The progression toward a mentoring culture

This past Mother’s Day, which can be quite hard for those who never had the chance to have children, I preached about spiritual mothering/fathering, aka mentoring. That is a privilege granted to all, and one in which we can all participate. Normally I’m a one passage man when it comes to preaching, but for this particular sermon I bounced around to a few passages.

Here’s what I mean by “mentoring:” a more mature (spiritually/experience/age) walking alongside to encourage, build up, challenge, bless, direct, and resource a less mature (spiritually/experience/age) person. It can consist of something as simple as spending time, asking questions, listening, answering, praying with and for, as well as sharing what worked and didn’t work. Sharing failures can often be just as helpful, if not more so, than sharing “what worked.”

Anyone can do that. If you have a pulse, you can be mentored. If you’ve had a pulse for longer than someone else, then its possible you could mentor someone in some way. You don’t need to find THE mentor to end all mentors or become THE mentor to end all mentors. Simply seek out the possibility to become one mentor among others or to find one mentor among others.

During my sermon prep time, I noticed the mentoring progression in Timothy’s life. The first step is just a recognition of need. Timothy had a very clear need for it, as his faith was passed down to him from his grandmother, to his mother, to him.

I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.- II Timothy 1:5
Timothy didn’t have a dad instructing him in the faith. But Jesus never leaves his children as orphans. Not only does he give us His Spirit, he brings us into a family where we can have several dads.
And so Paul became his mentor, or spiritual dad (though I get not all mentoring is like a father-son relationship).
Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church. I Cor 4:15-17
Even though we all have the Holy Spirit, we still need someone to imitate, learn from, walk with, who has been there before. Paul did not say, “Well you guys have the Holy Spirit, so you probably don’t need any other direction.” Nope, we still need people! And so Paul sends Timothy “his son.” Everything passed down to him about how to live out one’s faith in the 1st century, he will now pass on to folks who really don’t have a clue. Because this new Corinthian church comprises very few mature believers, Paul has to bring in a “ringer.”
But a ringer is never the ideal nor is it the goal. The goal is to create a mentoring culture. Eventually Timothy becomes a pastor. How apropos that Paul would write these words to him. Who knows better the need for a mentor, the opportunity, the experience?
Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure…Titus 2:3-5
Older ladies are to mentor the younger ladies. Same thing with the dudes (II Tim 2:2). Whenever this process is not dependent upon A person, you know that the Lord has created a mentoring culture. It is something people just do. Older seeking younger. Younger seeking older.
Getting to that point takes time. You’ve seen the progression. A need to be mentored. Then someone recognizes that need and capitalizes on the opportunity. Then the mentored person shares what he’s learned by mentoring multiple people. Then those people seek out others to pass it on.
Some programs work. Some don’t.
Organic is key, but organic doesn’t mean lack of oversight. Organic certainly doesn’t mean lack of intentionality.
Timothy was the perfect candidate to create a mentoring culture in his church. If you’ve benefited from someone sharing life with you, don’t wait. Take someone younger out to eat, fish, shop, etc… Who knows? Maybe you’ll click. Maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll find that the person is actually more mature than you! Good, then get them involved in the process. Maybe you simply become friends. That’s not bad either. But it only takes a few people who are intentional about seeking out younger and older to create a mentoring culture.
That’s what I dream Harbor Community Church will become.

Meandering Mentoring Thoughts from Dave Sturkey’s Celebration of Life

Yesterday I attended Dave Sturkey’s “Celebration of Life.” Dave was a mentor, fellow pastor, and friend. In fact, he was one of the reasons I got into church planting. He and I dreamed about me church planting one day, and finally he said, “Geoff, you just got to go the Assessment Center and see what they say.”

Several of his friends, former fellow P.C.A. pastors in Bradenton/Sarasota had the privilege of speaking at this celebration. I would have loved to share how Harbor would not be here if not for Dave’s relationship with me (and of course for my former Bradenton past0r Randy). But to have all of the people who wanted to be up front, who had something legitimate to share about Dave, would have made for an awfully long service!

A ton of people showed up. And I realized why. Dave had impacted a large number of people. Not just through his church but through his mentoring.

Several thoughts bounced around my cranium that day….

1.) I will probably never influence that number of people. I would love to do so. Could Harbor become a huge church? Hypothetically I guess it could, though I would much rather Harbor plant churches then get big. But there is a good chance I’ll never be a pastor of a 400-500 person church. I’m okay with that. But will my life mean something IF I don’t have 1000 people come to my funeral (I get that I won’t care at that point, so this is more hypothetically speaking)?

