Yep, I’m Judging You

This weekend, I found myself going overboard on the whole “judging others” thing…

While attending a class at MTSO, I began to have ideas for blog posts based on types of pastors. And, that’s where the judging began…

There would be a post titled “The Creepy Pastor”. This post would have been based on a man that I do not know. I have only seen him and observed some of his actions. Based on his appearance and his actions, I have made a snap judgment and labeled him as “creepy.”

Following “The Creepy Pastor” would have been a post on “The Lazy Pastor”. This post would have been based on a whole group of pastors who prefer to get in their cars and drive to the dining hall, rather than walking across the street and up the sidewalk. I don’t know anything about the physical health of these pastors. So, my judgment was just based on observing them driving from one building to the next building over. Yes, there is a hill that could be physically demanding for some. But, in my labeling these folks as “lazy”, I was making an uninformed judgment.

The next post would have been, “The Boastful Prosperity Pastor”. Now, some may think that this would focus on the types of pastors who brag about how “big” their churches are…how “big” their budget is…how “cool” their ministry is…and so on. But, nope, that’s not the case here. This post was going to be about this one pastor who draws attention to himself through his vehicle. He has a “UM Clergy” plate on the front and a “Pastor 1” license plate on the back. And, I guess business as a UM Clergy in the state of Michigan is “good”, as the plates are on a very expensive, very new SUV. Now, I don’t really know they guy driving this particular vehicle. All of my judgments are simply based on license plates and the make and model of his vehicle.

At first, I tried to justify my judgments. I convinced myself that it’s okay to make these judgments because our first impressions are usually fairly accurate. I mean, if I get the vibe that some dude is creepy, the dude is probably creepy. If I get the impression that someone is lazy, that person is probably lazy. If I feel like a pastor is all about prosperity, then that’s probably an accurate assessment.

And, I tried…all weekend…to justify these judgments. However, as I sit here this afternoon, I find myself realizing I’m the judgmental jerk who didn’t give any of these folks a chance. Sure, my assessment of each person might be totally right. But, does that matter?

Maybe those folks I’m judging are thinking, “Man, that guy is one judgmental jerk who thinks he’s better than us.” And, they would have been right.

I’d like to judge people less. It will be a challenge because my natural tendency is to write someone off before I even give them a chance. 

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.” ~Matthew 7:1-2

What Model of Church Should We Save?

While checking out the Twitter feed for the United Methodist Church General Conference session, I read a tweet that posed the question, “What model of church should we save?”

With only 140 characters to use, the question did not provide any more depth than that…

However, I found myself asking the questions, “Doesn’t the idea of picking a ‘model of church’ to save sort of miss the point?”

Too often, we reduce the Church down to a style of worship, a form of theology, a system of organization…and we miss the point.

Church isn’t really about any particular “model” other than the Way of Jesus. And, it’s my considered opinion that the Church hasn’t had a great track record of following the Way of Jesus as we wrestle with worship styles, theological debates, and organizational structures. We allow these things to interfere with and sidetrack us from following the Way. 

Too many “church folks” spend too much time debating which theology is “right”, which “style” of worship is superior, which “system” is better, and numerous non-essentials that they forget what the Way of Jesus looks like. 

We allow our diversity of theological perspectives to divide us…rather than celebrating that people can have unique views on a variety of topics and still be on the journey with God…with the same goal of bringing about a Kingdom reality on earth as it is in heaven. 

Shouldn’t we celebrate the fact that you and I can disagree on non-essentials, but still be following the Way of Jesus? 

Hasn’t the Church spent enough time trying to convince people that you have to believe everything exactly the same way?

Years ago, I was in a room with Doug Pagitt as he challenged us to share our dreams for the Church. As I read questions about “what model of the church should we save”, I find myself dreaming for the Church once again…

I dream of a Church where we unite to celebrate our diversity.

I dream of a Church where questions are not only “okay”, but are encouraged.

I dream of a Church where people are encouraged to think.

I dream of a Church where the hungry are fed.

