Living in American Stained Christianity

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flagWhether you like to think about it or not, the age of the “Christian country” is over. I have read a few blogs on how we can turn America back to God. There is still a chance that God can rule this country once again. The fight isn’t over yet.

But maybe it should be.

Most of the blogs that I have read on turning America back to God consist of turning the American government into a form of church leadership. We believe that the greatest hope for the evangelical church’s version of Christianity is in the newest senator who prays before every meal. We believe that the greatest hope is found in the traditional, biblical marriage, which is exemplified in the newest governor. In all honesty, some of us still even believe the greatest hope for the evangelical church is found in the Republican party (as demonstrated by the voting for a Mormon, who, in any other election, wouldn’t even be considered because of his religious beliefs).

For too long, the evangelical church has taken comfort in the freedoms provided to us through our government. I, like you, am grateful for these freedoms. But I am fearful that in the midst of comfort, we have lost our purpose.

Instead of freedom being something that should benefit us, it has become something that has enslaved us.

For in freedom, we sat idly by while the hungry needed food.

For in freedom, we ignored the cries of the unwed mother.

In freedom, we watched marriages fall apart.

In freedom, we saw the numbers of those without health care.

I could go on and on but I think you get the point. In freedom, we shifted the responsibility of the church to the government. Here’s the worst part: now, Christians are seen as wanting the hungry to go hungry, hating the unwed mother, refusing to allow love flourish, and hoping that only the select receive health care. How did we get this image? In who we checked on our ballot.

I don’t believe that we want of those things to happen. We want to feed the hungry. We start up food pantries and soup kitchens to try and meet the needs of the hungry. We don’t hate the unwed mother. We show her love and offer her a place to stay to raise her child. We don’t want marriages to fall apart. We encourage couples to fight for their marriage. We want everyone to receive health care…that’s why the church has been so influential in the medical world.

We want God’s “thou shalt not” commandments legislated but we don’t want to legislate His “thou shalt” commands. In other words, we want the sins of commission legislated but not the sins of omission. But we cannot legislate God…let alone, half of Him.

We have tried, though. Unfortunately, someone who wants to feed the hungry, help the marginalized, and allow abortions is considered a horrible person. But someone who wants to cut food stamps, ignore the lower-class, and make abortions illegal is considered a great person. If Christians want the government to cut food stamps or other programs benefiting the marginalized, then we need to be prepared to step up and do what Christ commanded us to do — to love God, and love our neighbor as ourself.

We are living in an American stained Christianity era. As things become legislated, we fear the future of the Church. In reality, the Church has survived far worse situations. It actually excites me a bit; because hopefully we will see that the way we are to be the church is not through the government — but by being involved in our communities, in our cities, and in the lives of everyone around us. We don’t legislate God. We live like God. God never forced His decrees on people. Why do we think that we can?

I think most of us are upset with the government because it is not being the church we want it to be. It is allowing people to commit the “thou shalt nots” even though it is also providing people with the “thou shalts.” But Christ never limited Himself to those in need and neither should we.

The government is not the Church. We, as Christ-followers, are the Church. Legislation from the government will not ruin the Church. Parties cannot ruin the Church. Elections cannot ruin the Church. Nothing can. Christ promised us that.

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The Downside of Being Truly Honest

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For the past several months, I have been thoroughly enjoying looking for ministry positions. I have gone through several interviews, visited a few different places, and have said more about myself than I ever cared. Unfortunately, I have not found a position. So now, I am looking at going to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC. Hopefully, I will be continuing my M.Div. there. I am hoping that this does not sound like I am going to Grad School because I am not hirable. Sometimes I fear that may be the perception. Perhaps I am not the ideal candidate, however.

One of the questions that a candidate is always asked is: “Can you tell us about some of your weaknesses?” This is a fun question. I love this question. It gives me a chance to be honest with them on what I see as a possible problem. However, I have learned that there is an art to answering this question. This art is one that I refuse to put into practice, though.

I usually come right out and say what my weaknesses are: stubbornness, anger, temper, misunderstood sense of humor, appearing nonchalant, pride, etc. I am sure most of you can point out my weaknesses (an addiction to coffee is not one of them). So I come right out and say those things. This has not been beneficial in the job search.

I have learned that there are different ways of saying these things. For instance, instead of saying “I am pretty stubborn when it comes to what I want to do.” You should say, “I am a little too driven to accomplish my ideas.”

Do not say: “I have an anger issue.” Say, “Sometimes I am overwhelmed with righteous anger.”
Do not say: “I have a short temper.” Say, “There are worldly annoyances that cause me to get upset rather quickly.”
Do not say: “Some people do not understand my sense of humor because I joke about things that should not be joked about.” Say, “I love laughter…a little too much sometimes.”
Do not say: “Sometimes it appears that I do not care about people or their situation.” Say, “I sometimes zone out when people are talking to me because I am busy thinking about things that need to be done.”
Do not say: “I am very prideful.” Say, “I do not struggle with pride.” (That is just another way of saying you are prideful…but it makes it seem like you aren’t)

It seems like some places I have interviewed would rather me say: “I care too much,” or “I devote all of my free time to my ministry,” or “I do not read the Bible enough,” or “I am not as spiritually mature as I would like to be.” We would rather our weaknesses be portrayed in a good light. However, “I care too much,” is just another way of saying, “I do not know how to let go of things. I worry about many problems that I should not be worrying about.” “I devote all of my free time to my ministry,” is just another way of saying, “I am not good at time management and will probably burn out quickly.” “I do not read the Bible enough,” is just another way of saying, “I do not read the Bible at all,” or “I have set too high of expectations upon myself and cannot live up to them. This means that I do not know how to set realistic goals.” “I am not as spiritually mature as I would like to be,” … well let’s not even go there.

The point is this. I would rather be brutally honest than try and portray my weaknesses in a good light. The only good thing about my weaknesses are that in them, God is strong. I am stubborn; but God continually shows that He can break me down. I have a short temper; God still uses me despite the fact that I’ll get mad. I have a borderline inappropriate sense of humor; God still uses me to help lighten moods and situations.

I will never cover up who I truly am to get hired at a church. There is nothing I despise more than inauthenticity. I know, I am not hirable. I have a bachelor’s degree, limited experience (by most churches’ standards), and weaknesses that are shown for what they are. I know there is probably more that goes into it than just that. However, as I continue looking for positions, it seems more and more like I should change who I am to try and impress the church. That is something I will never do. I will never try and impress. I will be me. 100% me. If it is not something that is desired, that’s okay. It is better to hire me because of me, than to hire me because of I put on a good show.

Be authentic.