Bloated On Big: A Call to Simplicity

Growing up, my family entertained a foreigner from Germany who stayed with us for a short time while he traveled on business in the United States. The experience was an unforgettable one for all of us.

Our visitor, in his semi-broken English, liked using the word "BIG" a lot to describe all things American. He was quite obsessed with this phrase. We found it humorous.

His eyes marveled at the things I took for granted every day.

Like, I had never considered that as a kid, that our 2-story 4-bedroom 2,000 square foot home was "big." It seemed quite average to me. I had some friends who lived in homes both bigger and smaller.

According to this report from data collected by the US Census Bureau, the average size of a new home being built in America today is about 2,600 square feet. Compare that to this report on Germany, where the average home size is less than 1,000 square feet. As American's, "on average" we've not lived in homes that small since the 1950's, and what is average to us is quite big to most the world.

Let's face it, in America we do "big" really well. We look to "Super-Size" everything from our French fries to our churches. When we dream, we dream big.

And there is a lot I like about that.

Except, I'm starting to feel a little bloated about the entire "big" thing.

Making everything we do the equivalent of a Thanksgiving Dinner is starting to get really tiresome, old, and unoriginal. I don't want Thanksgiving Dinner every day. On some days I just want a tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich.

I believe God is calling all of us to something smaller. I believe God is calling us to live more simply. I believe God is calling us to less exceptional things, and is calling us to more ordinary things. After all, it's in the ordinary every day things we find God the most.

For heaven's sake, God's only begotten Son came into this world, not as the CEO of a Fortunate 500 construction company, but as a simple carpenter. He didn't even have power tools. If Jesus would've been born in America today, He would probably work as a 1099-contract based worker. He wouldn't even officially have a "job" based on IRS standards. He would probably wear denim blue jeans that you could hang a hammer from. Jesus wouldn't be caught dead in skinny-jeans.

Let's get back to small. Let's get back to simplicity. Let's trim our budgets. Let's take on less debt. Let's build smaller churches. Let's live in smaller homes. Let's lay off the super-sized fries.


Budget to Give

I think a lot of God's people would admit that they enjoy giving, and that they want to give more.

But many feel hindered, because they feel their financial situation doesn't afford them the ability to give as much as they'd like.  Thus, the idea of giving more seems a bit frightening, because they fear they simply cannot afford to give more than they presently do. Maybe you are one of those people.

Let me ask you a simple question...

How much money do you make on a monthly basis?

It's really a simple question.  But it's a question that I believe a lot of people cannot accurately answer.  My guess is that you probably don't really know either.

For a living, I work as a mortgage underwriter on the foreclosure side of a really big bank.  As a result, I've had the opportunity to review the personal financial statements of a lot of different people.  In the standard paperwork my bank asks people to fill out, people are asked to disclose their monthly income.  When I compare what people write down as their monthly income, to what I actually calculate after reviewing their last several paychecks, I usually discover what a person thinks they make on a monthly basis is very different than what they actually make on a monthly basis.

Having reviewed thousands of personal financial statements, I am of the opinion that most people in America simply do not know how much money they make!

And if people don't know how much money they make on a monthly basis, I think it is fairly safe to assume that they don't know what their monthly expenses are either.

Honestly, I believe that most people simply hope to have money left over at the end of every month.  And usually, they are right, and that is enough for them.  But many people learn the hard way, and eventually find out that they were guessing wrong, and don't have enough money to cover all their expenses.

Don't be one of those people.  As much as I enjoy being employed at the bank, I don't want to see your loan application on my desk asking for help so that you can avoid foreclosure.

Instead of being a person who thinks they make enough money to cover their monthly expenses, become the type of person who knows exactly what they make on a monthly basis, and who knows exactly what their monthly expenses are.

But the only way you can do that is if you take charge of your personal finances and make a monthly budget.

I know... not exactly fun stuff.  Some people would rather go to the dentist than make a budget.

But if you are to be a responsible steward of the financial blessings God has provided you in your life, making a budget is the only way you can get on top of your personal finances.  And if you are looking to be a "cheerful giver" as the Bible teaches, there is no way you can find joy in writing checks that you fear may possibly bounce, or cause you to get behind on your other bills.

Making a budget requires that you first analyze your personal finances by going line by line through your bank statements, and find out exactly how much money you take home on a monthly basis, and exactly how much you spend.  Of course, since expenses vary month to month, it is best to analyze a full year worth of bank statements so that you can get a general average.

In this process, you will likely discover that you are spending far more in certain categories on a monthly basis than you were previously aware.  I think most people discover that they spend far more on eating out, shopping, and home repair/maintenance than they thought they did.

I remember analyzing the bank statements of one person at work, and discovered that they spent about $1,000 eating out on a monthly basis.  Such was almost the amount of their monthly mortgage payment, which they had fallen behind on.

I didn't have the opportunity to talk to this man about his personal monthly expenses, but I bet if I were to have asked him if he ate out that much, he would deny spending as much as he does at restaurants.  And a lot of people are like that, in denial about what they spend and where they spend it.

But that's what is so amazing about a budget.

A budget forces you to be honest about your spending habits.  A budget forces you to deal with reality, and not simply what you think is going on.  In making a budget, you do as personal finance guru Dave Ramsey says, and "name every dollar, instead of wondering where every dollar went."  A budget helps you take control of your spending habits, so you can better direct where your money goes.  Instead of doing this...

A lot of Christians write checks "in faith."

That is, they write a check hoping that it clears before other checks do, and that they will get paid before all the other checks have a chance to clear.  They do this with everything from tithe checks to mortgage payments.

God doesn't want you to have that kind of faith.  When it comes to "tithing" or making your mortgage payment on time, God is much more interested in your being "faithful" than He is whether or not if you can write a check not knowing where the money is going to come from to pay the bills this month.

Being faithful means not writing a bad check that has the potential to bounce.  And if you are living off a budget, you will never need such "faith."

Some Christians like to tell stories about how they tithed, not knowing where the money was going to come from in order to pay their mortgage or other bills, and that God miraculously provided for them in the end.

I'm not going to say such never happens.  But let's be real.

Churches process bounced tithe checks on a weekly basis.  And banks regularly foreclose on homes owned by Christians who practice such check writing habits.

If you can't afford to tithe AND pay your bills this month, pay your bills first and learn to make a budget so that you can actually afford to give.  Write your tithe check later, it's ok, God won't curse you if He doesn't get it this week.

The point of developing a budget as a Christian is so that you and I don't have to live by such "faith."  Rather, we develop a budget so that we can be the faithful, and show that we are faithful by our ability to follow through.

