“That’s all I can stands, cuz I can’t stands n’more!” – Popeye
There is an interesting parallel between the police in New York City turning their backs on Mayor de Blasio and an ongoing argument in Christian circles.
Christmas week saw a surge of people who are furious with leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention (and other denominations). They are turning their backs on these leaders and doing so in true 21st century style – by Social Media.
The group is now known as #The15.
It is interesting that first suggested person to follow under #The15 is Ed Stetzer, because although he didn’t start the discussion, he is the one responsible for the moniker – and he’s siding against the group.
The discussion actually began a few days before when retired pastor John Piper tweeted this message: “The Pope dresses down the Vatican for the ‘cancer of clerical careerism.’ In other words, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals.”
A number of folks pointed out that it looked as though Piper was calling the Pope a brother. To be honest, I took the post as Piper playing on his book title as a reminder that Pastors are not professionals, and even the Pope recognizes that.
Pastors, teachers and others continued the criticism of Piper after his defenders began chiming in – many of them with a little more venom than snark.
Stetzer, who is Executive Director of LifeWay Research Division, added fuel to the fire and sparked a phrase sure to be a new website, book, and meme phenomenon when he Tweeted:
It was the final straw for many, who went Popeye on Stetzer and the others defending him, Piper and anyone else. They started using #The15 for every Tweet, Facebook post and so on. It quickly spread, and now people around the world are asking to be part of #The15.
They continued the rally around the world as they began questioning Stetzer and others as to the choice of “Christian” books available in LifeWay bookstores. They rightly pointed out many of the popular authors displayed have questionable material – some that would’ve been labeled heretical a few centuries ago.
Why question it? Why now? Because plain and simply, many Christians have had enough. We are not mad at everything, just at what is foisted on us as being “Christian.” It is worldly and it is wrong. We are told to unify and tone down criticism, rather than discuss the pros and cons of this material.
Sadly, those who publish it find validation (and money) because too many people think anything labeled “Christian” is good. Christian bookstores and Christian radio stations and churches used to be safe havens for Believers.
Yet now, some of the harshest criticism is aimed at those in Christian circles who dare question mainstream Christian material. Yes, people can take their criticism of all things Christian too far. But, it is fair to question who are wolves and who are sheep that are merely deceived.
We should also consider whether our pride is leading the argument or God’s wisdom. Can Christian leaders be blinded by their position or status, so that they refuse to listen to others equal or below them? Yes.
We should all be willing to consider what is the root cause of this disagreement. Frankly, it comes down to one word – discernment. For far too long this spiritual gift has been neglected, and the people are now suffering for it.
In his excellent book The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment, pastor Tim Challies writes that people should “…look at much of what is said and done in the name of Jesus and ask themselves ‘How can this be right?’”
John MacArthur says, “The biggest problem in the church today is the absence of discernment. It’s a lack of discernment. It’s the biggest problem with Christian people, they make bad choices. They accept the wrong thing. They accept the wrong theology. The are prone to the wrong teaching. They’re unwise in who they follow, what they listen to and what they read.”
We are told in the Bible to hold-fast to the very people we rush to criticize – those who are given by God the gift of discernment. We are told that discernment is a sign of maturity: “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” – Hebrews 5:14
That’s why #The15 is proving to be so interesting post-Christmas. The discernment debate is going on now, just as it did 2000 years ago. We see Christian leaders, wanna-be leaders, sheep and goats hashtagging this out right before our eyes.
We are also seeing a Biblical lesson played out a la Paul and Silas from Acts. We see one group acting more like Thessalonicans than Bereans. You can read about it in Acts 17, but it seems that many are rather content to complain and rile others up, rather than compare the criticism to the Bible.
There is so much to be gained by having a civil discussion, especially at a time when the world’s forces are mustering to oppose God’s church. Is now really the time for petty bickering? No, but it is a time to define the Church (or get back to a Biblical definition).
That doesn’t mean get along with anyone who claims to be Christian. It means to remind the World what it means to be Christian. It means to remind the Church what it means to be Christian.
It means, Brothers we are Bereans.