21 October 2015

An Unforgiving World of Bumbles & Misfit Toys

by F. X. Turk

I have a little "file for future use" item that seems relevant this week.  I hope this will take up neither more than an hour of my time nor more than about 3 minutes of your time: the next time someone under 40 tells you about what a rotten church we all have here, please direct them to this piece of journalism from the National Review.  On the one hand, it's about something completely different than the problems of being a Christian church in a society which is insufferably Middle Class.  On the other hand, it is talking about the exact same problem and solution in a different context.

I bring it up because someone who is bucking to be a famous malcontent along the pedigree of the young and pretty Jefferson Bethke has written an essay getting a lot of "yeah, bro," comments concerning the idea that the church is something that is not a club and therefore he's leaving it for something else
(which I guess is supposed to be better, but he doesn't really say what it is or how it is better).  What always bothers me about these young fellers is that it seems really obvious to me that they think they are the first ones to come up with these ideas, the first ones who are going to strike out on their own like Hermie and Rudolph into a harsh and unforgiving world of Bumbles and Misfit Toys, and the first ones who will finally, finally, finally live the way Jesus intended people to live.

The biggest reason this bothers me is NOT that they are dissatisfied with the English-speaking church.  I think that the whole parcel of English-speaking churches is, by and large, disappointing for quite a laundry-list of reasons which all boil down to really one root cause: human beings.  Once you put two human beings together for anything to accomplish anything, the results are all of a sudden disappointing -- especially to the next 1 or 2 human beings who walk by and start auditing the results.

The bother comes from the idea that somehow we have finally found a group of fellas who are either more sanctified or more mature than anyone else has ever been, and these are the guys who are really ready to get down to the dirt of the thing and suffer for Jesus the way the NT says to suffer for Jesus.  And these guys are not yet 30 and not yet on the other side of the first time their circle of Jesus friends come up short against what's best next in their local community (which is to avoid saying it this way: "these guys haven't been pastors long enough to find out that every single person on earth is a disappointment, and every single church is populated with disappointing people, and those people are their own special kind of burden to carry").

What I think these guys need to do is not to read or to write a book.  They don't need to form another parachurch organization or a network of fellow disaffected young bucks who can't do church "like that" anymore.  They definitely do not need to start a podcast or a YouTube channel so that they can aggregate (again) all the ignorance of the internet to solve their problem.

Rather what they need to do is to re-read the letters of Paul to the churches he planted and the pastors he left behind to help these people to know Jesus and to love one another.  They need to know what is means to teach sound doctrine and also what accords with sound doctrine.  They need to learn how to come not for the sake of glory from other people, not for the sake of filthy gain, but to come as gentle and nurturing parents who toil night and day in order to be no burden themselves but to preach the Gospel.  And they need to stop, immediately, thinking that when they are finished they are going to end up looking like anything other than what faithful men who do this always look like: in disrepute. They should look hungry, thirsty, poorly dressed, persecuted, slandered, and the scum of the earth.

And it would probably serve them well to remember that the guys they think have completely blown it started exactly where they are right now, but 20 or 30 or 40 years ago -- and this is how well they were able to do it.  We're all hoping you do better, but we all remember where we started 20, 30 and 40 years ago and what those guys whom we were disappointed in looked like.  Here's to you becoming a better class of scum, I guess.

Closing note: I have picked this post, for personal reasons, to be the page my Twitter page sends you to as my "home page." It explains almost everything you need to know about me and why I am mostly on hiatus these days and not blogging. However, if you want to know what I think about everything, if you click on the "centuri0n" label below [it's an internet handle which originated in the days of dial-up that sorta stuck], you can find all the stuff I ever wrote here at TeamPyro. Good luck and God Bless.


Michael Coughlin said...

A hearty Amen! (translated: Good post.)

Randy Talley said...

I was just reflecting on all of the years I have been reading this blog, and I couldn't remember the last time I disagreed with something that was published here.

Still can't. Thank you, Frank.

I hope that article doesn't help spawn Emergent II. Or the Church of Timothy Leary ("turn on, tune in, drop out"). And hopefully these guys will grow up.

DJP said...

Really, really wonderful. Now I don't have to write my "Dear Princess" post; it would not have been nearly as good.

Also: "these guys haven't been pastors long enough to find out that every single person on earth is a disappointment, and every single church is populated with disappointing people, and those people are their own special kind of burden to carry" — nor pastors long enough to discover that, relatively speaking, as a rule the most disappointing person in the church is the pastor himself.

FX Turk said...

^^^ That. Right there.

Doug Hibbard said...

We were discussing this whole thing at home the other night, and it dawned on me...when I was 17, I thought I was smart enough and skilled enough to not need old-fuddy-duddy parents. By the grace of God, it didn't take too many days for Dad to clear that thought right out.

Church-wise, we this adolescence: 'it's not good enough.'

And, truth told as you just did, that's right. It's not good enough. The church isn't what we ought to be.

So here are your options: stick around, grow in wisdom and in grace, and help the the church become more like we ought to be; or: bail out to whatever it is you want to bail out to and then condemn us for not being what we should be, like the kid who took his football and went home, then mocked us for not playing football that well. Guess what? You could help, right here, right now, in this local body of believers that is a church.

