that.  Do first what comes without examination.  If you’re a pray-er, then by all means, pray!  If you’re a doer, then do!   

Pray.  Do.  Both of these are exactingly displayed in the incarnate ministry of Jesus Christ.  One is not greater than the other.  Do not neglect these practices on behalf of your fellow believers.  I cannot express the relief in receiving these gifts, action and prayer.  Each, in a unique and meaningful way, ministers to our holistic person: physical and spiritual.   
When you are overwhelmed or desperate, I pray that you have someone who tends your physical needs and someone who carries you into the throne room of God, interceding on your behalf.  And when you have the opportunity to be a warrior or servant for another, I pray that you rise up to fill that role.  For the beckoning of the kingdom resides in the mouths and hands of His servants.  And the glory of the King is made manifest in the words and deeds of His people.               

Sunday, May 13, 2012

An Ode to the Mother of days

Some parenting advice, on Mother's Day:

The reason I was compelled to write this, in the waning of the day, is that in the space of thirty minutes online, I read two blog posts: one from the male, another from the female perspective, one e-zine article [female], and two very high-profile pastors' sermons [both male] for Mother’s Day.  Each covered the topic of how to be a BETTER parent! 

Yeah, because mothers everywhere need more of that.  More advice, more admonishing, more rebuking.  More lectures on what she should be doing, what she shouldn’t be doing, what she’s never even considered, but is still doing wrong, or not enough, or entirely too much.  More ways to wake up every morning, knowing that by the time she rests for the night, she will have failed her child in a million different, tiny ways.  More ways to look in the mirror and fight the tears because she’s not the mom she wants so very much to be.  More standards to which she should hold herself; more unattainable goals to reach for.  More striving to become who she is not.    

And I found myself asking, rather forcefully: When do we get to give ourselves a break?  When do moms get to get off the guilt-go-round and recognize that God (Giver of all good and perfect things, Author of life, and the Creator who made you uniquely you, and Who delights in that very creation) gave us our kids for a purpose?
Because, as the omniscient, omnibenevolent, all-perfect being, God knows what You being their mom means: what gifts you'll give, what investments through sacrifice, what perspectives and lessons you'll teach.  Not the mom in your bible study, who always has it together, not the mom who’s raised her kids so “successfully.” Not even the bloggess whose world, even though quasi-transparent, is so much more holy and perfect than your own could ever be. 

God picked you to be the mom to your kids.  You have been endowed with qualities that specifically make you, and only you, right for this very purpose.  I can’t tell you the why; though I suspect, deep down, you already know that yourself.  There is something about you, that will draw out of your children a light, a spark, an unflagging and singular character that is them.  And no one else. 

Not one of us is the perfect mom.  If ever she existed, Jesus wouldn’t have had to die.  But she, this Mom de Perfection, is a work of fiction.  A lie bent on making us doubt, making us feel unworthy, making us work to change the very things about ourselves which cause us to be the best version of mom we can be.

Find that thing, that one which makes you that Mom.  The woman specifically designed and chosen for your kids.  And don’t let anyone, not anyone, take it away from you, or tell you that you’re doing the mom thing all wrong.  Because when you inhabit the person you were made to be, and live all your life radiating out from that place, you’re glorifying the One who made you so.           

This is a clip from the movie, Evening, in which Claire Danes, a young mother, striving to live the perfect-Mom life, sings a lullaby.  I don't remember much else from the film [so this isn't a blanket endorsement], but I know that I re-played this scene over and over, finding comfort in her un-perfectness and how she abandoned the things-that-everyone-else-thinks-need-doing to be herself with her daughters.   


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

On the Plains

I’m supposed to be studying for finals; but, my new Bible study came in the mail today.  I had to crack it.  See, I’ve had something that needed a dose of the Word.  While I know that all of scripture is God-breathed and meant for healing, rebuking, and teaching, it’s nice to have all of that distilled and applied specifically to what I’m experiencing.  Which is why I sent off for the book; and then couldn’t wait for Saturday to break into it. 