As Christians, we live in the belief that God has already provided for all of our needs, and we adjust our lifestyle in accordance with what God has actually supplied.

When we track our monthly income and expenses, and create a budget, we do so in order that we can take control of our personal finances.  Such a process is something that actually honors God.  And we do this so that we can afford to live a lifestyle that not only honors God, but so that we can be liberal and generous in our giving habits.  We do this so that others may enjoy the grace that God has given us.


Give less to God, more to Others

God doesn't need your money.

People need money.

God can't accept your money.

People who are poor can accept your money.

With these truths being rather self-evident, maybe we should strive to give less to God, and give more to others.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying we shouldn't give money to the local church or world missions, and to help financially support the work that goes into preaching of the Gospel.

Such is entirely Biblical.

I just think we should give more money to those who specifically need it than those that don't.

Such is simply MORE Biblical.

Blindly writing a check every week and putting it in the offering plate and saying you gave to God as a result... not so much.

Some ministers might object to such statements, and insist that you have (or get to!) tithe 10% of your income to the local church. It is there, they say, that God has setup His storehouse in which you are to bring your tithe.

Many preach this really well, but frankly, it's simply not Biblical. And there is nothing in the writings of the New Testament to support the notion that God accepts your tithe by means of a pastor at a church building.

Indeed, the early church didn't even meet in buildings, they met in public outdoor places and in living rooms. So the concept was far from their minds.  The only "house of God" they knew about was the temple in Jerusalem, and they knew that Jesus promised it would be soon be destroyed.  So, it's doubtful that they ever brought very much money there knowing such a thing.

No matter.  Such still won't keep very many pastors from trying to come up with clever ways to link the Old Testament practice of tithing to the New Testament, and induce you to give to them as a result.

As some pastors told me in Bible college and Seminary, whether tithing is required today doesn't matter, they were still going to preach it anyway, because without doing so, many of them were convinced that their doors on their church would close tomorrow, and they would be without a job.

(That was a true story by the way.)   

In case you are not aware:

The "storehouse" of the Old Testament to which people brought their tithes was something akin to a barn and used to store food. When people tithed, they brought livestock and other food stuff there.  It was like a giant community food pantry. They didn't bring money. If they had money, it was to be used to purchase food, and that food was subsequently stored and eaten.

Tithing was primarily a practical means by which God made sure the Levitical priesthood and their families, in exchange for their full-time service in the temple, could have something to eat. For the priesthood and their family were engaged in the service of the temple all day long, and they simply didn't have time to milk cows and plant a garden.

Additionally, because they didn't inherit any land in Israel, they literally had little to no land from which they could cultivate, farm, and support themselves with. All they received from Moses when he divided the land were a couple cities that were designated for the Levites to live in. Without the tithe, they would have literally starved, and they would have been forced to abandon their priestly duties in the temple.

This isn't a problem anymore today, because...

We have no more Levitical priesthood to support anymore.

With the giving of the New Covenant, all of God's people are now priests, and all are called to minister in some fashion. And while it is true that pastors and others have the right to be compensated for their service to God's people, if you read the New Testament carefully, you'll find that folks like the apostle Paul rarely accepted financial assistance in compensation for their ministry.

Instead, the apostle Paul worked, and was self-employed in the leather trade. And he specifically encouraged others to follow his example, as he thought it was the wisest thing to do.  He didn't want people to question his motives for preaching the Gospel, and create a stumbling block for others in the process.  Additionally, he wanted the money that might have normally gone to him, had he demanded it, to go towards the meeting of other more pressing needs than his own.

If you actually study all of the passages that talk about giving in the New Testament (and there are quite a few!), you'll discover that the early church primarily gave their money to feed the hungry, take care of the poor, and to support widows. Very little money seems to have ever been given or received for the purpose of helping pay preachers for their labor.

And NONE of it was ever given to help build auditoriums or cathedrals.

And the church still grew like wildfire in spite of not funding the things we typically spend a lot of money on, and did so for several centuries.  Which leads me to ask...

What would happen if we followed the teaching and pattern of giving practiced in the New Testament by the early church?

Just imagine all the places we live and how our cities and nations would be transformed overnight, if instead of "giving to God," we simply made it an intentional point to be radical in our giving, and looked to give our money directly to the people who actually need it the most.  And in the process, share the Gospel with them.

Can you imagine the witness this would bear for Christ in the community? Can you imagine the platform the church would gain in order to proclaim the Gospel if it had little overhead, and majored in giving?

Let's think outside the box for another moment.

I go to Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. As of December 2013, we received over 25 million dollars in offerings last year according to this audited online financial report from the church.  The church, which is very generous, gave back 12% of that money to the surrounding community.  Not too shabby compared to most other churches.

But, imagine a scenario, that, if instead of using the money we received to support the hundreds of pastors and staff who work at Elevation, and to pay for all the overhead associated with this ministry, that we simply decided as a church to pool all of our money together to end homelessness in Charlotte.

We could do so every year, starting this year!

Impossible you say? Check this out...

According to this report at the Charlotte Observer, as of December 2013, there were 2,418 homeless people in Charlotte. If we took the same 25 million dollars we received last year, and used it to help each of these homeless people obtain an apartment, that means we could give each person every year $10,339.12 (or $861.58 per month), to go towards paying for rent somewhere. For those not from this area, at $861.58 a month, you could easily find a 1 or 2 bedroom apartment to live at in the greater Charlotte area, and possibly have some money left over.

Now, imagine if my church did that. And then imagine if they partnered with other large churches in the area, like Calvary Church, Mecklenburg Community Church, Central Church of God, Forest Hill, Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, and the dozens of other very large mega churches in our community.

Each of these large churches bring in millions upon millions of dollars every year in tithes and offerings. Collectively, I would speculate that all of the mega churches in Charlotte probably bring in well over 100 million dollars annually.

Just think of all the good works the church could engage in across our community if we collectively partnered together to meet real and pressing needs.

Think of the opportunity it would create for all of us to openly share our faith with people who have been made ready by God to hear what we have to say.

Instead, the trend these days is for us to operate under the assumption that God has called our church to be a big church, with as many venues in as many cities and states as possible, so people can gather together and hear 1 or 2 people dynamic people preach for a couple hours a week, listen to some music, watch some theatrics, and then go home.

And as more and more churches expand their sphere of influence by opening multiple satellite locations, we are literally spending millions of dollars on buildings that just allow people to watch somebody preach the gospel over a jumbo sized TV screen that simply has a live internet feed attached to it.  Truth is, the people could do the same at home in their pajamas at just about any time of the day, and the church could spend a lot less money on overhead in the process.  Last I checked, putting up video's on YouTube was free.

