Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog
I was intrigued by an article written by Janet Thompson of crosswalk.com. The eye-catching title asked, “Why Is The Church Going Dark?” She meant this literally. Her complaint was about the design of many auditoriums having dim lighting and being windowless, almost like a movie theatre or concert venue. She wondered if this was to reach a younger generation or to set a certain mood.
While I prefer a well-lit room, there is a more significant concern. Jesus taught, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Mat. 5:14-16). His words have nothing to do with church building designs, LED lighting, or window sizes. Preaching to His disciples, Jesus wants us to know that those reflecting His light cannot be hidden, but shine in such a way that others will see our good works and glorify God.
- Dark churches are situated in neighborhoods that know nothing about them.
- Dark churches are so indistinct that the world can see no difference between themselves and those churches.
- Dark churches have no vision or plan to fulfill God’s purpose for them.
- Dark churches exist to assemble, but not much more.
- Dark churches focus inwardly, but neither outwardly nor upwardly.
- Dark churches operate from fear and prefer the safe route, taking no risks and attempting only what they can produce.
- Dark churches are disconnected from the Light of the world.
It is good for us to constantly challenge ourselves, when setting budgets, making plans, gauging our true priorities, or evaluating the leadership or the pulpit. Are we doing what will help us be “Light-Bearers” or what will cause us to be “Dark Churches”? What an important question! Our actions determine the answer.
Several years ago, a fourteen-year-old girl named Shannon Smith was shot to death in her own back yard. A bullet lodged in her brain. Though already tragic and horrific, the story was made more tragic by the inexplicable nature of the shooting. Police, judging from the trajectory made by the entry would, concluded that the bullet fell from the sky. Somewhere nearby, some unknown person had fired a gun for no known reason. The bullet completed its path of travel inside an unsuspecting teenager. Tragic, indeed!
Who fired the gun and why? The action pales next to the consequence. Someone aimlessly fired a weapon. A child died and parents were left to mourn her loss. It was all so unnecessary and avoidable!
Christians are a special people, a God-possessed, holy group (1 Pet. 2:9). The world sees Christians (Matt. 5:16). They react to children of God, either “glorifying” (Matt. 5:16) or “blaspeming” (2 Sam. 12:14) Him. Christians are either transformed from worldliness or conformed to it (Rom. 12:2). Conformity carries tragic consequences.
Influence is an inevitable burden carried by every Christian. Others watch what we do, hear what we say, and evaluate our judgments. What we wear, how we talk, where we go, and with what we entertain ourselves may seem harmless or at least harmful only to us. Yet, we can aimlessly fire and eternally wound another’s soul by our influence.
The man or woman who fired that gun may not realize even now what they did with one “harmless” squeeze of a trigger. Maybe they will not know on this side of time. Just so, we may be shocked on that day to realize how many or exactly whom we influenced. We’re on a spiritual battlefield (Eph. 6). Let’s be careful not to shoot at the wrong side! We may wind up doing harm to the very people we’re commissioned to save. Let’s watch our aim!
- I will try to use social media to encourage and edify others (1 Thess. 5:11; 1 Cor. 14:26b).
- I will avoid the shocking, inflammatory, and divisive tactics increasingly characteristic of S.M. (cf. 1 Cor. 1:10; Prov. 12:18; Prov. 15:2,4; etc.).
- I will ask, “Would I say this in the way I am saying this?,” if face to face with this person or this group of people (Prov. 23:7).
- I will not use Social Media to pick fights or put people on the defensive (cf. 2 Tim. 3:1ff).
- I will not be Nellie Nitpicker and Contrary Charlie. About. Every. Single. Little. Thing.
- I will respect that my connections have connections that are not Christians and I want to be sure to say what I say in accordance with Ephesians 4:15 and 2 Timothy 2:24-26.
- I will sever connections with individuals who consistently display a lack of self-control with their words and attitudes. Souls are too precious.
- I will abhor the thought of doing what would put Christ to an open shame (cf. Heb. 10:29).
- I will double-check myself to avoid bragging and self-promotion (1 Cor. 13:4-5).
- I will conquer the desire to have the last word, pile on, or fight fire with fire (Mat. 5:39-42).
