If you are on twitter regularly and follow some of the well known theologians and church leaders, you would not have been able to escape the major trending topic from last weekend. For now, I don’t even want to mention names, only to say that a certain pastor, writer and speaker, was the number trending topic in the U.S.A on Saturday evening.
Why all the talk and trending?
This pastor has a book coming out soon and has an accompanying video promo for the book. But, why all the fuss? Well, without reading the book, but watching the video promotion, some prominent church leaders and theologians were quick to attack the theology of this individual… Before we knew it, this guy was a top trending topic as many of us debated, commented, and attacked the theology of the video promo (and probably many of his past best sellers).
Now, let me be clear, I am not here to give an opinion (and I do have an opinion about the matter). However, I want to address the way church leaders went about voicing their disdain. I also want to tie this into our youth ministry world as I think it means everything to understand the ramifications for the future of our students and the church…
1) Is Twitter Really A Place for the Pillars of our Church to Criticize other Church Leaders? Whether we like it or not, this guy is a pastor of a prominent church and still represents the Bride of Christ. Is it right for us to air our “dirty laundry” in public like this? Could there have been a different way? Is it more about “being right” or is more important to protect the Bride of Christ?
2) Being Too Quick to Attack Only Devalues the Message. To be honest, a big part of me was thinking, “come on guys, you have not even read the book and you obviously have an agenda concerning this guy.” Instead of listening to the arguments, I was just ticked that judgments were being made without good explanation… The argument became devalued since their judgment seemed premature…
3) If we have a Problem with False Teaching, isn’t it better to Deal with the False Teaching rather than the Individual? If we genuinely have an issue with someone’s theology, isn’t better to address the error of teaching than attack the individual? Focusing too much on an individual can make a blurry argument. False teachers will come and go, but false teaching itself is our real problem.
4) If we have a Place of Leadership, we must Consider the Ramifications of our Comments. I am deeply concerned by the actions of some prominent figures in the church who I had respected for years. Their place of leadership in the church directs the thoughts and ideas of so many. Instead of following Matthew 18 when dealing with disagreement, their public comments created a frenzy of debates and attacks within the church… Not so good.
So, how does this all relate to Youth Ministry?
1) As Leaders, We Must Consider Our Speech And Actions In Every Domain. Our students are watching us and are following our lead. When they see and hear us gossiping and attacking others in the church, they will likely follow suit. Consider your church today; How many comments and attacks come from grown ups who once were in our youth ministries?
2) We Must Be Careful What We Post. Students, parents, leaders, and friends are watching our tweets and Facebook updates more than we know. Why? They look to us for leadership and direction and want to get the inside track on how to follow Jesus. Nearly every week a parent or student comments to me about something I posted. Therefore, we must consider the implications of every post and comment. If you are like me, I lost a lot of respect for certain church leaders last weekend and it’s vital that our followers do not lose respect for us. More importantly, it means everything that our comments do not take people away from our Savior.
3) As Leaders We Must Teach And Model Healthy Conflict and Disagreement.
Matthew 18 could not be clearer:
“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. Matthew 18: 15-16
In our churches and youth ministries we must teach and model healthy conflict. Not only should students see us following Matthew 18, but we should constantly remind them that this is the best option Jesus gives for dealing with disagreements in the church. Too often students learn from the church to gossip, get back, or hold on to hurt. It’s important that students in the teen years are challenged and encouraged to learn God’s way of dealing with conflict.
Finally, how are we doing in this area personally? How are we dealing with conflict in our churches? What areas can you and I work on this week? Let’s be real honest, it’s easy for me point to the twitter debate from the weekend, but it means everything that I examine my own actions above all. We might not post opinions and attack individuals publicly on twitter, but how often are we doing so in our churches?