Saturday, February 18, 2006

missing the point. an apology...

So last weekend, when I preached at a church, I felt I needed to take time to confess to anyone in the congregation who has felt hurt by any church, as a result of Jesus followers speaking or acting in the name of Jesus that wasn’t really Jesus-Like. I include myself as an offender. In my own passion, enthusiasm, ignorance, humanity, I’m certain that I have not represented Jesus well to certain people. Whether words or actions come out of good or evil intentions, people still get hurt and I feel more strongly than ever that we have to say “we’re sorry” before we start handing out advice to the world.

Anyway, a number of people seemed to be genuinely moved by my comments. Here’s what I said. Tell me what you think…

“As a former pastor and as a Christian leader…. I’d like to publicly say… The Church of Jesus Christ has a history of missing the point… and hurting people in the name of Jesus.

I’m sorry. I ask your forgiveness if you have felt like…

• We have used the Bible as a weapon rather than a message of love from God;
• We have used rules to condition behavior and force control;
• We have used guilt and shame to oppress and exploit;
• We have made Christian and Republican and American as synonymous;
• We have not loved you because of your marital status, your ethnicity, or your sexual orientation;
• We have given trite, Bible verse answers, to the complex issues you face in life.

Whether this has been done out naïve or evil intentions… we have caused hurt and pain… and I confess our wrongdoing and plead that you might not let our missing the point block you from seeing the real Jesus.”


At Sat Feb 18, 08:46:00 PM GMT-5, Blogger Andy Christophersen said...

Hi Steve,

Thanks for the apology on behalf of all of us professed Christians. The "Christian, Republican, and American being synonymous" really hits home. Particularly in a county such as where West Bend resides(which is where you extended your apology). A little story pertaining to the Washington and Ozaukee counties in Southeastern Wisconsin: According to a trusted friend and confidant, he has heard in his political science class that the above mentioned counties, according to a study, are two of the most conservative, i.e., "Republican, God Bless America", counties IN THE COUNTRY!

We need to move above and beyond party lines, socio-economic, etc. and into the politics and policies of the "first being last, and the last being first".

At Sat Feb 18, 10:53:00 PM GMT-5, Blogger Angie said...

I just wish sometimes that it was as easy as that to reach all of those that have been hurt. Reminds me of "The Confession Booth" from Blue like Jazz.
I think a lot of what this confession rides on is the emphasis in the (especially evangelical) church on rhetoric, always knowing what to say. Sometimes I think a lot of problems would begin to fade, or begin to heal if we as a church learned to shut up, listen and love with our ears rather than our often contrived, intentional or "relevant" words. How can we make amends to a history of hurt? How can we teach a new generation to listen while only feeding them "biblical ammo" in sunday school?

PS Finally have a log-in/blog :)

At Sat Feb 18, 11:13:00 PM GMT-5, Blogger Joy Morykon said...

wow that is so true! Sometimes it is so hard to even say you are a christian because you are embarassed for what has been done before you in the name of Christianity.
They will know we are Christians by our love.

Thanks for sharing

At Sat Feb 18, 11:48:00 PM GMT-5, Blogger Mike Exum said...

I appreciate the sensitivity to those wounded by church. I recently posted on the same topic and now am fishing the blogs for others doing this topic as well.

Many blessings...

At Sun Feb 19, 01:32:00 AM GMT-5, Blogger Mike said...

Steve, thanks for the humility and compassion it takes to apologize. While back in MN I spent most of my week doing the same thing and it was a tough experience. People responded well but usually wished it would have come sooner.
Your words are inspiring, your heart, an example. Thanks man!

At Sun Feb 19, 01:49:00 AM GMT-5, Blogger Laura said...

I love what you said Steve. I have to admit, for the past few years, I have been nearly church free, for better or worse, although I do it, so I guess personally I believe it's for better. I had this high-pressure, intense college evangelical experience and then realized that the real world was a lot more complicated. I had a sort of break where I felt like everything I had been taught by para-church orgs (and basically upheld by most churches I had been to) had created a version of me that spent a great deal of time worrying about following rules (have a daily quiet time, pray continuously (it's in the Bible!), and Jesus is the only answer to everything) or else you aren't a good Christian person. I realized I didn't really believe that questioning, doubting and wrestling were acceptable. I didn't like fundamentalism, but I had basically become a nice fundamentalist. I was dying to be real, to doubt, to break away, but I never felt like I was leaving God, just like I was searching for who I was. It was and still is all very confusing and personally earth-shattering. I still don't know what I believe about the role of the church and what it should play in my life. This all to say, I love what you wrote and I think if more churches could embrace these sort of concepts and accept people in the "other" category more often, we would all be a lot happier, and perhaps God would be further glorified.

At Sun Feb 19, 09:09:00 PM GMT-5, Blogger heather said...

Steve, although your intentions seem good and it sounds like people were (and are) moved by your words of apology, could you (grace here before I say this...) have missed the point?? There is so much talk today about the church being wrong or right or whatever, but I think the focus should not be so much on the church... What about just focusing on Christ? Just a thought...and something I've been thinking over recently...

At Sun Feb 19, 09:41:00 PM GMT-5, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heather, great point. I agree with you 100%. All of our answers to everything lie in the person of Christ Jesus. Romans 12:36 "For of Him, and through Him and to HIm are all things to whom be glory forever. Amen."

We are citizens of heaven and that is where we get our true identity.

They will know we are christians by our love. True, but in order for us to have true love we must focus on Christ. Because He is all in all.

At Sun Feb 19, 09:42:00 PM GMT-5, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heather, great point. I agree with you 100%. All of our answers to everything lie in the person of Christ Jesus. Romans 12:36 "For of Him, and through Him and to HIm are all things to whom be glory forever. Amen."