2.) Will I be okay if I never that influence that number of people? It is one thing to desire to impact others. To mentor them so that they can mentor and disciple others. If a pastor doesn’t desire that, he probably shouldn’t pastor. But could that desire to influence become an idol? Yep. What if God desires me to only mentor a few people, and perhaps not have as many people come to my funeral? Would I still have been faithful, but possibly had less tangible influence? Of course. If I’m not okay, then in the end, I’ve simply used people to make me feel important. That’s not love. That’s manipulation. The only way to steer clear of that is to regularly repent and believe in the gospel.

3.) Can the desire to influence that number of people be a sinful desire? Of course. Neitzche was right in his assessment-at least at some level-on morality. He argued that morality was nothing more than “good” people trying to control “bad” people. And sometimes that is incredibly accurate! Influence can be the same way. Sometimes our desire to influence people is nothing more than a desire to control them or make them look or think or act like us. Of course gospel-centered mentoring involves imitation, but ultimately points people to praise, rest in, and imitate Christ. We can desire influence as a way to control others or as a way to point them to our King.

4.) Even though I’ll probably never influence that number of people, I do want to influence more. I imagine you might want the same thing. Time spent loving, discipling, mentoring others is time well spent. I love mentoring/discipling people because people have mentored and discipled (going back to college) and coached me. Just spending time with one more person might give you the blessing of seeing them mentor/disciple/evangelize more than you. Larry mentored Dave, and that was quite the investment. Maybe you mentor/disciple will do way more things than you. And that would be fantastic!

5.) Consider mentoring people while doing what you/they already like to do. All of the guys whom he spent time with mentoring went hunting or fishing with him. I remember driving down to the Venice jetty with Dave to catch snook. I remember kingfishing with him. Don’t waste your hobbies. Use them to spend time with and mentor/disciple others. I actually need to fish more, which means I’ll need to wake up earlier for sermon prep! I get invitations every week. Sometimes with Christians, sometimes with non-Christians. But fishing, hunting, ________ with people is never wasted time.

I was the only Bradenton/Sarasota pastor who never cried in the pulpit. Now that I’m back in town, I don’t know that I’ll be able to continue the legacy handed down by Larry, Dave, and Randy. But if I do, I’ll know its okay. Dave did teach me that.

The Culture and Jesus’ Track Record

Now that we’ve officially had our one year anniversary celebration, I can catch my breath, reflect, and share a little bit more of my time at the Gospel Coalition conference. One evening, my seminary RTS, held a forum to answer the question of “How does the church move forward confidently in the gospel when the times seem so dark?” Or you could phrase it like this: what if the Culture Club (not so much the band but the common cultural consent) becomes more antagonistic toward the church?

The panel included several recognizable names (at least to me) and provided a helpful framework to think through this question.

1.) Church History-It has been just as a dark before, and the church made it through. We have a tendency to pridefully think we are living in unprecedented evil times, but Dr Mike Kruger explained that the church has been here before. In the 2nd century, the church was blasted for not being tolerant. They wouldn’t worship the pantheon of Roman gods, but claimed the God of the bible was not just one God among many they preferred to worship, but that He was in fact the one and only. People didn’t like that and considered Christians intolerant. Sound familiar? Folks at the time also didn’t like the Christian’s sexual ethic. Sound familiar? A monogamous relationship with one spouse? No temple prostitutes, homosexuality, or bath house excursions? Are you kidding me? Not a popular narrative. Yet Christians responded, “We share our food, but not our spouses.” So the charges of intolerance and restrictive sexuality have thrown at the church before. She came out okay.

2.) City of God and City of Man are not the same thing. A few centuries later, as the gospel spread and churches flourished, we saw the church enjoy not only accepted status, but in some ways, it became mainstream. In the early 300’s AD, Constantine declared Christianity legal (he did not make it the official Roman religion) and so, except for a short period, the persecution of the church by the Roman Empire became a thing of the past. For 100 years things looked good. And then the Fall of Rome came and went. The sacking of Rome in 410 AD started to sack folks’ faith. People freaked out left and right! Augustine said, “Whoah Nelly! Easy….” He reminded people in his City of God that the church is part of the City of God (Kingdom of God), not the City of Man. Civilizations will rise and fall. But God’s plan to see His church and His will advance in all spheres of life is not dependent upon a judge’s decision, or common cultural consent. Regardless of whether you think the Moral Majority and the Religious Right were a good or bad thing, the church will move forward just as it did pre and post-Constantine. The City of God is where the Church puts its hope. Euguene Peterson stated, “The church is a colony of heaven in a country of death.” We shouldn’t walk around feeling defeated. Work, pray, and petition for whatever change you feel needs to be made at the government level. But please don’t freak out, riot, or feel like the church has lost. It hasn’t and won’t. Read Revelation.