- I will not let the false teaching, bad attitude, or meanness of another be my rationale for behaving in a way that brings Christ shame or jeopardizes my own soul (cf. 1 Cor. 9:24-27).
- I will always be trying to set the table for productive evangelism or retrieving the wayward (Jas. 5:19-20; Col. 4:6).
- I will always try to portray the doctrinal, moral, and ethical values of my Lord, thus avoiding reflecting and glorifying whatever values conflict with His (Mat. 5:14-16).
- I will try to promote, not pummel, the bride of Jesus, appreciate, not attack, the elders, and unite, not untie, wherever possible.
- I will shun passive aggression in myself first, but also in others.
- I will deal with dirty laundry in its appropriate way, which is not on Social Media.
- I will actively try to show grace to everyone, including cantankerous curmudgeons.
- I will, foremost, realize my own imperfections and try every day I use Social Media to do so in the way Jesus would, if He had Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, a blog, LinkedIn, etc. In a way, through you and me, He does. I will let that sink in!
This morning, Jacob Kurtz is getting a lot of press for the wrong reason. He’s a basketball player for the University of Florida, and he inadvertently won the game for his team’s counterpart, hated rival Florida State. Kurtz is not a prolific scorer, averaging a little over four points per game, but this mental lapse or accidental tip will live in infamy.
That young man’s gaffe was almost certainly unintentional, but it still was damaging to his team. What a graphic illustration of how costly it is to assist “the other side.” It might be a careless or unguarded word that hurts the influence of Christ with a lost soul. It could be a rash or foolish decision made under the duress of fatigue, emotional strain, or the like that dishonors God. A momentary flutter of pride may cause someone to speak evil against a brother who just happens to overhear it and become discouraged. The possibilities are endless and ever-present, but each such infraction is nonetheless damaging.
Whether it’s a mistake of the head (without evil motives) or a mistake of the heart (the fruit of secret sin within), “bonehead” moves on the spiritual battlefield can send the cause of Christ into a state of suffering. What can we do to prevent such losses?
- Control your tongue (Jas. 3:2-12).
- Constantly practice thoughtfulness (Phil. 2:3-4).
- Curb your susceptibility to flattery, pride, and preeminence (cf. Prov. 6:17; 29:5).
- Consider others better than yourself (Rom. 12:10; Eph. 5:21).
- Clear your motives and ambitions of what is sinfully self-serving (cf. Phil. 1:17; Jas. 3:14-16).
Certainly there are other things we can do to prevent helping the other team. Paul says, generally, to exercise self-control in all things (1 Cor. 9:24-27) and compete according to the rules (2 Tim. 2:5). It begins with being aware of the power of our words and conduct, using them to contribute to spiritual victory for the Lord’s side.
As one who was born in Mississippi and raised in south Georgia, I am very proud of my southern roots. Frankly, I could not hide them even if I was inclined. It is a heritage that includes the Bible Belt, sweet tea, BBQ, lemon icebox pie, peanut butter, gnats, humidity, pecan trees, Georgia mud cats, the Georgia Bulldogs, and the Atlanta Braves (including the bad years). But, one thing we rarely needed to be ready for was treating the roads for snow and ice. Therefore, even a light or moderate amount of snow means impassable roads and gridlock in traffic. The historic snowstorm that has hit the deep south has come with power outages, massive traffic jams, stranded motorists, numerous wrecks, and seven states of emergency. Typically, southern cities do not have chemicals for road treatment, a bevy of snow plows, or organized plans because these events are so rare.
I am not criticizing these locales and governments because of this lack of preparation. Of course, I was not trying to get home from work or school in those conditions. If you were, you likely feel differently.
Yet, there is a general state of unpreparedness for something that is 100% likely to occur at some point in the future. Every single person could potentially make completely ready for it. It has been forecast with the greatest of certainty. It has been described in clear enough detail. The preparation is outlined in clear and simple detail. There are even a number of people who have been employed and enlisted to aid in warning and educating the general public. Those tasked with being prepared and preparing others will be held accountable for whether or not they were involved in enacting that plan. Every single person who is unprepared will nonetheless be accountable and liable for the consequences of their not being ready (Mat. 25:1-13). There is absolutely no reason why anyone should be unprepared for the Judgment Day. May each of us do our part to help prepare as many as possible for it!