I am not really what you would call a 'friend' of the Emergent (so-called) conversation. That said, I'm a person who likes to have my ideas and preconceptions challenged. It forces me to think, re-think, and react. So, I peek at the blogs of people I disagree with pretty regularly.
The post on the emergent-us blog
today burned me up. I like to write irritated, so here we go... The article is discussing the approach of weddingpastorusa.org, a service that seeks to "connect Emergent Pastors with couples looking for a minister to perform their wedding ceremony."
Bill Yaccino starts his article by relating the story of a young couple struggling to find place/minister for their wedding.
I’ll never forget the rejection in Jennifer’s voice. “Some asked if we were members of the church – I guess we gave the wrong answer. Some asked if we were living together – again, wrong answer. Others asked if we were previously married. Still, others required we go through a 10-week counseling session. I guess we just had the wrong answers to some of the questions. Honestly, it made us feel pretty sh#%@y!”
Jennifer continued, “We took a look at your website and thought you seemed like the type of minister we wanted at our wedding. Can you help us? Oh, and what do we call you? Reverend? Father? What?”
I obviously can't speak to the tone that Jennifer heard on the phone when speaking to the 'other' churches. Sadly, it is quite possible that some things were said to her in a very rude, smug, hurtful manner. That's not grace or mercy.
Still, neither is capitulating to the way of the world. Jennifer describes herself and her fiance as "spiritual but not religious.
" It seems they want the trappings of a Christian wedding - pretty sanctuary, nice flowers, an organ - without having to be challenged on their beliefs. I don't think it should work that way. Marriage is a sacred and wonderful thing which should be guarded carefully. The churches and pastors she contacted were right
to hold the line and disagree to perform the ceremony.
No worries, though... Pastor Yaccino to the rescue!
Long story short, I was invited to officiate several weddings for these “unchurched” people. They liked the way I lived out my faith and how they felt free to question and reconsider their own. So I performed a few weddings. I loved it! And guess what? They loved it! So did their families, their friends, even the secular wedding professionals with whom I partnered.
I'll ignore the obvious pun re: whether these people needed to be (re)married several times. Anyway, this seems to be the greatest thing since sliced bread! Right? After all, everyone's happy, the pastor 'lived out his faith', and the lovey-dubby kids 'reconsidered their own'. What's the big deal?
, I tell you. Here's the big deal: What kind of faith was being lived out? And what elements of faith were being reconsidered?
Pastor Yaccino lived out a faith that tacitly condoned conduct that is in opposition to God's commands. So, the faith modeled is one that says "It's great to be happy!" rather than "There's right and then there's wrong..." While I certainly think there was a need for pastoral care
in this situation, it should've been lovingly talking with the couple and explaining God's model for what a husband and wife are to be - namely a representation of Christ and the church. And while we're not trying to be mean, we can't simply take that profound thing and compromise it just to get a few smiles.
Worse - Look at the witness for 'our' faith that this young couple gets. "There is a God and he wants us happy. He's not concerned about all that other stuff... He blesses your marriage and wants you happy!" If they reconsidered their faith, it wasn't to consider it in light of a true Gospel of sin, wrath, and peace through Christ.
And here’s another really cool thing - they paid me well! Not like the cheapo weddings I had done for the previous 12 years in the church. Most importantly, for the first time in a dozen years, I felt Missional. I felt authentic. I felt empowered to serve these couples without an agenda. I echo Rob Bell when he said; “I am learning that the church is at its best when it gives itself away.” (Velvet Elvis, p. 165).
Ah... Well, at least the compensation was good. Shame about all those cheapo weddings for people in his Pastoral care, eh? You know, I've heard that there are a lot of industries that pay well if you're willing to compromise your ethics. Pardon me, I need to go be ill.
Regarding another couple, Yaccino states:
Both Amy and Raed are respectfully and culturally connected to their faith backgrounds, but neither lives out or embraces their faith actively. They are, however, in their own words “spiritual,” and very interested in living out life the way it is “supposed to be.” Isn’t it interesting how human nature takes a look around and notices that things are not the way God intended them to be!
Yes... I think Solomon touched on that in Ecclesiastes
. I'm pretty sure that Paul touched on it
Anyway, at the end of an incredibly interactive discussion, Raed said, “You know, I’ve always been curious and intrigued with the teachings of Jesus, but the whole Muslim/Christian thing never allowed me to go there.” Wow! Amy and Raed called me, a Christian pastor, to help them celebrate on one of the most important days of their lives. I can represent my faith in Jesus best, by serving them best.
Are we serving them well by performing a wedding? Is that really what a pastor (shepherd) is supposed to be about? I would think that serving them would be to lay out the message of Christ to them in love. That
is serving them! Confronting them with their need for redemption and reconciliation from a holy God, only made available to them through Christ... And then telling them, that though we do
love them, we can't condone starting a marriage steeped in unrepented sin. Offering to counsel them, talk to them, buy 'em a cup of coffee and ask/answer hard questions. That's loving.
Simply marrying them and patting them on the back with a smile isn't.
Here is my dream for you, my fellow Emergent Pastors: Will you reach out to couples in your area looking for help? Will you help them even if they might be “wrong answer” people? Isn’t this what it means to be ‘Missional’? George Barna said in his new book, Revolution, that people will increasingly look outside the church for any type of spiritual connection or interest. That is exactly what I have experienced!
I'm not surprised this is what he experienced. Though I'm saddened by it. Paul knew Timothy would experience it too. That's why he said: "For the time is coming when people will not endure soundteaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry." (2 Timothy 4:3-5, ESV)
Amazing... Barna says they'll look outside the church for it. Yaccino seems to think they should be able to find it in the church as well. Does it strike anyone else that Paul exhorted Timothy to 'do the work of an evangelist'? Isn't that different than just being a Wedding Planner.
I don't mean to be crass, but if people want their wedding without strings attached we should let them have it. Elsewhere. Find a JOP, or a wedding chapel, or something... But don't redefine what we believe just to be nice. Let's be nice AND
I'm strongly looking at my missiology lately, for several reasons. And as someone considering ministry as a vocation, I do vow to 'reach out to couples', even the 'wrong answer people'. But reaching out to them means loving them as Christ loved them - communicating the reality of sin, the grace of God in Christ so they have the right
The world is in need of pastors who are willing to be Missional, authentic and empowered to serve without an agenda.
Bunk. They need
us to have an agenda! The question is what agenda do we bring? "For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ." (Galatians 1:10, ESV)
I'll take my relationship with Christ over being a 'Friend of Emergent' any day.