That's not exactly a visionary way to reach people. That's probably just bad stewardship.

There are better ways of reaching out to people and changing the world for Jesus. What is needed is not for a church to pump and prime God's people to tithe and give more and more, so that we can build more and more buildings.  God's people give plenty already.  We already have plenty of buildings.

What is needed is for us to adjust our vision, and to be aware of the opportunity that is all around us. We need to redirect where we give our money.

We need to see the single mom who is having a hard time making ends meet, and give to her.

We need to see the children in our nation who experience hunger on a regular basis, and buy them something to eat.

We need to see neighbor that we know was recently laid off from work, and help him make ends meet for his family.

We need to see the wife, who stays with her abusive husband only because she has nowhere else to go and find safety, and help provide a place of refuge for her to flee too.

We need to see the countless others, whom we often refuse to see, and deliberately make them the recipient of the grace God has given us, so that we can enrich their lives through our joyful and generous giving.

We need to stop being so lazy, and simply dropping our offering in a plate.  We need to reach out of our comfort zones, and really begin to minister as God would have us as the church to minister to those in our community.

We need to give less to God, and more to others.

And in the process, if we find some preachers who are exceptionally gifted and make a regular difference in our life and the lives of others, and help equip a lot of people to do such things, we should consider supporting such men and women. They are worthy of our support... if they will take it.

(Note: I have called out Elevation Church and other churches in the Charlotte area for illustrative purposes only. It's the church I go to. I am not attempting to smear them or otherwise malign them. If you think I'm trying to pick on them, may I kindly advise you to think about something else... like puppies, or whatever else makes you smile.)


Leaderless Churches

"Do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father, for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted." ~ (Matthew 23:8-11; NASB)

If you were to do a survey of the New Testament, you would find that the word "leader" is a pretty hard word to find.

The word "leader" is only found twice in all of the gospels as a topic that Jesus specifically addressed. Likewise, the subsequent letters that the apostles wrote contain very few and scant references to this word as well.

Yet for such sparse usage, a recent search I conducted on Amazon.com shows that there are currently an astonishing 2,510 books that falls under the heading of "Christian leadership" that are currently for sale.

It makes me wonder, how is it that something that received so little attention in the pages of the New Testament has somehow managed to become something of an industry in our generation?

Yet, if you were to do a similar word search for words like "servant" or "slave," you would find that these words appear hundreds of times throughout the New Testament in reference to Christian ministry.

Good luck finding very many books on Amazon.com that emphasize the theme of Christian slavery. If any such books exist, most of them are probably dedicated to the studying the theological views of Christians who debated about the abolition of the slave trade in America and Europe. Which of course, is not what we are talking about here.

Instead, we are talking about a slave mindset and identity that the Lord has called us all to embrace, from the least of us to the greatest of us. The proliferation of Christian leadership material abundantly available to us today goes to show one thing: Christianity has not embraced the mindset of Jesus would have in the church.

It's not that Jesus is against there being leaders in the church.

The early church was clearly full of many leaders. That is, it was full of men and women who showed others what it was to live the Christian life, and they demonstrated and modeled to others what that life looked like, and taught others how to live it. They were leaders primarily in the sense that they were role-models, and the embodiment of what it means to live a mature Christian life.

This is stands in stark contrast to what a Christian leader is generally perceived as today. To be a leader in the church today is to be a charismatic CEO type, who strategically leads the body of Christ in implementing the unique "vision" that he has dreamed up for the church. The sheep exists primarily to help the pastor build (and fund) his dream. Sometimes the congregation may indeed be part of that dream, but at the end of the day, they ultimately exist to help the pastor fulfill his vision. Anybody who voices dissent or questions the pastors' vision is generally asked to leave the church, or otherwise encouraged to find another church that they are more agreeable with.

Jesus' teaching on leadership was specifically targeted against this sort of mindset. The Lord didn't want us to think of ourselves or allow ourselves to be identified as "leaders," because in the process of doing such, we undermine the call to serve, create divisions in the church, and become takers instead of givers.

In the church, we are to only think of one person as our leader, and that is Jesus Christ alone. No man may take His spot. And as a result of being rightly oriented with the leadership provided to us from heaven, we are to relate to one another as "brothers."

There are to be no "leaders" or "followers" in the church in the traditional sense of those words, only brothers helping other brothers out in their mutual quest to become more and more like Jesus, and to share the gospel with a lost and dying world.

There is to be no division of the church into pastor, staff, and laity. Our relationship with one another is to be horizontal, not vertical. If there is to be any hierarchy in the local church, it's a very small one, with Jesus Christ sitting clearly on top of it all. He alone is our leader and visionary.

The danger when we get this wrong is that you begin to see the church acting in a dysfunctional manner. When somebody's head gets too big, and they become "the leader" of the church, they eventually start looking at the people in their midst as "followers" instead of "brothers." Everybody in the church eventually becomes somebody from whom the leader "draws from" instead of "giving to." In the end, the leader will treat everybody as mere pawns, of whom the pastor frequently allows himself to enjoy the "benefits" and "perks" related to being their "leader."

This is a very real and dangerous problem in much of the church. You see it all over the place.

You see this attitude prevailing in churches where the pastor and his wife are treated as King and Queen of the church. You see it when pastors recruit people to be their "armor bearers," who do things like carry the pastors' Bible to the pulpit for him, or take his car to get cleaned once a week.  You see it in churches that have "pastor appreciation week," where the pastor allows a special offering to be taken up for him on an annual basis, as a sort of "bonus" for all his hard work and personal sacrifice.

You see this attitude prevailing in churches where pastors rule in an authoritarian fashion.  You see it when pastors  live isolated lives from the rest of their congregation.  You see it when pastors are treated as the chief "visionary" to whom the rest of the church must unquestionably "submit" to. You see it when there is a heavy emphasis in the church on tithing and giving. You see in in churches that always seem to be in some sort of building program.  You see it when pastors make handsome salaries, live it up large, and buy mansions.  You see it when people start quoting Bible verses about "touching not the Lord's anointed, and doing His prophets no harm" whenever somebody calls into question the pastors' morality, and the example he is setting for others in his lifestyle.

These attitudes exist because we have failed to realize that God isn't looking for men with a leaders' heart, but rather, a servants' heart.

He's looking for people who aren't interested in building large ministries centered around themselves.  He's not looking for people who dream big, but for people who dream small, and whose only care is how they might help you as a person grow to be more like Jesus.

Slaves don't dream big, or to try and make something of themselves.

Their only concern is the task at hand, and figuring out how they might please those to whom they are enlisted in service too. That was the attitude of the leaders of the early church. So much so that they didn't think of themselves as leaders but as slaves who were called to work for the Lord in serving other people.

