When Evangelicalism Crowns a New Pope

New York Times

In many evangelical churches, a magnetic pastor like Mr. Hybels is the superstar on whom everything else rests, making accusations of harassment particularly difficult to confront. Such a pastor is seen as a conduit to Christ, giving sermons so mesmerizing that congregants rush to buy tapes of them after services.

In an article about the latest, appalling allegations against Willow Creek founding pastor, Bill Hybels, Laurie Goodstein unwittingly puts her finger on what is one of the main problems of the Evangelical church today. In many churches, with a celebrity pastor, the members effectively do what Catholics do with the Pope - they make that person the way to God, rather than the person of Christ. It happens for many reasons and over a period of time, but that pastor ultimately ends up filling the role only Christ should have. For Evangelicalism to reverse the dangerous on which it finds itself, believers must refuse to continue to replace Christ with their pastor. Or, this will only get worse.

“But he did it first” is not a valid, Christian response to immorality

Since Donald Trump was elected, there has been no shortage of disagreement from the left and right side of the aisles. (Ok, that’s putting it lightly, but hey…)

One disturbing trend, that has also taken root with many Christian Republicans is to overlook the moral failures of our current president, or, in many cases, justify those failures by pointing to the immorality of past presidents (which, coincidentally, is of an opposing political persuasion). As an example, I recently came across the following tweet that seems to encompass what I’m trying to say.

You can see what I mean, right?

Some people are so bought-in to the Trump hype and the desire to undo what past liberal presidents have done, that they are willing to justify immorality in the name of “Making America Great Again.”

Now, don’t get me wrong, I think that good things have happened under the Trump administration - many of which we don’t hear about because they go against the narrative that much of the media wants to portray (but, that’s a different post). I’m also no fan of Bill Clinton, what he did, or what he stands for.

That said, we also can’t use his moral failings to justify those of Donald Trump, or to distract from that immorality. If we are Christians, if we believe in the absolute truth, we need to hold that same standard for everyone, not just those politicians we agree with.

Yes, what Bill Clinton did with Monica Lewinsky was wrong. But so is what Trump did. Just because one failing happened while the person was president and one when the person wasn’t shouldn’t make a difference. We are referring to their character, their values, and their example. In both cases, whether president or not, they should not be ignored.

So, rather than justifying the actions of the person whose politics we agree with while vilifying the actions of the person with whom we disagree, why don’t we hold them both to the same standard? Why don’t we say that, yes, they were both wrong, they both need to be called to repentance, and pray for them both that they would repent and trust in Christ. Ultimately, that’s all that matters and that’s where our focus should be.

How to Get Unstuck - A Review

When I received my review copy of How to Get Unstuck by Matt Perman, I couldn’t wait to dig in. Having thoroughly enjoyed Matt’s first book, I was excited to see where he went in the follow-up. As I read, I was happy to see he had continued the thread that he’d begun with his first book, and I found myself underlining and highlighting important points in no time.

The big point Matt makes in this book is this:

“We can sum up what it means to be unstuck like this: getting important work done through obstacles.”

When we boil most productivity advice down, this is the primary goal, and it was extremely helpful for Matt to so succinctly point it out. He then goes on to expand on that statement in these four sections, addressing the holistic nature of productivity and “getting unstuck.”

The book’s four sections are:

  1. The Problem and the Principles
  2. Personal Leadership: The Compass
  3. Personal Management: The Clock
  4. Special Obstacles: The Laser

Each of those then have further sub-points, but as a broad structure, those sections flesh out productivity and how to help when you feel yourself “stuck.”

The thing I like the most about this book, as well as Matt’s first, is his focus on the real reason for and source of productivity. Having read many, many books about productivity (and failed to implement much of the advice), the one thing they often lack is the true root of desiring to be productive and the personal character necessary for that productivity. His focus on the theological elements of productivity and the God-focused reasons to strive to be unstuck are welcome additions to an already crowded market of productivity advice.

Rather than just “tips and tricks,” Matt examines the heart and character elements necessary to be productive, and to get unstuck. Throughout the discussion of tactics, he weaves the threads of character, vision, and faith as the most important pieces of truly being productive, and for doing so for the right treasons.

