Wednesday, May 3, 2017

When you're only against something

The fitness center where I work out has eight televisions lined up in front of the treadmills. You can plug ear phones into any of them if you want to listen, but I take an I-Pod to catch up on listening to my podcasts. However, I do occasionally look to see what's on each of the stations they have playing. Yesterday morning the entire hour I was at the fitness center CNN ran nothing but stories that focused on what they perceived to be the negatives of the Trump administration.

There were other news stations besides CNN on the TVs, and they ran various stories during my exercise routine, but CNN was only focused on trying to discredit the President and his administration. It's very difficult for me to imagine those responsible for selecting what news to report can find nothing worth reporting except their issues with President Trump. I do not normally watch CNN, and I understand that puts me in the majority of viewers. If this hour is any indication of their journalism it's not hard to understand why their ratings are low.

This post is not really about CNN and its issues with the President, but it is a good illustration of what happens when you become solely focused on what you are against that you forget what your real purpose should be. Unfortunately, many churches and pastors fall into that trap as well. We get focused on some behavior and we become better known for what we are against than what we are for.

For instance, many churches get caught up railing against the "sin of the month." These churches jump from one sin to another based on what the culture is doing at that particular time. I'm not saying we should not preach against sin and even name the sins, but if that is our only focus we are doing our congregations a disservice. Our primary focus should be on Jesus Christ and His grace. If we can introduce people to Christ, He can work to clean up the sins in their lives. I certainly don't mind challenging people about the wrong choices they are making in their lives, but I also do not intend to beat them up over those choices. Instead, I want to help them connect to the One Who can offer them forgiveness and help them make better life choices. If you want to drive people away from the church, spend all your time telling them what you are against. If you want to attract people to the church, tell them about the hope they can find in Jesus Christ.

Frankly, I did not always feel this way. I went through a period several years ago where my sermons had become quite harsh. I was beating up my people on Sunday. One day I was reviewing the past few sermons I had preached and became overwhelmed with conviction. That was not what God had called me to do. My job was to preach Christ. The next Sunday I confessed to our congregation what I had done and asked for their forgiveness. As always, they were very gracious, and I made sure that from then on my sermons offered the hope found in Jesus Christ and not the condemnation that would come from the Pharisees.

Change is another thing in a church that some people will always oppose. It doesn't really matter what the change is, some people will be against it simply because it's new and seems threatening. Again, these churches can develop a reputation for being against change which can scare away potential new members and pastors.

If there are people in your church who are always opposed to anything new, and never in favor of any change, you have to find a way to deal with them. You either have to try to get them on your side and include them in the initial discussions of any proposed change, or you have to find a way to work around them. Neither option is likely to be easy, but you cannot allow people who are only known for what they are against to set your agenda.

President Trump is far from a perfect individual, and he and his administration have made some mistakes. But, everything they've done hasn't been wrong, and for supposed news organizations to focus only on the mistakes isn't journalism.

We in church leadership are also not perfect, and there will be times when we are wrong. But, we're not always wrong, and people who only focus on our mistakes are not interested in seeing the church move forward. Don't be a church that is known only for what you are against. Such churches will never have a positive impact on people's lives.

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