Indeed, when they sat down to write letters to the churches they founded or were partnering with, whose letters eventually became our New Testament, they always introduced themselves. And when they introduced themselves, they did not speak of themselves as the leaders of these churches, with a right to demand an audience with the congregation, but they simply desired to speak as slaves who merely wanted to help others out, and felt they had something they could share that would benefit others.

In light of Jesus' teaching on leadership, I hope that we we realize that the church is not the place for leaders, but for servants.


Would You Advertise Your Family?

Have you ever driven down the road and seen a billboard advertising somebody's family?

Does your family have its own custom tailored website?

Do you ever hand out bumper stickers with your family's name and professionally designed logo on it to people that visit your home?

My guess is that your answer to all these questions is "no."

So my question to all of us today is simply this: If we don't develop marketing strategies for our families that we love and adore, why is it that we feel compelled to develop slick marketing strategies for our churches?

I think we do such, and do it almost instinctively, because more and more in our culture we are looking at the church more as an organization or shopping center than as the people who make up our spiritual family.

Thus, we often hop from church to church in our area looking for the one that meets most if not all of our desires and ideals. Is the preacher charismatic? What denomination is the church affiliated with? Can I wear jeans and flip flops? Is the music awesome? Is the children's ministry something that my kids just absolutely love? Is there a women's ministry?

Our churches often do their best to capture whatever share of the market they can, and to reach their particular target audience and demographic. They try to make products and services that really "sizzle" and sell well. And some of them do a bang up job at this.

But in making the church into something marketable with unique brand recognition, I can't help but feel that we are somehow transforming the nature of what it means to be the church.

You may not think so and may disagree, but stop and think about it for a moment. If I put a billboard of your family up on the side of the interstate as something that could be bought or experienced, don't you think that would change the family dynamics back at home?

Or think back to your single days when you were dating. When you decided it was time to pursue a relationship in your life and you "put yourself back on the market," didn't doing such a thing change something about you? When I was single, anytime I put myself out there, it always changed my inner disposition and outward appearance.

So why do we think it is any different for the church? The truth of the matter is, the moment you begin marketing something, it is at that moment that you begin to change it.

Now, instead of the church being a family that grows itself and expands through intense loving personal relationships, like natural families do, in marketing the church we have transformed it into a mere commodity that you pick up and discard as you see fit. And deciding what church we want to belong to becomes something akin to debating over whether or not we should get an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy smartphone, and if we should go with Verizon or AT&T as our provider.

As a result, people often come and go to church, and hardly anybody there knows it.

People don't easily come and go in a family.

When somebody comes and goes in a family, it is an intense moment filled either with great joy or great sorrow, and everybody that makes up the family knows something has changed. Everybody knows when there has been a birth, an adoption, a marriage, a death, or a divorce.

In the church we have exchanged these events for headcounts, connection cards, the size of the offering, and mailing lists.

Something is very wrong with all of this. And as I read the pages of the New Testament, I can't help but feel that there is a great disparity between the way we "do church," and the way the saints of old lives out their lives with one another. As I read the pages of the New Testament, I can't help but feel that there was a very strange sense of family dynamic and connection between the members of the church.

If you read the letters of the apostle Paul, he sometimes spends entire chapters (that we often quickly skim over) simply writing personal greetings and salutations to individuals at all the churches he's planted. He recalls their names and faces with deep emotion and affection. He writes his letters, not simply as an itinerant minister addressing a congregation, but he writes like he is a soldier who has gone off to war, writing a letter to his family back home.

When was the last time you felt so loved by anybody in your church?

Yet of all the things Jesus said the church would be known for, it wasn't our amazing worship experiences, relevant sermons, or terrific youth ministries, but rather, Jesus said we would be known for our "love for one another." If the church is to have any "branding," we should be branded as the diverse community down the street, that for all of our differences, we still show an intense love for another.

That sort of love should be more than enough to attract everybody to hear about the Jesus who is at the heart of our church. We shouldn't need a bumper sticker for that.


The Hijacked Calling of Pastoral Ministry

If you were to look at the library of most pastors, you would likely find a LARGE selection of leadership books by authors like John Maxwell, Stephen Covey, Andy Stanley, Bill Hybles, Tony Dungy, George Barna, and many others.

All of these authors have some wonderful things to say about being an effective leader.

They talk about everything you have ever wanted to know about vision casting, crafting mission statements, developing effective communication skills, handling conflict resolution, growing your organization, and motivating people to follow you... all very interesting stuff.

The problem is, most of it has nothing to do with the Biblical portrait of what a pastor is and what he does.

But that hasn't stopped a large cottage industry consisting of publishers and consultants from popping up all over the place, and creating their own niche market, and telling pastors that these things are part of their calling.

As a result of creating this specialized market, pastoral ministry has been morphed into something it was never meant to be. Without realizing it, many who feel called to be a pastor have had their callings hijacked in the process.

Instead of answering the call to pastoral ministry, many have been steered into the job of becoming the CEO/President/Director of an organization instead.

And notice, I said "organization," not "church." Sadly, many cannot distinguish between the two.

Organizations need CEO's, HR departments, lawyers, bylaws, staff, vision, mission statements, strategic branding, goods and services, advertising, customers, fund-raising, profit and loss statements, and balance sheets.

In contrast to this, the New Testament sees the church as less like an "organization" and more like a "family" unit.

Family units consist of parents, brothers, and sisters. They are the people you regularly do life with, and do things like eat dinner with. And while they may need to conduct some formal "business" with one another every now and then, by in large, the family unit thrives and centers around the personal relationships that each member of the family has with one another.

It is in the context of family that the "leaders" of the New Testament church are designed to function. As a result, the leaders of the New Testament church function more as parents than as CEO's. And the idea of using the organization leadership principles of guys like John Maxwell should seem a bit misplaced to us as a church.

Individuals like the apostle Paul thought of himself as a spiritual "father" and his converts as his "children." Paul referred to the leaders he appointed in the churches he established as "elders," or literally "older one's."

These "older one's" were qualified for pastoral ministry because they showed spiritual maturity in their everyday lives, and knew what it was to be men of good reputation in the community, and knew how to take care of their own wives and children. They were able to teach others what it meant to be a Christian, and to demonstrate that in the way they lived their lives.

They were picked as leaders, not because they held impressive academic and professional credentials, but because they were "seasoned" Christians who knew how to live the Christian life well, and were gifted in their ability to show others how to live life like they themselves lived, in the imitation of Jesus Christ.

They preached, not as gifted orators, but as fathers teaching something to their sons. They provided leadership, not as CEO's, but as men who were showing their virtues and behaviors as something worthy of honor and imitation by all who had the opportunity to interact with them in their lives.

