The Preacher’s Column that Kinda Wasn’t

Well, this is just ridiculous.

My preaching minister wrote the column below for our church bulletin, and I printed and mailed that bulletin to our 325 out-of-county readers and e-mailed it to most of the rest of our members who live in-county Wednesday.

There were some who were upset at the candor of it. – In spite of the fact that the same column was used very effectively, I hear, as as the jumping-off point for a discussion in the Singles Class that Wednesday night.

Church With Benefits

We don’t live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other. And I tell you that the time will soon come when, if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish. ~ J.B. Priestley

Too many Christians have the mindset of religious consumers instead of committed disciples. They attend when they want to, and demand that the church be all they expect it to be on a Sunday morning. Yet they are not committed to it.

A blogger named Marc Backes has noticed this rising trend. Under the blog titled “The Jonah Syndrome” he penned the following thoughts on Dec. 6, 2007:

After yesterday’s interaction with an article about friends with benefits (FWB), I wanted to take a moment today to show how our culture’s attitudes towards sex also manifest themselves in our attitudes about church.

In the same way that someone seeks the “booty call” with a FWB, I believe there are millions of people attending church today who are using a local church of their choosing for their “spiritual booty call.”

Let me explain.

Essentially, the one-night stand with the FWB is intended to produce a maximum amount of immediate pleasure with little to none ongoing commitment towards the other party. In the same vein, as I experience emotional or isolational lows, I can immediately begin looking through my iPhone for my next hookup to relieve me of my crisis and the great thing about the “booty call” is that it is on demand, when I want it, and there’s no expectation that I have to respond to anyone else’s expectations of me. It is 100% on my terms.

And millions are doing the same thing with church. I attend when I want to, and only for my benefit. I am there because I am experiencing a personal, spiritual, relational, or emotional crisis, and I want God to give me my “spiritual booty call” to make me feel better. But don’t ask me to make any ongoing investment in the church. Don’t have any expectations of me as someone who came to that church. Just allow me to come in, use your church as I would a prostitute (I might even pay you for your services), and then I can move on, go back to my life and I’ll get back to you if I need you again.

The book of Hosea pretty clearly describes us as playing the role of the prostitute. It pretty clearly draws the analogy that how we tend to act sexually with one another, is also the way we tend to interact with God. And if you’ll look closely enough, you’ll see that it’s absolutely true. We’ve all seen those people who attend church every few months or so. We’ve all seen those people who want the church to be everything they want on a Sunday morning but have no intention in making an investment into the life of the church community.

We’ve seen people who want a pastor or God for that matter to be a genie of spiritual fix-all, but want to do nothing to discipline themselves to keep “stupid” to a minimum in their life. We’ve seen people who show up, want the spiritual “orgasm” so to speak, and then retreat to their life with no change until the next time they want their ecstasy.

So here’s the question to consider: Are you using your local church for a “booty call,” or are you gonna quit dating the church and marry it?

That is a question all of us need to answer.

What’s ridiculous about this, to me, is that the people who were offended by this are the very people who should not be offended by it. They’ve made their commitment to Christ and are carrying it out – to an extreme, complaining about the worldliness and explicit subject matter of the metaphor. The people who should be offended by it are the ones who refuse to commit to Christ – the ones about whom the column is written, and to whom it is written.

So, reluctantly, my preaching minister and I agreed to replace this column with one that will hopefully be less offensive to the wrong people in the printed bulletin distributed at church tomorrow morning.

Just for the record, I was the one who shared Marc Backe’s blog post with him, feeling that it had a powerful message expressed in a powerful and scriptural way. It doesn’t offend me.

It convicts me.

Folks, there’s a lot of scripture – several prophets – which speak far more explicitly than this blog post or the quotes from it in the preacher’s-column-in-the-bulletin-that-kinda-wasn’t.

27 thoughts on “The Preacher’s Column that Kinda Wasn’t

  1. Keith, buddy. Folks at your church have got to lighten up. Perhaps we should have 2 separate bulletins; one labelled as “traditional” and the other labelled as “contemporary”.Just so we’re clear, I’m kidding. I thought the article was well-written and relevant. Perhaps Chuck should consider preaching a series on Ezekial. That ought to light some fires.

