My Latest Church Spanking

I shared the message below in the comments under the post to which it reacted a few days ago.  For two days after publishing the post it, I got some unusually pleasant feedback – people reflecting how upbeat and inspirational they found it (my words, not theirs).  But then I got a blistering reaction to it via email from one of my shepherds at church who viewed it as “damaging” (his word (and apparently he hates me giving feedback using his words)) because I sent a copy of it to church friends from my Seeking Shalom class and from the small group that meets at my house – and particularly because one of the members of that small group is a woman recovering from addiction.  The point being, he thinks she is too vulnerable to handle it, and since she is the lamb under his watch, he treated me as a wolf he needs to protect her from.

Edited only to hide the identities of those referred to therein, here is that email note:

 

[Agent X],

Once again you have demonstrated just how insensitive and harmful your rhetoric can be.  For some reason you decided to include [Agent J] in this note, without asking, caring or knowing where her walk with God is at this moment and once again you have damaged someone.  This time, someone who is vulnerable and fragile.

If you ever hoped to persuade me or the other elders to hear your voice, let me now make this clear and distinct…

Your voice has no volume.  You may scream at the top of your voice, but it will not be heard.

Oh, I know you will send back a parsed rebuttal of phrases I have used.  You will expand on a single word or phrase in hopes of convincing me and others of your pure motive, but it is now clear that you wish to “party” and that you will “turn over tables” to get the chance to party at the expense of anyone who objects.  That will not happen.  Lest there is any misunderstanding let me repeat, that will not happen.  Your motives are clear and they are not pure.

In the future, if you wish to send further notes of this type, feel free to send them to me, [Agent B] and [Agent A], but do not send them to [Agent K], [Agent P], [Agent J] or anyone else in small group.

Now if you will excuse me, I have work to do to repair the damage you just caused.

[Agent G]

 

After reading that, let me ask: Do you feel the love?

My question is important because for months now, this shepherd, representing the others, has been leveling accusations against me starting with how “unloving” I was when I confronted the garbage my church was teaching via the Seeking Shalom class put out by the Lupton Center.

Yeah… They called me “unloving”.

I will freely grant that I was tactful and direct, that I dispensed with any pleasantries that denial might hide behind, but I assure you I said NOTHING so scathing as this note.

Nevertheless, here is the irony:  I spoke up defending the poor homeless people sleeping on the streets of Lubbock in freezing temperatures on those same cold winter nights when we were holding that lame class.  The insensitive rhetoric of that whole class that ENABLES a church to deny entrance of “the least of these” (Jesus) was exactly the point of my confrontation!  If it seemed “unloving”, I would expect someone penning THIS confrontation to appreciate it.

I am not insensitive to the possible ‘damage’ my words might have on a vulnerable person.  I trust this shepherd will, with the help of the Holy Spirit, tend to this vulnerable lamb in his care and not write her off blaming me as a convenient excuse for the ineffectiveness he might have.  And I note, after 20 years experience taking ministry to addicts in various stages of recovery (or not) how many of them don’t, in the end, beat the addiction!  That can be a little tough to take as a caregiver.  But then I had 3 years experience before all that serving Hospice patients!  And I will let you guess how many of them we “saved”!

(Actually, I think my work in Hospice really helps me to handle the sense of futility that causes so many caregivers to burn out in other fields.  Thus I am not terribly upset with the “failures” of ministry to prisoners, addicts, and child-abusers.  I don’t get all “outcome” or “effectiveness” oriented and hang all my value on that.  Rather, I find value in serving Jesus whose image I find in these folx like finding a diamond in the rough, and if serving Jesus the way he calls me to produces that next order of repentance and fruitfulness (which sometimes it does!), then it’s all that much better.  But when I don’t get to be the one raking in the harvest, I just recall what St. Paul says about one planting, another watering, and another gathering the harvest, but God is responsible for the increase!  And therefore that part I should trust in God’s hands, not mine.)

I just wanted to get all that out there.

It turns out, the post that caused all this fuss is one of the most visited posts on this blog with (I think) the most comments and conversation this blog ever generated.  It’s getting a LOT of traction.  And I don’t know who all is looking, but I would not be at all surprised if some of the lookers aren’t voyeurs from my church!  (Hi, guys!)

But of course, IF that is the case, it’s pretty clear, based on the insensitive/unloving rhetoric in which the message of this email is sent, that our conflict goes a LOT deeper than even I was appreciating.

Hmmm…

And this is not the first Spiritual Spanking I have gotten from my church friends in this town.  In fact, when the Premier Homeless Pseudo Church (not its real name) kicked me out, they sent me a private note outlining my crimes and banishment and then read (I think the same note) a letter aloud to the assembly outlining my crimes and banishment!  (I think they failed to tell those homeless people gathered there that day, that I had confronted them about kicking everyone out to the winter cold nights and how they refused ANY compromise to my confrontation… but….)

So here we are several days later, and I am still reflecting on all this.  And the thing is… I expect more sanctions.  I am not a betting man, but Jesus suffered more sanctions when he confronted the religious elites at the house of God.  He then warned his followers they should expect no less for following him.  So, yeah.  I expect more.  And of course more of this (or more to the point – more THAN this) will be pretty stinkin’ ugly.

Unless, of course, leadership wants to repent and turn to Jesus…

(Hey, one can hope!)

Point being… here we go…  Those of you who read here and care… please keep our church in prayer.  There is nothing I would LOVE more than for the church of Lubbock to throw open the door to Jesus!