3.) Where God builds His church and sees it flourish is His prerogative. Europe has seen its heyday and now sees many empty churches. Of course there are new church plants and the gospel is going forth and churches revitalized. However, if you measure by church attendance, we’ve seen a decline. Now things may drastically turn the corner and they may once again become a great missionary sending area. But they may not. Will that happen in the United States? It could. It’s possible. I do think the church is still moving forward here in the States, though the mainline churches are in complete decline. But could there come a time when the Lord uses another area of the globe for explosive church growth? Of course, let’s not become prideful and think Jesus needs America. You could argue that he already has. South America is a hotspot. So is Africa. And how could you ignore China! China’s churches enjoy far less favorable status from the government, and yet that hasn’t stopped anything. Fortunately we are on the same team, so let’s rejoice with them.

4.) Churches may look different. If churches are afforded less freedom, then perhaps they will need to look and operate a bit differently? Will we be okay with that? Harbor Community Church currently meets in a gym. Maybe people will have to meet in houses, or in parks (we’ve done that), or on the water with boats (maybe one day Harbor will attempt that!)? I don’t know. But I do know that Jesus cares about His church and He’ll grow it where He wants. And models of church may by necessity-not simply by mission-change. If America becomes a church wasteland at some point, a la, parts of Europe, you can bet somewhere else it will be thriving like crazy. It has. It is. And who knows, maybe they’ll send missionaries back here and we’ll start it up again?

In Paul’s day, there were many foes of the church-at popular cultural level as well as government level. But time and time again, he points out that our main enemies are spiritual (Eph 6), and yet we serve a King who has paraded those same spiritual enemies through the streets in victory (Eph 1, 4). Let’s not develop an Us vs. Them mentality when it comes to our unbelieving friends, co-workers, and neighbors.

Jesus is on the throne. He’ll return one day. But there is work to be done now, so let us move forward confident not in our government or cultural consent, but in Christ.

He has a phenomenal track record.

Gospel Coalition 2015 experience

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I just got back from the Gospel Coalition 2015 gathering. The facebook page even highlighted one of my tweets as well as another Geoff. Sadly, they will hold their next conferences in Indianapolis, so this was my first and will most likely be my last. Here are a few random thoughts, for the few who may be interested.

1.) Encouraging. I believe I heard 6,000 folks attended the conference, as it was sold out the week prior. That’s quite a large number of people gathering together to hear sermons, go to workshops, and worship together. But not only did large numbers gather, those numbers came from all 50 states, and included 137 countries (and 26,000 followed on live stream). I could hear Aussies, Irishmen, Brasilians, Koreans, among the crowd. There were also translation headphones so that people could hear the speakers in Mandarin, Spanish, and some other languages. Conferences like this really refresh me as I see a plethora of pastors from a plethora of countries doing what I’m doing. I know I’m not alone, but it helps to see that I’m not alone in my commitment to the centrality of the gospel in all of ministry. It helps remind me that I’m not crazy or delusional, that the gospel is real, and that Jesus is really worthy. I know that, and I knew it before, but for some reason, I seem to know it more now. My faith is always mixed with percentage of unbelief. That’s why surrounding ourselves each week with people who believe the gospel, and supplementing it with conferences like these, can do so much for your soul when you struggle to believe the gospel.

2.) Good Preaching. We heard 9 sermons from 9 very different preachers starting in Deuteronomy and ending in Revelation. All preached what are called “expository” sermons, which seek to bring out what is already in the passage. Preachers look at the passage in context to discern the meaning of the passage in order to apply it today. This is different than “topical” preaching, different than making points that are not directly found in the text, and still different than picking several points and then finding various passages to prove them. I think expository preaching is the way to go. But we saw a variety of ways how to preach expository sermons. Some folks were very wooden in their presentation, literally going verse by verse without illustration or much application, and felt very much like a lecture, or simply re-writing a commentary. Tim Keller, as I expected, was my favorite. In my opinion, it takes a great skill to expound what is in the passage, why we need to hear it, show where you we can find your point, what happens if we believe, and yet do so without simply saying, “next verse we see….next verse we see……” I’m no doubt a Keller homer. However, Voddie Bauchum was just behind him as my 2nd favorite, and Ligon Duncan came in third with his exposition of Romans 8 and suffering. Solid.