And fine, then, the church is too much like a social organization? Let's change that, right here, right now: you can't quit like you can quit the Kiwanis Club or the Boy Scouts. You're in, so show up, man up, and get back to work.

Sorry to rant that. But as a 30-something pastor who, after doing this for more than a decade, has seen too many of my peers stomp on the folks who raised them to follow Jesus, I'm really tired of my generation's response to the church that God used to save us. And, yes, I really chafed that nobody listened to me at 25. So I started blogging, worked for Chick-Fil-A and UPS, and whined. And I went to church, worked in the nursery, and realized something:

It is a trustworthy statement, worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost....isn't what Paul was telling Timothy about Paul. It's what Paul was telling Timothy the right approach to pastoral work is. All these sinners in this church? Jesus came to save them. And me as their pastor? I need that same attitude of humility. Foremost sinner in this church? Me. Now, it's time to get to work, teaching, preaching, proclaiming...with all of the serving, praying, studying that undergird it.


Kerry James Allen said...

"Young men think old men are fools; but old men know young men are fools."

George Chapman, died May 12, 1634

And we know because we were once those young fools.

FX Turk said...


What sort of Jesus are you following man? Is he some kind of suicide case?

trogdor said...

Nobody has yet shown up to whine that you're violating 1 Timothy 4:12 by putting this whippersnapper in his place? Have the trolls just given up?

Jim Pemberton said...

Which is to say that if anything good actually happens in church, the one to credit it with is God.

What strikes me is the pattern of young whippersnappers who find everything wrong and run the pendulum to the other extreme trying to fix it with their own brand of wrongness.

FX Turk said...

Trogdor - They have more important things to do, like ministry.

DJP said...


JG said...

Awesome. ExcrlleExcellent. I wish more people had been speaking this when my (this) generation was in high school, wearing "religion kills" t-shirts to church and thinking it was thooper edgy.

And maybe they were. But we didn't have the easy dissemination of blogs, and we sure weren't picking up a denominational periodical.

Thanks, and sharing.

FX Turk said...

Yes. That is what I mean.

Unknown said...

Excellent Frank

Larry Geiger said...

Yes! But...

Every once in a while it appears that God calls a young man out of the "club" to perform some work. Paul and Luther come to mind. So it might be ok in our day that God will do the same thing again with a young man.

Here's the point. With all the talk about club stuff, is Frank Powell really ready to walk the road that Paul and Luther walked. Does he have what it takes? Has he spent the time on his knees? Does he have the accumulated knowledge of the Word they did? Really??? Just asking.

Because I'll tell you, guys like Paul and Luther and Spurgeon scare me. They were scary guys. Serious guys. Thrown over the wall. Stood before princes. Stoned and ridiculed. Very. Serious. Guys. Before you tell the world that you have the same mind about things that they did you better be really, really ready. Seriously ready!

FX Turk said...

Oh Larry -- Don't humor these kids. First: let's not get into what the vast gap there is between who Luther was (and what a mixed bag he accomplished) and who Paul was. The inspiration of Scripture ought to be the sort of thing which makes comparisons like these unthinkable. The gap between Luther and Paul is literally the gap between the divine and the mundane.

Second: there is no way any of these fellows we have seen in the last 15 years is any kind of Luther let alone any kind of Paul (which I think was really your point). If these kids think the kid who wrote the essay which inspired this post is on-par with Luther, why is his (and their) first impulse schism and Luther's first impulse reform?

This whole count-me-out and new-reformation junk is self-congratulatory and really, anti-Christ in a wholly post-modern way.

Larry Geiger said...

"is any kind of Luther let alone any kind of Paul (which I think was really your point)." Yes. Once more, much more eloquent that I could be. Thank you.

Solameanie said...

"This whole count-me-out and new-reformation junk is self-congratulatory and really, anti-Christ in a wholly post-modern way."

First, excellent post. Thank you, Frank.

Next, the above line struck me rather forcefully, as I have been in one of my periodic re-reads of Roland Bainton's bio of Luther, "Here I Stand." One of the things I like so much about that bio is that it does not gloss over the more unfortunate parts of Luther's life, writings, etc. Reading it, you eventually encounter where Luther began to use the term "Antichrist" in reference to Rome and the pope. A new window has suddenly opened to me where I am pondering what the Apostle John had to say using that term, Luther's usage of it, and the way Frank used it above in his reply. Many of us evangelicals tend to view "Antichrist" in eschatological terms, but really, it also applies more broadly to whatever is "against Christ." When you think about how much that is going on right now within evangelicalism is so far outside of biblical guidelines, if not directly opposite of what Scripture commands, it is really, really jarring to consider that the things that trouble us in departures from sound doctrine, biblical practice etc. is foundationally ANTICHRIST.

Those engaged in the "like ministry" stuff would no doubt be horrified and appalled at hearing themselves and their grand concepts labeled as Antichrist. But it's true. Whatever is opposed to the sound teaching of Christ and the Holy Spirit-inspired biblical authors is against Christ.

I'm going to have to chew on this one a while, and am amazed it didn't leap out at me before. It's sad that one would even have to use a word like that in connection with "ministry" and "teaching." But we must. Scripture warns us about it. Antichrist is not just a man who rises up and opposes, or tries to take the place of, Christ. It is an Antichrist spirit and mindset as well. Oh, Lord, please lift the blinders off of our eyes!

FX Turk said...