And in doing all these things, as fathers instead of CEO's, they fulfilled their calling to pastor the church of God.

Their calling in essence was very simple. They didn't need abstract crash courses on being effective leaders of a large and dynamic institution. Indeed, most probably were not equipped for such a thing. They just needed to know how to live a Christian life, and how to effectively be a dad to those who were entrusted to their care.

If they were good husbands and fathers, then they were viewed as men who could potentially help lead the family of God. For in leading their families, they had all the knowledge and skill necessary to effectively oversee the life of God's family.


Mark Driscoll: "Victim" of CEO Church Theology

For those of you who are unaware, Mark Driscoll is the outspoken and controversial founding pastor of "Mars Hill Church" in Seattle, Washington, which in 2013 boasted an average weekly attendance of over 12,000 people, with 15 locations in over 5 states.

As many are aware, Driscoll has voluntarily taken a leave-of-absence while the elders of his church investigate allegations of pastoral misconduct and abuse. Driscoll was recently removed from another ministry, "Acts 29," a church planting organization that he founded, over similar accusations that he now faces in his church.

Driscoll has recently admitted to some deep character flaws that he's had over the years as pastor. Some of which seem to form the basis of the current scandal associated with him and his church. In recent comments he's made publicly, he states that these actions merely represent a younger less mature Mark Driscoll of years gone-by. Many pastors, both past and present at Mars Hill, seem to think otherwise. In the coming weeks, we'll learn what happens as a result of these investigations.

The real problem with Driscoll, in my mind, isn't so much his specific character flaws or sinful actions.

Rather, it is the mindset and theology of which Driscoll and many pastors have long operated under. In the last few decades, this mindset has reached something of a climax. And like a bubble that has been stretched to its breaking point, I believe we are at the point in history where something bigger is about to burst in the church.  I believe we'll see things like this play out more and more.

It may be strange to hear, but I truly believe that Mark Driscoll in many ways is a victim of the CEO mentality that long ago crept into pastoral ministry.

That's not to say his character problems aren't genuine character problems that need to be fixed. Indeed, they are. A bad ministry model isn't merely to blame here.

However, I believe at it's heart that Mark Driscoll's recent "fall" isn't just a simple character issue that can be addressed with a little confession, repentance, and time-off from ministry. Rather, the challenges he faces in regard to his character has grown directly out of a broken leadership model that permeates the American church, and can be found in churches both big and small.

Unless we address this broken ministry model, the church will only be able to superficially address the problems related to pastors such as Mark Driscoll and others. As a result, no real healing and restoration will ultimately be able to take place, and the church will continue to limp on.

The CEO mentality ultimately makes it almost impossible to speak into a pastors' life.

Why?  Because he's on the top of a giant pyramid, and nobody can truly call him into account, or freely speak into his life, for he has nobody in the church that is his equal.  The structure of which he is a part of insulates himself from the body of Christ at large, and even from other pastors within the church.  As the CEO of a church, Mark Driscoll and others have no people in the church that they can consider their brothers.

And like many other men who sit on top of somebody else, people in his position tend to dominate everybody underneath them.  It's just something that happens, and even the godliest of men have the inability to resist doing so.  God never wanted men to be kings for a reason.  The only man God wanted to be a king He hung on a cross.

As a result of this broken ministry model, if another genuinely concerned pastor speaks up about something they object to their pastor doing, that person opens themselves to grave risk in regard to their job security.  For such is the equivalent of calling out your boss at work, and that usually doesn't tend to work out very well in most professions.  Pastoral ministry is no exception.

Thus, there is little surprise that over the years there has been a very high turnover rate of pastors at places like Mars Hill Church. And this is because some people have dared to speak out, only to find out in doing so, they placed a bad bet, and discovered such behavior wasn't allowed.

As a result of all this culture that dominates the American church, the character flaws and sinful attitudes Mark Driscoll possessed have grown like a snowball rolling down hill. Instead of somebody being able to lovingly speak into Driscoll's life and address the sinful attitudes that were developing, his sins have grown entirely unchecked for years.

And because of the CEO mentality that Driscoll has presumed in his ministry, he has created a platform in which his sins have been magnified beyond the sphere of the local church, and knowledge of them spreads across much of the world.

Instead of being a CEO, had Mark Driscoll merely been one of hundreds of pastors who oversaw the life of Mars Hill Church, you and I would've never heard of the scandal that has rocked his church of late.  It wouldn't have become a story that the local newspaper in Seattle would be able to cover, let alone all the other outlets in which this has become a topic of discussion.

But, because Driscoll operated under a model of ministry that made him a superstar CEO in the church world, his sins have been broadcast across the globe, and brought untold reproach on his life and ministry as a direct result.  He is no longer above reproach, and is not well thought of by very many people.  By all accounts of Biblical reasoning, he appears no longer Biblically qualified to be engaged in pastoral ministry.

Such I find to be a very sad thing.  And it is a sad thing that could've been altogether avoided had Mark Driscoll operated under a very different model of ministry.

It is my contention that God did not call Mark Driscoll to be the CEO of a church. Nor has he called any other pastor to be one.  And the sooner we get that, the better off we will all be.

Rather, God has called pastors to be humble men of local reputation, who have the glorious opportunity to simply share their lives with others, and teach mankind what it means to believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and what it looks like to follow Him in their everyday lives.

But many have seen the calling to pastor as something other than this. They see it as an opportunity to do "something big," and to enlist as many people as possible to help them implement their personal long-term goals and visions, and to create giant larger-than-life organizations.

Many pastors today say that God is the inspiration behind their drive, platform, vision, and aspirations. But I have this sneaky suspicion that God has birthed none of it. I feel like these big things are something a little more American born and bred, and did not enter this world with Jesus Christ in a manger.

The apostles didn't build media empires or churches with a unique branding to them.  They didn't set themselves up as CEO's.  Rather, quietly labored among others, simply aiming to share the life they had in Christ with whoever would allow it.  In the process they planted churches that were usually very small, and once established, they quickly handed the leadership of those churches over the the people who composed their new venture.

They left very few things for us to remember them by.  We mostly have a collection of stories and the occasional letter from a couple of them.  Largely, their works and names have long been swallowed up by history, as they were relatively unknown by most people in their day, and have remained such even to the present.

The apostles were cautious men that fought against anybody who might make a celebrity out of them.  They refused to be elevated above anybody else, and preferred to serve instead of lead.  They had but one goal, and that was to make the name of Jesus Christ known to those who never knew it before. They had no interest in drawing men unto themselves. They only had an interest in drawing men to Christ.

