The greater things we should be known for...

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I was walking to Blockbuster to rent a movie (like I said... it was a long time ago). As I approached the store, a group of teens gathered outside saw me walking up, and one of them came up to me and said, "Hey! You're that guy that tells everybody they're going to hell!"

At this time in my life, I was a young Bible college student. I hadn't been saved very long, and I had recently answered God's calling on my life. Not finding much opportunity in the church to preach yet, I boldly took to the streets, and started regularly preaching outside of the theater at the Birkdale Village shopping center in Huntersville, North Carolina. In those days there was a large area by the water fountain that teenagers used to gather and hangout at. I decided they would be a perfect audience to preach to, and on most Friday nights one summer you were virtually guaranteed to find me preaching loudly in the open air. I often gathered quite a crowd.

After a brief discussion with this young man outside of Blockbuster about the Lord, and further threatening him with hell-fire should he not repent, I went on with my evening. I stroked my ego a bit afterwards. I was somebody who was known for publicly taking a stand for Jesus! I was doing the Lord's work! Look at me get my light shining business on! The girl I was dating at the time who was with me at Blockbuster was clearly impressed by the "testimony" and "witness" I was making on the youth in the town of Huntersville. My head couldn't help but grow a cap-size or two after accepting such flattery.

Approximately 10 years later, looking back at this event, my opinion of everything I said and did in those days isn't what it once was. While I would still pat myself on the back for preaching the gospel openly for all to hear, I think my older and wiser self would have some words of wisdom to impart to my younger self. And, as I observe the American Evangelical landscape today, I feel some of that wisdom is something that would benefit the church today. So here it goes:

"You are known for all of the wrong things. There are greater things that you should be known for."

My reputation was one of being known for the wrong things. The tragedy of my situation was that the summary of my street preaching was summed up by this one young man: I was the guy telling everybody that they were going to hell.

That's not exactly the legacy I want to leave in this world. It's not the eulogy I want spoken at my funeral. It's not what I want engraved on my tombstone.

While I believe there is a definite place for preaching on hell as part of the preaching of the Gospel, as it is something that Jesus Christ regularly preached on, and is something that modern day preachers should make as part of their preaching, me preaching hell-fire and repentance is not the same thing as preaching the glorious good-news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is a vast difference between the two. And just as I had left the wrong impression upon this young man, so too, I feel like we as Christians in America are leaving the wrong impression upon our culture.

In America, the church is often known for the things it is against more than the things it is for. And the things we tend to be known for are not the things we should want to be known for, or at the best, should be secondary things we are known for.

We are known for being against homosexuality and the Boy Scouts. We are known for our stance against evolution. We are known for being against abortion. We are known for being against Democrats when they run for office. We are known for being anti-Palestine. We are known for wealthy pastors who live lavish lifestyles. We are known for sex scandals. We are known for being hypocrites. We are known for judging everybody.

A recent event in pop-culture illustrates this problem beautifully.

This past weekend, the movie "Noah" staring Russell Crowe was released, and it has been billed as "the least Biblical Biblical film ever made." On the internet, there has been a "universal flood" (pun intended) of outrage amongst Christians over this movie. Whether or not they have seen the movie, Christians and prominent ministries are "taking a stand" against it, and letting everybody know why they should not go see this evil, evil movie. After all, the truth is at stake! The knowledge of God might be perverted! This is just another movie by Hollywood attempting to attack the Christian faith!

And while these things may very well be true to some degree, I think the reaction of the church against the movie "Noah" is very revealing. In once again finding another "cause" to rally behind in the "culture wars," I believe that God himself is using this movie as something of a mirror meant to expose a blemish on our Evangelical soul. Once again, we find ourselves being too concerned over things that don't really matter, and we are getting bent out of shape over something we won't think twice about a year from now. As a result, we are in danger of leaving the wrong legacy behind. We are giving testimony to the wrong thing!

Carrying on the way we have against the movie Noah, we have lost far more as the church in our society than we can ever hope to gain. We are developing a reputation for all the wrong things. Our fame as the church is over scandals and secondary matters.

There are greater things we need to be known for, like the preaching of resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave, the newness of life that Christ has called us to participate in, acts of service that demonstrate our love for one another, and for doing the things that make for peace. Instead of raising hell, we need to look for ways to bring heaven down to Earth, and show the world the things God is really concerned about. We need to show this world things that are truly close to the Father's heart, so that in the process, their hearts might be changed by being exposed to His. But we cannot do such until we've gained such a heart for ourselves. Let us focus on and be known for that.

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