Matt Chandler has been one of few influential (in a positive sense) pastors in my life over the last several bumpy years. Then he suddenly stepped away from his position for an indefinite leave of absence. The reason? He had a female friend. Not a sexual or romantic involvement. A friend. And in a church where brother-sister Christian relationships were supposedly encouraged.
I’ve come out of my black hole to beg you…Come on, Matt…don’t just leave! I’m not asking you to “fight” per se. I’m just asking you to be real. Truthful. Own anything that went over the line, and keep pursuing that which is SO lacking in Christian culture today! Keep pursuing and advocating for *healthy* male/female friendship, for Imago Dei “one another” relationships – from your place of leadership, with more transparency than ever! We need this. We need you!
Jay Stringer, not a pastor but a major influencer, wrote an excellent article about this, so I’ll share here – and I’ll keep praying for you Matt!
I couldn’t even begin to write any better about this. So I’ll just say: Amen.
An Open Letter to Pastor John MacArthur.
You don’t know me, but I have been aware of you for years as a well-known Evangelical pastor, radio personality, and an author. I’ve listened to “Grace to You” and read your fierce defenses against anything you’ve deemed a distraction to the Gospel with appreciation for your convictions, even if not complete agreement with your conclusions. Recently you took aim at what you believe is the most dangerous heresy you’ve ever faced: the growing Christian advocacy for “social justice”. I read your string of posts making the case that the Church is being lured away from the Gospel message and down a road that leads to destruction with great interest and greater disappointment. As an African American pastor who has studied and experienced this issue personally, I believe your post, and the Statement on Social Justice launched in tandem with it…
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Colin Kaepernick is no stranger to adversity. Imagine being abandoned by your birth father, given up by your 19 year-old mother at birth, and adopted as a bi-racial child by white parents. Imagine being shunned by your white friends for not being “white enough”, and by your friends of color for not being “dark enough”. Being told or thinking your birth parents didn’t want you. You’re not good enough. You don’t belong. As with many bi-racial and adopted children, this was at least some part of Kaepernick’s life as he was growing up. But he found football early, and he was really good at it. In a way, football made all the difference between being a person of little privilege and one with significant privilege.
But then Kaepernick decided to use his privilege as an NFL star to protest the frequent terrible treatment – dehumanization – of people with less privilege, people of minority status and especially black people. In his own words, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color…to me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way.” He chose to continue to sit or kneel during the national anthem until seeing “significant change” for minorities. Over time, others have also started kneeling during the national anthem to bring awareness to the inequitable treatment of people of color and minority status. And of course, most people know the resulting turmoil, including Donald Trump insisting all players who don’t stand be fired.
There’s another player, Tim Tebow, who has knelt on the NFL field, and was widely cheered for it – especially by those who would call themselves evangelicals. But Kaepernick hasn’t received such praise, even though he also professes faith in Christ and love for God – even literally wearing his faith on his sleeve/person. Some would say Tebow lost his opportunity at a long NFL career because of his posture on the field. Others say he “just wasn’t good enough” as a player. People say much the same of Kaepernick. Yet many say this is different because it’s about patriotism, or at least nationalism. But is it?
The playing of the National Anthem was introduced during WWII as a means to bolster support and attendance of sporting events, specifically Major League Baseball. It was primarily a financial decision when MLB owners linked patriotism to attendance. This is fact, not conjecture. And the financial impact of players choosing to kneel has team owners admitting profits have been negatively impacted. One could ask: what is the real issue here? Are these protesting players really less patriotic, or is practicing their right to protest actually confirmation that they are patriotic?
“Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.”
Strong words, though I personally believe not just any something is worth sacrifice. But the outrage doesn’t seem to be aimed at the slogan, but rather the person. Or the perceived idea for which the person, Colin Kaepernick, stands.
Some would say Kaepernick hasn’t really sacrificed much. I’m in no place to say. I’m no football star. I don’t know what it’s like to be good at throwing a pass, outmaneuvering the defense, scoring touchdowns. I wasn’t abandoned by my father, given up for adoption by my mother. Nor have I experienced adoption, let alone by people whose skin tones did not resemble my own. I didn’t grow up as a misfit who didn’t quite fit in as a white person or as a person of color.That’s not my story. But like Colin, I do have areas of talent/gifting that I feel set me apart and make up a large part of who I am as a person. If I were asked or required to give these up, even for a greater good, that would feel a lot like sacrificing everything to me.
