Above Reproach, Part II

In this mornings Star Press, there was a follow-up story concerning the local pastor charged with sex crimes against minors. The story surrounds his initial hearing where he entered a plea of “not guilty.”

It is my hope and prayer that he truly is “not guilty.” Regardless of the outcome of the trial, much damage has been done. It will be difficult for the victims to trust Christian leaders. It will be difficult for some in the church to trust current and future pastors. It will be difficult for people in the community to trust Christian leaders. It will be difficult for this pastor. If he is “not guilty” many who have already presumed guilty until proven innocent will still cast out their judgment on him. It’s a messy situation.

The human side of me definitely struggles to believe his plea. The police ran a three-year investigation that led to his arrest. Of course, at this point, most of the information is the testimony of the victims (which can be a he said/she said). We do live in a society in which people present false accusations in order to “get back” at someone who has hurt them.

I’ll be interested to see how all of this plays out. I urge us all to pray for the victims, this pastor, and this church.

Teens & Technology

This summer, I’ll be speaking at a camp that is taking a pro-active approach to the vast usage of technology among teenagers. There will be opportunities for students to ask questions, respond to polls, and give feedback via text messaging.

I believe that this is a great response to what’s going on in the current teenage culture. I believe that this is a great opportunity to address the appropriate use of technology. I believe it’s a great opportunity to utilize a piece of technology that more and more teens are using. Of course, at the same time, I believe this presents a great challenge. There will be massive amounts of temptation to utilize the technology to disengage with the events taking place at the camp.

I am proud of this camp for extending itself and taking a chance on engaging students right where they are at. Rather than asking kids to totally ignore something that plays a major role in their daily lives, the camp is asking the kids to use it to participate in the experience.

This was solidified for me on Sunday night, when I had the opportunity to hang out with some teenagers. Rather than have conversations with one another, they would text each other. This blew me away. Rather than have a verbal conversation with someone sitting 10 feet away, the kids would text each other. Could it be that the topic of conversation was inappropriate? Potentially. But, from what I could gather, it was pretty much small talk.

There is a part of me that is concerned about the abundant use of technology for communication. Could it be that the more we use technology for communication the less we’ll be able to engage verbal conversations?

I’m excited to see how all of this plays out…at camp and in our world.

A Pure Heart

During his earthly ministry, Jesus often saved his harshest words for the religious folks. One day, to the Pharisees and teachers of the law, Jesus quoted a passage of Scripture from Isaiah and revealed that it was about them. The passage says:

“These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.” (Matthew 15:8-9)

When I read these words, I am reminded of my need for a pure heart. I am also reminded of my need for true worship. And, I am reminded that my teachings should be more than legalistic rules.

Too often, we read of those in ministry who honor God with their words, but their main desire is to attract financial security and fame. Their hearts desire is their own success, rather than spreading this great story. It’s easy to get caught up in this once you begin to receive the praises of others.

Too often, we read of churches whose worship is nothing more than cheap entertainment. The thought process in the design of a worship service focuses more on what will be cool or unique, rather than what will most effectively communicate the Gospel and help one experience the presence of God. Now, I totally understand that often times the cool, unique stuff does a wonderful job of translating the message in a culturally relevant manner. However, I have seen too many worship services where the methodology trumps the message, rather than the message shaping the methodology.

And, how often do we take complex, holy mysteries and reduce them into three rules for sacred living? How often do we take a teaching of Jesus and turn it into five steps for a happy life? How often do we think of a really great catch phrase or a powerful point that we want to make and then rush to find a passage of Scripture that supports our agenda, rather than letting the Scripture shape our agenda?

How often do we simply go through the religious motions of being a Christian? How often do we simply “play” church? Has anyone else grown tired of the show?

A pure heart and true worship is my desire today. It is my desire that my words and my heart will be in one accord. It is my desire that my worship will be in spirit and in truth. It is my desire to cut away all of the things that distract and simply move into a place where I will be in a position to experience all that God has in store for me today.

 

Gran Torino

This evening, Emily and I went to see Gran Torino with some friends.

To put it simply, this movie is incredible. It’s smart, funny, moving, passionate…It’s a film that inspires and challenges you. It makes you laugh at times and at others it brings you to tears (though, I’m a man so I refrained from shedding any tears).

I had heard some complaints going into the film that Eastwood growled too much throughout the film. Well, first…it totally fits the character he plays. Secondly, it’s pretty much classic Clint Eastwood. Finally, Eastwood gave an incredible performance…definitely deserving of some prestigious awards (though snubbed by some).

I don’t want to be one of those jerks that gives away the whole film. So, again, I’ll simply tell you to go see this film.

For those who are easily offended by course language…you have been warned.

Above Reproach

One of this mornings Star Press headlines is greatly disappointing and sickening. It’s the story of a pastor being arrested, after a lengthy investigation, for inappropriate relationships with young boys in his congregation.

This is one of those headlines that does a lot of damage to the Church. Instead of hearing about all the wonderful things Christian churches are doing all over the world, we are told the deeply troubling story of a pastor that allegedly used his position for extremely troubling acts.

Whether or not he is found guilty, this will leave a scar on the Church. People who already have a sense of distrust towards the Church will not have much confidence in the Church after reading this story.

Unfortunately, these things happen way too often. And, it’s not always some kind of sexual sin that does the damage. The real issue is when pastors and leaders in the church use their positions of authority to feed their egos and sinful desires.

And, now, the Church is put in an awkward position. How do we respond to something like this?

Of course the victims need to be provided with counseling, surrounded in prayer, and supported as they process the events that have taken place.

But, what about the pastor? I believe in justice. I believe in discipline. I believe that, if he is found guilty of these charges, he needs to face the penalties that a court of law imposes on him. I believe that, if he is found guilty, he has done things that disqualify him from leading a congregation. Yet, I also believe this man needs counseling. I also believe this man needs prayer. I believe that healing can take place in his life. And, that’s difficult to type…because right now I’m angry about this…the damage truly goes beyond one local congregation.

Paul is quite clear about the requirements and expectations of Christian leaders. We are to be above reproach. While the tasks sounds unattainable…it is what we strive towards. John Wesley urged all to strive towards perfection. While perfection may be impossible to grasp in this world, it is our goal.

In 1 Timothy 3, Paul writes about the expectations of Christian leaders. I love the way the Message puts it:

If anyone wants to provide leadership in the church, good! But there are preconditions: A leader must be well-thought-of, committed to his wife, cool and collected, accessible, and hospitable. He must know what he’s talking about, not be overfond of wine, not pushy but gentle, not thin-skinned, not money-hungry. He must handle his own affairs well, attentive to his own children and having their respect. For if someone is unable to handle his own affairs, how can he take care of God’s church? He must not be a new believer, lest the position go to his head and the Devil trip him up. Outsiders must think well of him, or else the Devil will figure out a way to lure him into his trap. (1 Timothy 3:1-7)

I believe these events should remind Christian leaders of the expectations set before us by Scripture. I believe these events should challenge us to strive towards perfection.

These events should also remind us that we are not perfect. While it is easy to “t-off” at someone who is on the front-page of the local paper, we need to be wise…we need to be careful. We need to take steps to protect ourselves. A pastor really should not even put him/herself in a position where these kinds ofaccusations can be made.

So, this morning, I am reminded of what is expected of me. And, while I do stumble and fall, I’m daily striving to live up to the call.