I am finding that I’m consistently disappointed when I open these easy distillations of the word.  Ugh, the entire first 5 weeks are things I already know.   I’m not seeking new revelation; but I even inhabit these topics.  I live them.  Not perfectly, of course; but I have more than just head knowledge.  It goes straight to the heart, too.  So, I closed the book, feeling very discouraged.  And sat, silently asking God what I’m supposed to do. 

I listened as the birds chirped around the neighborhood.  I watched as a butterfly flit onto a dandelion in my grass.  I let my eyes blur and followed the motion of my roses dancing with the gentle breeze, peeking out from behind lilac bushes.  I tried not to notice the weeds that have sprung up and flourished in the weeks leading up to finals.  I had to stop myself from making lists of things that need to be done in the yard and mapping plans of how I’m going to accomplish them.    

I realize that this study was written for others who need the knowledge I have received through other venues.  They haven’t had their chance to apply God’s Word to these topics.  It is something rarely addressed from the pulpit; hardly even broached in women’s groups.  And likely, many good women don’t even confide these issues to their best friends over coffee.  But, I do.  Lots [you can ask her…she pens her ministry here].  And that makes me one of the blessed few, I know; one who has the deepest confidence in one so grounded in the Truth, and who has been surrounded and uplifted by so many godly women [and men] along the way, the kind that speak truth no matter the consequence.  Ones who believe that God’s Word applies to 

Thus, I’m not begrudging the author, or the publisher, for producing application-friendly truth in easily digestible portions.  But I will admit that I ache for something a little deeper, a little stronger, a little less surface and more core; something that will penetrate directly through to my heart.

For now, I think I’m supposed to inhabit this place.  The one that isn’t comfortable.  The one that has a twinge of ache [oh how I hate to be even slightly uncomfortable].  The one that has weeds and needs tending.  The one that isn’t a quick, easily distilled fix.  And, I’m supposed to get out of my own head for a bit.  Like getting out of my house after a season cooped up in the study.  Letting the breeze blow through my soul and refresh my life.  There is so much beauty out there.  Not for the purpose of avoiding, but patiently waiting.  Daily tending, daily sounding my spirit.  Daily applying the salve of the Word to the deep wounds; drawing out the poison and replacing it with the tonic of truth.   

I think this might be the road for my feet right now.  Not a fast summiting of mountains, with amazing vistas and so-close-you-can-touch-heaven moments, but a season spent on the plains.  Working brittle soil every day.  Pulling the weeds that keep cropping up, from whence I still can’t tell.  Dead-heading blooms to give way to new beauty.  While still living here.  And waiting on the Lord; knowing and being in His Word, talking to Him about it every day.  And finding that sometimes, as a temporal being, only time can offer the remedy for what ails. 

Beauty is where you find it.  God has planted it all around; we just have to look up from ourselves to see it.  And joy can be found in the calm, quiet rush of days strung together right where you are.  Because even dandelions attract butterflies.




Thursday, May 3, 2012

When the coffee's gone cold

I quit coffee a few months ago.  It was time.  Recently, though, I’ve been wondering what always draws me back in.  Why do I crave it?  It wasn’t the warmth; tea steps in rather nicely.  It wasn’t the caffeine; after it was gone, I felt better than before.  So, was it really just the liquid; or could it be something different entirely?   

What I have discovered is that coffee, for me, pivots on relationships.  It’s the cozy cup I hold when listening to the joys of best friends.  The drink I offer before tears flood beloved eyes, hoping the tangible warmth can be enough in those moments. It’s the excuse to see beautifully familiar faces again.  It’s the catalyst for getting to know new friends.   It’s the steaming liquid beside my journal and Bible, when it’s just Jesus and me.  When I can talk, openly, and He listens; when I grasp it in my hands, and really hear what He’s telling my heart. 

All of this beauty, all of this truth, all of this life,
poured out and shared over
such a simple liquid canvas.
At the end of a semester, the close of my first year in grad school, I’m craving coffee.  Not for the caffeine jolt [though the boost for finals wouldn’t be terrible], but for the vividness in those together times.  For the listening and being heard that happens around it.    
This season has been a trying one.  After so much involvement in ministry and the lives of people I’ve grown to love dearly, I’ve had to pull back, to withdraw from quite a bit of community.  I’ve had to be extremely selfish with my time, and how it’s spent; and I have felt the greed of it tugging in my heart more often than not.  I’ve spent most of my time learning, which is entirely different from listening.  I’ve spent a good deal of time forming opinions and presenting them, which is very unlike being heard.  And while it has been a season for exponential growth in my spirit in an expansive place, one in which my heart could grow into a new freedom; it has been a bit weary.  Lacking, just a bit, in the vibrancy of community.

