Response to Charlottesville, VA

SwasticaThis Sunday, in response to the deplorable actions of white supremacists and according to the necessity of the calling on my life as a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I spoke to my church family in a public manner to register my disgust with the racism on display in Charlottesville. It seems odd that a minister of the Gospel would have to speak up and articulate a position which should be assumed as it is the ONLY position that can be held by any follower of Jesus and student of the Holy Scriptures of God. In the very public age in which we live, it seems necessary to also make my comments available as they were given extemporaneously during the first 12 minutes of the service this weekend. The clip is available HERE.

There is no Christian justification for any of the racist actions of what is known as the alt-right movement and the display of hatred at the weekend’s protests is categorically and completed indefensible. The position of our church and my position personally is that of the Word of God: That all men are created in the Imago Dei (Image of God) and therefore possess equal and inherent worth in the sight of God. Any different view discounts and disagrees with Holy Scripture and is cause for man to repent and seek forgiveness from God and his fellow man.

Any movement or action of a person or people that treat others as “lesser beings” based on race is evil, despicable, indefensible, ungodly, unholy, and is the antithesis of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A racist is no worse a sinner than any other sinner. All sin is offensive to God and damaging toward others. Our heart is for the reconciliation of all men to God, knowing that all who come to Him are made acceptable as one people known not by the deeds of our hands or the color of our skin but by the name of our Savior, Lord, and King.

We grieve with those who are hurt, frightened, or justifiably angered by the reprehensible conduct of those who advocate for all forms of racism and for any superiority of person on the basis of race.

We call on sinful men, including those protesting and advocating for white supremacy to repent and turn to God begging His forgiveness and pleading with Him for mercy. Further, we call on sinful men of all ethnicities to turn to God and from self, to trust in Christ alone who is the avenger of the weak and the judge of all mankind, and to seek reconciliation with God in consideration of God’s gospel work in our lives.

I do not know of one evangelical Christian who affirms or tolerates the sinful position of racists of any stripe. Racism is categorically wrong. That said, I wanted to add my voice to the chorus of those who have publicly denounced the actions of racists in Charlottesville in recent days so as to remove any perceived ambiguity as to my position.

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When the Burden is not Lifted…

Bible praying hands (2)Yesterday, I kicked off a series of messages on what it is to be and make disciples. Like most days, I was burdened. For months I have been burdened in my spirit about the nature of discipleship in the Church and particularly in the church that I serve. I ask questions about whether we are effectively accomplishing the task of “making disciples.”

A “burden” is not a foreign concept for a preacher. Zechariah gives us insight…

1The burden of the word of the Lord concerning Israel. Thus declares the Lord who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him. Zechariah 12:1 (NASB95)

My task/responsibility/privilege to shepherd and preach to God’s people is a burden. Now…it is not that the people are a burden (though the demands and needs of the people of God can be, at times, burdensome; rather, the burden I speak of is that weightiness of the word of God for His people in my charge. This is a “burden” that He entrusts to the preacher to bear.

Most Sundays…I preach until the burden lifts. (Yep, I know that sounds weird…if you are not a “preacher,” but it is what it is).  Preachers are not “public speakers” in the sense that a politician, or motivational speaker, or even a “teacher/professor” is. Preachers step into the pulpit with a divinely given assignment, and are not “released” until they have completed the assignment.

I shared with my people yesterday…after preaching for nearly an hour…that I was not yet “unburdened.” Sure, the service was nearly over…but the burden remained. Why?

  • I was burdened for the response of the people. I sensed in my spirit that there were people who were choosing to leave the service while disobedient to the Lord’s will.
  • I was burdened for the consequence of their disobedience. Literally, our obedience or disobedience to the Lord impacts us…sometimes and ultimately for eternity.
  • I was burdened that the plea of God was not heard. God nearly always DRAWS men to Himself during the proclamation of His Word and the word of the preacher. The hearer may not respond but God is drawing.

I waited for almost an hour after the service…until everyone had left before leaving… because I was burdened.

Now I don’t say this to elicit “pity” or “sympathy.” I am not looking for consolation, nor am I having a “blue Monday” that preachers often have. God KNOWS that this is not my motivation. I am motivated, however, by my clear understanding that eternity hangs in the balance.

Now, honestly, I have heard preachers (and others) offer “suggestions” about the burden. I don’t necessarily understand their logic since it is not my “experience.” Here are a few-

  • “Remember, that results are not your concern.” Sure, I get that…but I am not speaking of the results. I am talking about the burden.
  • “That’s just how people are.” Ok, I get this…but I care about them. I too was the “way I was” and Jesus pursued me…hard. He was unrelenting. I am not sure how to relent…in light of that.
  • “God’s Word doesn’t return void.” Again, I get the sentiment…but what theological understanding allows a preacher to preach passionately and then to dispassionately declare in the midst of NO RESPONSE that God’s Word did what it was supposed to do? (Consequently, when Jesus cried out while looking over the city, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem. How I longed to gather you together as a hen gathers her chicks, but you were not willing (MT 23:37),” did He just need to trust a little more that God’s Word doesn’t return void? )

I am convinced that there is and will always be a burden for the preacher. If He cares (not as a hireling but as a shepherd), then he must be concerned and weighed down at the awesome responsibility of the task of proclamation.

The continuation of the burden provokes me to intercede for my people. It drives me to prepare more, to preach harder, to stand in the gap, and to fall on my face. It is the burden that does not lift.