My only critique is that the book did feel a little longer than it needed to be. There were some sections that seemed to belabor points and expound on them more than necessary. It sometimes felt like he was making the same point multiple times, said slightly different ways, and the book could have been a little shorter had that not been the case. That said, making efforts to provide clarity at the expense of being a little longwinded is preferable to being vague and leaving the reader confused.

Overall, I think this is a great companion to his first book, and one that stands apart from the mountains of other productivity resources available today. I’d definitely recommend this to anyone who is looking to improve their efficiency and productivity in a God-honoring way. Be sure to get your copy today.

Think Before You Offer Thoughts and Prayers

”I guess their thoughts and prayers couldn’t protect them.”

“Your thoughts and prayers are worthless. Offer real solutions.”

Stop thinking and praying and actually do something.”

The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working - James 5:16

Following the recent shooting at a school in Florida, many have taken to the news, social media, and elsewhere to offer their thoughts and prayers to the victims and any others affected. At the same time, just as many people have cried out with statements like those above - antagonizing the faithful by demeaning them for offering prayers when they should actually be “doing something.”

For many, especially Christians, after a national tragedy, there is an immediate desire to help by offering our thoughts and prayers. We want those people who are hurting that they are not alone. That we are there to care for them, and that we are appealing, on their behalf, to the highest of authorities.

To a non-Christian culture this is seen as doing nothing, as offering empty platitudes, and avoiding actually seeking solutions.

They don’t understand that, in those time of grief and mourning, turning to God in prayer is actually doing something - and doing exactly what is necessary. These people fail to see the warning inherent in God’s allowing these tragedies and they choose instead to continue turning their back on the only one who can bring about lasting change and offer hope and peace to those affected.

That’s not to say that we should offer prayers and move on. It should be our first reaction, but not necessarily our last.

We must consider prudent responses and make societal changes where necessary. At the same time, though, we must recognize that nothing a politician does can truly solve the problem because it’s a problem of sin. It’s a problem of a fallen world. It’s a problem that only God can solve, but so many fail to recognize that fact and instead eliminate Him from the conversation.

The Problem With Thoughts and Prayers

Through all of this rhetoric, though, I’ve noticed something that we as Christians, in trying to help, may be helping to perpetuate the prejudices against us and the myths that prayer has no effect.

Christians are just as quick as everyone else to say, “our thoughts and prayers go out to those who were affected.” On the surface, this seems to be the kind response. But, as in many areas of life, the “devil is in the details” and, by not choosing our words carefully, we may be helping make their point for them.

In that statement, we are equating appeals to the almighty Creator of the universe (prayers) with simple, emotional, ineffectual “good vibes” (thoughts). Is it any wonder, then, that a world already hostile to God that the effectiveness of prayer is dismissed?

If we don’t have a high enough view of the effectiveness of prayer and make it of equal importance of simple thoughts, we do a disservice to God and to those who need those prayers more than anyone else. Yes, it’s a semantic argument, but I think in a culture predisposed to hating God, we need to be specific in how we refer to Him and our communication with Him.

Much more effective, I think, is to tell people that we are praying for them. They may still dismiss us (most likely), but at least we are presenting prayers as something other, something effective, and something that can and does move the hand of God.

The Most Important Part

While we can choose the right words, while we can do all we can to prevent a subliminal diminishing of the effectiveness of prayer, there is another piece to this puzzle that is far more important than our semantics.

If you tell someone you’re praying for them, then pray for them.

Don’t use it as a quick hit statement that is a knee-jerk reaction to the pain of others. If we, as Christians, actually believe that prayers are effective, then we need to live that. We need to pray for people when we say we are. We need to believe that God hears our prayers and is sovereignly orchestrating all things for our good and His glory.

If we don’t believe that, if we don’t actually pray with a hopeful heart that God will move, then we may as well just offer our thoughts. They’ll be just as effective.

Bill O'Reilly is "Angry With God"

Bill O’Reilly

“You know, am I mad at God? Yeah, I’m mad at him,” O’Reilly said on the latest episode of his web series, ‘No Spin News.’ “I wish I had more protection. I wish this stuff didn’t happen. I can’t explain it to you. Yeah, I’m mad at him.”

Here’s the thing Bill. God is not responsible for your sin. God can and does use sin sinlessly, but He’s not responsible for your sin. You can be mad all you want, but it doesn’t change the facts. And, by declaring yourself “angry with God” over your sin, you’re playing a dangerous game. I’d think twice.