A cup of java might just soothe that weariness away; let my spirit unfurl, and shake out stiff feathers.  If this is the case for me, how much more so is it for others?  Because, for all my self-imposed isolation, I have my core of people who won’t let me disappear entirely.  They keep calling, keep inviting; keep asking, even if it’s only a two-minute conversation, how I’m doing.  And they mean it.  And I know I’m loved.    

Which makes me wonder if love can really be as simple as saying, “let’s grab a coffee.”  Would that approach to community, to joining the lives of others, would that make a difference?  If instead of living horizontally-socio-economic lives, we spread our coffee times out among all the different strata of poor, rich, young, old, healthy, sick, believers, non, urban, rural.  Could we change something in this weary, lonely world?  If we looked one another in the eye, over a cup of joe, and said “you matter to me.”  Then shut up and listened.  And then let others do the same for us.

While it’s unlikely that this tiny gesture would be enough, it would be a start.  A window, opening in a soul otherwise fettered against hope or love.  I think we’re a society that is so lonely, we drive ourselves mad with distractions from this racking sadness pervasive in our hearts.  Everyone’s talking, but no one’s listening.  We all ache to be heard, to be known; but no one takes the time to truly know others.               

Perhaps a good cup of coffee could soothe some of that weariness away.  And open the door, just a bit, for love to break in to lonely and dying hearts. 

Are you willing to try to be that change with me?  Recognizing we won’t change the entire world over night; but hoping that we may change just one day for just one person. 

Look around today.  Whose existence is calling out to be noticed? 

          Who could you start to know, over a cup of coffee?


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Who do you say I am?

I’m going to be completely honest here.  I have a really, really hard time listening to people who have never read the Bible discussing it.  In general, these discussions [for the sake of charity, I will use this term extremely loosely] are not kind in tone or intent.  And are so ill-informed that I wonder if the participants have ever read even one sentence of the book they attack so viciously.     

These conversations [again, a charitable term] remind me of individuals who have never met someone, whom I’ll call Bob for the sake of this metaphor, consistently speaking ill of Bob.  Intimately.  As if the speaker, and s/he alone, possess special knowledge about Bob.  In spite of the fact that s/he has never spent a moment in the same room with Bob.  And the fact that s/he is basing this poor opinion on what they have heard from other people.

How can one have the audacity to claim knowledge about any subject without first familiarizing one’s self with the topic at hand?  And how can anyone assume to know anything without first examining their hypothesis against the very matter itself?  I must say that it boggles the mind, and speaks volumes about our culture’s intellectual slovenliness.    

But assumptions of knowledge aren’t limited to contemporary culture.  When Jesus asked his very disciples, the men with whom he’d spent the most amount of time during his incarnate ministry, “who do you say I am,” only one of them got it right.  And even then, Jesus said that the correct answer didn’t come from Peter’s heart or mind, but from the Father in Heaven; as if this knowledge was indeed too intimate a truth for even Jesus’ closest friends to comprehend (Matthew 16:13-17).  For Peter and the others walked, prayed, ate, laughed, even wept with Jesus on a consistent basis.  And even they did not really know him.  Not fully, at least. 

Thus, I can hardly expect those mired in darkness to know anything of which they speak. 

Yet, I can expect respect.  I can hold my fellow sojourners to decorum and civility in the public sphere.  I can request they educate themselves before forwarding their opinion on matters of such great import.  And I must treat them in an exponentially more grace-filled and winsome manner, that the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ be made central to each of these conversations.   

Finally, I can be ready with an answer for their misinformed rhetoric.  I can prepare a defense, based in sound reasoning, against the slander to which my faith and its tenets are subjected.  I can reject lazy or false intellectualism in myself, pursue truth, and hone an apologetic that is well-informed, culturally appropriate, and engaging.  And I can start today. 