  2. <>***SIGH***<>I don’t know whether to laugh at the ridiculousness of this, or to be disappointed.Everything you’ve said here makes sense. It <>was<> a good discussion Wednesday night. It <>is<> a powerful article with a powerful message. It uses a metaphor that <>is<> a little shocking, but you’re right, it is scriptural and can be easily found in His word.Isn’t it a little late though??? I mean, really…how many people have already received it by e-mail??? I’m just wondering…Oh well…at least there’s a little good in this situation. It shows that I’ve got a couple of brothers that are willing to go the extra mile to live out the teachings of Paul in Romans and Philippians, by making “every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification” and adopting the Christ-like attitude of submission by looking not only to their own interests, but also to the interests of others.That, my friends, is being committed to your brothers and sisters in the church. I’m glad that you guys are still able to stand behind your article, if not by publishing it, by living it out. Thanks.

  3. Keith I have read your blog for a while and the one thing I think we and your preaching minister need to be careful of is that we fall into the same trap by wanting to avoid change and always try to “keep the peace.” You need to continue to grow and I think sometimes wanting to grow and wanting more gets the bad wrap of just wanting things my way.The same is true for the person who wants to do nothing to change and is only interested in keeping the peace. Something to think about.. Thanks for your blog and your wonderful thoughts.Peace.

  4. So what did the kids at church think of the article? Maybe it prompted some conversation around dinner tables too. The language got my attention, of course, but the content was the thing that I am so sad about. The message that people who are “experiencing a personal, spiritual, relational, or emotional crisis” are not welcome to worship unless they pledge a commitment is sad for me to think about. Doesn’t being responsible for each other mean accepting the weak and the strong? Approaching God in worship is often a time of healing. Where should they go to seek Him? Isn’t separating and categorizing people into commitment levels difficult for people filled with mercy and who approach God with humility?

  5. Kathy, you’re right, perhaps that quote gives a little bit of the wrong impression from the article. In the middle of our discussion, Chuck stopped for a minute to make this point, a point that he wanted to make clear. He said, “I don’t want anyone here to get the wrong idea. If you are honestly struggling and searching, that’s okay. Everyone does from time to time. We’re here for you, and we’ve got your back. We’re not talking about you. We <>are<> talking about those who are not looking to grow spiritually, but are only looking for what they can get out of it.” If it helps any, the lesson text we looked at with the article was Acts 2:42ff. We discussed the idea of being committed to the family, as the early church was, where their primary focus was being “devoted to one another.”I’m with Keith, I think the article is a little convicting, because it forces me to stop and ask myself, “What am I doing to be committed to my brothers and sisters?” rather than spending too much time focusing on <>what I want.<>

  6. Kathy, I understand what you’re saying … but if all worship and all exhortation is reduced to the lowest common denominator (the faith of the seeker or newcomer or babe in Christ), then aren’t we constantly offering pablum to people whose spiritual nutrition needs to be steak?I think you missed the point of the quote. The people he’s talking about who are “experiencing a personal, spiritual, relational, or emotional crisis” just keep coming back to church to get a “fix.” It’s not that they’re unwelcome – they’re welcome more often! It’s a “take” relationship that offers no “give.” That’s unhealthy in ANY relationship.

  7. Whatever the intent of the article, Keith, I had a feeling of much sorrow as I read it. My feelings and thoughts were all over the place with it. Some of what I felt was: I am unworthy to approach His throne—even if I am committed to the utmost using any person’s standard I feel as if I am standing and praying publicly: “God, I thank You I am not like other people.” I feel as if I am telling those in crisis to “go, be warmed and filled.” When mmlace mentioned Acts 2 I remembered the beautiful loving community there and could not see any comparisons or labeling, or separations being made between them I have to resist feeling arrogant by comparing myself to others instead of remembering that I am only righteous by His blood and not my own works And as Jeff H said, I feel that it can prompt my attitude to be “take it or leave it” because nothing is changing here I wonder if only the “uncommitted” go away unfilled—do the “committed” folks ever have the same experience? From what you said, Keith, I think I can understand how the article made you feel. Can you see at all how it makes me feel?

  8. Kathy, I suspect it says something about each of us that we take away something different from the article. Maybe most folks like you just need to be accepted and loved. But there are still a passel of ornery folks like me who need a kick in the pants from time to time. Should the needs of the many obliterate the needs of the few?

