Monday, 23 January 2012

Unfriendly fire

One of the things that the internet has had the misfortune to perpetuate is the whole area of what is called Online Discernment Ministries. These are Christians who feel it is their duty to pretty much pull everything to pieces that doesn't fit with their own personal views on scripture.
I have been loathe to write this blog for some time as the last thing I want to do is fall into their way of online sniping.
I was going to call the blog "Friendly fire" but then found out that it is defined as "... inadvertent firing towards one's own friendly forces while attempting to engage enemy forces..." What I am talking about is neither inadvertent or an attempt to engage enemy forces. This is an outright attack on a fellow follower of Christ. The excuses given are often that people are in error & the Bible calls us to point out heresy.
A favourite misquoted scripture is Acts 17:11
11 Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

I see nothing noble about the often vicious diatribe that is written and spoken. There is also no eagerness to see if the message is true, rather a cruel delight in quoting people out of context and trying to find where they can point out the smallest of errors.

Yes I do believe that we need to search the scriptures to check if what is being spoken or written is sound Biblical doctrine. As a pastor I want to teach people to think, not just what to think. I want to create forums where people can ask questions and explore scripture together. Where we can help each other move forward in our relationship with God and understanding of His word. I don't see that happening with the proliferation of the modern day witch hunters.

The sad thing is, like blood-crazed dogs, they often turn on each other. Somewhere in the lust for heresy hunting, the Great Commission has been lost. People have turned from playground bullying to intellectual & spiritual bullying. A recent example I heard was of a street "preacher" bullying a young teenager because of the church he goes to????

This is not bringing people back to the cross, it is not making disciples or being salt & light to a dying world.
No wonder the world laughs at us. They can't hear the gospel because of the sound of unfriendly fire.
A Christian should be someone who reminds others of the personhood of Jesus Christ. Nothing in this reminds me or points people in my world to Jesus.
Ok rant over. What are your thoughts?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


  1. Amien- I had an amazing conversion by the love of Christ- So glad I saw his face, before the face the elders of the church I went to.
    Like Peter, they wanted to call down fire from heaven to curse those that they perceived were not in God's will.
    But unlike Peter, they never asked Jesus if that is what He wants.
    If they would have checked the Heart of God first, they would have heard what Peter did.
    "You do not know what you ask. I did not come to condemn the world, but to save it."

    Be merciful, and ye shall be shown Mercy...

    I hope the Church arises in these days with the Fire of love, so that the ash of ignorance in previous days will be blown away...

    1. Thanks Stuart. I pray that our church will continue to show the grace of Jesus, even if we do get it wrong sometimes.

  2. Being closely in touch with a number of fellow believers (i still maintain they're believers, even though i want to smack them in the mouth sometimes!) planting themselves in different church communities across the North East, I get a lot of grief for they way we do church, and the how others do church too. Its so sad to see, and a complete waste of energy, especially all the while the dead keep on dying. I've found that a great number of these 'ministries' have the audacity to 'preach' against preachers, yet don't have the balls to call the person they're criticizing and, out of brotherly love, voice their concerns. And I think that's part of where Biblical manliness comes into play, if we've got a problem with someone or something, then maybe we should talk about it with the person rather than hiding behind the thin veil of religious piety.

    1. So true Matt. Its funny how people get caught up in style and think because it is different then its not the same message.
      I would definitely hold off on the smacks in the mouth, no matter how tempting it is. :-)

  3. Great post, Jon. I've been really finding it a challenge with these issues lately, trying to be graceful and not respond and get into arguments, but at the same time not knowing in what way to communicate on such issues. I find it particularly frustrating when people are kittens in person yet growl like tigers the moment they're on facebook; face to face we could discuss and talk about biblical points but yet many times people avoid talking about such issues with people who have been in the faith a long time and could actually defend themselves and instead pray on the young or those they think will be imperssionable.

    Matthew 18:5-6 recounts Jesus saying: “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea." I'm not quoting that in some cavalier way because it applies to us all, it's something I am concious of when with youth and new Christians. It's a responsibility on us all. I try to put myself in the mind of a younger Christian seeing the kind of attacks that go on and I can't help but think that it has great potential to cause confusion in their faith. I find that scripture scary - not in the sense that I am doing things I think may cause the young to falter, but in the sense that it's a motivation to be better, try harder, improve, because it demonstrates how seriously Jesus views what we do. I never want to have to face him and answer for having caused someone to falter or fall. I wish that the people who do this kind of thing would take a similar tack; if they have doctrinal differences they need to discuss then that can be done in private between people who are also minded to debate theology or doctrine for the purpose of mutual strengthening - not spewed out on the unsuspecting, the unaware or the undecided. It's spiritual cowardice.

