Posted tagged ‘reflecting Christ’

That Judgmental Evangelical Church!

March 4, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     March 4, 2019

                      

Carol and I sat back and watched an episode of Criminal Minds last night. We can’t keep up with all the recorded episodes we have on our DVR, thus the episode we watched was from last October.

Without going into the plot too much, a woman is killed and the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) team is sent to investigate. In looking at the way the woman has been murdered, investigating who her friends are, and her routines, they summarize that there is some connection between what has happened and the church she attends.

That’s when the term “evangelical” gets used! She was involved in an EVANGELICAL church. The way it’s said you could almost put in parentheses after it “You know…one of those!” as the person turned to the side and spat!

The next scene has the team interviewing the pastor. His character comes off as self-righteous and judgmental. Envision a pastor with a whip! The viewer immediately does not like him and, after all, he’s the pastor of one of those EVANGELICAL churches! You are given the impression that “fun” is a four letter word for him.

Several other indicators are that he and his church are narrow-minded, critical, ready to shun sinners, and legalistic. They probably don’t even drink root beer!

Such is the general public’s, or at least those in the entertainment world, view of evangelicals! I wouldn’t have been as bothered by the episode if they would have just said “church”, but those who produce the show probably don’t understand what evangelical means.

The term “evangelical” comes from the Greek word “euangelion”, meaning “the good news” or the “gospel.” Thus, an evangelical church focuses on the GOOD NEWS of Jesus Christ.

That good news includes the grace of God, forgiveness, love, acceptance, hope, and peace. 

Some evangelicals, rightfully so, have made a mess of evangelicalism! They’ve reversed the mirror of Jesus. Instead of people seeing the image of Christ in his church they see a bunch of people who seem to have been sucking on lemons too long! I’ll be honest! There are a number of people in churches I’ve served who are about as pleasant as hemorrhoids!

It should not be! “Good News” has become religious rhetoric, and grace has been replaced with guilt. 

One of my closest friends in ministry, Rev. Tom Bayes, recently urged me to write a book about “church stuff”. Tom and I, along with our other clergy friend, Rev. Chuck Moore, spent years serving churches in the Lansing, Michigan area and sharing stories over lunches. There was a lot of laughter in the midst of our burger-munching. I think I’ll take him up on his request. The book, however, will revolve around a pastor who laughs, jokes around with the people of his congregation, enjoys life, and exhibits the Joy of life. AND he will be a pastor who firmly holds to the belief that Jesus is “Good News”!

Maybe I’ll even make him…you know…one of those Baptist pastors!

Christian Tutorials

January 4, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                 January 4, 2018

                 

Recently my son-in-law’s Audi wouldn’t start. One day it had, the next day it didn’t! My daughter lugged the battery to NAPA and got a new one. The new battery, however, didn’t fix the problem. So my son-in-law went online and watched YouTube video tutorials that explained how to fix this problem, and then that problem. Armed with this knowledge and his tools he attacked the stationary vehicle once again.

Finally, the tow truck was called and it was towed to the mechanic where a thousand dollars later hopefully it will be fixed.

Some of that story resonates with me when I think of living the Christian life. Let me explain! Yesterday I was walking amongst the book aisles of Mardel’s, the Christian book store a few miles from our house. One of the long bookshelves was occupied with the best-selling books of the Christian faith this past year. I browsed, picked up a couple for clarification on what they were about, and then went on.

What was revealing to me was the fact that most of the books were written to answer questions, like how to pray or how to be a woman of God or a man of God? They were an assortment of self-help guides as to how to live the Christian life. They were about process and executing a plan. I walked away saying how nice it is to have tutorials for living the Christian life, and yet being a bit uneasy about it as well.

The Christian life is a journey, an ongoing relationship with the Holy. Our tendency as flawed beings is to try to figure out how to successfully live out that journey. The rub, however, is that it isn’t about succeeding. It’s about being.

If I’m focused so much on how to walk with God I will barely experience the walking with God. Like an educated adult, if I’m YouTubing how to pray with power I will detour around the childlike words of a simple faith.

Like my son-in-law’s quest to be an at-home Audi mechanic, sometimes as followers of Jesus we must simply surrender to the fact that we can’t do this on our own; that we won’t be able to figure everything out, establish a fail proof plan for reaching the mountaintop with God, and trust the Maker. There is simply not a way for us, as they say, “to be all that” when we acknowledge that the grace of God is intimately mingled into our existence. It’s difficult to calculate where I am on the journey when I forget where God is on the same journey.

Psalm 46:10 tells us to “be still, and know that I am God.” For many believers there is an immediate jump to “how do I be still?” But you see, it isn’t about us! It’s about us being still and letting God be who he is. It’s realizing that I’m in the passenger seat and the one who knows all and is all is driving the direction of my life.

Being Mistaken For God

October 31, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            October 30, 2014

                                    

This year I’m teaching the three and four year old’s Sunday School class. It’s not often that the pastor teaches a class like that, but I’m enjoying it. Some would say that I’ve finally found some people that I can relate to! Each Sunday a mixture of excited and apprehensive kids enter the classroom. One of them, a little boy, who just turned three, named Ben, usually has his cowboy boots on as he arrives at “Sonshne Club.”

Ben has not reached that age where his speech is clear, as is also the case for a couple of the other kids in the class…but he’s not afraid to speak!

Last night he came bopping into the church gym with his mom and little sister and said a few words to me that I couldn’t make out. It was at that point that his mom told me that he was saying hello, but he refers to me as “God!”

He thinks I’m God! I’ve been called a few other names in my lifetime, but I think this is the first time I’ve been mistakenly named God. It’s a big responsibility to carry! I’ve known some people who act like they are God, but not too many who get named God. I’ve always been “Billy” or “Billy Dean.” Back in high school I was nicknamed “Beowulf”, which got shortened to “Beo.” Bill Wolfe sounds remarkably like Beowulf, especially if your sophomore English class is reading the story at the time.

But back to God…in one three year old cowboy-booted boy’s eyes I’m God. I’m sure that won’t last for long, and someday soon I’ll be renamed Pastor Bill, but for now I’m the Man with a Plan, the Head Honcho, the Almighty and Up-righty!

On the positive side, when someone thinks your God it makes you step back a bit and think about what you’re doing and what you’re saying. If Ben continues to seek God he will remember whether or not I was a godly reflection.

After all, each follower of Jesus is a reflection of Christ. Sometimes the reflection is tainted and confusing, and sometimes it’s a Christ-honoring picture.

This Sunday when Ben comes strolling into class looking like a Pony Express rider and calling me God I’ll tell him he’s blessed and that God loves him. He will probably respond with a few words that I may not be able to decipher, so I’ll smile, give him a high-five,  and tell him it’s good to have him in God’s class!

Amen!