Friday, October 11, 2013

Bold Humility (LE5)

(LE = Lifestyle Evangelism)
hyp·o·crite [hip-uh-krit]; noun

  1. a person who pretends to have virtues, morals or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess, especially a person whose actions belie stated beliefs.
Greek hypokritḗs: a stage actor, hence one who pretends to be what he is not
In this fifth and final post, as I blog my way through Joe Aldrich's Lifestyle Evangelism, I came across this provocative little quote about a popular buzz-word of the 21st century: authenticity.
"People are attracted to authenticity... It is so easy to deceive from the pulpit, to preach about things we have not experienced and do not consistently practice. It is so easy to overstate, to play on guilt, and imply that we have solved the particular problem long ago... we are veiled - inauthentic." (page 173)
When I see a word like "veiled", I immediately think of Moses hiding his face so that the Israelites wouldn't realize that the glory of God was fading from his face (2 Cor. 3:13). Moses knew that while the glory of God was reflected in his face, people treated him different. He pretended it was still there by hiding behind a veil. He was like a Greek stage actor, wearing a mask for his performance.
I especially appreciate Aldrich's uncomfortable choice to place responsibility for transparency among the people of God on the leader/pastor.

That doesn't mean that you or I are therefore excused from any culpability in the lack of authenticity to be found in our churches.
Because all of us have this maddening tendency towards inauthentic words and behaviour. We want to put our best foot forward. To make a good first impression. To operate from a position of strength.

Even if it means veiling our faces. Playing a part. Being a hypocrite.

So, I'm not putting all the blame on pastors and leaders. But I do see an invitation in this.
"The content, style, and priority of preaching in the church's life is critical to its health and beauty." (page 175)
This statement also caused me to pause and reflect. Throughout Lifestyle Evangelism, Aldrich has used the metaphor of "beauty" to describe what a healthy church is like. In the preceding quote, it sure sounds like Aldrich believes that preaching/teaching is super-important to discipleship, spiritual maturity, and the beauty of the Church.

And maybe that's appropriate. Granted, "head knowledge" doesn't equal discipleship. But "empty-headedness" is not a sign of spiritual maturity, either. Solid, biblical preaching is a great place to start. It's not the whole "kit 'n' kaboodle", but the lack of decent teaching has resulted in a generation (or two) of weak, easily-led-astray Christians.
Perhaps what we need is a return to a "humble orthodoxy". To have leaders who are transparent, humble, authentic (the polar opposite of hypocrite) who are willing to boldly teach with great humility.

And finally, I found it challenging to read Aldrich's comment -- written in 1981 -- that slams itself head-first into the current mantra of the early 21st century:
"Whenever we allow the 'church' and 'Christ' to be separated in our thinking, we get into trouble. To say that 'I love Christ but I can't stand my church' is really a contradiction in terms." (page 174, emphasis added)
I wonder: would a return to humble orthodoxy, with a commitment to humbly but boldly teach the Bible, by transparent and authentic pastors/leaders turn the tide back? So that our churches could become the kind of places where it would be the height of INauthenticity to suggest that you can love Jesus but not the Church?

The kind of churches where we would see less spiritual casualties like Jack & Diane, and more disciples of Jesus?

Any takers?

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