  9. Something I have found in common in those who write about, or complain about those who are not as committed as some think they should be,they are usually PAID EMPLOYEES of the congregation. I can’t help but wonder how committed they would be if they were not expecting a pay check, furnished by those not so committed members, those members who have commitments to their families and therefore to jobs in order to pay for things needed by that family as well as their church I believe I have read, taking care of ones family is a commitment to God. I often wonder just how committed those who rant against non-commitment, would be if they had other commitments.

  10. Laymond, I don’t think that whether one is paid by the congregation has anything to do with it. The people in our Singles class that discussed this article Wednedsay night, a couple of other people I’ve talked to, and I all believe that the article had a good point that needed to be made for some people. I even think I needed to hear it. It’s not so much about us ranting about those that some think aren’t committed enough. It’s just about wanting to be able to know that when you come to our congregation, you are coming to a group of people that you can depend upon like family. As Keith said previously, that’s healthy for any relationship–it’s requires give-and-take from <>everyone.<>Those of us that think so are not all paid employees of our church. As far as how committed they would be w/out their paychecks, I have complete faith in everyone on our staff. For the record, Keith has only been on our staff for a relatively short amount of time. I can’t speak to his commitment level before then, because I started attending just a couple of months after he was hired. I can’t even really speak to his commitment level now, because I don’t really know him that well. But I would like to think that I know a little of his heart for God, which he has been sharing on this blog since long before our church hired him. And I <>can<> speak to what I see of him…that his commitment level seems to go way beyond the duties of his job. Beyond all of the communications work that he does to make sure that we all know what is going on, he teaches classes, offers insight, and puts up with annoying questions and comments from people like me. Somehow I doubt that was in his job description. But he does it anyway.

  11. I read the article before it made it to your blog, and although I might have chosen some different language to communicate the message, I thought the point of the message was dead on. I thought the point he was making was that true discipleship is more than showing up at a church building two or three times a week. Jesus taught that over and over again, and more importantly……….he lived it. DU

  12. laymond, understand that I’m not accusing you of this, but I have seen all my life (long before I started working at a church) people taking pot shots at the preacher or staffers for being over-committed or self-righteous or imperfect or whatever.I don’t know why they do this. Maybe it makes them feel less culpable for the message the preacher or staffer has tried to communicate from the Word in a convicting way. (“He preaches it, but he doesn’t practice it.”)That doesn’t change the Word, though.The folks whose salaries you pay at church are easy targets. They’re not in business to judge anybody, just share the Word.

  13. That’s a very interesting thought, Keith. But it’s true…we “normal” people tend to look at ministers/church workers a little differently. I didn’t really realize this until I was in college.In the small town I went to school in, at the small church I worshiped with there, the congregation could easily be divided into two categories…college kids and old folks. There were only, maybe 4 families with children. The interesting thing was that our minister fell into the ‘college kids’ category. When I started school, he was 22 years old…and had been preaching there since he was 20.It was interesting to see how your views change as you spend time with your minister on a more personal basis, and get to know some of the challenges he faces as a young minister. It’s also funny (as stupid as this may sound) when you recognize that epiphany of “Hey…he’s, like, one of <>us!<>

  14. Keith, what I was saying is sometimes opportunity has nothing to do with commitment. don’t you think one who works at the church has a much greater opportunity to show their commitment, than say a truck driver?or maybe a farmer? or a miner, maybe free time, or proximity determines opportunity. not pot-shot-ing anyone not doubting their commitment. just saying we should not judge others until we have walked in their shoes.But that said I will leave you with what Jesus said about those hired to look after the sheep.Jn:10:11: I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.Jn:10:12: But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.Jn:10:13: The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.

