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Ghost in the Moon
Posts: 2,754
Reply with quote  #1 

Mini Monster
Posts: 46
Reply with quote  #2 
This is a subject I hate responding to because no matter how you write it out, it comes out horribly. 

I hate articles like this but not for the reasons many expect. 

In the last few years there is a movement that says the evangelical church is terrible and I need to worship Jesus away from these people. The evangelical church then demonizes these people and it creates this vicious cycle of hate that does the kingdom no good. 

That said, I have a hard time with the majority of churches I've encountered in the last few years. Most of it has nothing to do with what they are preaching but how the church staff conduct themselves. For the sake of full disclosure, I was on a church staff from 2007 - 2012 and I am guilty of many of the things I am about to write of. 

In my opinion, there are too many unqualified, weak leaders in our churches today. Most of it stems from the culture around us where social justice takes precedence over the gospel. Today, people want to be part of a movement or a cause instead of living out the Gospel. That does not mean we should not send missionaries or raise awareness to injustices in the world, BUT I think we are committing a grave disservice when we make that our focus rather than committing ourselves to making disciples. 

So, from my own experience I've noticed how weak and uninformed many of the people in the evangelical church I worked for are and became. They supported gay marriage and things of that nature and used Jesus loves everyone as their support. (I'm not saying it's right or wrong, it's merely an example, so please read on before jumping to conclusions) The problem is, most of them never spent time in scripture to question and contemplate. If they did, and still came to that conclusion then it becomes something in their relationship with the Lord and the ongoing dialogue with Him that ensues. They spent time with the Lord and wrestled with it over a long time rather than waking up one day and deciding to support it.

What does this have to do with the article? Everything.

We have weak leaders leading a great mass of people. When weak leadership not founded on the full weight of scripture occurs, sin takes a greater hold. The biggest trick the devil plays is not in the visible sins of sexual immorality or things of that ilk, it's in the small subtle things we do and believe that take root that distract us from what God is saying through the Holy Spirit to the point where we do not know what we believe or why we believe it. 

Myself, I was in a church where we had impact in the community. We brought food to the poor, we opened a coffeehouse where 100% of the profits went to benefiting overseas missions, we helped fund a documentary on trafficking in Africa, and on and on and on. These are all amazing things and the Lord worked through them. I helped do these things. Then one day things started to not add up for me. We were doing all of these things but the people in our church were still stuck. They weren't growing. They came on Sunday and sang songs and listened to our lead pastor teach but over 90% of them were still just there. They were stuck. In one year, we baptized 8 people. All 8 of them were people who were baptized before but wanted to be re-baptized because the first one didn't transform them. This time they meant it. With all of this social justice focus we lost what was really important, making disciples. We baptized people who were already part of the family of God because we needed some people for baptism Sunday because it was on the schedule. We weren't seeing transformation of people's souls. We weren't living out the Gospel to a point in our surrounding community. In a city of 120,000 people (60,000 of whom were college students), we baptized 8 people in a year. Numbers aren't the measure of everything but I have a hard time believing that a church of our size did not aid in the Great Commission that year. 

In this time I started asking questions about the importance of making disciples and what it really means. In this two year journey, I've learned that social justice is us living out the Great Commission but not at the cost of growing and maturing people in their relationship with Christ so that they are well equipped to go into all the world. 

What does this have to do with the article? Everything. After leaving the church I was working for, I moved to a new city, married a wonderful woman who grew up in the mission field, worked for an IT company (I love my job by the way!), and mostly avoided church because I was burned out. I could not reconcile what was in scripture with what I spent 4 years doing. 

As this chapter of my life closed and the new began, my wife and I had dialogue about what it means to live in community. She is from America but her family was called to live in a former Soviet Country 3 years after the fall of communism. She spent the majority of her life there where there is no church and lots of darkness. The light of the Gospel was all they had. Her family spent 17 years making disciples. Teaching them. Loving them. 17 years later, the Holy Spirit worked through her family and they all left because they were able to mentor and raise up local leaders to continue the work. 