3) Other-centered. We had the chance to pay 10 dollars for a bundle of 6 books (which were translated into various languages) that will be delivered to pastors in third world countries who have little or no access to the abundant resources we have here (and often take for granted). I wonder who will get my bundle of books? 1500 bundles were assembled, but it was sad that the women’s conference the previous year produced more with a smaller crowd. Hopefully more bundles were purchased after the challenge was issued by the founder DA Carson.

I missed my family (and church family-though one of my leaders came with me) way more than I had anticipated but am glad I went. To get what I got for 150 dollars (early registration) is amazing.

If you have the opportunity to attend a Gospel Coalition Conference, I highly recommend you do so. If not, you will still find an outstanding number of resources on their website.

My Coptic experience

This past Sunday we prayed for the families of the martyred Coptic Christians who did not recant their faith prior to losing their heads. We do know that Paul’s prison chains often fueled others to remain bold in their respective spheres of influence. Prayerfully that will be the case as we hold on to and hold out to others the sufficiency of Jesus alone to save and satisfy anyone.

If interested, here’s an article from the Gospel Coalition with more info which includes how to pray for our brothers and sisters over there during this time.

  1. Pray for comfort for the families of the victims.
  2. Pray for effective mass distribution of a Scripture tract we’ve just produced (see image), that God’s Word will comfort and challenge the many who will receive it.
  3. As I write, there is news of more Egyptians being kidnapped in Libya. Lord, have mercy!

I’d like to share my only experience with a Coptic Christian. His name was Tarik. He and Mahmud (a Muslim if you couldn’t tell by the name) were our guides during the Egypt-Jordanian leg of our Furman foreign study class. Our meeting coincided with a time when I was surrounded not by atheists but with universalists. A universalist believes all roads lead to God. We’re all heading up the same mountain, just on different paths. As a result, I was pretty much on my guard when Tarik and I conversed that January of 1999.

I remember him telling me that God would look at a “good” Muslim and not exclude him from heaven because he didn’t believe in Jesus (Jesus actually disagrees with this in the gospels). If he were a good Muslim, with a good heart, then that would be sufficient. I wonder if Tarik and I had the same conversation in 2015, would he still come to the same conclusions?

Maybe so, because these were “bad” Muslims, right? “Good” Muslims could still be saved by their own personal goodness. I know Tarik didn’t like my answer for I explained that there are no Muslims or Christians for that matter “good” enough to save themselves. I doubt I was all that respectful when I did it, because I don’t think we talked much more after that. And one can respectfully disagree so that the relationship doesn’t end.

But lets consider Tarik’s thinking for a bit.If that were really were the case, and God just judges us on our personal goodness and not the goodness of Jesus as we rely upon Him alone for salvation, then it might be a good idea to be a Sunni Muslim if you live in the Middle East. Certainly safer. And it would be exhausting to be a “Christian” if you believe your behavior could tip the scales in your favor. I’m so thankful that Christ chose to bear my behavioral burden so I could be free to follow Him without the fear of failure.

Fortunately not all Coptics believe in universalism. If curious, here are some fun facts about the Coptic Christians.

 

Forgiveness when you get no or only a “so-so sorry”

At Harbor Community Church, we just finished our last sermon in the series “A Powerful Community.” I mentioned that it was apropos we ended with forgiveness, because I think extending and receiving forgiveness are perhaps one of the greatest displays of the gospel power we see in this life.

Of course there are extreme examples like those in Rwanda or Louis Zamperini in Unbroken, but there are many other forgiveness stories which might not be subjects of books. Yet they still bear the imprint of the work of the Holy Spirit. Forgiveness can happen in the extreme but is just as important on the everyday level.

While I was finishing  Seeking Allah and Finding Jesus on my Iphone this past Sunday, I received a question via text message. It was solid question: Can you really forgive someone if they didn’t or don’t ask for forgiveness?

The context of the passage Colossians 3:11-13, and thus the sermon, focused specifically on Christian community: the church is to forgive as Christ forgives. It presupposes some form of repentance. When I quoted Tim Keller’s The Reason for God, that too, presupposed someone has apologized.