I dream of a Church where the naked are clothed.

I dream of a Church where the sick and imprisoned are visited and cared for.

I dream of a Church where the enemy is truly loved.

I dream of a Church that turns the other cheek.

I dream of a Church that understands the Way of Jesus in not simple or easy.

I dream of a Church that embraces peace.

I dream of a Church that embodies love.

I dream of a Church that truly has “open hearts, open minds, and open doors.”

I dream of a Church that does not discriminate based on race, sexuality, or socio-economic issues.

I dream of a Church that is inclusive, rather than exclusive.

I dream of a Church that takes the Way of Jesus seriously.

I dream of a church that demonstrates the Way of Jesus.

I dream of a Church that works for justice in our communities and in our world.

I dream of a Church that cares for the “least of these.”

I dream of a Church that cares for the orphan and the widow.

I dream of a Church that is known for its fruit, rather than its scandals.

What dreams do you have for the Church?



Reading vs. Reading

I guess you can officially call me “old-fashioned.” 

This year, as Samantha has been experiencing her first year of public education, I have found myself being somewhat resistant to certain aspects of her educational journey.

Mainly, my resistance has been focused on the apparent lack of child protection procedures at her school. Emily and I have made a commitment to be present for any field trips because we have learned that the school corporation does not require parent chaperones to have a background check. I am absolutely shocked that the school does not require background checks on every single person that enters the building and comes into contact with the children…in any capacity. Let’s be honest, in today’s world, there is no excuse for NOT taking all precautions to protecting our children. We’ve all seen too many headlines involving adults taking advantage of children in educational settings. But, that’s another post. 

The focus of this post is reading. And, this is where the “old-fashioned” part comes in. 


In order to promote reading, the school has utilized an online reading program. Students are encouraged to get online, login to their account, listen to and read several books. As they listen and read, they are rewarded with points and advance higher levels of achievement. At school, they get to move their name up various charts. And, at the end of the school year, they can get a special certificate and a trophy during a special end of the year program if they make it through the program.

Now, I’m all for online reading. I read numerous online papers and magazines. I’m a big fan on e-readers. I write blogs that I hope others will read. So, yes, I’m a supporter of online reading.

Yet, there’s just something that I struggle to embrace about asking my 5 year old to sit down in front of a computer for lengthy periods of time in order to improve her reading skills.

I mean, if she sits in front of the computer reading she is still, in fact, reading. And, it allows me to be lazy because I really wouldn’t have to sit, listen, and provide assistance. But, it just feels odd. 

And, I’m not saying that I think it is “wrong” for other parents to utilize this program. I’m just saying that it is strange to me. Honestly, I feel like this is just a tool the schools are utilizing to help students while enabling parents to slack on some of the responsibilities of being parents (you know, like spending time with your child and being involved in their education…yes, I know that sounds judgmental…because it is). 

Instead, I would prefer to invite Samantha to sit next to me with a pile of books as we read together. She reads while I listen and offer help when appropriate (something the online program can’t really do).

And so, that’s what we do. We’ve logged on a couple of times and worked through a couple of levels. But, it just seems weird. I mean, I’ve read numerous articles that say children spend too much time online, playing video games, and watching TV. And, now, the schools are encouraging students to develop reading skills by playing an educational, online reading game.

So, instead, we make sure that we read with Samantha every day. And, she’s doing a great job with her reading. According to the standards, she is ahead of schedule with her reading (and writing…and arithmetic…what can I say, she’s a smart cookie). Yet, she won’t be one of the trophy winners at the end of the year. 

Maybe that makes me a bad parent…maybe not. 

And, then, there is another issue…Not every student has access to a computer at home. Sure, we could be heartless and say “Well, maybe their parents should just get them to the library” or “well, maybe if their parents got a decent job they could afford a computer and internet access” or “maybe the parents should spend less on ______ in order to get a computer and internet access.” So, the very nature of the program discriminates against some students. 