We made the decision last fall to start visiting other churches and seeing what God did. We were called to a local Presbyterian church. They are not perfect. They have vision. The way they go about it sometimes makes me cringe but I realized in these last two years that in America, our churches are filled with people hungry for a Gospel they do not understand. They want to go into the world and be a part of God's story but no one is preparing them or showing them the way very well. Those leaders that are discipling and preparing are stretched thin. My wife and I felt God calling us to stay in our day jobs, but spend our evenings mentoring and discipling those people God put in our life in the evangelical church. 

So, this article bothers me because it says to run away from the evangelical church. It does not speak to me, so away we go to some place where I pray and read my Bible but I am not challenged by others in community. To me, this is just as arrogant as those in the evangelical church who don't have a clue. The Bible charges us to love one another and I think the challenge for many of us should be to go back to the evangelical church. Not to point fingers. Not to be the dissenter in the crowd, but to love and disciple those there. There are many evangelical churches with great pastors who only have time to disciple a small percentage of the church. Over 90% of them are missed because they do not have time. Instead of fleeing, I challenge people to embrace where God calls them to be. In order to impact the world, I strongly believe we have to start by impacting our local community. Once the Holy Spirit takes root, it spreads like wildfire. 

To connect this to Jars of Clay. I think that's part of what they are doing. They are sitting back creating art that is asking these questions. What does it mean to live in community? What does it feel like if we commit ourselves to the teachings of the Gospel and live them out? What if we love homosexuals instead of shunning them? Does it mean we condone them, or does it mean we are showing them the Gospel and love of Jesus? Does challenging each other on our sin mean we condemn each other, or does it mean we are loving each other and want to see the Gospel lived out? 

These are hard questions, and I believe the dialogue should remain open to everyone. Leaving and abandoning does no good. 

I hereby conclude the longest message board post ever [wink]

Ghost in the Moon
Posts: 2,754
Reply with quote  #3 
The more I read about reviews, interviews and articles about Inland, the more I love the album and it's now my favorite album from Jars of Clay. The honest lyrics and artistic arrangements. I remember what Matt Odmark said in a youtube interview, he said something like - why do we need to make a new album when we have already made enough, we will not make another album if it's not the best. So I guess, Inland is the best album thus far. They said they wrote better songs than ever before and that is the reason why they are still making records. Inland is the best.

Ghost in the Moon
Posts: 2,109
Reply with quote  #4 
It's worth noting that the evangelical church itself may be going through a bit of a split right now. In some ways, this saddens me. We have our controversial issues, but Jesus should be the unifying factor so that we do not get tripped up on these other issues, which are important but not essential to salvation. We shouldn't have to attend separate churches because of this.

On the other hand, there are folks with a more level-headed view of this situation trying to reclaim the "evangelical" label and demonstrate that it's not all about hard-line legalism and pushing a politically conservative agenda. So I figure if a certain segment of the evangelical church is going to do the shunning, they'r really just ostracizing themselves from the rest of us. It would be no great loss for artists and thinkers like Jars (and a lot of their fans, I suspect) to no longer be associated with that toxic subset of "evangelical" subculture.

I like what the term "evangelical" originally meant. My heart goes out to folks who have traditionally been judged and shunned from the church, who need spiritual homes just like the rest of us. I'm saddened that the term has become loaded with so many other negative connotations that it tends to turn away the very people that "evangelism" is supposed to be reaching out to.

DISCLAIMER: The preceding post was a statement of opinion, and does not reflect the views of the members of Jars of Clay, the moderators of Jarchives, or any member of the Holy Trinity. In fact, it is only my opinion that this is my opinion. In my opinion, you may choose to believe that my opinion is fact, if in fact you are of the opinion that you are allowed to choose what you believe, which presupposes the opinion that you do in fact exist in the first place - in my humble opinion, of course. It is my opinion that all of my opinions are humble opinions, but this does not indicate a bias on my part against opinions which are, in my opinion, proud opinions.
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