Recently, I saw a magazine cover featuring one of the more conservative “reality” TV stars with “Defending Our Faith” as the headline.
I’ll be honest, when I first saw it, I threw up in my mouth a little. Why? Because I’ve never really understood the whole “defend your faith” thing.
I mean, on a base level I get it. We should always “be prepared to give a reason for the hope you have.”
However, it is my considered opinion that there is a big difference between defending ones faith and simply explaining why you believe a certain way.
When I see headlines reading “defending our faith”, I always make a stereotypical judgment that the person holds beliefs that don’t really mesh well with the way of Jesus and therefore have to go out of their way to justify their particular beliefs. Generally, folks who feel the need to defend their faith do so because of their various “isms” and “phobias”.
I’m convinced that if we are truly following the way of Jesus, you know…loving God, loving neighbor, feeding the hungry, meeting the needs of the least/last/lost/poor among us…a defense of our faith would not be necessary. An explanation? Maybe. But, a defense? Probably not.
Maybe those who feel a need to “defend their faith” have simply lost focus. Maybe instead of focusing on what we stand for as followers of Jesus, they are consumed with what they stand against. Maybe instead of focusing energies on meeting the basic, essential needs of those in our community and world, they are focused on issues that are more political in nature. Maybe instead of realizing that they could be wrong, they are so convinced that they are “right” that they can’t imagine an alternative. Maybe they are unsure of being “right” and so they are aggressive in defending their faith as an attempt to convince themselves. Who knows?
All I know is that I’m more interested in living my faith than having to defend it.
Today’s entry is from Josh Cooper from The Bridge Community Church in Muncie, IN. Josh and I both have roots at Center Chapel United Methodist Church and the Delta High School. Josh began to stray from the path of righteousness when he decided to attend Taylor University. We should forgive him for this indiscretion…After all, he is Facebook friends with Bonzi Wells!
Nod. Smile. (Awkwardly) Say, “You really should… we’d love to have you.”
That is how most pastors respond to the well-intentioned but highly annoying statement of “I’ll come by and visit your church some time.” I bet I hear this once a week. And my response is always the same. Nod. Smile. (Awkwardly) Say, “You really should… we’d love to have you.”
It’s not that we don’t believe you. It’s just that we probably don’t believe you. We hear it too often from people we will never see at church. And the worst is when you run into people just a few times a year that have already told it to you multiple times and they keep repeating the same questions… “So where do you meet again? What times are your services?” as if not having those answers are what kept them from visiting.
Here is the thing you have to understand…. It’s OK that you won’t be visiting our church. Don’t get me wrong, we love visitors. New people typically bring an energy and great atmosphere to your Sunday morning, whether they are planning on staying long-term or just visiting. We really do want you at our church (specifically if you aren’t yet a part of a faith community). But our view of you (if we are worth anything at all as pastors) doesn’t change with you stopping by our church on a Sunday.
I get the sense some people feel obligated to make this statement to us. You aren’t.
I can still love, respect, and have a great time with you even if you don’t come visit my church. (In fact, I may respect you more if you simply don’t tell me you will be visiting). We are big boys and girls. Hopefully our self-worth is not tied up in church attendance or who belongs to our church. So you don’t need to say a word about visiting.
In fact, some are being sincere when they say this, and fully plan on coming…. they just never get around to it. So here is some advice. If you really do plan on visiting a church, just show up. Just stop by and (hopefully) enjoy it, connect with some people, worship God, learn something and then go find your pastor friend and give them a resounding “Great Sermon! You were awesome!” And if your pastor is anything like me, he will hear that statement, nod, smile, and (awkwardly) say “thank you.”
Josh has been the lead teacher of the Bridge since it’s launch in September, 2006. He served for six years as a youth pastor and three years on staff at Youth for Christ, all in his hometown of Muncie. Josh graduated from Taylor University in 2003 with a degree in Christian Education and Biblical Literature. Josh is married to his beautiful wife Jill and they are the proud parents of two Puggles: Reno and Vegas. In his free time, Josh enjoys most any sport and watching the NFL in unhealthy doses. (borrowed from The Bridge website)