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We Played The Flute For You

Sometimes I read too much from the multitude of burgeoning experts regarding this thing called Church.  I am finding sprinklings of truth emanating from many voices, but the conflicting suggestions and accusations from these analysts sometimes get to me.  It is then that I know that it is time for a course adjustment.

I am a pastor.  I am a preacher.  I am a teacher.  Among other things, I am called to explain and proclaim the truth of God’s Word, as I understand it, and then urge people to embrace those truths in such a way that their lives are changed for their good, for the good of those around them, and for the glory of God.

Sometimes, I find myself preaching from a defensive position, or at least that’s what it feels like.

The bloggers, authors, interviewers, and analysts are coming to many conclusions about me and my clan.  They are also offering suggestions or demands about how I/we ought to change.  Some of what they say is true for some of us, but we are increasingly being analyzed in such a way that one is prompted to respond to the analysis in order to prove that “I am not that way”.

This kind of reactionary thinking from the Body of Christ isn’t good.  I think the tail sometimes wags the dog.

By being a Christian and a pastor, it is assumed that I hate gays, that I have an unintelligent faith, that I unilaterally support the nation of Israel, that I am a Republican and a social conservative, that I am closed minded, intolerant, unloving, and don’t have a worldview that includes anyone but my clan.

Those accusations are true about some in the Church, but not all.  Public opinion, however, is increasingly aligning itself with these analysts, and I sometimes feel quite misunderstood.

Anyone else out there feeling it?

The purpose of this article isn’t to whine and say how unfair life is.  What I want to emphasize is this: I cannot allow myself to become simply reactionary in my life.  (You too, if you follow Jesus.)  I cannot respond only to the accusers, the analysts, the “former Christians”, the victims of the church, etc.  There are legitimate complaints to be made, to be sure, but that cannot and must not shape my life or the life of the Church.

I believe that Jesus faced this same kind of “dead end” analysis from his contemporaries.

He said…

Matthew 11:16-19 “But to what shall I liken this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their companions, 17and saying: ‘We played the flute for you, And you did not dance; We mourned to you, And you did not lament.’ 18For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by her children.”

Regardless of what Jesus did, He was criticized.  Christians are not unique in this.  Everyone goes through it: politicians, soccer coaches, school administrators, etc.

But my world is Jesus, His Church, and how we are to live in the world, so that is what I sometimes feel.

What is the solution for me and my tribe?  It is the same as it has always been.  Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.

Answer the honest questioners with gentleness and respect.  Know when to move on to the next conversation.  Make sure that God is the One we respond to, and not the critics, regardless of their motivation.  Be led by the Spirit, and not just by the analysis of a rock star.  Be counseled by the Word of God, not by an “ex- whatever”.  Follow the leading of the Spirit, not the latest trends.

I do not discount the fact that God can and does use the public opinion to reveal truth to His church.  The problem with public opinion is that it is fickle, changing, incomplete, and biased.  Eat the meat, spit out the bones, and realize that there is only One Voice that leads us.

8 replies
  1. Bill Holdridge
    Bill Holdridge says:

    Excellent, Bill!

    The task, as I see it, is to be known for what we are for rather than for what we are against. Otherwise, we become defensive (as you’ve written), and probably
    much too introspective.

    Thanks!

    Reply
  2. Bill Ritchie
    Bill Ritchie says:

    I think the key is to make certain you are always following the leading of God’s spirit (as much as possible). Whatever “they” think is frankly somewhat irrelevant to me. What “he” thinks – that’s a whole other ballgame. As long as I’m where the Lord wants me to be, honestly doing what he has called and equipped me to do, I keep pressing forward.

    Some give far too much credit to comments on various blogs. The comments that I personally spend time chewing on are those that come from those I know and love, particularly those who I labor with in the local church, staff and otherwise. I want to be able to minister with and to them as well as I possibly can, so whatever someone completely outside our fellowship happens to think about things is of no concern.

    Is this what you’re asking?

    Reply
  3. Bill Walden
    Bill Walden says:

    Thanks for the comments guys.

    Bill Ritchie, yes, that is the essence of what I am saying.

    I can fall prey to the many voices, especially the ones that cyclically throw rocks at our clan, unfortunately sometimes for good reasons.

    Fair criticism becomes vitriol and broad brush strokes are applied.

    So I guess my OP is a bit of a veiled confession wrapped in the guise of a godly resolution….or some degree of the two blending together.

    Thanks guys…..blessings all.

    Reply
  4. Josh Olson
    Josh Olson says:

    Hey Bill W.,
    A question that’s rolled around in my heart and mind (in the context of church leadership) for the last 7 years is, “When are we going to stop ‘reacting’ and start taking action?”

    Being a “Reaction” to critics, analysts, etc. can be such a trap and can cause us to become defensive (in an unhealthy way) and bitter. What a drag (for us, our wives, our families, and the Body).

    The important thing, like Bill R. already pointed out, is following Jesus’ lead and doing what He has given us to do. I know you already know that…I’m just sayin’.

    Makes me think of a famous order issued by Admiral David Farragut during the Battle of Mobile Bay…
    Again…just sayin.

    Reply
  5. Bill Walden
    Bill Walden says:

    Josh,
    Having pastored for a few years now, I have come to realize that at any given time, any one of us can be susceptible to being wrongly influenced from voices other than Jesus’ voice.

    It can be an obvious enemy, an enemy acting as a friend, a friend who means well but speaks from the flesh, (remember Peter rebuking Jesus about going to the cross), or it could be our own flesh.

    I am sure you know all these things.

    I believe that we can be moving along well, clearly hearing God’s voice,and then a voice from left field comes out of nowhere, and puts us on our heels. It is sometimes difficult to not react, and it can be difficult for many reasons.

    Part of my intention on the OP was to point out that no matter what Jesus did, there was a human somewhere that criticized Him. The only voice that didn’t criticize Him was that voice of His Father….”This is my beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased”.

    So I think that we can be acting rightly, being proactive in a godly way, and then we can let a voice or two get to us, and we can get defensive.

    At least that has been my experience….

    Thanks for your comments Josh…..

    Reply
  6. Josh Olson
    Josh Olson says:

    Agree wholeheartedly, Bill.

    Praying that our heavenly Father multiplies His grace, mercy and peace to each of us as we continue to follow His leading.

    May He bless the labor of your hands and continue to use you for His kingdom’s sake!

    Merry Christmas, bro.

    Reply

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