The Dreaded 'J' Word
- Monday, April 09, 2007
This may be my single greatest issue with the hesitation to judge today. Evaluating a person is a grave and serious matter. However, it’s of utmost importance that we judge the quality of our work, whether it be our teaching ability, people skills, preaching, or whatever. If we’re ever going to raise the bar in the effectiveness of our ministries, we need the ability to evaluate the quality and worth of the work we do. When God spoke to Solomon to build his temple, he didn’t hire good-hearted losers. He hired the best craftsmen and artists in the land.
The gospel deserves no less than excellence. Just as Olympic judges determine the excellence of athletes, we need to call believers to excellence in the Christian community. A hopeful Christian movie producer may have all the right intentions and motives in producing a movie, but if his skill is lacking, and the film is poorly made, what does that say to the culture about our stewardship of finances, or the botched presentation of the gospel? Are we happy to sit back and watch other Christians damage our witness to the culture by producing lousy movies, or should we call them to a higher standard?
Recently, a major movie critic reviewed a new Christian film that he called, “…sadly and typically, another badly produced, over-acted, syrupy, spiritually themed movie.” The reviewer had no problem with the Christian content – just the execution. That’s the way the world looks at our work, because we’ve refused to hold Christian producers to a higher level of quality.
Recently, I spoke to a member of a mega-church in the South [of the United States] where the pastor had divorced his wife, but never missed a day in the pulpit. The church member defended the pastor comparing him to King David, who he pointed out had sinned, but God forgave him and didn’t require that he step down as King. I reminded him that David was the political leader of his time, not the spiritual leader. The pastor in this instance could be better compared to Samuel – Israel’s spiritual leader of the time, and the scriptures require that we hold spiritual leaders to even higher accountability and responsibility. (I also encouraged him to read a little further and see the staggering consequences of David’s sin.)
Remember that even after the salvation experience, we still are all fallen creatures, and without discipline and work, our natural tendency is often to take the easy way out. Today, there is gross negligence and incompetence in numerous churches and ministries, and regardless of the intentions of the leaders, it’s hurting our witness before the world, and damaging our credibility in the culture. As a church, we need to rise up, and stop our giving, write letters, and call these leaders into account.
The truth is, the Church today has it backwards. We spend too much time criticizing the outside culture, and not enough time criticizing the Church. Paul wrote in First Corinthians 5:13, “God will judge those outside. Expel the wicked man from among you.” And yet today, churches and ministries raise millions to boycott and protest network television, secular movies, and mainstream culture, and all the while, we’re dropping the ball when it comes to keeping our own house clean.
If we can’t have a conversation within the church about religious movies that fail, books that miss the mark, ministries that are ineffective, or pastors who fall short, then our future will be a long slide into oblivion. But if we can humble ourselves, pray that God gives us discernment, and always keep the goal of correction and restoration in mind, then we should feel free to seek the truth in all things.
It never hurts to keep in mind that our ability to judge is always limited, and one day, we’ll all stand on level ground before the ultimate Judge. But until that time, I hope we will stop being afraid, and continue calling each other to task for our many failures and shortcomings, so that we can, as Paul said, “…press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Phil Cooke, Ph.D., is a media consultant to ministries and churches worldwide. He publishes a free monthly e-mail newsletter, “Ideas for Real Change.” Find out more at http://www.philcooke.com/
© 2007 ASSIST News Service, used with permission
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