As Baptists, the autonomy of the local church has been something held in high honor for centuries. I affirm the reality of seeking God as a local church/gathering of Christ-followers. I believe in the denominational structure my tribe holds (the Southern Baptist Convention) that seems "upside-down" to those within hierarchical denominational structures.
The benefits of being interdependent (i.e. cooperative - we like that word better) far outweigh the isolationism some churches hold. It seems in the New Testament that Christ-followers in different churches felt an obligation and calling to pray and support other churches throughout the world. There was a Kingdom-mindedness that prevailed. It was a team effort featuring all true churches working to push back the darkness and fulfill Christ's call and commission. Autonomous? Yes. Interdependent? Yes.
That being said, within this concept of interdependence, cooperation, brotherhood, and biblical fellowship, we have a responsibility to hold up the standard of the Word of God in such as way that the calling of the Lord for His church may be fulfilled and His Kingdom expanded.
And that. . .is why this video clip frustrates me. Mainly because some in my community believe our church to be like this. This becomes just another barrier (and an unecessary one, at that) to reaching our world for Christ.
I have thought for a few days about this clip. I think I should preface you watching the clip with some points:
- I don't know the church presented here personally.
- I know it's a Baptist church, but not an SBC church. However, I know some SBC churches that behave much like this one as well as many non-SBC churches who are not like this.
- The church featured has been in the news, but I'm not posting based on other stories. . .just based upon the actions in this clip.
- I don't hate this church featured. . . at all.
- I don't hate the pastor featured. . .at all.
- I don't approve of the tactic of this speaker. . . at all.
- I'm sure the pastor speaking loves the Lord. I'm not questioning his devotion to Truth.
- The clip is going viral. It was sent to me by a church member (with no agenda, just another clip forwarded to a friend.) Therefore, I address it, because of the viral nature of YouTube and the fact the name of the church is very similar to the name of the one I pastor (though we are not in the same tribe, denomination or area of the country.)
Well, enough said. Watch the clip.
At first, as I watched it, I laughed. Every pastor has had someone in the congregation cause a disruption at some point. I've had teenagers talk, babies cry, strange guys walk down the aisle at the wrong times, men snore LOUDLY, etc. There are various ways to deal with disruption and this pastor's, well. . abrupt way just seemed. . .funny.
Then, it changed for me.
It was no longer funny.
I showed this to a few other trusted pastors and their responses were similar to mine. I was just checking. Perhaps I was overly senstive. Then, I realized it wasn't over-sensitivity, but offense and frustration.
After Tuesday's posting on Brand Expanders, I have had numerous conversations with church members and friends from other churches. These conversations have been healthy. There's a common theme of "You're right, but what do we do?" Well, we repent, as I said, and we change. We must cease living and functioning in such a way that dishonors Christ.
The actions of this pastor in an attempt to retrieve a proper decorum in the service were anything but God honoring. Unknowingly to him, this short clip may actually be pushing the Kingdom of God back.
Here's what concerns me regarding the clip. . .
- While the distraction in the service had to be dealt with, screaming at the individual caused the focus of the message to shift away from the Word of God. It became about the pastor.
- The fake, condescending smile is insulting and infantile.
- The phrase "Love you" and "Still love you" may have been sincere, but did not seem so.
- Legalism oozes from this scene.
- "Amens" and affirmations from the congregation gives the perception of hate. . .not love.
- "You need to be at the altar" comment may be true, but because he was talking during an illustration about cheese? I don't think so.
- Based on the numerous comments on YouTube under the clip, there is a theme that greatly bothers me, and this church and others like it (and perhaps even my own and others in my tribe at times) are to blame. It is the stereotypical negative perception of Baptists who are legalistic, holier than thou and known more for what they hate than Who they love. Unfortunately, I heard just this week of a couple of instances in my own church where church members asked guests to move "out of their seats" and to "not bring that coffee cup into the room." Then, I heard from a friend in the community that our church is known for that. What??? Seriously? We're still "that" church? AAAAUUUUGGGHHHH!!!!!!
- I know people who grew up in churches like this (by their own admission) and once adulthood hit, they left. They avoid church like the plague. Is it all the church's fault? No, the individual is responsible for his/her actions and reactions, but sometimes the church does more to push the Kingdom of God back than to move it forward.
- WWJD? I know, it's cliche, but I can't help but thinking "He wouldn't do that!"
- We have enough barriers with those far from God without creating new ones. Seriously!?!
I fully understand that by posting this, some will classify me as something I am not. This is a dangerous post, but you know, it's getting old.It's old when those who wear the name of Christ and attach the name "Baptist" to their fellowships have an obligation to the King and His Kingdom. (BTW - for those who still think I took "Baptist" out of our church name. . .get a clue. We are boldly stating that we are Christ-followers first! We are Baptists (Southern Baptists) by choice and our church's name still affirms that)
Who are we?
We are Christ's church made up of men, women and young people who have surrendered to His Lordship, seeking to grow as and make new disciples. We are Baptist as a celebration of new life expressed in the live illustration of new life through believer's baptism, as commanded by Christ. We are not about ourselves. We are simply the vehicle designed to bring glory to the Father. We are Christ-followers!
Oh, one other thing about the clip. What happened with J.L. and the cheese?