(Note:  The purpose of this article is not to shine a light on the specific misconduct of pastor Mark Driscoll or bring undo attention to him. Rather, I am writing this article in hopes that I can shine a light on a greater problem I believe I see in the church, and that problem is much greater than one man. It is a problem the church has struggled with for quite some time.)


Walking a Mile in our Enemies' Boots

As Americans, whenever we wage war as a nation, we usually find a reason to justify our actions.

We wage war because we've been attacked, or because we feel gravely threatened by the actions of another nation or people group. We believe if we should fail to act and engage in war, more American lives may be lost, and our way of life may be in jeopardy.

Generally speaking, most Americans support whatever war or conflict we engage in.

We see ourselves as fundamentally good, and our causes just. More often than not, if our political leaders feel the need to wage war, we are quick to give them our support and blessings. We generally only become critical of our nations' wars when they last longer than we think is necessary, when there is no clear objective, or when they become too severe for our tastes. It is only then that we begin to question what our real motives for fighting may have been all along.

One thing I've noticed that we seldom ever do as a nation is to sincerely question the justness of our enemies' cause. All we become interested in is the perceived threat against us.

Once it is established that they are a threat to us, we cease to care about what is going on in their head, and the reasons they feel so compelled to wage war against our nation. Whatever their reasons are of no consequence.

All that matters to us is that we know they want to kill us.

Which begs the question, is our concern then simply the fact that our lives are in danger, or are we really concerned about which side is acting morally just? Do we simply rationalize that because we face the possibility of harm, that automatically makes our side the right one?

If we are to "do unto others as you would have them do unto you," like Jesus said, then how do you feel about another nation waging a "just war" against you?

We generally have no problem picking up the sword to wage "just war" against our enemies. If somebody shoots us, we are going to shoot back at them. They are evil monsters, and we feel they must die.

But what happens if we are the instigators, and are guilty of firing the first shot? Are you ok with them attacking you in response?

My guess is that even if we were guilty as Americans of firing the first shot and instigating a war, that we would have strong objections to our enemies deciding to fight back against us.

Indeed, if our enemies decided that we simply were too dangerous for the rest of the world, and that our government needed to be overthrown, we would be willing to fight to the death to prevent them from doing such, no matter how guilty we were of injustice.

A major problem with "just war theory" is that nobody wants to be on the receiving end of such justice. We don't mind dishing it out, but we definitely aren't willing to receive that which we so freely give.

If we were to walk a mile in our enemies' boots, what would you would think and feel?

Do you think our enemies are often attacking us simply because they are merely aggressors that hate us, and simply want to kill us?

Or, do you think our enemies are more like us?

They want to fight us because they feel that they are somehow being wronged and that their lives are threatened. Perhaps they don't really know who fired the first shot and who instigated the war. Perhaps they don't really care. Maybe all they know and care about is that their nation is being invaded by a foreign military, and that they feel compelled to fight against us for the same reasons we would fight against them should they ever do the same to us.

Let's walk a mile in our enemies' boots.

Let's do what Jesus said, and treat them the same way we would want to be treated.

Let's end the madness of engaging in war on the basis of just war theory.


Reloaded: The Martyrdom of Polycarp

(The following is a re-telling/parody of the original story of the actual martyrdom of Polycarp. For the original historical account, please click here.)

Polycarp, the pastor of the First Church of Smyrna, made his way to the front of the church to shake the hands of parishioners on their way out the door. He had preached a particularly moving message that morning, one he knew would liberate many to live the life of Christ. Pastor Polycarp explained how by turning the other cheek, praying for your enemies, and not looking out for your own rights, one would embrace the cross of Jesus Christ. And by embracing the cross, one would find true and everlasting life.

One by one members of his church stopped to thank him for being so bold and truthful in the pulpit. One woman thanked him for the message, and rejoiced over the new found freedom she had in the Savior. No longer would she be shackled by the past, and the family that had mistreated her as a child. Instead of looking at her father in hatred for the abuse she suffered at his hands, she would look at him in love, forgiving him not only as an act of her will, but as an act that extended out of the depths of her heart. A heart that had been changed once and for all.

Pastor Polycarp was touched by this testimony. He was an aged man-- eighty-six years old. And though he had seen Christ touch the lives of many over the years, and had heard dozens of such testimonies similar to this woman, he never ceased to be blessed every time somebody stopped to tell him what Christ had done for them. He was excited to be a participant of the new creation God was forming, and he listened to each story as if it were the first time he had ever heard such a thing. It never failed to move him to tears.

Pastor Polycarp slowly made his way home after Sunday morning service. It was a beautiful day. So much so that one could almost forget that the times one was living in were dangerous times. The Roman government had recently started cracking down on Christians. Gathering together was becoming more and more difficult. It was not uncommon for Christians to be harassed by small mobs in the streets. A few of the members of the First Church of Smyrna had nearly died in one recent incident. The entire church was on alert.

Finally making it home, pastor Polycarp and his extended family settled in for the day. Carefully looking behind him, Polycarp closed the door and locked it. He was a little worried after seeing a few Roman soldiers patrolling the street. He is pretty sure that he heard a small child point him out to one of the soldiers. "That's Polycarp right there!"

Rome had become particularly interested in who the leaders of the churches were in recent times. They identified them as part of the "sect" that was causing trouble throughout the Empire. After consulting some of the oracles, many in the government believed that if they could undermine the leadership of the church, that they would appease the gods and restore Rome to the glory she once knew. Life and liberty would be theirs again!

As Polycarp and his family quietly ate dinner, they heard a commotion outside. It was the sound of hoofs beating against the cobblestone road outside. There were voices shouting back and forth at one another. Everything became quiet. Then a pounding was heard.

"Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, in the name of Caesar, we command you to open up your door!"

Polycarp thought this day might come. He understood the times he was living in, and paid very close attention to the news. Rome had finally come for him! Everybody stood up at the table, as Polycarp made his way to the door. He carefully opened it.

"Are you Polycarp, leader of the local Christian sect?"

"Why, yes I am. How can I help you?"

"Polycarp, you are under arrest! You are being tried with treason, and disturbing the peace of Rome!"

Finally, the day he had long dreaded was here. A cold chill went down his spine. Looking the Roman soldier in the eye, Polycarp calmly replied, "One moment sir. Please allow me to gather my things." The soldier nodded, and Polycarp turned around and made his way for his bedroom. Polycarp knew what he must do.

As he walked across the hallway, Polycarp stopped, and kissed his wife on the head. "My love!" He bent over and gave one of his grand-children a warm hug. Everybody in the room began to weep. Tearing up himself, with a deep emotion clearly in his voice, he said to everybody, "Don't worry. It will be ok."