“Behold!  I stand at the door and knock.  If you open up, I will come in and party with you…” – Jesus

(Rev. 3:20)

 

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4 comments

  1. I continue to believe what is going on is shameful.

    Consider this from James 2:1-13!

    “My dear friends, don’t let public opinion influence how you live out our glorious, Messiah-originated faith. If a man enters your church wearing an expensive suit, and a street person wearing rags comes in right after him, and you say to the man in the suit, “Sit here, sir; this is the best seat in the house!” and either ignore the street person or say, “Better sit here in the back row,” haven’t you segregated God’s children and proved that you are judges who can’t be trusted?

    “Listen, dear friends. Isn’t it clear by now that God operates quite differently? He chose the world’s down-and-out as the kingdom’s first citizens, with full rights and privileges. This kingdom is promised to anyone who loves God. And here you are abusing these same citizens! Isn’t it the high and mighty who exploit you, who use the courts to rob you blind? Aren’t they the ones who scorn the new name—“Christian”—used in your baptisms?

    “You do well when you complete the Royal Rule of the Scriptures: “Love others as you love yourself.” But if you play up to these so-called important people, you go against the Rule and stand convicted by it. You can’t pick and choose in these things, specializing in keeping one or two things in God’s law and ignoring others. The same God who said, “Don’t commit adultery,” also said, “Don’t murder.” If you don’t commit adultery but go ahead and murder, do you think your non-adultery will cancel out your murder? No, you’re a murderer, period.

    “Talk and act like a person expecting to be judged by the Rule that sets us free. For if you refuse to act kindly, you can hardly expect to be treated kindly. Kind mercy wins over harsh judgment every time.”

    ______________

    I am praying. Be blessed Oh mighty prophet. God is with you.

    Like

  2. Agent X · July 6

    Anonymous comment says:

    By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, by their love ~ one for another. John 13
    Seems to me love for one another hasn’t been a priority ~ either way!

    Like

    • Agent X · July 7

      Love must not have been a priority for St. Paul when he wished his opponents would cut off their penises, and he probably didn’t bear the fruit of the Spirit when he said, “You stupid Galatians!”. Jesus probably didn’t make love a priority when he called religious leaders hypocrites and said Isaiah rightly prophesied against them, when he called them snakes, and white washed tombs, and other things as well. I wonder how the Syropheonician woman felt when the Lord effectively called her a dog – a racial slur no less. And just how MEEK and humble and LOVING was he when he flipped tables in the temple, or when he preached parables against its leaders? Were the crowds watching there FEELING the love and knowing his disciples? Lets not forget John the Baptist lost his head over confronting the king!

      For that matter… I love my wife, and we argue too. I love my dad, and sometimes we get into some tough arguments. It’s my practice to avoid calling people names (like snake, dog, or hypocrite) when confronting, to avoid cussing them with enflamed escalating foul talk (I have failed at that sometimes, but it really is not my practice) and conversely, I stick to the merits of the argument to maintain respect for those I LOVE when I argue with them. (Even Jesus didn’t do that.)

      When it comes to my church and the fights I find myself in against it, I often recall young David, anointed to be King, confronting that other king and even taking a bit of his clothing, but refusing to kill him because he also was the Lords anointed.

      I think we need to consider more depth and breadth of what love is all about. Of how you can tell the disciples by it.

      I recall a night on the streets when our little heavenly delegation held a worship service and stopped a murder. From the dark shadows the would-be murderer shouted out to us, “Are you the REAL Christians???” He was feeling desperate, we soon found out. But when he asked that question loudly in the middle of the night where the whole street and all the nearby apartments could have heard him, and after a pregnant pause, he answered himself saying, “You must be. No one else would come out here like this.”

      I think he knew us by our love – after a fashion.

      I wish my town knew my church as “real Christians”, not by the sign our front – that’s not the real indicator, it’s just a clue actually. But if our church opened its door to the poor, and if the poor came to know us and trust us to open that door where they can take refuge, then they will know we are Christians as they walk past dozens of other churches all over town to get there, churches that could not, for whatever reason, love God and each other enough to worship together, but who split up into factions of every kind,. And not only them, but all the other churches, and all the Muslims, Buddhists, agnostics, atheists, taxpayers and Baptists would see our love and know it too.

      Yeah. I think we can think bigger, deeper, wider, and situate our context and that of Jesus differently, and that we should… as we consider our LOVE here.

      This shepherd claims I damaged his lamb. He has ulterior motives for saying that, but his accusation may be accurate. If it is such, then this is his love for her expressed in all this anger. If it is not then he is a hypocrite. Either way, he should be able to see that my confrontation for the class that he found so upsetting, a confrontation a lot more tame than his, is no less loving.

      And for that matter, I worshiped with this church for most of two years before I confronted it like this. I prayed for this church, with this church, and gently broached this subject numerous times with barely a nibble of interest over and over again. Talk about gentle… Hmmm…

      I camped outside this church with my step son and prayed about this stuff all night, but I did not confront anyone. But when they put on this class, I showed up to face it head on. And I addressed the issues they raised.

      That’s about the extent of the defense of my own actions I think I can put in this comment. But with it, I assure you, I made LOVE a priority.

      Like

  3. Agent X · July 7

    Anonymous comment responds:

    You’ve gone overboard to make my point…. that’s so sad. Family may disagree. No house divided….

    To which I answer:

    You’ve gone out of your way to dodge mine.

    Like

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