Monthly Archives: December 2013

Changing the Tone


As the Church, we all need to change the tone, the tenor, of our conversation.

From Duck Dynasty, Chik-Fil-A, supposed wars on Christmas and the like… we have to change the conversation.

Strike that.

We need to start having conversations. Start listening to each other — both inside and outside the church.  Building authentic relationships. Stop shouting. Stop clinging to red and blue theology, bumper-sticker ethics and constantly being on the hunt for heresy.

I like what Pastor Carl Lenz, of Hillsong NYC, says in this article:

When Couric asked Lentz if his church has a position on issues like gay marriage, he said, “We have a stance on love, and everything else, we have conversations.”

Asked to explain what he meant, Lentz added, “Often people want you to make these big statements about things, and I don’t believe that’s fair. I don’t think a public forum is always the best place to talk about something that’s so sensitive and so important to so many, because … there’s no discussion there.

“I’d rather have a conversation … because if I make a statement publicly, there’s no discussion, there’s no explanation, there’s just this comment.”

There is a big, healthy and Biblically-sound church in Cambridge that has embraced this approach. They are having conversations. Hard ones. And some people don’t like it and are leaving, but the leadership is committed to doing things differently.  A good friend attends the church and I am following their conversations from a distance. So refreshing, so healthy, so right, so Jesus.

This week I was hanging out with a friend who is the executive pastor of one of the most innovative, fastest growing, exciting churches in New England. Their growth is unbelievable… what God is doing in people’s lives is even more unbelievable.

We were talking about the church and homosexuality.  He knows my story, I know where he stands on the issues. We are still friends, we have mutual respect for each other, and we are real enough to actually talk about it — but not make it the main thing either.

He was telling me this week about a number of people who attend their church from the LGBT community. Again, let’s be clear… this is a conservative, evangelical church. Their position on the issue is clear — both from the platform and the leadership generally. But LGBT folks go there in big numbers. Why?  Because Jesus is more important to most of us than our sexuality… because it is a safe, welcoming and authentic place to struggle, walk, journey, and seek after God in the context of community.

And in that context, God is changing lives and bringing people from death to life — in big numbers.

It is not a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach — it is the opposite.  It is a “I’ll ask and listen as you tell me your story… and I will tell you mine… and we will travel together in this crazy thing we call life… and trust God to do what He wants to do in our lives, in His time and His way.”

And it is so refreshing. So healthy. So good. So Jesus.

And so full of good fruit.

I have many friendships like that. Because of my background, history and story, I have many friends who are affirming to the LGBT community, and I have many friends who have serious reservations and convictions that don’t allow them to affirm things like marriage equality, etc.  And I have even more friends who are wrestling with these issues as followers of Jesus, and for whom it is really hard and complex and they are trying to figure it out.

And what I so deeply appreciate about these folks is their willingness and commitment to relationships and conversations. Because ultimately that is what is going to change hearts — and more importantly, allows us to love each other even when we don’t agree on these issues. Being part of the Christian family — the Body of Christ — is about knowing and being known, loving and being loved, serving and being served, celebrating and being celebrated. And these things only happen when we get real and authentic and honest with each other… and tell our stories… and listen to each other’s stories… and work harder at being understanding than being understood… when we change the tone.

And when it happens, it is so refreshing. So healthy. So good. So Jesus.

Friends, we need to change the tone.


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Posted by on December 22, 2013 in Uncategorized


Rick Warren is Being Disingenuous


I like Rick Warren a lot.

I have a ton of respect for his ministry, integrity and character.

I have learned a ton from him, consider him a mentor-from-a-distance, and will usually defend him against critics.  

My experiences with him have demonstrated that he is genuine, loving, passionate, compassionate, and simply put — the real deal.

That said, in this recent interview about homosexuality and gay marriage, Rick is being disingenuous. In the interview, Warren is quoted as saying:

“I fear the disapproval of God more than I fear your disapproval or the disapproval of society”

in response to a question about his opposition to gay marriage.

It is no surprise and nothing new that Warren believes all homosexual behavior is sinful and that gay marriage is wrong.  While I disagree with Warren on these issues — and believe he is both on the wrong side of history as well as faithful exegesis — I respect him enough to not dismiss him because of this disagreement.

But here is where is gets disingenuous: he implies that his position is the only one that God would approve and that anyone who disagrees or has a different position (a) is outside the bounds of God’s approval and (b) hold their position because they value societal approval more than Gods.

The truth of the matter is that there are faithful, committed, intelligent Christ followers on both sides of this issue — and Rick Warren knows it.  Those who disagree with him do so out of conviction and from their understanding of scripture and Jesus. We can disagree on how to read and apply the scriptures without having to lower ourselves to imply that those who disagree with us are less faithful and less committed to the scriptures and to following Jesus than we are.

The right answer for Warren would be: “I believe X. Many of my brothers and sisters believe -X. As I hope they respect me, I respect them. This is an issue of hermeneutics and exegesis. We all agree that God’s love is for all people and all people are created in the image of God. That is the important stuff…”

I have heard Warren plea for more civility in these kinds of conversations, especially within the church. That cannot and will not happen until leaders like Warren stop mis-characterizing anyone who disagrees with their particular interpretation of a passage as being “less faithful”.  As a church community at-large, we must be humble enough to listen first, seek common ground, and always lead with respect and civility.  

Most of the time, Warren models and leads in this area well.  This time, he failed.


Posted by on December 14, 2013 in Uncategorized


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