I just wonder, do people really know what they’re even protesting? Do they even know the person they’re protesting, or just some vague, misconstrued notion of what they *think* he is? Or maybe they just don’t really like their Nike shoes/equipment that much and this is as good a reason as any to burn or destroy them? Maybe they have enough privilege to destroy perfectly good clothing without any real impact to their budget. Not me. I don’t currently own any Nike shoes, but I do have and really like my Nike running gear – including shorts, shirts, and a hat. No chance I’ll be destroying any of it. I can’t afford, nor do I want, to replace them. Not over a calculated marketing decision by a large for-profit corporation. Certainly not over the person or position of Colin Kaepernick.
This will take a minute to set up. Please bear with me.
My wife and I are part of the music/worship team for our local church. We rehearse a couple of days per week. On Sunday morning, we rehearse an hour before most people arrive for “Sunday School”. For a long while, we were not part of any particular “Sunday School” group, so often we would sit and talk with other musicians during the hour break between rehearsal and the corporate worship time. Sometimes we would take a short drive to Starbucks during that time for conversation and a cup of coffee. We began referring to these trips, somewhat in jest, as our “Starbucks Sunday School Class” or “Church of Starbucks”. I mean…there was no teacher, but it was a gathering of church members, and we often talked of spiritual matters. So, it sorta fits.
In recent days, there’s been quite the stir about how Starbucks employees have demonstrated less than equitable treatment toward people of ethnic minority status. I, personally know someone of ethnic minority status who had the police called on him because he stopped to take a phone call OUTSIDE a Starbucks store before entering (rather than being what he felt would be rude by taking the call inside the store). Other stories exist of black customers being told they could not use the restroom without making a purchase first, while white customers (me included) have been allowed access to the restroom without any purchase being made. So the bias, at least from some Starbucks employees and toward certain people of minority status, is real. Is shocking. Is concerning.
And then Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson posted a video of what I believe to be very humble, sincere apology. This was followed soon thereafter by an announcement that Starbucks will CLOSE all of its stores on May 29 for racial bias training.
And then I got to thinking…
Starbucks is acting, in this present age, very much like the early Christian church. In the book of Acts, two incidents are recorded when the leaders of the church made the decision to STOP EVERYTHING until the church could come together and take care of matters that were on the verge of crippling the church. In both instances, this took place because of less than equitable treatment of certain people groups within the church. Because the good news of Jesus Christ – the gospel – is available to all – not just those who do things the way “we” think is right. Check it out for yourself. In Acts 6, one might say it was because “Greek/Widow Lives Matter”. In Acts 15, it was because “Gentile Lives Matter”.
Now, some might say that this decision by Kevin Johnson is a financial decision out of fear of losing customers. Based on their corporate history of being a company who obviously desires to be known as inclusive and non-discriminatory, I see those factors being much great than any potential financial gain. I just can’t help but make a correlation to how church-like Starbucks is, when juxtaposed against the actions of the early Christian church. I wonder how many churches have ever closed down, stopped a service in progress? I wonder how many pastors have stepped down from the pulpit, how many worship leaders have stopped singing, in lament of how we, the church, often treat those around us – and sadly/especially some of our own brothers and sisters in Christ. From that respect, I think we could learn a lot from Starbucks about how to be truly Church-like.
And because I’m musically-minded, I’m now thinking of a song by Jimmy Needham titled Clear the Stage. It’s not new, but it seems plenty relevant.
**Credit to Pastor John Onwuchekwa who recently pointed out the two passages in Acts to me and helped me see their relevance to today’s social justice struggles.**
I don’t usually pick a musical as my first choice when headed to the movies. Being honest: more like last resort. But our family went to see The Greatest Showman recently, and WOW! The movie itself was stunning, captivating! The singing fantastic! And the values it presents are powerful, transformational – and true! Fidelity, the intrinsic worth of all people, imagination, and family all take center ring in this fun flick. I will say, however, that the movie, when compared to the actual history of P.T. Barnum, is mostly just fantasy. I guess that should come as no surprise, though. It’s just another (instant) classic Hollywood hoodwink.
But back to the music, written by the highly acclaimed Justin Paul & Benj Pasek. I liked every song, and added the soundtrack to my Spotify immediately. I’ve been listening to the soundtrack on repeat for days now. One song in particular has captivated my attention. It’s the song Never Enough as beautifully sung by alto Loren Allred – who is not the same person as actress Rebecca Ferguson who portrayed singer Jenny Lind, aka Johanna Maria Lind the “Swedish Nightingale”. Again, historically speaking, the movie really does a huge disservice to the person of Jenny Lind. My research indicates she was a remarkable individual with humble beginnings, incredibly selfless and charitable, and a wonderful operatic soprano. I would love to have heard her sing! No doubt it was nothing short of amazing. Never Enough, as sung by Allred, is nothing close to operatic, but it is a moving, thought-provoking song. I’m not going to quote all the lyrics, but as I’ve listened repeatedly to this song, one line leapt above the rest.