As Polycarp made his way up the stairs, the cold chill that had rushed down his spine now became a white heat burning in his heart. His eyes went from being sad with tears to being mad with anger. He began to mutter whispers under his breath.

"This cannot happen to me!"

"My family is in danger... I must protect them!"

"How dare Rome violate my rights... I'm a citizen! I've done nothing wrong!"

"This is a grave injustice!"

"I must do something!"

As Polycarp made his way into the bedroom, he knelt at his bedside. Then, he stuck his hand under the mattress, and began to feel around. There it is. He found it. A long blade he could conceal under his cloak.

Making his way back down the stairs, he reassured his family that everything would be ok. He told them not to worry. God would look out after him. He made his way over to the Roman soldier who was impatiently waiting for him.

"Are you ready to go?" the soldier asked.

Polycarp nodded.

The soldier grabbed him by the arm, and led him outside. Polycarp's family lamented in anguish as they saw their beloved led away to the slaughter.

Polycarp kept his eyes wide open. Because of his age, he knew if he were to be successful, he must take advantage of the most opportune moment. He knew he would only get one chance.

And finally, the time came. The soldier became careless in his handling of Polycarp. As he secured Polycarp to his chariot, his eye caught a local temple prostitute as she made her way down the street. Briefly turning his back to Polycarp, the pastor saw his opportunity had finally come.

Reaching into his cloak, Polycarp grabbed his sword and quickly pushed the point of it through the exposed back side of the solider. Air quickly left the lungs of the unsuspecting man, as he fell over into a heap on the ground.

Before the other Roman soldiers could notice, Polycarp quickly ducked into a dark alley next to his house. He called out to his family through a window. Quickly, they all snuck out the back door, and fled to the catacombs.

There for the next several weeks, Polycarp gathered members of his congregation for secret meetings in which they plotted the overthrow of the oppressive Roman government.

"For the past few decades, our presence as Christians has been rapidly growing. And the more we grow, the more Rome tries to oppress us and to trample on our rights. But as citizens of the Republic, we cannot allow this to happen. Rome will not deny us of our God given rights. We have the right to assemble and worship God as we see fit. We have the freedom of speech. We have the right to bear arms! And wherever an oppressive dictator exists, God demands we throw off the chains of our oppression, and fight for our freedom."

And as Polycarp thundered from his make-shift pulpit under the streets of Rome, an arrow suddenly pierced his heart as hundreds of soldiers quickly descended upon the assembly. After the clamor had settled, a search was made for the body of Polycarp. Finding it, they brought it above the streets, and set it on fire in a public square for all to see.


Loving Your Enemies: But What About Islamic Terrorists?

I've lived in the "Bible belt" for almost 30 years. I've been saved for almost 15 of those years. I've been to Bible college and Seminary. I've literally listened to several thousand sermons in my lifetime. All the churches and schools I've been involved with have been conservative, Evangelical, and "Bible believing" churches.

Yet to date, I can confidently say I've never heard a single sermon dedicated to the topic of "loving my enemy."

That's not to say somebody hasn't mentioned it in passing at some point. Indeed, I briefly have heard it talked about. And that's not to say there aren't preachers out there in America that don't preach on the topic. Indeed, there are, as a simple Google search will reveal it to be so.

But I've never heard such a message preached in any church I've been a part of, and my guess is you probably haven't either.

Therefore, I worry that one of the central ethical teachings of Jesus recorded in the Gospels, has not only been largely overlooked, but has been almost entirely forgotten.

So far as I've heard and studied, any brief mention of loving our enemies is generally reduced to a command that only advises us on how to deal with interpersonal drama.  It deals with things you might see on "Dr Phil" or the "Jerry Springer Show."  That is, we see Jesus as teaching us to do nothing more than find ways to get along with people we don't like at work, and how to deal with family members whom we wish were grafted into somebody else's family tree.

As I get older, I've become increasingly aware of what a dangerous world we actually live in, and the fact that there are people out there who actually want to do mortal harm to me, my family, and this nation.

Yet, as I read my Bible, I find myself confronted with this teaching of Jesus where He commands me to love my enemies, and I start to think He might have something more in mind than how to deal with personality conflicts and otherwise rude people.

When I crawl into my time machine and find myself transported back into the times of Jesus, as I hear Him preaching to the multitudes in His famous "Sermon on the Mount," I can't help but be arrested by the fact that Jesus's teaching to love my enemies had a much greater application than I  regularly appreciate as a middle-class white-boy who grew up in America.

As I listen to Jesus preaching on a hill side in Judea, I look around and see a lot of Jewish people who have lived under the brutally oppressive Roman Empire.

I see a people whose hearts are broken,  angry, and confused.  They don't understand why God has allowed a foreign and pagan army to occupy and govern a land that He had promised them.   They are forced to pay heavy taxes, are forced into servitude, and live under a police state.  Justice is administered coldly, swiftly, and decisively (which is to say, not really at all).  They are a people who want to rebel, they want to fight back, and they want to get out from under the boot of Rome.  But Rome frequently squashes all hope of that ever happening, and regularly tortures and kills anybody who dares to fight back, and try to gain freedom.

History tells how the Romans dealt with Jewish rebellions in their day.  For example, one day they reportedly crucified 3,000 people, and set them up on the highway as an object lesson.  The lesson was simple: Don't even think about messing with us.

This happened during the time of Jesus.  He may have personally seen this event as a small boy.  If He didn't see it, He would've definitely heard about it.

Yet for all the brutality the Jews suffered at Roman hands, Jesus taught that they should not hate their enemy.  Instead, Jesus taught the Jews of His day that if they wanted to be a people who were rightly related to God, that they would have to love their enemies.

That is, they would have to love the Romans.

Jesus taught the Jews of His day to love the very enemies who not only crucified 3,000 Jews, but would one day crucify Him.

Jesus taught the Jews of His day to love they very enemies who would one day conduct a military siege against Jerusalem.  According to the ancient Jewish historian Josephus, more than 1 million people were killed in the fall of Jerusalem, and almost 100,000 people were enslaved.

Love those people, Jesus said.

The application would have been loud and clear.

The Jews would have understood Jesus's sermon as teaching them to love people who were truly their enemies, and not simply people they had a hard time getting along with.  They would've understood Jesus to be teaching them to love people who could actually physically and mortally harm them and their families.
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:43-48; NASB)
...Fast forward 2,000 years to the present.

Outside of some co-workers and some family members that you consider your enemies, can you think of anybody that threatens you in the way the Romans threatened the ancient Jewish people?  Do we have any enemies who actually threaten to physically harm and kill us and our loved ones?