Thankfully, the program does not impact the students grades. Not participating in the program simply means some students won’t have their names read while being presented with a certificate and trophy. And, you know what? We might think that’s trivial. But, some students will be upset…even broken-hearted when they don’t receive that trophy. 

Success at the Expense of Integrity

Warning: This will most likely be an incoherent rant…

Is one truly a success when he has compromised his integrity?

Some would say, “Of course not! A persons integrity is what truly matters.”

Others would argue, “Of course! A success is a person who wins, no matter the cost. Life is all about the survival of the fittest. You do whatever it takes.”

Over the last 24-hours, in light of the whole scandal surrounding the Baylor basketball program, I have been doing a lot of thinking on success and integrity.

It seems that in our world, especially in the arenas of athletics and business, we have become so captivated with winning…with success, that we have become desensitized to the idea of integrity.

We learn of NFL teams placing “hits” on their opponents (let’s be honest, we all know the Saints aren’t the only ones out there doing this…they were simply the ones who were caught). We learn of business people who fudge numbers, steal formulas, and even create false accusations against competing businesses in order to succeed. We learn of basketball programs who knowingly violate rules.

Some may say, “Come on, we’re talking about phone calls.”

Yes, we are talking about phone calls…1200 calls and text messages that were in violation of the NCAA rules. These are rules the coaches and staff would have been well aware of. Win at all cost, right?

But, in the end, those calls and text messages helped land some big-time recruits that have turned the men’s and women’s basketball programs around…leading to an undefeated season and national championship for the women. Win at all cost, right?

For me, the issue is amplified when we remember that Baylor University is a “private Baptist University.” This is a university where, according to their website, “students are part of a Christian community of faith.”  Shouldn’t this university be operating above reproach? Win at all cost, right?

1200 phone calls and text messages over a 29-month period? Certainly members of the administration were aware of this activity. I mean, this isn’t one of those instances where it happened a few times and a coach could say, “I guess I just forgot what day it was.” This was an intentional action of violating a rule. Win at all cost, right?

Unfortunately, the achievement of success at the expense of integrity is not limited to the world of sports and business. A lack of integrity can be found in the world of higher education, in churches, in non-profit organizations, etc. And, this lack of integrity is often justified when the results are positive. Win at all cost, right?

So, a university boosts their test scores in order to receive a higher ranking. It results in more students attending at a higher tuition. Therefore, it’s okay! Win at all cost, right?

A church covers up a scandal involving a pastor because he is really good at preaching, has a “likable” personality, and really gets people excited about coming to church. News of the scandal would almost “ruin” the church. Therefore, it’s okay! Win at all cost, right?

A church pays for helicopters to drop candy, flies a plane over in order to feature a skydiving Easter bunny, and across the street a family is struggling to figure out where their next meal will come from. But, that stuff really brings in families and just might expose them to the Gospel. Therefore, it’s okay! Win at all cost, right?

The CEO of a non-profit takes a little “extra” and uses the company accounts to pay for lavish vacations, private jets, and a $60,000 SUV. But, the organization did some great work. Therefore, it’s okay! Win at all cost, right?

And, then, I look at myself. Have there been times when I’ve chosen success over integrity? Certainly. I’m not innocent in all of this. And, let’s be honest, my beloved Ball State University has had its fair share of scandals and violations.

Looking at the Baylor case simply reminds me that the best success is when ones integrity is still intact.

The truth of the matter is that it’s NOT okay. We don’t have to give up our integrity to succeed. A person can be successful and full of integrity. It might be more difficult to be successful when we are unwilling to compromise…when we refuse to take the easy road, to lie, steal, cheat, and destroy. But, it can be done. Win at all cost? I’m not so sure about that…

“Observe those who have integrity and watch those whose heart is right because the future belongs to persons of peace.” Psalm 37:37

“Integrity guides the virtuous, but dishonesty ruins the treacherous.” Proverbs 11:3

“Offer yourself as a role model of good actions. Show integrity, seriousness, and a sound message that is above criticism when you teach, so that any opponent will be ashamed because they won’t find anything bad to say about us.” Titus 2:7-8