So can you.  For when you stand up against fallacious claims about Christianity, you are standing up on behalf of the bride of Christ.  And I have a feeling that is something with which her groom will be well-pleased.            

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Goliath, part 2

*The part one of this post was published over 2 months ago.  I wrote part two, but wanted to expand on it.  However, I feel now that there is room in this conversation for expansion at a later time if necessary.  For now, I will reiterate: I am not a pastor, I hold no leadership position (nor, frankly do I want one at this time in my spiritual development; as there is an exponentially increased accountability, laid out in scripture for those who lead, which is too weighty for flippant pursuit of such positions.); I am neither a philosopher nor scholar nor teacher.  I am merely a student of the Bible; a follower of Jesus, in love with the Word, figuring out this whole journey as I go.  And I’m attempting to pass along what I have learned, that I may avoid spiritual greed or pride.  I do not ask that I am listened to, but that in considering scriptural matters, the faithful will listen to and reason through both sides of the issue at hand.  Not merely take the majority position because “that’s how I was raised,” or “that’s what my church teaches.”  Paul praised the Thessalonians for testing all they heard against the scriptures.  As a literate society, so should we.  We need to constantly return to the scriptures, asking, “Is that what it really says?”  Because, in returning to the scriptures as our litmus test for our theology and practice, we may be taught and rebuked (when needed) by the Holy Spirit into a deeper likeness of Christ.*      

In part one of this post [click here to be reminded of that oh-so-long-ago conversation], I mentioned that the “regional director” of a non-denominational church plant with which I am intimately familiar recently spoke these words:

“Women who want the title aren’t the kind you want

to be spiritual leaders.”

To be entirely fair, this director did later in the evening expand that statement to include men who seek the title “elder.”  And while this is likely true, for servant leaders do not seek titles for titles’ sake, this line of reasoning is greatly flawed.  Primarily because the title is bestowed upon the men and subsequently refused to women.  If the test for genuine servant-leadership is the distain of titles, shouldn’t they be done away with altogether?  If it is deemed appropriate for one sex to hold the title, then recognized leaders of the opposite sex must also be eligible for the title as well.     

Another point this director made during this conversation, was that this particular issue had come up at the national conference of “directors” at least three times in the past few years.  Because of this, our gentleman-leader felt that the organizational stance is on the brink of changing in years to come.  Fantastic!  However, this line of thinking raises the point that there are but two reasons for the impending change:

1.         The current stance on the leadership of women is counter scriptural

2.        The board of directors for this denomination is likely to abandon clear scriptural guidelines in favor of popular opinion. 

[I’ll be honest here: neither option sits well with me.  At.  All.] 

However, the director admitted that he personally felt this stance was flawed; and while he did not directly endorse the following, he did present this example as a viable option:

·         His “solution” is an elder team.  Men hold the official title, but women may be members of the team (without the title).  This circumvents organizational mandates and still gives women a “voice.”

In effect, this practice of this leader-qua-leaders is

1.         Admitting his denomination’s counter scriptural stance

2.        Subversively circumventing this problem, so as to “fly under the radar” and not draw attention to the erroneous position of the denomination

3.        Encouraging blatant disobedience in his subordinates, thus undermining the very authority he was commissioned to represent and invoke. 

Which raised the question, can I follow a leader who recommends the purposeful disobedience to selected, denominational directives.  If so, who decides which I follow and which should I toss aside?  Me?  Him?  Somebody else in a position of authority?  And more importantly, is his stance in line with scriptural teaching on authority and the submission thereto?

The reason in this stance and its subsequent practice collapses under scrutiny, as suggested with my above questions.  Therefore, for all of his “good intentions,” this leader-of-leaders had not thought through either his position or praxis.  His behaviors and ideology were are odds; thus rendering each null and void.   Thus argument becomes mute through the behavior.

In closing, I will let the organization speak for itself.  I did a small bit of research on their website, and found that women are able to hold different positions outside of the United State, in the mission field; but in their home country, adhere to a different set of requirements.  [See the full list here.]  I find these very allowances contradictory; and the fact that they exists,…
      well, in the words of Miss Alanis Morissette,* isn't it...


*[forgive me, Mother, but I couldn't help myself]