For those of you who are not familiar with The Elephant Room, it is a discussion panel environment that was created by James MacDonald in order for people from different viewpoints of Christianity to get together, discuss their differences, but also come together in unity. I went yesterday, expecting a blood bath.
Here’s what goes on in my head when I saw the lineup.
“Ooh, I love that guy. He’s going to bring it.”
“Ooh, that guy annoys me so much. He’s going to get schooled.”
“Oh, ok, that guy’s solid. He’s going to set that dude straight.”
“Oh, man, that guys so flaky. Why would he even come to something that required thinking?”
“Oh, and I don’t even know who that guy is.”
I’m not proud of it. But that’s how I prejudge.
Somehow I already have a working who’s who of people I think are “solid,” and people who I think are suspect.
OK, I’m about to get a little more real. I especially didn’t want to like Steven Furtick or TD Jakes. For some reason, in my mind, I had reasons to disregard what they had to say. Looking back, the punishment (total disregard) didn’t match the crime (personality quirks or minor theological differences). But, man, it really took literally one or two sessions for my mind to change.
I realized that I don’t have to agree with everything these men of God believe, but I have to at least demonstrate Christian charity towards them (love them enough to expect the best of them). They are my brothers (in the case of Furtick) and my grandfathers (in the case of Jakes).
These guys are not the only Christian leaders who have been the object of jokes, sarcasm, or just outright accusations of “blasphemy” by me. I am a very, very judgmental person. I hide behind my crappy attitude by saying that it’s in the name of “sound doctrine.” God, heal my heart.
As a dad, and really as an orange leader, this has got to change. I’ve got to see the good and learn from the ministries of the whole body of Christ. I can’t just run with my own tribe.
Steven Furtick put it well yesterday (and I’ll paraphase). “Many of us mistake being ‘bold’ as tossing red meat to our own followers.” His implication was that most of us are afraid to have conversations with people who are different than us.
I want to teach my daughter better.
I want to lead the youth ministry team at New Harvest better.
I want to lead our youth better.
I want to teach them how to love and be fair.
We’re never going to have the opportunity to grill each Christian leader to our liking and check off whether they are “acceptable” or not. We’re just going to have to trust what God is doing in and through them. We’ve got to start with love, not with suspicion.
I don’t want my daughter to one day be in a conversation with a friend about she admires, and the friend mentions someone– and then Evie replies, “Ugh! I can’t stand that person.” Then the friend asks, “Well, why?” And then Evie says, “Well, because my daddy doesn’t like him.”
As for me, I am going to pray that God change my heart towards leaders who rub me the wrong way for whatever reason. Normally, it’s my reason that’s the sin– not the thing that rubs me the wrong way. I at least resolve to speak highly of the ministry of Steven Furtick and Bishop Jakes from here on out. I know I at least need to do that.
But here’s the question I have for all of us…
Without being intentional about it, are we raising our kids, teams, and flock to dislike certain Christian leaders (or politicians, or people)? Is that healthy? I know my kid will grow up hating the Cowboys and Phillies, but are there some things that we consider to be innocuous that are actually toxic that we’re passing down to the next generation?