Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Who cares about a speech?

I have to be upfront and admit that I did not listen to Melania Trump's speech that is causing such an uproar in the media. Some claim that about three lines of the speech were lifted from Michelle Obama's convention speech a few years ago. Others are now saying that President Obama, Michelle Obama, and Hillary Clinton all plagiarized from others in speeches they delivered in 2008.

First, convention speeches all sound very similar. After all, how many ways are there to tell everyone how wonderful a candidate is and how much you love America? That's why I don't bother listening to them. For the most part, they are canned speeches that follow set formulas that seem committed to getting lots of applause without providing any real content.

Second, what really makes the difference if someone uses a few sentences someone else used in a previous speech? I doubt that you said anything yesterday that someone, somewhere has not previously said some time in the past. I'm sure I didn't. The comments in question can be heard in just about every valedictorian speech ever given at a high school graduation. It's not like either woman was announcing some major scientific discovery.
What the media and some "stars" are doing is focusing on something so minor that it isn't worth discussing and trying to act like something horrible has happened. There are serious issues facing this nation that are much more important than a brief speech given by a presidential candidate's wife. When the conventions are over and the candidates start talking about substantial issues then it will be time to take note of what is being said.

But, what does this have to do with churches and ministry? The same thing too often happens in our churches. We focus attention on minor issues that have little to do with anything important and ignore more serious issues that may be occurring. For instance, we might spend a lot of time debating the purchase of a new hymn book and no time at all addressing the lack of baptisms happening in our church.

A few years ago a lady called me greatly concerned about what she felt was inappropriate dress by the pastor. He no longer wore a suit when he preached. She went on to complain that the deacons didn't wear suits when they served communion. She said they looked like they were going golfing instead of serving communion. To say she was upset would be putting it mildly.

This was a church that had declined by about half in a few short years. That decline had nothing to do with how the pastor and deacons dressed but was due to a number of issues that had caused great division in the church. Instead of being a growing church that was reaching people for the Kingdom of God, they had become a divided church that was declining and becoming more dysfunctional. Rather than address the real issues that might improve things in the church and have an impact on the community, a few in the church was concerned about how people dressed.

No doubt, this is going to be an interesting election season, but let's concentrate on things that really matter and not get sidetracked by minor issues that have no real bearing on anything of substance. This nation has serious problems. Let's demand the candidates address them and then we can decide which one seems most likely to turn things around. Our churches face serious challenges. Let's address those and quit nit-picking minor issues that add nothing to ministry.

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