 Someone may have robbed you of some happiness, reputation, opportunity, or certain aspects of your freedom. No price tag can be put on such things, yet we still have a sense of violated justice that does not go away when the other person says, “I’m really sorry.” When we are seriously wronged we have an indelible sense that the perpetrators have incurred a debt that must be dealt with. Once you have been wronged and you realize there is a just debt that can’t simply be dismissed— there are only two things to do. You can forgive. Forgiveness means refusing to make them pay for what they did. You are absorbing the debt, taking the cost of it completely on yourself instead of taking it out of the other person. It hurts terribly. Many people would say it feels like a kind of death….Yes, but it is a death that leads to resurrection instead of the lifelong living death of bitterness and cynicism.

So what happens when someone isn’t sorry? Can there be real forgiveness? Keller defines forgiveness as the releasing of some sort of debt, “refusing to make them pay for what they did.”

Do you release someone from a debt if they don’t want to be released? In that sense, you could say no.

But I’d caution a simplistic answer here, on either side. Forgiveness and reconciliation are not the same thing, but they are connected. Forgiveness can lead to reconciliation.

In As We Forgive, we see forgiveness and reconciliation. In the book Unbroken, we see simply forgiveness. Did Louis Zamperini really forgive, if his Japanese tormentor known as “The Bird” never confessed? They never reconciled, but did he forgive?

I think it would be unfair to not call this forgiveness. Louis wanted to tell this man about Jesus and to extend him grace. Grace is unmerited favor. The hope was that the Bird would be moved by this grace. Reconciliation isn’t possible outside of confession, but I do think some form or shape of forgiveness is.

Whatever “not forgiving”  someone because they haven’t confessed actually looks like, I know what it can’t look like:lifelong living death of bitterness and cynicism.“-Keller. We are called to remove bitterness. Ephesians 4:31 “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” Even if you never apologize, we have to let Jesus take our bitterness.

Seeking confession if necessary for your good AND theirs. Seinfeld’s George Costanza reminds James Spader’s character that he can’t skip the apology step in the 12 step AA program. George pursues him selfishly, not for the good of the other, but simply for his own satisfaction. However, even so, George does want a real apology, not just words. A real apology is something we can seek.

Love covers over a multitude of sins. Do I need to seek confession every time someone sins against me? I don’t think so. My love for you should allow me to release you from debt. If I can’t forgive, then we can talk.

We also have to understand that God seeks reconciliation with us. And he takes the first step. Showing grace to someone else might actually move them to repentance. After all, God’s kindness moves us to repentance, why wouldn’t our kindness move someone else to repentance? Showing grace to those who don’t repent is powerful. It didn’t move the Bird, but it has moved a number of people since.

Who is at fault is not always clear. Often times two parties can both be at fault, and perhaps the response to the offense was a sinful response. We don’t know whose fault it was that Paul and Barnabas split in Acts (if it was a sinful disagreement). Maybe both? But Paul does speak positively about John Mark indicating reconciliation. So something had to have happened. One party moved toward the other. I’ve seen people make confession a pre-requisite to even talking. That’s ludicrous. I know there are instances when one party is completely innocent and one is guilty. But let’s not presume that is always or even often the case.

Jesus asked God the Father to forgive those who nailed him to the cross. Stephen did the same thing when was being stoned. Did Jesus really forgive them? Did Stephen really forgive? Well, both seem to forgive. And who knows what it did to Paul, who was there for Stephen’s execution? It did nothing at the time, but Paul did say in Acts that God asked him why he “kicked against the goads.” Who knows if a seed was planted? Regardless, we see the desire to release someone from a debt based upon their ignorance of what they were actually doing.

Forgiveness is messy. It is not formulaic. It doesn’t happen overnight (though declaring forgiveness can) but can take years. Can forgiveness really happen outside of confession? Good question. Perhaps technically not, but possibly so, based upon what Jesus and Stephen desire?

I don’t know that trying to be technically correct is really the best way to go about forgiveness.  I know that God in His infinite grace moved toward me. And he still moves toward me when I don’t want to confess to my wife and kids that I’ve sinned against them. But He does. Sometimes when I ask Him, and sometimes it is uninvited (but welcomed!).

So in the end, we have to let go of bitterness, even if the debt has destroyed the relationship and the other person. We can seek confession for the good of BOTH parties, but we may never get it. Let grace have the final say and remember the cross. You probably have missed confessing sins (how could you not!) and the cross covers them all. Remember that in the context of relationships.

50 Shades of Grace: Some reflections on Christian grace

I just noticed the other day that Super Bowl losing quarterback (although I still blame the offensive coordinator) went to see the movies 50 Shades of Grey. Why he did that, and then, why tweeted that he saw the movie, I’ll never know. Not exactly a dude’s movie. He claims he was supporting it because it was filmed in the area. Okay….