“You set off a dream with me…”
It can happen. In an instant. Our words have power to ignite. As the head of my household and father of two great kids (now young adults), I know how a little vision casting can impact the trajectory of a life. As someone who’s made his fair share of mistakes, I also know that a few poorly/hastily chosen words can set off a “dream” that becomes a nightmare. Our words can be the spark to fires raging out of control.
In the movie (spoiler alert), P.T. Barnum sparks unrequited love in the heart of (this fictional version of) Jenny Lind. There’s no stopping it, no quenching it.
Take my hand
Will you share this with me?
‘Cause darling without you
All the shine of a thousand spotlights
All the stars we steal from the night sky
Will never be enough
Never be enough
Towers of gold are still too little
These hands could hold the world but it’ll
Never be enough…”
Never enough. Are there two more potentially dangerous words? Maybe. What if were two words that almost brought my life and family to ruin. They resulted in that never enough feeling taking me to the brink of death itself. In the movie, the result is scandal and financial ruin (almost).
Words can be so incredibly life-giving or life-taking. Don’t be mistaken. Sticks & stones are far less dangerous. This song, while beautiful, is so…hollow. Empty. Tragic. Poignant. Be careful who you set off, whose dreams you ignite. It might cost you everything.
“Those who guard their lips preserve their lives,
but those who speak rashly will come to ruin.”
I’m glad to know the actual Swedish Nightingale didn’t really experience what was portrayed by this movie. I tend to believe the songs she sang and the life she lived were more on the life-giving side. Considering how benevolent she was, that certainly seems to be the case. I hope the dreams she set off resulted in some incredible lives and legacies.
…the outward facing ones are often more easily explained.
I love this recounting of how one mother lovingly explained the outward scar her young daughter has, to her other (also young) daughter.
Tell me about a good TV series you like to watch.
Read any good books lately?
That was an awesome movie!
Have you heard that new song? It’s SO good!
Hey, I’ve got this really great game we should play…
These are all phrases I’ve seen, heard or spoken lately. But that word “good” doesn’t seem to mean what it once did.
Reading through the list, what first came to mind? What makes that song, that book, that show good? Does that match up with the traditional definition? Or even any of the definitions for good as listed on dictionary.com?
It seems to me that the word good, and many of its synonyms, has taken on a wholly different meaning in today’s society. We don’t really mean morally excellent, virtuous, or righteous. We might mean entertaining, riveting or thrilling. But that movie with 67 expletives, 13 murders, numerous sex scenes and non-stop sexual innuendo? Surely you don’t mean to tell me it’s wholesome or redeeming. Please tell me how that card game designed to be “despicable and awkward” is pleasant, healthful, or beneficial. I don’t think you mean to tell me that music with the edgy sound and upbeat rhythms yet speaking of others in condescending, even hateful ways is beneficent or untainted.
Personally, I’m tired of people telling me everything under the sun is good, when I know full well that’s just not true. From a scriptural standpoint, those of us who believe in Christ are taught to flee immorality, to fix our thoughts on that which is true, noble, pure, lovely, admirable, etc. We are admonished to fix our eyes on JESUS, the author and perfecter of our faith. I can’t claim to consistently live that out, without error. I’m a work in progress. But I hope I can at least stick to the real meaning of words, and in so doing communicate with others in a helpful, transparent manner. Is it too much to ask others to do the same?
“You are Perfect in all of Your ways”
Another line from one of those often-sung worship songs. But can I sing it with any real certainty, any real belief?
A friend of mine has a daughter who was born with a rare, deadly heart defect. And she is one of the most caring, genuine, transparent people I know. Watching her trust God through incredible hardship has been mind-blowing and faith-stretching for me. This recent post really had me!! Check it out for yourself:
As a person who endeavors to walk in a manner worthy of my calling, I have been perplexed by all the “controversy” over The Shack – the title of the book, and now the movie, by William P. Young.
When I read the book several years ago, I found it cathartic. In fact, in reading it I was able to work through some hurts and hang-ups that I’d been carrying around with me for WAY too long.
I appreciate the perspective of blogger Crystal Olmos, as shared below.
I was recently contacted by a precious woman from a marketing firm that works for Lionsgate films. She liked my mommy/lifestyle blog and also saw I was a Christ follower. She gave me VIP seats to attend the advance screening of The Shack and also allowed any of my followers to come for free as well!
I was really excited about this opportunity as I read the book years ago and really loved it. Unfortunately, my excitement was put at bay a little once I started seeing articles circulating around about how “anti-Christian” and “blasphemous” the book, and now film, was, in some Christian’s opinions.
Friends, can I just tell you… can I please just tell you… how wrong these people are.
I am a person who takes blaspheme against God and reverence towards Him VERY seriously. I will walk out of a theater with actors who are cursing His…
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