My Thoughts On Religious Critics (Part Deux)

I'm not a controversial person. My human nature side tends to try to avoid controversy if at all possible. I think it has a lot to do with the introvert in me. So you can imagine the surprise when my previous "religious critics" blog caused a bit of a stir. I didn't write it to to cause division or confrontation. I was simply sharing my heart as I am about to do in this new "controversal" blog.
The previous blog was written to address my feelings on the countless personal attacks I'm hearing and reading against some of today's most popular Christian pastor's and preachers. Rob Bell, Mark Driscoll, Andy Stanley, Joel Osteen, and even Billy Graham seem to be walking around holding a ten foot lighting rod now-a-days. 99.9% of the attacks are made by people who have never met or even spent the least amount of time around these guys or their teachings. The critics read a quote here and a blurb there and end up throwing the baby out with the bath water. The latest bash that finally drove me to "vent" about religious critics stems from what Rob bell said (actually what he didn't say) at last month's "Seeds of Compassion" event. Rob was seated with several other leaders from various world "religions" in a panel discussion built around dealing with violence and combating it with love. Rob has been ripped apart for not using typical church lingo (aka Christianese) when he instead spoke of love, grace, and resurrection in what I would call and more "relational conversation" where he seemed to be answering the questions in a way most relational evangelist would the first time they meet someone. It wasn't full of church words or a turn or burn mentality. It was a very humble, let's get to know each other kind of tone. Did he answer every question the way I would have? Nope. But that's ok. Because I'm confident the Holy Spirit is big enough to use whatever Rob said to reach those that needed to hear it. Below is a blog I borrowed from a good friend of mine who actually attends Rob's church, Mars Hill, in Grand Rapids, MI. He and his wife experience Rob and all God is doing there every week and I feel have a much better take on him and his ministry then anyone else could that might just be watching his interview clips, listening to his sermons online, watching the Nooma videos, or reading his books. Here is what my buddy Mike and his wife had to say about the recent Rob Bell controversy:

(Begin Blog Quote)
I am tired of people getting amped up on others when they don't say the particular "catch phrases" about Christians sharing Jesus with others. The last couple of weeks, I have been reading various blogs and having face-to-face conversations with some who are upset at certain people because they apparently missed an "opportunity to share the gospel." Specifically, I hear that of one of my pastors, Rob Bell, when he's out and about at things (the Seeds of Compassion conference comes to mind) as well as his weekly teachings.

My friends, in response to this let me ask a question, is it possible to speak about something, or a truth, without ever mentioning its name or label? I think anyone with any shred of common sense could answer that. Assuming you know the correct answer, wouldn't it be possible for someone to share the truth of Jesus without going through the standard mantra of description?
My wife (who is 1000 times more brilliant than I could ever dream, posted a comment on my friend
Erica's blog regarding this:

"Okay, I just watched the clips of Rob at the Seeds of Compassion event. As a follower of Jesus and a member of Mars Hill I must say I am very proud of how Rob spoke beautiful truths in response to those questions. I am blessed to have the privilege to be engaged in those truths each and every time I hear him teach. I am blessed that he has spoken such truth into my life personally and directly. To say that he did not share Christ is absurd! As Christians, aren't we supposed to share Christ with our lives? If all truth is God's truth, then when we speak truth are we not sharing Christ?

As for not sharing the power of the cross, I am in complete disagreement. I have no idea whether he gave a "gospel presentation" off camera, but the words he spoke were indeed the power of the cross! Redemption and forgiveness and resurrection were the issues he spoke on - if that's not the power of the cross, I don't know what is! He did not need to use the specific phrases we are so used to hearing in our churches to share the power of the cross. There are those people who somehow seem to think that the depth of our faith can only be felt and heard with those certain words. How that shortchanges the ability of God to penetrate into the hearts and minds of all people! Rob may have gained more respect from his honest, thoughtful, and poignant responses than if he had done nothing but preach a mini-sermon. He may have lost respect. What if his answers encourage people who wouldn't normally take interest in what Christians had to say to listen to him and be curious about his writings and teachings? From my own personal experience, people who are dis-interested in or turned off by Christians are more than likely to take an interest in Christ from the Christ they see demonstrated in my life, not the the "Christian" words I speak to them."

Some think that because some of these words were not mentioned, the message of the gospel (which could be one of the issues, as that word in itself needs defined) has been "watered-down." If I speak on the power of forgiveness, of death, and resurrection, do you think it would have any possibility of speaking of Christ, and especially the cross?!

I think people come to listen to Rob, or Doug Pagitt, or whoever else you want to label as a heretic, evil, or bad (or you fill in the blank), already come with an agenda to nitpick anything they can find (and will take things out of context quickly) without considering that they can speak some truth. I am always trying to be aware when I take that posture with those whose views I don't totally adhere to (a certain seminary prof comes to mind), but at the same time, I am asking God for the humility to be open to truths that emerge. If your mind is too shallow to not even consider the person speaking truth, then you are shutting off the Holy Spirit. What are you so afraid of?

I think people like Rob are showing those who don't profess in Jesus that there are Christians who do want to make the world a better place, who in my mind actually put love on display. What powerful words Rob spoke in those few minutes regarding violence in our world. It was a tough question, and he handled it beautifully and spoke with such hope.

So please, for the love of Christ and His Kingdom, please consider this plea to be humble; to acknowledge that God can teach us from anybody, anything, or any circumstance, no matter what our feelings toward them are. We will become more like Christ because of it.
(End Blog Quote)

There are a lot of pastors, teachers, and preachers I look up to and learn from. Rob Bell, Mark Driscoll, Andy Stanley, Erwin McManus, Francis Chan, John Eldredge, and Jim Cymbala are just a few. And none of them I agree with 100%. But does that mean I need to discount everything they teach just because one of their personal views doesn't line up with mine? Just because they handle their church or ministry opportunities in a different method then I would, does that make me right and them wrong? I'm going to say this again, and will continue to do so until I die,: "God is a lot bigger then any of us give Him credit for and we're a lot smaller then any of us would like to think we are". When you begin to understand that God is God and you are not, that opens a whole lot more room for the Holy Spirit to use your life in way you never would have imagined.

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