But because he tweeted, he immediately received numerous negative responses, many of them incredibly judgmental. I don’t want this to be that. And since I can use more characters than twitter or even facebook, here are my thoughts to Russell Wilson, ladies, and perhaps a few dudes.

1.) If you have seen the movie, or will see the movie, this is not a post to make you feel like you’ve fallen into a grave sin. This is not a post to try to incur guilt or even defensiveness. I’m not going to see it or read the book, but I know that many Christian women have (and at least one well known Christian QB). Again, you may see nothing wrong with the movie/book, or the sexuality presented. However, it would be worth your time-regardless of whether you are a Christian-to consider some of the articles which express concern. If an extremely large percentage of pastors, from a wide variety of backgrounds (we’re not talking just fundamentalist anti-Harry Potter stuff) agree that something could be harmful, it is probably at least worth investigating. As a rule of thumb. And if something is incredibly popular, whether it be a movie, song, sexual practice, I think it would be well worth asking the question: Why is _____ so popular? There is a reason. There is always a reason. Find out what it is. Perhaps that reason is good or reflects the longing (even misguided) of people made in God’s image. Or perhaps it expresses a sinful longing of people like you and I, whom are, well, to put it bluntly, sinners. Discern the reason and you’ll do yourself and others a great service.

Here are some reviews that call us to caution the practices in 50 Shades. Here’s one from Relevant Magazine and one from a Psychiatrist.

2.) Hypocritical Response? Some responses I’ve seen to Christians posting articles in response to the movie are, “You a@@,  you watch “R” movies all the time and you’re going to judge me for this?” And that’s potentially a very good critique.  All Christians should be careful whatever they watch. There are “R” rated movies that I’ve watched and there are those which I’ve turned off. At the beginning. At the middle. And there are “R” rated movies which I’ve fast forwarded through scenes, and there are “R” rated movies I wished I hadn’t watched, and there are “R” rated movies that made me run to the cross of Jesus, and there are “R” rated movies that I seemed to think about long after the credits in a bad way, and some in a good way. So let us all be thoughtful in whatever we watch. Thank you angry anti-judgmental person. Seriously, thank you. Well played.

3.) How to discern what is helpful/harmful to watch? Here is a grid that helps me. Does what I watch glamorize sin or harmful activity, that I would want to partake or think highly of the sin or practice? Does it make me want to sin against God or neighbor in thoughts, words, or deeds? Does it make me love Jesus more, or His church, His mission, His world, my neighbors? I’m not advocating Christian movies. I can’t even stomach them! I’m advocating deeper thinking about what we watch or listen to. Sometimes Pink Floyd really makes me love Jesus more (maybe for another blog post). And one show that was entertaining as well as devotional for me was my all time favorite Breaking Bad.

In case you live in cave and haven’t heard of the show-but that’s probably not the case because I don’t know too many caves with internet connection-Breaking Bad is about a Chemistry teacher turned Meth dealer/mogul. But as I watched it (and you are free to see it differently), it revealed how destructive drugs/dealing are, how pride destroys you from the inside out, how overlooking “small” sins leads to much more outwardly egregious offenses, and how much personal sin ALWAYS has communal consequences. The last one is incredibly relevant in our culture that defines something as immoral or bad ONLY if it hurts others. Breaking Bad proves the point that any selfish behavior always hurts not just the self but the community.

4.) Relax. Remember the Da Vinci code? It came and went. I don’t really think it did that much damage. At least not as many thought. I really do think this movie will come and go, and then another one will come. And go. And so forth. And the church will still go forth.

5.) Good mentoring relationships which expose blind-spots are the way to go for men and women. Articles are helpful but discipleship and doesn’t happen by sharing articles. I really do think bible studies in and of themselves need to be supplemented with safe, committed, challenging, relationships.

6.) If you think that Christians should have no business being concerned about what movies you watch, and what you do in your bedroom as “consenting” (can’t we both consent to unhealthy things) adults, then remember that God’s grace does teach us to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions (Titus 2). On the other hand, if you think what is portrayed in the movie is harmful, then remember Jesus hates the sin of self-righteousness just as much. So let us both challenge and encourage each other by speaking the gospel to each other. In the end, all Christians need to believe in 50 Shades of Grace.  We need to experience it. We need to express it. We need to model to each other, that in the end, we are beggars telling each other that Jesus is the bread of life. Find life in Him.