We are citizens of heaven and that is where we get our true identity.

They will know we are christians by our love. True, but in order for us to have true love we must focus on Christ. Because He is all in all.

At Mon Feb 20, 12:49:00 AM GMT-5, Blogger Brent Steeno said...

I found your page for the first time by way of Andy's blog. I find it very interesting. I had to write in about the love comment. I have great passion over it. I dont know if you all agree with this but I would love to hear what you have to think.

The objection may be raised that too much is being made of truth when love is what is most crucial to us, both as individuals and as the Church. After all, didn't Jesus say, "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another"? (Jn 13:35 NAS). Love is crucial, and sadly lacking, but the reason it is lacking has largely to do with how we conceive of love in relationship to truth.

The world is desperate for love and obsessed with seeking it. There is an incessant flood of talk about love in music, in literature, on television and radio talk shows, yet has the world ever been more vulgar, more violent, more sick and obscene than in our day? We are always in pursuit of love, but never able to find it. What men call love breaks down under pressure, degenerating into lifeless duty, or lust, or sentimentality. Real love has proven impossible for the world to achieve, and the reason why is not hard to discover. Jesus said,

I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, Whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him. (Jn 14:16-17 NAS).
The world, by definition, cannot receive the Spirit of Truth. This is the very Spirit by which the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts. It is the very nature of the world to seek love apart from and at the cost of truth. It fervently seeks after love but cannot and will not receive truth; therefore, it finds neither truth nor love.

The world forfeits love when it turns away from truth. What then happens within the Church? Are we any more likely to find genuine love than those outside of the Church when we seek it apart from the Spirit of Truth?

John's second epistle begins,

The elder to the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in truth; and not only I, but also all who know the truth, for the sake of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever: Grace, mercy and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love. (II Jn 1-3 NAS).

Four times in three verses the apostle of love, whose head rested upon Jesus' breast at their last meal together, mentions truth. Love and truth are so entwined, so permeated with each other that they are inseparable for John, and that is because they are inseparable for God. Therefore, they ought to be so for us. "Whom I love in truth," John says. Is there any other way to love? If there were, we would have found it by now because we have tried so hard and for so long to discover it. Truth is threatening to us. We live in fear of truth, so we tend to structure our marriages and relationships and churches to insulate and protect us from it. Church, family and fellowship have evolved into elaborate systems for avoiding conflict and exposure and for skirting issues. The very architecture of most churches and our whole way of conducting services are perfectly suited to keeping any real involvement in the daily reality of each other's lives to an absolute minimum. Then, in our varying degrees of insulation, effectively cut off from any intimate contact with God or men, we cry out in desperation for love. What we get is false comfort, superficial healing, and some flimsy rationalizations and excuses. We give each other bear-hugs and say "God bless you" to one another, calling that love, and then go on pretending that all is well when all is not well. The gnawing hunger in our hearts persists. We begin by insulating ourselves from truth in order to protect ourselves; we end by insulating ourselves from love. Shielding ourselves from truth does not protect love; it suffocates it. The only thing preserved by being sheltered from truth is a lie.

At Mon Feb 20, 08:37:00 PM GMT-5, Blogger Mike Exum said...

"Truth" comes from the word "troth" as in "betroth". In the ultimate analysis, to know truth is to love. He is the Spirit of Troth.

Many blessings...

At Mon Feb 20, 11:17:00 PM GMT-5, Blogger steve said...

Andy... you're gracious. Thanks again for inviting me to your church.

Angie... I agree. An aplogy is hardly enough, but maybe it's a start? I think I'm blinded to how I've hurt people at times.

Joy... thanks! You are a blog cheerleader!

Mike E... I read your post. I'll be going back to it. Thanks for your encouragement.

Mike R.... hey bro. email me. Tell me more.

Laura... Thanks for what you shared. I'd like to hear more about your journey. I wish I could say that your story was a rare occurance...

Heather... Grace is always assumed! Thanks for taking the discussion deeper. Maybe I'm missing your point, but in my grid, I'm not sure we, as Christians can separate ourselves from Jesus. If we are "the body of Christ"... are we not the tangible expression of Jesus? If so... then whenever we (me included) do anything to distort the person of Jesus, we have offended him and have not done what Jesus has asked us to do. I not only owe an aplogy to others for distorting Jesus, I owe an aplogy to Jesus, too.

I don't want to de-value the centrality of Christ, nor do I want to devalue the mission of the church.

Brent and others... thanks for your thoughtful comments. I value them.


At Sun Feb 26, 01:20:00 AM GMT-5, Anonymous ken buck said...


I appreciate your teaching here.

I am not sure that the main teaching and practice of the evangelical movement within our nation is ready to be persecuted and also forefit the right to "win" the battle understanding that it is God's role to "win" in his own time and manor.

The posture of confession and reconciliation seems to validate the truth of the Gospel more than a defensive or even offensive posture that we innocently or not so innocently often take.

At Sun Feb 26, 02:52:00 AM GMT-5, Anonymous Randy said...

Now I just wonder when you will be apologizing to all of the Republican Christians who are proud to be American...who actually work with the homeless, love people who have sexual immorality in their life. When will the emergent church stop demonizing the evangelical church and realize that maybe they just do things a little different. None completely right but not completely wrong either.

At Wed Mar 15, 07:44:00 PM GMT-5, Blogger kanachan said...

Someone recently sent me a link to your blog. Its been a long time since I've talked to you or seen you. Not sure if you remember me--but I thought I'd comment on this posting. I haven't read many of the postings, but I read this one. I appreciate the truth in it. The church and Christians (sometimes) have a tendency of being completely "anti-Christ" in many ways. Its terrifying and heartbreaking. Its important for people in places of leadership to recognize it and call it what it is.


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