  15. Keith,As the original author of the blog post in question, I wanted to comment on the thread publicly to answer some questions that folks might have and to share a few more of my thoughts on the subject.First, the metaphor is shocking. It’s meant to be and is one that is drawn for us in Scripture in the book of Hosea very clearly. The wonderful thing about the Bible is that it is shocking and is meant to be so to awaken us from our spiritual slumber.Second, I am not a paid staff member at the church I attend. I am the church planting intern and am in the process of planting a church in the near future.Third, as someone who was experiencing a <> “relational, emotional, and spiritual crisis” <> all at the same time when I was converted at the age of 20, I can assure you that I want the most broken, hurt, and deeply flawed lives walking through the doors of our church. The more broken, the better. The point of the post was not to say that hurting people aren’t welcome, it was to say people that are willfully, rebelliously, selfishly, and REPEATEDLY “using” the church with absolutely no intent in their mind of ever committing to it either need to marry it or move on.And that doesn’t just go for lost people, that goes for mediocre Christians as well. I also, very much understand that I (along with Paul) am the chief of sinners). But there is a difference between playing church and being part of a Biblical community. Our church is there to love, accept, help, serve, and do anything we possibly can for people who want to be a part our community, but if you doubt whether Jesus had strong feelings about those who show signs of religion but their hearts are very far off from Him, then Scripture has a lot to say on the subject.I am surprised that my blog post has become a source of controversy in a local church. I am, however, thankful that in some respects it has served as a good point of discussion for folks as well.

  16. Marc, you said “The point of the post was not to say that hurting people aren’t welcome, it was to say people that are willfully, rebelliously, selfishly, and REPEATEDLY “using” the church with absolutely no intent in their mind of ever committing to it either need to marry it or move on.”Marc. if the church (lower case c) is not there to be used it has no purpose at all. If it is just there to survive and thrive, it would be well off to close the door. And if Christians are not there to be used , how are they following Christ? The strong care for the weak, not kick them out the door.

  17. Laymond,I understand your point. I would, however, respectfully disagree. The church is not there to be “used” no more than a single girl should make herself available to be “used” by men who knowingly not interested in her for any other purpose than the immediate gratification she can provide them.There is a difference between a man calling a woman for a one night stand and a guy calling a girl and sharing with her that he is hurt and broken and needs someone who will listen and help him.It’s a heart issue. There are people in your church who have been attending your church for weeks, months, or years and yet they have made no meaningful contribution to it.They either need to marry the church and be a responsible member of the Bride of Christ, or they need to move on somewhere else. My post was not aimed nor speaking of lost and broken people who are genuinely hurting and seeking.

  18. Marc, it is even more troubling than I first thought, I thought you were talking of the local congregation, but you say you can decide who is worthy to be in “Christ’s Church” I believe “The Church” is called Jesus’ Bride therefore the Church is already married. I leave to Jesus who he accepts to add to his Church and who he chooses to marry.Mt:9:12: But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.13: But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.Marc, I can only give the same advise Jesus gave, go ye and learn what that meaneth,

  19. Interesting! Always interesting to me that one article can bring out so many different points of view. All seeming to be pointed in the same direction, yet taking different paths. When I read the article, I was convicted to examine myself to see if I am just “taking” where I want to take and not really “giving” my all. Yes, I do “take” many times but not give my all. I will work on that. For some reason, tolerance came to my mind as I read the posts. We had a discussion yesterday at lunch about tolerance and how we as a church and a society are asked to “tolerate” each other. I want more than just someone tolerating me. I want someone helping me to be all I can be. Yet, our society asks that we tolerate each other and have no convictions whatsoever. In our assembly yesterday we had a special service of lament. We have many in our body who have lost loved ones or have chronic and dibilitating illness. So our worship service included scripture and songs of lament. As the worship leader stated, we not always in the mood to “sing and dance”. Sometimes, we need time to reflect. I’m not sure that these thoughts have added anything to this discussion and the discussion is already over, so……I still think the article was right on and those that opposed it were wanting us to “tolerate” them and not “convict” them. That’s my two cents……for what it is worth.

  20. Laymond,Thank you for sharing your thoughts and giving me your perspective. I appreciate you taking the time to share them with me.I suspect we could share many more comments, but I’ll rest from commenting any further…Marc

  21. Marc, thank you for dropping in and for a terrific post which challenged me.– And evidently touched a few nerves elsewhere, too.

  22. Kieth,I’ve been there before and I will never let myself never be there before again. As Christians we sing the song “We’re part of the family that’s been born again… part of the family who’s love know’s no end…and sometimes we life together…sometimes we cry…sometimes we share together…heart ackes and sigh’s….sometimes we dream together of how it will be; when we all get to heaven; God family.”

  23. I clearly saw this post as a wake up call. Yes, maybe some of the terminology is a bit “new aged” for the older folks but the message hit hard, and it hurt.You know why it hurt? Because the article is directed at me. One who never committed himself to the church, to its people. I was selfish and only took would I could if it benefited me. Me, Me, Me. Though I am not there, spiritually, like I would hope, this message hit me and I am glad you posted it. Who knows what the future holds for me but I would hope that I have learned my lesson and never see the church as a “friend with benefits”.

