You’re supposed to pour it out.

The adoration of men, that is.

16So the three mighty men broke through the camp of the Philistines, and drew water from the well of Bethlehem which was by the gate, and took it and brought it to David. Nevertheless he would not drink it, but poured it out to the LORD; 17and he said, “Be it far from me, O LORD, that I should do this. Shall I drink the blood of the men who went in jeopardy of their lives?” Therefore he would not drink it. 2 Samuel 23:16,17a

Reports of the latest evangelical train-wreck/another minister falling victim to his success evokes several painful thoughts. The first is a wince of recognition. I watched the church I was a part of for 22 years morph into a smaller but no less sordid creature. The second is the sad, all-too-common snare of conceit and ministerial success. Without humility and perspective, it breeds arrogance – an ugly parody of godly authority. “Don’t believe your own press” an older man told me when I took a full-time ministry position. Genuine success has more to do with God honoring His Word, the Death and Resurrection of His Son, and His response to peoples’ needs and faith than any human ability, cunning, or position. Easy to remember when you start – easy to forget after a measure of accomplishment.

I’m not diminishing the reward and recognition of faithful service, nor am I undermining the concept of ministerial authority. My problem isn’t authority – it’s with bad authority. And ministers seem to be doing a fine job of ruining their credibility without me. Even allowing a measure of exaggeration and plain old peevishness in the report, this kind of rampant hubris, duplicity, and gullibility is a kick in the stomach to the testimony of Christ and the public credibility of his people.

Yes, Jesus remains true and faithful above the squalor and squabble. He is the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow. He’s the Savior. But I wonder if He gets tired of all the squandered opportunities.

Jesus saves. He’s the only one you can trust all the way to eternity.

Further reading for those considering full-time ministry. (I’d make it mandatory, if I could.)

I am…

*The following post deals with issues of Christian faith and the person of Jesus. In fact, it’s veering into ’emotional rant’ territory, so if such things offend you or you came for sci-fi action and didn’t expect ‘religious stuff’, you’ll wanna skip this one. On the Eshu front, SHIFT TENSE: RED FLAGS is currently at the editors and Michal Oracz is working up the cover. I’m excited and will post relevant updates as I get solid info.

I AM SECOND
Spent the better part of this morning watching I am Second videos and ended up bawling like a little kid. (try here and here to see what I mean) I need to say it doesn’t get any better than this; redemption is what Jesus is all about. It doesn’t get more simple or more profound. It’s eternal.

Furthermore I believe deep in my bones if a ministry isn’t centered around salvation not just as a theory or catch-phrase but the practical day-to-day application of a real God reaching into real lives, then it’s worthless. Regardless of organizational tonnage or theological buttress, it’s only so much chaff come Judgment Day.

This is the Jesus that saved me. This is the one I want to be around, the one I want to introduce people to. No bait and switch. Not someone else.

I AM A STEWARD
I confess I’m in a crisis of faith at the moment regarding church. I am marvelously blessed in so many areas of my life: my marriage, children, grandchildren, work, writing… But this church thing is a real brawl.

A while back, I had an online discussion about ministry, involvement and membership with fellow Christian and writer Jessica Thomas and said I was ‘sick and tired of being sick and tired and pretending I’m not.’ That’s where I find myself once again and it’s the literal crux of the matter.

It occurred to me if I had a quarter for every sermon I’ve heard in the last 27 years lambasting immature, shallow, goosebump-seeking church-hoppers, I’d take my wife to dinner at this great little Thai joint we love. Now I know ‘free-range’ believers exist. I realize our society is infected with a selfish, consumer mentality. I also acknowledge my own incompleteness and vital need to function in community and under authority. I have no desire to end up a self-centered consumer.

I am however called to be a Christ-centered steward and I want to know where the Scripture requires believers to enable mediocrity? Where does it say we have to knowingly submit to flaccid, dysfunctional theology? When did the Berean call become ‘rebellion’?

Don’t mishear me: I’m not saying all ministry is vapid or shoddy. There is a lot of valid, powerful, gracious ministry, most of it unrecognized. Catastrophes always get better press. I’ve been (spiritually) living off Mars Hill, Times Square, and The Village. Let’s thank God for the internet, shall we?

But for all those services scorching ‘fickle, whiny consumers’, I can’t recall any apology for all those petty (left or right) political rants masqueraded as sermons, for superficial morality passed off as righteousness, for denominational rules touted as sanctification. I know the Gospel is a hard-edged hope. Grace is balanced by Truth. But if Grace is offered with one hand while the other snatches it back with a thousand little rules and dogmatic stipulations, all you have left is a brittle parody. A painted, plaster lawn-ornament.

Or how about an admission that your seeker-sensitive, tech-savvy, hip and hype approach isn’t cute, or cool, or fruitful? It’s vital to be informed and attuned to our society, but do I really have to point out that spiking your hair like an anime character and squeezing into your wife’s jeans doesn’t equate to relevance? Neither will a soul-patch or getting inked. I don’t care one way or another about a tie, but tuck in your shirt, eh?* You can stop with the pop-psychology, stop the ego-stroking, stop apologizing for every hard saying in the Bible. The Word of God is called the ‘Sword of the Spirit’ for a reason. Swords have a point and an edge, and so should you. Only the Eternal is truly relevant. Only the Truth sets people free. Trending the latest celebrity-craze (Christian or Secular) boils down to tail-chasing. It’s time to re-read “Not a Fan“. Hipster-dom isn’t discipleship: it’s sowing empty seed on shallow ground.

I AM STARVING?
Am I wrong or does the pulpit set the tone and temperature for the congregation? Doesn’t leadership bear a measure of responsibility? Being ‘leaders’ and all. To quote Dr. Horrible: “The fish rots from the head…” Perhaps one reason people are leaving church, having difficulty committing is it’s hard to find someone saying anything worth listening to. Don’t give me the “There’s no such thing as a perfect church, and if you find it, don’t go there ’cause you’ll ruin it” line. Most folks aren’t looking for perfection. They know it doesn’t exist. What they’re searching for – what they deserve – is something worth sticking around for. Was Jesus lying when He said the fields were ‘white unto harvest‘?

“The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign LORD, “when I will send a famine through the land– not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD. – AMOS 8:11 NIV

God identified Himself as “I AM”. He knows every hair on my head. He knows who I am, where I am, and why I am. I get that. My days are in His hands and He’ll see me through, despite my problems. If like Elijah I have to live off what birds bring and a little stream provides for a season, then I’ll cope. (No, I’m not saying I’m a prophet. I’m talking about provision) Christians are called to declare the unadulterated Gospel and model the action of definite grace. People are dying for it. Their eternal souls depend on it. My fear is I am stuck in that prophecy, and while I’ve been seeking God in prayer and Scripture even more lately, and have confidence God will provide direction, I tremble not only for my own soul, but for my children and grandchildren.

I AM PRAYING
Christians are called to represent the one who saved them, to reflect in some fashion the character of their Lord and Savior. I think the best we flawed sinners can do – even redeemed – is provide a sketch, a caricature if you will, of God. It won’t be perfect, but God keep me from rendering some hideous misrepresentation or superimposing some mortal icon. When I stand before Him, I’d like to have got the important features and proportions correct so it was recognizable.

*My personal conviction is if you’re making dress code of either extreme a major plank in your ministry, you’ve already missed the point.