The Big Picture Podcast 50: Stop Believing Our Own Bad Press!

The Big Picture Podcast 50: Stop Believing Our Own Bad Press! October 28, 2014


Welcome to the Big Picture Podcast. This week we’re checking in again with the Backrow Baptist and letting you know what he sees from The Back Pew. And again, most of know a BRB, he’s the guy in the back of the church who just came in from doing laps around the church plaza until all the singing is over. But he’s always there ready to hear God’s Word and God’s Truth proclaimed.

And that’s why he’s got something on his mind, and as usual he wants to share it with you.

And that is the emerging philosophy or strategy that’s gaining more an more momentum in Christian circles these days, which is the notion that the Church needs to essentially keep it’s mouth shut and “love people into God’s Kingdom” through acts of love and service.

Because we’ve lost so much ground in influencing our culture, and because of the hostility our culture has for Biblical morality, many people have decided it’s best to not stand publicly for our values. Instead they stress the best way to reach people for the kingdom is to keep quiet about those areas of The Gospel which might offend our post-modern sensibilities.

This is really prevalent in many churches and social justice ministries that are actually doing some great work. I saw a good example of this recently as I was watching a film about the amazing transformation of an inner city public school out here on the Pacific coast that is being made possible by a local church’s continued service projects.

As a former teacher at a school a lot like the one in the film, I was very impressed. But I was a little dismayed to hear the director of the ministry say this:

“I think that the world has heard the Church’s mouth, and now they need to see our hands and feet moving. We can stop talking now, and just serve. Because that’s what’s been lacking”.

Now I worry about the two points she makes, and others that take this approach who’ve made similar points. The first is that service by the Church has been lacking. It’s very trendy these days to re-write the history of the American Church, especially the evangelical church, and portray it as an uncaring, un-cool meanie that only scolds people about what they’re watching or who they’re sleeping with, but doesn’t help anyone.

That’s actually really far from the truth.

We’re believing our own bad press, and we really shouldn’t.

Two books I’ve read have a lot to say to disprove this myth. One is titled “Who Really Cares” by Arthur Brooks and the other is “In Defense Of Faith” by David Brog. Please read them. Both of these books dispel the notion that committed Christians don’t serve their communities. They actually show the exact opposite: that no single force has been as instrumental in raising people out of poverty, rebuilding communities, healing the sick, promoting civil rights or aiding in any other societal problem as American religious believers.

There have been a number of surveys and studies that back up this claim. But I’m not here to try to correct the bad press. I’m saying we shouldn’t believe the bad press.

Bad press comes with the territory for Christians. The Bible says that the world will make up all kinds of false accusations against us.

What I am here to do is to correct the notion that somehow Christians who have been active and vocal in sharing their faith and influencing culture are somehow obliged now to stop because of a misguided notion of our own selfishness.

Can we give and serve more? Of course. Always. But for those who say our service has been ‘lacking’, let me ask you this – when will we our giving and serving be enough? If we’re now say, twice as likely as non-believers to give or serve or volunteer, should we wait until we’re five times more likely? Ten times more? At what level is ‘not lacking’ achieved. No one ever says.

And that leads to my second concern about the statement, that the Church should “stop talking”. Folks, the Church can NEVER stop talking and proclaiming the good news of the Gospel. Even if our service really was lacking, the Gospel is the true expression of God’ love for a hurting world, and we’ve been redeemed in this world to proclaim it and witness what He has done for us.

John Stonestreet of The Colson Center’s ReEngage video series said this recently about this very issue:

“The temptation is to stop proclaiming the parts of Biblical morality that offend modern sensibilities. For example we’ve heard calls these day to give up a public defense of marriage because it offends so many people and really turns them off to the Gospel. But this trade of giving up truth to not offend… is what one theologian calls a ‘Devil’s bargain.’”

He then quotes that theologian, a guy named Owen Starachan:

“This kind of call, however well intentioned, is a Devil’s bargain. To be a Christian is to stand on God’s truth, God’s wisdom. There is nothing in scripture to apologize for, There is nothing to feel bad about. God doesn’t need new PR. He doesn’t need people to be embarrassed for Him. He’s not looking for super-authentic apologizers who can clear up the scandal of His claims of cosmic dominion. He hasn’t over estimated. His calculations of rightness haven’t been proven wrong. He isn’t red-faced in heaven in the face of modernity, or post-modernity, or whatever else will come down the pike. Heaven does not quake at Earth. It’s the other way around.”

So let me just say that in the great Commission, Jesus said:

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

That’s why we’re here, folks. Our mission, should we choose to accept it, is to make disciples, baptize them, and teach obedience to what Jesus taught us. Any service or giving we do that’s not tied to that mission is empty.

Never be cowed into silence, especially by made-up bad press that’s designed to silence us.

What the world needs is the good news of God’s Son and His work on the cross, and they need to hear it from us.

In closing, it’s time for the Great Cloud Of Witnesses, the segment of our podcast where we meet and hear the stories of those who have given, and some who are still giving, their lives by faith in the promises of God, and of whom the world was and is not worthy (if you don’t know that reference, please check out Hebrews chapter 11-12 in your Bible).

Today’s witness is Abdullah from Bangladesh:

Since Abdullah accepted Jesus, his family had tried very hard to change his mind. After all, his father was a very respected man in their village, and in fact, all of Bangladesh, having built a mosque right next to their property.

When talking didn’t turn Abdullah back to Islam, they resorted to beating him. When beating didn’t work, they called others in to beat him more severely.

Nothing worked.

Abdullah tenaciously hung on to his faith in Christ. Finally, in exasperation, his mother stopped feeding him – putting only ashes on his plate. Abdullah prayed for God’s strength, and he stood strong.

As a last resort, the family called on the Mullah – their Islamic religious leader – to come and hold an Islamic ceremony to rid the boy of “the devil” that had taken over his life.

The Mullah came to their home and recited Muslim prayers over the boy. He chanted. He laid hands on the boy. He danced and he yelled. But the Spirit inside of Abdullah stood fast. After five hours, the Mullah gave up, exhausted.

“Abdullah’s Spirit is more powerful than my spirit”, he told the boy’s father as he left.

Abdullah couldn’t be turned away, and he couldn’t be stopped from sharing that powerful Spirit with others. In a few short months, he had led 27 Muslims to a faith in Christ, infusing them all with God’s Spirit.

Now, if Abdullah could endure all that and not be silent, can we endure a little bit of bad press?

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