Way back in the Fall of 1976 I attended Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, IL. I only attended there for one school year, but because of my attendance at Moody I met two people that have had a huge impact on my life. One of the people I met is my wife. The connection to her and Moody is indirect and a bit too lengthy to delve into at this time, but it all came about because of my roommate. Maybe someday I will tell that story! The other person I met was my neighbor in the dorm. This guy immediately attracted me because of his kind and loving character; he seemed to me to be the closest representation of how I imagined Christ would treat people that I had ever met; the other thing I really loved about him was the way he always thought so deeply about things. Conversations with him were always stimulating and it seemed every time they ended I was left pondering something I had never thought of before. Over the years we pretty much lost contact. I visited him once in the late 1980’s, but that was about it. Then with the help of social media we reconnected a few years ago via Facebook. We have maintained contact since then, though we have not been able to physically visit one another because we are half a world apart. He just wrote me a beautiful and powerful email which really moved me. I asked him if I could share it with my loyal readership of millions 🙂 and he agreed. So here you have it:
I’m afraid I don’t hold much optimism for most of western evangelicalism. As you well know, leaders are to lead by serving. Once we replace this Christlike attribute for popularity the battle has been lost. Too often the least asked question is, what would Jesus do, or perhaps I should say, this is the least asked question by popular evangelical pastors. Perhaps the trait that is a good indicator or predictor of a servants heart is humility. Typically an authoritarian attitude accompanies the popularity of big name pastors. I’m not sure what occurs in ordination councils but I suspect the focus is predominantly on theology. Evangelicals are so focused on “right theology” that Christlike living may not even be part of the agenda. We’ve lost “you’ll know a tree by its fruit” and adopted “you’ll know a tree by its size, theological pedigree and how many people gather under its branches.” When Jesus answered Peter who said they left all to follow Jesus the reply was “in this life they would receive a hundred times more in houses and farms and family as well as persecutions.” I believe this is a reference to true community like in Acts. I don’t see big name pastors promoting real community because it detracts from their authority. You can’t very well have people asking questions and challenging authority if you plan to maintain your fiefdom. And it doesn’t bode well with their other big name peers. Evangelical pastors treat questions, diversity and shared authority as though it’s from the pit of hell. Consequently there is jealousy, fighting, contention, elitism, and arrogance between pastors and denominations. My goodness we have hundreds of evangelical denominations. Why hasn’t anyone risen up and said “for Gods sake, we’ve got to promote unity if we’re ever going to be an example to the nations” (John 17:21). But unity to big name pastors is counterintuitive. Tony Campolo said “to have a movement you don’t need a god but you do need a devil.” We are prone to rally around the battle cry of “stand against this evil” than we are to rally around “let’s fight to join our brethren in doing good.” Now I ask you, do you think God is more in the business of saying “grab your swords and destroy this evil with all the anger, violence and hatred you can muster” or “if your enemy strikes you turn the other cheek, give him your coat, pray for him, smile at him, lend a hand when he’s down, visit him in prison if he’s arrested and rejoice when positive good occurs.” I believe it’s tragic what’s happened to western evangelicalism my beloved friend. I believe the hope lies in those who are willing to buck the trend and endure the persecution they will receive for I am certain they will be maligned, attacked and branded as heretics by those who misunderstand the heart of the gospel. Gospel 101: God loves everyone equally and will never give up or stop His effort to save everyone. Step two; in redemption, reconciliation and renewal God wants His children to know who they are and what they are called into. Step three, integrated salvation means renunciation of worldly values including material excess, anger, racism, war mongering and hero worship to name a few. And it means we fully embrace John 17:21, the sermon on the mount and Matthew 25:31-46, to name a few that are sorely neglected. Step four: we willingly lay down our lives and join our Lord in expanding the kingdom by fully embracing the simple kingdom mission of “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Therefore we strive to bring peace and healing to the nations, equality to every man woman and child, an end to racism and sexism, and end to poverty, the same standard of justice to all, hospitality to strangers, rehabilitation to prisoners, and an end to raping the earth (to mention a few). This is the kingdom that brings healing to the nations, at least as much as is possible in this present age. We MUST stop promoting worldly values. If others only see mega preachers in all their glory no one will ever understand Christlikeness. I think the world has a legitimate argument for rejecting Christ when all they see are big name preachers promoting the same tired values and attitudes as their dictators, megalomaniacs, and despots. They see the wolves. Where are the shepherds laying down their lives?
God bless you friend.