Dluxe's World

Thursday, April 6

Come one, come all?

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?

It's bunk, 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, too.
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.

Yaccino closes:
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 sound teaching, 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 truthful.

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 answers.
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.

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13 Comments:

  • Excellent post; on the nose.

    By Blogger Julie, at 5:52 PM, April 06, 2006  

  • You're cool when you're all righteously indignant and stuff. Your pen is smokin'.

    By Blogger Eva, at 12:30 PM, April 07, 2006  

  • emergent, shmemergent. You go, dude!

    By Blogger PatL, at 10:56 PM, April 11, 2006  

  • you guys crack me up. go! smokin dude. you sound like a bunch of crazies. but do hold on to your conviction - by all means - your conviction is more important than grace any day, eh?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:21 PM, April 12, 2006  

  • Howdy, A. Nony Mouse...

    Thanks for the comment. Just to be clear - I am not saying we have any right or excuse to approach non-Christians with a 'holier that thou' attitude.

    In fact, in my post I specifically said: 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.

    Demonstrating Christ sometimes means saying tough things... However, we need to always recognize that we are not really any closer to the prize but for Christ's sacrifice.

    Marriage is for Christian and non-Christian alike. I simply intended to say that:
    1) Pastors are within their rights to not bless a marriage that they feel is not in line with God's plan.
    2) No matter what, simply officiating a wedding ("just being there") may not really be an effective way to witness to people (or "live missionally", as some might say).

    Stop back (and leave a link so we can chat)...

    By Blogger HeavyDluxe, at 11:31 PM, April 12, 2006  

  • your reply was very sensible and reasoned. thanks for taking time to breath. i agree - "just being there" is not being missional - for pastors and nonpastors alike. what does it look like to be missional to you? are you a pastor?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:43 PM, April 13, 2006  

  • your reply was very sensible and reasoned. thanks for taking time to breath.

    I was breathing just fine when I posted the original... :-) And I stand by what I said.

    It just occurred to me that I can't really be sure you're the same 'anonymous' who stopped by before. Oh well. I'll act like you’re the same person for sake of continuity…

    what does it look like to be missional to you? are you a pastor?

    I am not a pastor or elder in our local church. I'm involved in our church's ministry (worship leadership, mainly, though I've taught a couple times). I have been considering moving into pastoral ministry for some time. I'm currently wrestling with what that looks like and how to deal with some of the barriers to entry.

    (As an aside, if you're rich and would like to pay my seminary bill - and living expenses - please email me...)

    I'll steal a line from the Acts29 church planting people: Right missiology must be driven by right Christology. The bedrock on which our philosophy of mission must rest is the identity of Christ as prophet, priest, and King. Thus the focus of any church should be essentially theological...

    That brings a level of propositional, non-debatable truth to the table. The missiological question seems to be "How do we engage the culture around us with that truth?"...

    First, we should be visible and engaged in the world around us (Matthew 5:13-16). We should be markedly different from those around us, however... Our conduct and message should sound different that the world's (various sections of 1 & 2 Timothy, among others) but should be delivered with grace/mercy.

    Using Christ as our model, we see that He often spoke gently but always dealt with the root issues (e.g. the rich young ruler - Mark 10). He also spoke ‘no-so-gently’ sometimes…

    As an extension, we should engage people in their own language. The Gospel is not limited to King James English. Nor, in my opinion, is right worship music limited to hymnody or plainchant. Vernacular language and vehicles can still convey deep truth...

    We need to apply, and teach others to apply, the message of the gospel and fruit of a relationship with Christ to everyday life. We should show people that the Gospel isn't just for Sundays and that its application is pervasive. This is not only important theologically but missiologically as well - especially in a culture that increasingly views 'religion' as inpractical nonsense.

    I feel like I'm rambling, so I'll cut to some summary statement and let you fire the next salvo.

    Being rightly missional is all about exalting Christ in the context of the world/area in which we live. We must be conduits of grace and mercy, but also willing to speak tough things with gentle, clear words. To simply exist ‘in the world’ is not enough.

    We must also be careful to let anything crawl up on the altar and compete with Christ. It strikes me that people are quick to be hip, trendy, original, and compromise on the core message in order to be 'successful'. To be rightly missional means that we better start by being rightly Message-ional.

    If we don't have a different message, we might as well scrap mission and go play golf.

    By Blogger HeavyDluxe, at 8:38 AM, April 14, 2006  

  • How dare you write on such provoking terms!

    Well worded.

    By Blogger Dan, at 5:55 PM, April 18, 2006  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger dorsey, at 2:20 PM, April 19, 2006  

  • These folks are going to find someone to perform their ceremonies. You're saying you would send them to a courthouse rather than to seize the opportunity to speak some truth into a marriage that's going to happen regardless?

    Don't get me wrong. I understand your logic, and on the surface, it sounds real spiritual and all, but do you see how it can be perceived as isolationist? As a church, we've isolated ourselves to the point of irrelevance to the culture. We refuse to embrace sinners (as Christ did) for fear of contamination or the perception that our love for the sinner is an endorsement of their sin. As a result, sinners aren't rejecting Christ so much as reacting to religious people who reject sinners.

    I think you need to at least consider the idea that your very righteous-looking position undermines the true message of Jesus.

    By Blogger dorsey, at 2:23 PM, April 19, 2006  

  • Dorsey,

    Thanks for the comment... A reponse, just to keep the thread alive:

    You're saying you would send them to a courthouse rather than to seize the opportunity to speak some truth into a marriage that's going to happen regardless?

