Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Twelve Toxic Attitudes that Kill Churches

    I have witnessed ugliness in the church.  Both as a layperson and as a pastor, I have witnessed attitudes so unhealthy that they become toxic to the health of the church.  Most often these attitudes are limited to a handful of people, but occasionally these attitudes become a part of the church culture.  How much damage is done by these attitudes depends upon how many are present and how many people adopt them.   

Like any poison, the more there is, the sicker the patient is likely to become.

I want churches to be healthy. 

    My hope is that this list will spur a conversation within the church so that we can move toward health.

1)      We don’t want to be challenged – We don’t want to hear about how God is calling us to ministry, or to missions.  We don’t want to be told that we should pray more, or read the Bible, or study.  Challenging sermons tell us that we can do better, and that makes us feel like we aren’t good enough.

2)      We don’t want training – Whenever someone mentions training we know that they want us to do something new.  If we are trained, we will be expected to do more.  Asking us to get training means that you think we aren’t doing enough.  Honestly, we don’t want to do anything that we aren’t already doing.

3)      We don’t want to hear about “evangelism” or “outreach.”  - We’re all friends here, we’re comfortable with the way things are and we really don’t want to meet new people who might want to change things.  We don’t want to go door to door, or pass out tracts, or witness to our friends, family or coworkers.  We know what the Bible says we should do, but that would make us uncomfortable.
4)      We don’t want to change – Change makes us uncomfortable.  We don’t want to build anything, we don’t want to remodel the classrooms, or move to a bigger (or smaller) building.  We don’t even want to change the order of worship or try different music. 

5)      We don’t to be too “spiritual” - We don’t want to live differently, talk differently, act differently or memorize scripture.  We fit in the way we are and we don’t want our neighbors and friends to think that we’re “Jesus freaks” or zealots, or radicals or anything.

6)      We don’t want new technology – We don’t use the Internet so we don’t really care if the church uses a webpage, Facebook, Twitter, or any of that online stuff.  We don’t want flat screens or projectors in the sanctuary.  If it doesn’t benefit us, the pastor and staff don’t really need to waste their time on it.
7)      We don’t really want new members – We say that we want to grow because we know that we’re supposed to, but we don’t.  If new people come, they’ll have new ideas and want to do things differently.  We would love to have new people who are just like us, but we don’t really want anyone who is different because they might want to change things.

8)      We don’t really want to go deeper - We know that our pastor wants us to spend time in prayer, read the Bible and attend Sunday school or Bible study.  He calls this “going deeper” but we’re afraid that if we learn too much, God will ask us to change.

9)      We don’t want to feel bad about ourselves – We don’t want the pastor to talk about money, or giving (and certainly not tithing) because it sounds like we aren’t giving enough.  We don’t want to hear what the Bible says because we’re afraid that we won’t measure up.  We don’t want to hear about how rich we are, or how poor people live because we might be expected to do something to help.  In general, we don’t want to hear anything that might make us feel like we aren’t what God wants us to be, or that we could do better, because we don’t want to feel bad about ourselves.
10)   We expect the pastor and staff to do what we tell them – The pastor is not our leader, teacher or coach.  To us, the pastor is just another employee.  We don’t have to do what they ask, but we expect them to do exactly what we tell them to do, to preach what we tell them, and not to preach what we tell them. 

11)   Church growth is not our responsibility - We pay the pastor to do things like visitation, evangelism, and outreach so we don’t have to.  Growing the church is their job, not ours.

12)   We want a chaplain instead of a pastor - We want someone to tell us that we’re okay just the way we are.  We want someone who will tell us that we are good people.  We don’t want to take care of others; we want someone to take care of us.  We want someone who will be there when we’re sick, make us feel good on Sunday, pray over our covered dish dinners and, when the time comes, conduct our funerals and... close our church.

What do you think?

Have you seen these attitudes in your church?

Are there others that should be added to the list?


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Thursday, January 8, 2015

What is the Difference Between Islam and Terrorists?

In light of the murder of journalists in Paris this week, I came across this excellent article on understanding the relationship that radical Islam has to mainstream Islamic teaching (thanks to my friend Dr. Allen Bevere).  It is well written and extremely informative.  Before you form an opinion on radical juhadists you really need to read this.

Challenging Radical Islam

An explanation of Islam’s relation to terrorism and violence

by John A. Azumah

 January 2015

     The world is being subjected to horrific images of religious violence. The Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria records its beheadings. Boko Haram in Nigeria parades hundreds of kidnapped schoolgirls. Al-Shabaab in Somalia attacks a shopping mall in Nairobi. These barbaric acts can make us feel helpless, fearful, angry, and even guilty, because there seems to be little we can do to stop them. Meanwhile, commentators traipse from one television channel to the other, presenting their analyses. Some condemn IS and Boko Haram but assure viewers that their acts have nothing to do with true Islam. Others opine that IS and Boko Haram do represent Islam’s true face. Neither perspective is helpful. Both distort the nature of Islam and its relation to terrorism and violence.

     Evangelical views on Islam understandably hardened after 9/11. Ted Haggard, past president of the National Evangelical Association, said, “The Christian God encourages freedom, love, forgiveness, prosperity and health. The Muslim god appears to value...

(Click here to read the full text)

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