    I hugely appreciate you blogging on this topic. It's both encouraging to see that you too get frustrated by what happens and good to see the manner in which you have handled things and do respond. Keep on being graceful, there are many of us in church who actively watch you for our lead.

    1. Thanks Pete. You always articulate things so well.

    2. Thanks Jon! Wise words.

      As a young Christian (many years ago) I was given some good advice by a man who had been used by God in remarkable ways all over the world. He said words to the effect of "before you criticise a man for the way he conducts his healing ministry wait until your prayers are seeing as many miracles and then do things differently and if you are tempted to point out an evangelists faults wait until you are seeing as many people's lives radically changed and them show the world a better way. Until then thank God that people are being saved and healed! If you see people flocking to another church don't accuse them of sheep stealing. maybe all they are doing is growing grass and the flock are making up their own minds where they can best get fed."

      One of this man's friends was criticised for wearing expensive clothes and a nice watch and told that he should give them away and live more frugally. What they did not know was that as a young man he had decided to increase his giving as God blessed him so when he started earning he gave God 10% and lived on the rest. At the height of his ministry (and his critics attention) unbeknown to most people he was giving God 90% and living on the rest. Lets be encouragers of good rather than critics of what appears to be imperfect.

      So pleased to be part of a healthy, growing, Bible based church that loves people and loves God.

    3. Darn it I knew PJ would sound so much more intelligent and spiritual than me!! (semi-joke, but seriously PJ, love hearing your thoughts on, well, pretty much everything!)

  4. Like anything in the world, social networking if used correctly is a great tool. However, it's very often abused and people tend to hide behind their computer screens and this is true of so called 'Christians'.

    By pointing out other people's faults are they not being self righteous by appearing to be better than them? Are they not being a hypocrite? "Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven." (Matthew 6:1).

    It is also true of the Pharisees?

    The bible is interpreted in numerous different ways and every church has a different stance but are we not 'all one in Christ Jesus' and we know there is 'one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.' (Ephesians!)

  5. Well done Jon. A great blog as ever. Ecclesiastes talks about there being a 'time to Speak and a time to be Silent'. I recently felt it necessary to respond to a person's rants and constant put downs of the body of Christ. I felt something rise within me and I thought "there's a time to respond to this". I hope I did it gracefully and with love because there's also a "way to respond". I think you've got both of those aspects right here. I think the thing that rose up within me was simply "what good is this doing?". Like you've said, it wasn't making disciples or being salt and light, but rather the opposite I would suspect - turning people away from 'crazy christianity', always bickering and firing bullets at each other! As always, I'm very proud of you. Thank you for continuing to lead us with Integrity, Balls and with Grace!

  6. I agree, it makes me so sad and angry that some Christians think that it is OK to tear down other Christians because of the way in which they have interpreted an opinion, piece of scripture etc. Regardless of denomination or opinion, all Christians essentially believe the same thing. It doesn't matter if you prefer a quieter more contemplative style of worship, or a more loud, celebratory, evangelical style. God made us all different, so it's only right that we all have different opinions and ways of worshipping our Creator. We all have faults so why become so self righteous?
    I like that there are so many different opinions and styles to our faith! It would be boring if we all thought the same. Just because a person thinks in a different way, does not make them wrong.

    As far as the bullying issue in your post goes, I find it disgusting that someone who calls themselves a Christian can justify this kind of behaviour. We are supposed to encourage one an other and build each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11), not tear each other down. Confidence can be a very fragile thing, and to lose it can cause all kinds of problems. The forming of opinions and interpretations of what the Bible says is to be encouraged because it is the best way to learn about what the Bible says. Of course we can be wrong, but that is why we have teachers and people who are further along the journey than us who can gently steer us in the right direction if we've got the wrong end of the stick.

    I'm so glad you decided to write this blog, Jon. I value honesty above most things, and being real about situations really matters.

  7. Dear Jon - thank you for your courage in writing what so many of us feel. These intellectual and spiritual bullies are there and serve to distract people from the "main thing" of ministry and the great mission of the church. Instead of encouraging one another as they see the day approaching, I find them spending their time and energy debating the incidentals of scripture and wasting people's time. These online forums don't bring unity but division. It's sickening how they criticise people and do it with this tongue in cheek sarcasm that suggests we are so stupid not to see their point of view.

    Thanks Jon! I see you've had a lot of response - good on you!
    Tom Rawls - Proclaimers, Norwich
    24 January 2012 07:00

  8. Thanks for your comments. It goes to show that we feel quite strongly about this subject. When we take our eyes off what the main thing is, it is very easy to become distracted by minor things. A lesson we all need to keep in mind.