    Not really. I was trying to make two points. First, marriage is a God-ordained, sacred institution. If a marriage set before them isn't God-honoring, I'd simply submit the pastor is within their right to (kindly, gracefully) not perform the ceremony. Or, it's reasonable to set some standard around the ceremony (must be preceded by meetings with the pastor, etc)...

    The bigger point is that there needs to be truth spoken! This is a great oppotunity to guide these people. I just don't think the weddingpastorsusa people are speaking that truth! They're offering a pastor without the pastorING for your wedding. Just being a smiling face who says "man and wife" doesn't get the job done, IMHO.

    We refuse to embrace sinners (as Christ did) for fear of contamination or the perception that our love for the sinner is an endorsement of their sin.

    Well said... And not at all what I'm advocating. I would simply submit back that 'embracing sinners' involves loving them and confronting their sin. If we lose the message of sin in need of redeeming grace, we're not loving anyone.

    I agree with you that much damage is done to the name of Christ by people who throw their nose up at sinners and display nothing but contempt. And, as I noted in my original post, that's wrong. We are in the same boat, just as lost in sin, and just as contemptable before God but for grace given through Christ.

    Doesn't love demand that we evangelize these people we meet? We live in a world that's ultimate ethic seems to be "Be Nice". We're to be salt and light... And light illuminates darkness (Ephesians 5).

    I think you need to at least consider the idea that your very righteous-looking position undermines the true message of Jesus.

    Again, my intent was not to advocate that we thumb our noses at people nor cloister ourselves until Christ returns. I am saying, unapologetically, that we must be engaging people with the fullness of Christ's message - that Christ loved us, and died to redeem us from our sin.

    To present the Gospel to people is the most loving thing we can do for them. Go ahead and perform the wedding... But DO NOT let the opportunity to reach them for Christ pass by simply because someone wanted to be 'nice'.

    By Blogger HeavyDluxe, at 3:02 PM, April 19, 2006  

  • Hey, thanks for your response and please forgive if I read intentions into your comments that weren't there. I believe we should, indeed seize the opportunities and share the gospel. I think I took offense at what I perceived to be another sweeping shot at Emergent (I'm not emergent, btw). I can't speak for the weddingpastors organization, but I know some Emergent guys who wouldn't let such an opportunity pass them by. I also know scores of evangelical pastors who would. A wimpy, withering pastor is a wimpy, withering pastor, whether his club card says Emergent, Lutheran or Assemblies of God.

    I think the mindset that I buck the most in evangelical Xianity is the one in which we proclaim the gospel and if they accept it, then we accept them. If they don't, well, they had their chance, so we cut them off. (BTW, I'm not suggesting that you adovcate this position, I'm just talking here—some fodder for the conversation, if you will). If I perceive it as smug and self-righteous (from the inside!), then surely we can't be surprised when nonbelievers perceive it thus.

    My pastor likes to make a big deal over who he marries and who he doesn't. If a couple who lives together comes to be wed, he insists that they live apart for a couple months prior to the marriage, as if that stops them from getting it on anyway, or somehow, living apart (without repentance) makes the union "acceptable" I just find it bizarre that we demand that non-Christians adopt a Christian moral code. Isn't that a works-based gospel at its core?

    By Blogger dorsey, at 10:13 PM, April 19, 2006  

  • I think I took offense at what I perceived to be another sweeping shot at Emergent (I'm not emergent, btw).

    Well, to be honest, I think it could be fairly classified that way. Yaccino certainly would seem to be calling Emergent pastors to break ranks with the 'olde farts' and do something better. Insomuch as I think the underlying attitude is pervasive and defining of many things the emergers believe, this was a shot across their bow.

    The problem with any confederation is that you become guilty by association when someone says something and "stamps the brand" on it. This holds true even for 'loose' organizations like the Emerging ppl. Sad, but true.

    I also know scores of evangelical pastors who would. A wimpy, withering pastor is a wimpy, withering pastor, whether his club card says Emergent, Lutheran or Assemblies of God.

    You're right, sadly. And I'd have made the same post and said the same thing about any of them had they sourced this article. I know you just got here (based on another thread, I think that makes you reader #4 or #5), so you should know that I've taken pot-shots at other people in the past. And will do so in the future - I'm all for equal opportunity!

    If I perceive it as smug and self-righteous (from the inside!), then surely we can't be surprised when nonbelievers perceive it thus.

    I know what you mean... But at the same time, we do need to be crystal clear on Holy God, our sin, and His grace in Christ. Being honest isn't the same thing as being mean. You're absolutely right, though... The tone we take and the attitude we display says a lot about who we worship. And that should give every one of us pause.

    (I should note that walking up to someone and saying, "Hey there bud! Did you know your destined for hell?!?", is not what I'm advocating for here, either.)

    I just find it bizarre that we demand that non-Christians adopt a Christian moral code. Isn't that a works-based gospel at its core?

    Perhaps I'm treading on thin ice here, but would you approve of a pastor performing a wedding for a lesbian couple? After all, why should we force them to adopt our moral code?

    I think that a pastor has a unique opportunity to influence people for the Gospel when they are asked to perform a wedding (to say nothing of shepherding a marriage off on a productive course). That chance shouldn't be throw away, or cheapened by simply 'being there' as a smiling attendant for the couple. Love them as Christ loved them, and speak truth into their lives.

    By Blogger HeavyDluxe, at 5:03 PM, April 20, 2006  

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