If Jesus were to preach a sermon at your church this Sunday, and taught you to love your enemies, do you think He might make a PowerPoint slide that listed Islamic terrorists as one of the people we ought to love?

If Jesus appeared on Fox News and was interviewed by Sean Hannity, how do you think Hannity would respond if Jesus said He thinks the solution to the crisis in the Middle East was for us to bomb ISIS with something resembling "care packages" instead of something a little more explosive.

If Jesus were to advise President Obama on the Middle East crisis, do you think He would tell the president to love his enemies and pray for their well being?  Or do you think He would quote the famous country music star Toby Keith, and tell the president to "put a boot in their ass."

In our heart of hearts, if we were really honest with ourselves, I think most of us know what Jesus would say on these matters if He were given the platform to speak today.

The problem is, as so often is the case, we simply find the straight forward teachings of Jesus too hard to accept.  I believe we simply don't have the capacity in our hearts to accept such truth.  The problem therein is not the words of Jesus being too hard to accept, so much as it is the hardness of our hearts to accept them.

So we largely ignore such teachings.  We pass over them very quickly in our reading of the Bible and in our teaching in the church.  We don't want to dwell on such things.

For we ultimately know that there is a lot of risk involved in loving our enemies.  Loving our enemies means we let something of our guard down.  Lowering our guard makes us vulnerable.  We don't want to be vulnerable as a general rule of thumb, let alone vulnerable before our enemies, who have an interest in putting us and those we love to death.

Our fear is what ultimately keeps us from loving our enemies.

But love, true love, the kind of love that can only come from God, can grant us the supernatural transformation we all need in our hearts, to give us the capacity to genuinely love our enemies.  It is the kind of love that Jesus had in Him, and is the kind of love that ultimately drove Him to the cross to die on our behalf.

And if Jesus can cause us to love even the men that want to put us to death, then just imagine what He can do to the hearts of those who want to kill us.

He did this once to a man named Saul of Tarsus, who was involved in killing the first Christian martyr.  Today, we all better know this man by the name of Paul, the apostle.  He started dozens, if not hundreds of churches.  And in the process, he wrote most of the New Testament.


"Convert Them or Kill Them" - Phil Robertson on ISIS

For those of you who may not be aware, in Iraq and Syria there presently exists an armed uprising by an Islamic army/terrorist organization that refers to themselves as "The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria."

The number one goal of ISIS is to create an Islamic theocratic state, first starting in the Middle East, and eventually spreading across the globe. They hope to cause all men and women to live under the teachings and governance of Islamic law as interpreted through their religious leaders.

Ideally, they wish everybody would convert to Islam through their preaching. You may not know it, but Islam has their own missionaries. They actively try to convert people to Islam, much in the way we as Christians have missionaries and evangelists that go around the world sharing the gospel.

However, in regard to the form of Islam that ISIS practices, whoever resists their preaching must ultimately be executed, for such a person would have no place in a nation governed by Islamic law. Even Muslims who don't interpret Islam in the exact same way they do must ultimately convert and submit to their particular views, or face possible execution.

ISIS is terribly pragmatic in the implementation of their faith in the establishing of an Islamic government, and they are pretty straight forward in their approach:

Convert them, or kill them.

ISIS ultimately views America as an enemy in their struggle, and a result, we've landed in their crosshairs. They view us as a threat to their cause, their lives, and they believe we must be dealt with.

Many of our political leaders are presently scrambling for a solution to this problem. They realize that ISIS ultimately can't be negotiated with, because there is nothing to ultimately negotiate over. ISIS wants an Islamic state, not only in the Middle East, but ultimately across all of the world. They will be satisfied with nothing less.

While Washington, DC seeks for a present solution to this great problem, this topic has become a hot point of discussion in the media. Everybody is being asked to weigh in on where they stand, and what they see as a solution.

There is one brief interview recently conducted that sticks out in my mind, and I believe it to be indicative of the attitude that prevails amongst most Christians in America.

A few days ago, the controversial Duck Dynasty reality TV star and "patriarch" Phil Robertson appeared on Fox News, and was interviewed by commentator Sean Hannity. When Hannity asked Robertson about his thoughts on the ISIS crisis, Robertson briefly said the following:

"I'm not giving up on them, but I'm just saying, either convert them or kill them. One or the other."

I find Robertson's solution to the problem of ISIS to be rather revealing, and troubling at the same time. I fear too many follow his line of reasoning, and it goes along the following lines:

We know Jesus Christ has called us to fulfill the Great Commission, that is, to take the Gospel to all the world, and make disciples of all nations. We know all men are in need of our risen Lord and Savior. We know ISIS acts the way they do because like us, they are sinners in need of a Savior. We know they need to be born again, and apart from such, they will continue on in their present spiritual condition.

But in desiring to see all men saved, we recognize an immediate problem with groups like ISIS. They have no interests whatsoever in the Gospel message. Indeed, not only are they uninterested in hearing the Gospel, they are outwardly hostile to Christians, and are engaged in actively persecuting and murdering anybody who follows Christ. They simply will not tolerate the existence of Christians in their Islamic theocratic state. They don't believe in co-existing.

Being that there seems little hope in converting groups like ISIS, we quickly realize there only remains one practical means of stopping them from advancing, and that is to declare war against them, and kill as many of them as we possibly can. Our solution is ultimately this:

Convert them, or kill them.

But if you stop and think about what I just said, you will realize that our philosophy towards ISIS of converting them or killing them is the exact same philosophy that they are using in regard to us.

ISIS sees America as "the Great Satan" and believes we are beyond hope of being converted to Islam, and that we are actively trying to interfere with their mission of establishing an Islamic theocratic state. Likewise, we as Christians in America see ISIS as the embodiment of evil, inhuman, and demonic. And as such, we believe there are few practical steps we could take that could ever result in their conversion. They are beyond being saved it seems. Feeling hopeless and fearful in regard to stopping the jihad they are waging, we feel the only hope we have in stopping them is to declare war on them and kill them before they kill us.

Therefore, both of us agree the only solution to our problem is to kill the other group.

And while such may be the theology of Islam, carefully searching the Scriptures, I have a hard time believing such is also in keeping with the theology of Jesus, and the faith once and for all handed down to the saints.

The teachings of Jesus demand that we pick up our crosses instead of our swords, and follow Him. It demands that we love our enemies, even at the cost of our own lives. And if we literally give our lives over to death for the sake of Christ, we are to consider ourselves blessed. A resurrection awaits us. A kindgom has come and has been established that will know no end, and it conqurers and establishes justice and peace in the world through the weakness and foolishness of the cross, instead of the might of brute military force.