Now, I don’t want to be critical . . .
Week of April 11, 2010
I attended a meeting this week. A bunch of pastors who are really good guys for the most part. I am sure there are exceptions to that but I think they want to be good. One of them asked me, “What weirdness did you do at the warehouse this Easter?” So I told him about the amazing time of worship we had here at CCC. He stared at me as I told him and then said, “Hmmm…” and with a shake of his head walked away. I don’t really know what that meant. I prayed about that reaction about the same time I was preparing for a class I am leading for a group later in the month about creative teaching methods and transformational teaching. I guess this is a summary about the prayer time and thinking through the reaction.
Here is a lesson some of you have learned the hard way: as your influence grows larger so does the target on your back. If you dare to be different you’ll be criticized. That’s a promise. And those criticisms will probably come from the religious establishment that is content with maintaining the status quo.
Let me say something openly and bluntly. I’ve rarely had any unchurched people complain about the way we do church. The bulk and the loudest criticisms we’ve ever received are from the religious establishment–most of whom have never attended a single service.
Covenant Community Church is not perfect and is also not going to be the place where everyone wants to go. We try our best to communicate the truth in creative and life changing ways but there are a number of ways and styles to do that. We need lots of different kinds of churches because there are lots of different kinds of people!
But I am all for the end of criticizing our differences and instead celebrating originality and creativity. I heard it said this way and I like it : We must be orthodox in doctrine. But we ought to be unorthodox in practice.
No one was more unorthodox than Jesus.
Here is something that I have learned in working with leaders. All churched people have an internal picture of what a church should be like. And it is usually a picture of whatever church they were in last. From the first day CCC is a place that doesn’t try to be something that we are not. As a matter of principle I think that is what makes us unique. We should dare to be different. I’m not talking about being different for difference sake. I’m talking about identifying our unique niche in the kingdom. A recent guest at Covenant asked if they had just participated in our “contemporary worship service?” It was an honest question with no agenda. They were told it was the only worship style we do because it is just who we are. I think that rocks.
We love experimenting with new ways of doing church. We’re serious about cultural exegesis as well as biblical exegesis. Why? Because we believe that irrelevance is irreverence.
There are two kinds of people: doers and criticizers.
Jesus was a doer.
The Pharisees were criticizers.
In fact, their ability to find something wrong with something right is nothing short of astounding! Jesus heals a withered arm and the Pharisees complain because he did it on the wrong day! You’ve got to be kidding me!
Teddy Roosevelt said, “It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who have never known neither victory nor defeat.”
You can play it safe or decide to risk and play to win. We will play to win!
I heard some great advice so let me pass it along : “Don’t let an arrow pierce your heart unless it first passes through the filter of Scripture.”
If criticism passes through the filter of Scripture then you need to repent. But if it doesn’t pass the filter test then you need to deflect the criticism. That is what Jesus did with the criticisms leveled at him by the Pharisees. He didn’t get defensive. He didn’t apologize for who He was or how He taught. He didn’t let their criticisms keep Him from being Himself.
Don’t let the critics keep you from radically loving prostitutes. Don’t let the critics keep you from healing on the Sabbath. Don’t let the critics keep you from hanging out with Tax Collectors.
For the record, people tend to criticize when they feel convicted. It is the alternative to change. Nine times out of ten, criticism is a way of justifying our own issues and problems because criticism is a lot easier than change!
Follow in the footsteps of Christ. Dare to be different.
Deflecting criticism complete…thanks for listening and thinking about it with me.
Add your thoughts to these thoughts.
e-mail Jeff at firstname.lastname@example.org