One of the most frustrating things to me about the Christian community is the sheer amount of time we waste taking sniper shots at each other. We think we have the right, in the name of “protecting sound doctrine” or “defending the truth” to act in completely unloving and ungracious ways towards each other. We criticize, attack, demean, and even condemn each other over petty differences in our beliefs or practices. The cycle seems never ending: a Christian leader rises to popularity and begins making an impact on the community and then people start searching for mistakes, errors, so they can criticize them. I see this happen and even as a pastor I wonder why anyone would ever want to be a Christian when we treat our own people this way.
When I was training for ministry we were taught the 80-20 rule. This rule basically states that 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people. What I did not realize at the time was that a good portion of the other 80% of people spend their time trying to tear down the 20% who are actually doing something. Rob Bell was basically branded a heretic and all but crucified in public opinion after his book: Love Wins. Now I don’t agree with everything Bell says, the conclusion of his book, or with some theological positions he holds but heresy seems a bit harsh. Without defending all his theology I will say he did not deserve some of the hate filled criticism he received.
My case in point comes from pastor Mark Driscoll one of the best-known and most controversial preachers in a long time. Numerous articles have been posted and printed criticizing Driscoll and calling him a cult leader. This is a favored term of the critics who spend the majority of their lives acting more like the devil than like Jesus. Remember it is Satan who is a characterized by accusation. When we draw accusations against our brothers we are acting like the devil.
Now I am not defending or justifying everything Driscoll says or does. Does he takes things to far? Yes. Does he push boundaries more than they need pushing? Yes. He doesn’t seem to have any issue making a royal rear end of himself. On the other side of that coin, he has woken up the church, especially men. While he is not the first person I would call when I need encouragement and support I have to say, I respect him. Again this is not to say I agree with everything he says or does. I respect him not because he gets it all right but because he is not afraid to try. Most Christians I know are so afraid of making a mistake they don’t do anything. Pastors are too soft or too cowardly to call them out on it so they continue to live like leeches draining kingdom resources and offering nothing in return. Driscoll challenges people. He calls them out. He makes change.
Yes, sometimes he pushes too hard and his actions do not fairly reflect the love of Jesus but at least he is doing something. You know what, it’s working. Driscoll actually challenges men to be men, to treat women right, and to follow Jesus. If you want to call him a cult leader for that sign me up and give me some punch. Sure it seems ridiculous, even offensive to actually expect people to try and become more like the God they claim to believe in. He may not always be perfect in what he is doing so learn from his mistakes, but do something. Christopher Columbus discovered a country. He thought it was India, mistake, but in his trying he discovered what has become our home. Instead of tearing down those who are bold enough to sail across the world in search of something greater because they didn’t name it right perhaps you can learn to appreciate that they are paving a road. Driscoll is bold enough to make mistakes so you don’t have to. Men are responding to what he is doing. So are women. His ministry is effective, his message is clear. He is not perfect. But who among us is? The difference between Driscoll and his critics is that he actual does something that matters between his mistakes.
Does everyone agree with his discipline? No. Discipline is never really agreed upon anyway. Most churches are too cowardly to try. So at least acknowledge that he is trying. Here is what really puts me over the edge: we are a generation of Christians majoring in the minors. Discipline is not a primary issue. It is not a salvation issue. How he chooses to do it may not work for everyone but it works for some. Call it a cult if you want, by that standard anyone who expects you to actually try to live like Jesus in some form or to be anything beyond nominal in your faith is a cult leader. No one seems to care that the guy spends the majority of his time talking about Jesus and what he has to say about Jesus is solid. I mean we can tolerate a world of preachers who spend all their time talking politics, personal preferences, and ranting about insignificant issues, but when someone comes along to remind us that it’s all about Jesus we sign him up to share Jesus’s fate.
For those so quick to criticize I wonder: where is their fruit? What have they done to advance the kingdom of God in a practical way? I don’t imagine many could stand up under the scrutiny of a nation, put their lives under a microscope, and endure the attacks he has endured. Not from outsiders. Not from unbelievers. From his own brothers and sisters who sat back and ignored a problem he is now addressing and now, rather than supporting or perhaps even trying to help him improve what he does we push him off the ledge.
I am aware of the irony in criticizing critics. Someone needs to call them out. Someone needs to say enough; enough cowardly Christians tearing each other down. We have had enough sniper shots at any Christian foolish enough to actually try and do something for the kingdom of God. Enough. If we spent half as much time trying to share the love of Jesus with lost and hurting people as we did trying to tear down leaders in our own camps the great commission would be fulfilled and there would be no lost people left.
Stop spending your time criticizing the leadership of others. Stop calling everyone you don’t agree with a cult leader. Stop pretending you are without sin while pointing the sins of everyone else. Stop being a toxin that destroys life and start producing. Use that new found free time to do something that matters for the kingdom of God.
What was that thing Jesus said we would be known by? Our love. Not how well we attack each other. Jesus said people will know we are His if we love one another. Stop making the devil’s job easy by ripping each other apart all the time. Start loving people. Even when you disagree with some of the things they say. Even when you disagree with some of the things they do. Jesus didn’t give conditions required for you to love. He requires you to love unconditionally.
My challenge to you, who call yourselves Christians, who claim to believe in and follower after Jesus is simple: prove it. Prove that you love Jesus by treating each other with love. When the world looks at us and all they see are the pointless battles we have with each other how can they see the love of Jesus? So before you write your next critical article. Before you post your next negative comment. Before you lash out at the Christian who sees things a little different than you ask yourself this question: how is the love of God revealed in what I am about to say? How is God glorified in what I am about to write? If a non-Christian were to hear what I am about to say about my own spiritual brother or sister would they be drawn to Jesus or would they run for the hills?
The Bible teaches that we will be held accountable for every word we speak. Before you decide it is appropriate to lash out at the Christian leader you disagree with remember that Jesus died for them, that He loves them, and that you will have to explain to Him why you spoke like that to one of His previous children.
How fitting it is that Paul did not end his epistles “justice and criticism” but grace and peace.
Grace and peace my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ,
May your lives be characterized by the love of God