The challenge in church today was to communicate the Gospel with someone who doesn't know Jesus Christ or share with someone who is falling away.
At the risk of sounding oogly (again), ummmm… how am I supposed to know who does and does not know Jesus Christ AND/OR someone who has fallen away? Prompting of the Spirit? Scripture? Prayer? The challenge called for us to be bold in our witness, but I read it and re-read it and re-read it again thinking: "I know how it feels when well-meaning church members (plural) tell me I have fallen away. And I know the pit of confusion when others support me in the direction they witness me heading towards."
Who's right? Who's the false teacher? There's a lot of that going around: naming false teachers because they don't treat Scripture with the same loyal faithfulness we do (or think we do).
Tough gig to follow.
David Kinnaman, author of unChristian and You Lost Me and top researcher at the Barna Group, notes a particularly large group of 20-30 somethings dwelling in North American culture — "exiles". We are a group of folks who are increasingly frustrated and disillusioned with traditional church forms, teachings and relational ties, and need to walk away. We aren't walking away from Jesus Christ, but rather the church that seems less like Christ and more like a building filled with talking heads.
Yet we receive criticism for seeking out Jesus Christ wherever he may be found. We are gently pulled aside, told we are 'falling away', and asked if we could be prayed over because people are truly concerned about the state of our souls.
It is very difficult for me to imagine a house of sanctuary for trafficked teenagers without the support and love of local churches. The network must be in place for spirituality and relationship both to grow and flourish. However, I find it just as difficult to imagine taking youth to churches where, after having been restored by Christ, they are told haven't been truly restored… or they are following false teachers… or they are going in the wrong direction… they are still headed for hell.
People mean well.
But when Joyce Meyers… Rob Bell… Peter Rollins… Rachel Held-Evans… Eugene Cho… (notice the lean of these teachers), but even the publicly proclaimed figurehead of the so-called neo-Calvinist movement, Dr.John Piper are all called false teachers, I'm sorry… but what more can we do? Who the hell ISN'T a false teacher!??!!?
There are many definitions of teachers, and I don't agree with any specific one — definition or teacher. When I discovered last week that Piper and Beth Moore together led a form of lectio divina at a conference, you could have knocked me over with a feather! I was pleasantly shocked and amazed!
But… then he called down the Emergent Movement in an article the next day and we returned to sitting at other sides of the table. Yes, yes, I know… I'm working on it. I'd hope he and I could sit down over a pint and discuss not only what we disagree about, but our common ground too. Believe me, it'll be harder for me to do that with Mark Driscoll (if we're going to name names). THAT reconciliation will be a miracle of God, knowing he's my brother in Christ and all. Ach! The desire to name false teachers is even in me.
So I've got teachers and leaders I really disagree with too.
But when it seems that every teacher alive, save for a meagre few, are accused as completely false, I cringe. You see, I understand that Scripture warns of false teachers. Yet my sense is becoming that we are labeling brothers and sisters in Christ as "false", when the better term should be "imperfect". When believers set the Bible up as the supreme authority for all teachers, well it sounds spiritual and humble on paper, but really?
I can't live up to Scripture on a daily basis, let alone teach it perfectly. Does this label me false?
I do not believe for a second that Joyce Meyers has the agenda to tear down the body of Christ. Is everything she says accurate or correct? No! We can't put the burden of perfection on her. Is everything Mark Driscoll says accurate or correct? No! (thank God) But he can't bear the burden of perfection either. I need to be reminded of this as much as anyone. Is everything Bell or Piper says true… Chan… Nouwen… Wright… Escobar… Bolz-Weber…??? (trying to find teachers, male and female, across the deeply wounded right/left spectrum here… I beg your patience, please) No, no, and NO!!!! Not everything they say is true because they are not perfect! Disagreement over doctrine does not a false teacher make! We need a better relational system of weeding out falseness, because what is happening right now is wrong.
When I eventually bring seeking youth to church who might have had super intimate moments with God, I need to be able to trust my fellow brothers and sisters that these kids won't be shot down with pious criticism. Right now (here's honesty) I don't know if I can do that. I can't even do that for myself.
And that's probably my own fear talking and not love.
So here's my boldness… it isn't called out out to people who don't know Christ. It's to brothers and sisters who already claim to know him and are naming teachers and leaders as false based on a narrow interpretation of the Bible. Is this within your right as a believer? Sure. If that's the way you sense the Spirit flowing, who am I to tell you to shut up?
But I will tell you the effect: judgment and confusion.
You do not sound wise, but condemning. We sound no longer like brothers and sisters to you, but objects of your righteous wrath. Are you aware of that? Do you know how badly the destruction has become?
Rob Bell believes in Christ as much as you or I do, believe it or not. He might not express it ways you or I agree with, but I'm not seeing his falseness. Is it that important to you that you warn the world of these evil people hell-bent on leading the people of God astray?
It's definitely one reason among many that exiles walk away. The tension of who's going to be accused next is brain-splintering.
I can't live up to your standards. Never could, although I have tried.
You call it Scriptural. I call it false accusation.
And after a time, the accusations sound too much like truth. Best to jump ship, clear head out water-walking, and find the Saviour out in the storm.
If this was too harsh, I'm sorry. But enough is enough. I'm already false in your books. Why should I stick around? Why should any of us?