  24. jp, you know you have many who love you and your family and will always want your search to bring you peace.And I will always be among them.

  25. I am joining this discussion late; perhaps past the time for my comments to matter, but it is my observation that at least part of the reason why folks seem to be talking “past” each other is a failure to fully appreciate the “context” in which each person views this subject.Most of us are keenly aware, or ought to be, of the crucial importance of “context” in our efforts to make sense of the things we read and experience. Absent a common “context,” our views and reactions are often like “ships passing in the night.”Of course, I don’t know the extent to which each commenter understands or appreciates the “context” in which this discussion is taking place. I do know the context shared by least several of the commenters, and I think it is difficult for those who lack that same context to make good sense of what has been said.In a vacuum, the article under consideration could be “taken” in a number of ways; favorably and unfavorably. It is my strong hunch that the original author of the comments (who I do not know) approached the topic from a very different context from those who are deeply troubled by the use of those comments in a very specific context shared by others.There is no doubt that an attitude of “consumer religion” (and a desire to find personal gratification) is a wide-spread problem in our culture. In that context, Marc’s observations are valid and needed. They seem genuine and inoffensive. And it is easy for me to understand Marc’s bewilderment at the reactions of others, since he is likely unaware of the context in which his comments have been used.It is not my intention to try to provide any kind of complete context in this post. I will simply say that some of the folks who have reacted share the experience of having their deep and sincere concerns “marginalized” by folks who knowingly mis-label them. That is the context from which some of the commenters speak.It has become all-too-common for some leaders to state (or intentionally imply) that folks who disagree with them are “self-serving” (or worse) when they actually know otherwise. It is a convenient ploy to evade the real issues that such folks try to address.I suspect most everyone who has commented has seen that happen. Folks who strive to get leaders to address and confront serious issues of teaching and practice out of deep concern and conviction are sometimes maligned as just wanting to have-their-way about things that the leaders know will appeal to certain segments of their members. It is often employed as a purely tactical maneuver, without regard for truth.Let me give you a possible example. Suppose some folks tried, in a respectful and sincere manner, to get their leaders to consider whether their teaching and practices concerning the propriety of certain worship practices were scripturally-based or were based on tradition or cultural preferences. And suppose they respectfully asked their leaders to consider whether such teaching might properly be viewed as a form of religious bigotry and might result in the practice of religious segregation in violation of Jesus’ teaching and practice.And suppose that the reaction of such leaders was to ignore the real issues being raised and instead treated those folks as malcontents – and labeled them as self-servers who only wanted to have their own way – when those leaders knew with certainty that the charge was not true. Can you see where those folks might read the article under consideration here in a very different light? You see, for some of those involved in this discussion, the content of the article did not appear in a vacuum. It appeared as part of a much larger and much more complex “context.” Without knowledge of how those thoughts “fit” into that larger (and very real) context, it is impossible to appreciate the viewpoints expressed by those who had a negative reaction to the things expressed.I have provided these thoughts in an effort to aid folks who are genuinely mystified by the reactions of others to something they did not apprehend from the article, because they could not appreciate the context in which it appeared. I do not intend, by these comments, to address or discuss or attempt to resolve the issues that provide that context. That is a topic for another day, and perhaps a different forum. Peace and Love.

  26. Kieth,I want you to know brother that you have been what I would consider a friend, brother in Christ, mentor, and right now I need you to something for me. I really enjoy reading posts and articles and can tell that you are a righteous man. God tells that there is a promise that comes along with being a righteous man of God. God listens to thoses he considers rights. I need you to pray for me brother. I have been having severe migraines (I have had migraines all my life but these have been blow your mind kind of migrains) a cat scran came back good yesterday that I don’t have any tumors. I am going to a Nurologist tomorrow to see whether it is a compound migraine or if I have been having seizers. There is more information on my blog. I would for you to pray for me. The pray of a righteous man is powerful and effective James 5:15-16. I would love your readers and anyone that would like to stop by to pray; my family needs all the prayers we can get at this time in our lives. I love you brother.In Him,Kinney MabryAkaPreacherman

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