I really appreciate my “facebook friend” (he might not be able to pick me out in a line-up of former Buccaneer quarterbacks Brad Johnson-I’ve been told I look like him-Rob Johnson and Josh Johnson) Ed Stetzer. Yet I could be wrong, because he is one my few followers on Twitter! Anyhow, he works for Lifeway Research as well as writes, speaks, and promotes church planting. Some church leaders involved in leading church planting efforts like Tim Keller and Mark Driscoll do so from their senior pastor platforms, by writing, speaking, and forming church planting networks. Stetzer frequently speaks at the church planting networks, but is also personally assisting in planting a church now. So he has a special place in my heart, and has had such a place since I met him in a breakout session at the National Outreach Conference in San Diego 2008.
When it comes to planting a church-and I think this applies to most established churches as well but not to same level of necessity-leaders and committed core group members have to be on their guard for what he calls “Issue Christians.” Someone camp up to Ed after the service the other day and wondered why more churches don’t speak about “prophesy” in the way that John Haggee and Jack Van Impe do. Immediately the “issue” radar went off. Here is a pastoral response that really makes sense to me, and is probably more loving for both the “issue Christian” and the church.
Honestly, if this person were unchurched and told me they thought highly of Deepak Chopra and Wayne Dyer, I would have sought a point of contact and encouraged further discussion. I probably would have tried to get together– if they were open– to see what the Bible says about the kinds of things that Wayne Dyer talks about. I would have used the bridge to talk about Jesus. However, in this case, I simply said something like, “We are not one of those churches that you would think talks about prophecy enough– this would not be the right church for you, but I do hope your search for a church home goes well.”
You see, I don’t spend a lot of time with “issue Christians.” It’s not just the issue of prophecy either. I’ve had similar conversations with “issue Calvinists,” “issue political Christians,” “issue charismatics,” “issue homeschoolers,” and many others. These are often good people and those are important issues, but when these are the primary defining issues in the first (and every other) conversation, the correct response is help them move on and do so quickly.
You can read more of his justification for such response here. But this is just one that stuck out.
3. Some “issue Christians” drift from church to church looking for willing ears–you do not need to let that in your church.
“Issue Christians” love to debate and display their knowledge. It is not good stewardship of your time to have these debates and you are not being a good steward of your church to let them loose inside.
Sensitivity to individuals needs is extremely important. When Jesus describes the people who are invited to his Great Banquet, he describes people in unflattering terms (Luke 14:21). We’re spiritually disheveled and dilapidated and desperately still in need of Jesus. As a result we welcome folks who are spiritually and/or physically in a similar condition.
However when a church comprises folks who expect to come and have their particular issue coddled, preached about, encouraged, or enforced, it will not go well. Division will be next in line and all parties will end up bitter and the focus will be taken off of Christ and His mission. Thankful for the many pastors who care about Jesus’ mission so much, that they will boldly love and protect their flock and their mission field.