The last year certainly provided some clarity, did it not? (I mean for the church).
Too many pastors went wildly off the rails early in the pandemic, promoting ridiculous ideas which as of this writing (and I follow a lot of people) they haven’t admitted turned out to be totally incorrect.
Why hold such ridiculous views, divide the church, and destroy their witness? Ideas which have been shown 100% wrong, with credibility on the order of flat-earth conspiracy theories?
The sad state of the US church today stems from pastors adding to the long list of old divisive issues in the church, adding to baptism, calvinism, pre-trib, communion … mask wearing, promoting lawlessness, proudly ignoring capacity limits and common sense health regulations.
What caused this? How did so many go so out-of-order so quickly, causing division when they should have been helping?
Soldier vs Scout
Julia Galef might have discovered the reason in a Ted talk titled Why You Think You’re Right Even When You’re Wrong.
Simply put (it’s a short video and worth your time) some people only see different ideas as something to be defeated (at very high cost sometimes). They’re not interested in new evidence or (gulp) modifying their position in light of new data.
So pastors (and others) can’t change their views on bizarre ideas because they’re so locked in and devoted to their ideas (right or wrong) they become blind, failing to consider new evidence (and they pull out the “God commands it” card — whatever they deem ‘it’ is — as a trump card we should all wither at).
That’s what Julia calls the soldier mindset.
The Alternative: Scout (or the scientific method)
Julia speaks of the scout mentality — the ability to look at things as they really are, not as enemies to be defeated, and be open to the idea your position might need to change as new data comes in.
We called this the scientific method — make a guess, gather data, and then modify the idea so it aligns with reality.
Sadly, covid conspiracy promoters don’t (or can’t) reconsider as data comes in, only looking at different ideas as something to be defeated at any cost — including dividing the church and Christians over silly non-critical issues.
As Chuck Missler said “the only barrier to truth is assuming you already have it.”
It’s rather obvious people holding tin-foil hat ideas in contradiction to overwhelming evidence (covid isn’t worse than flu, won’t affect us here, the church can’t use zoom and must meet every week in-person on Sunday, etc) lose all their credibility (do they still believe leaching cures disease as well?).
For pastors promoting nonsense — in lawsuits and messages — it’s sad. For some reason their devotion and commitment remains to an idea instead of the truth, even when data comes in proving those deeply held ideas are unquestionably incorrect.
As we look back over the pandemic one undeniable lesson jumps out — never be so stuck on an idea you won’t consider new information.
Pastors and others advocating violating health protocols (all in the name of “god” of course), and promote lawlessness (we won’t follow distancing, or capacity limitations) over the last year have unquestionably shown themselves to be unreliable teachers, choosing to create division over ridiculous ideas rather than admit what they originally thought to be true turned out to be false.
Emo Phillips has been identified as the author of the following joke, and like most humor, it’s funny (and sad) because it’s so true … as the last year proved.
Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, “Don’t do it!”
He said, “Nobody loves me.” I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?”
He said, “Yes.” I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?” He said, “A Christian.” I said, “Me, too!
Protestant or Catholic?” He said, “Protestant.” I said, “Me, too! What franchise?” He said, “Baptist.” I said, “Me, too!
Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?” He said, “Northern Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.” I said, “Me, too!
Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.” I said, “Me, too!”
“Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.”
I said, “Die, heretic!” And I pushed him over.
As we’ve seen mask wearing, health regulations, and capacity limits joined the looooong list of items Christians divide over. It seems the church (and its pastors) fail to learn from history.
In contrast to pastors and others causing division over non-issues, what should you do?
Simple. Learn from the scientific method.
Make a guess or idea. Study actual data to see if it is correct or not. And the critical part — modify your position to fit reality and data instead of blind devotion to ideas with irrefutable evidence and data against them.
As Julia says:
Scouts also have different values. They’re more likely to say they think it’s virtuous to test their own beliefs, and they’re less likely to say that someone who changes her mind seems weak. And, above all, scouts are grounded, which means their self-worth as a person isn’t tied to how right or wrong they are about any particular topic.
Those who early on said the pandemic wasn’t real expressed one possible idea. However, the past year proved those early ideas unquestionably wrong, and those dividing Christians over obviously incorrect ideas aren’t doing the church any good.
Don’t follow their poor example.
Examine data. Modify your position. Learn. Adapt. Study.
Sadly Covid craziness joins the long list causing division in the church, along with baptism, communion, pre-trib/post-trib, calvinism, and more.
Today’s pastors haven’t learned from history and create division instead of unity, all while smiling “we’re going to share the love of Christ” and dividing Christians into groups they either approve or disapprove of.
The worst part? People outside the church notice such foolishness as promoters of this new doctrine blowing through the church destroy not only their credibility, but the churches witness as well.
Your Action Plan
Paul provides the critical piece.
Let me now remind you, dear brothers and sisters, of the Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then, and you still stand firm in it. It is this Good News that saves you if you continue to believe the message I told you—unless, of course, you believed something that was never true in the first place.
I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. (1 Corinthians 15:1–4 NLT)
What is the gospel?
- Christ died for our sins.
- Was buried.
- And rose again … according to the scriptures.
Paul also warned the Galatians about messing around with alternative gospels:
I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who called you to himself through the loving mercy of Christ. You are following a different way that pretends to be the Good News but is not the Good News at all. You are being fooled by those who deliberately twist the truth concerning Christ. (Galatians 1:6—7 NLT)
The Gospel isn’t promoting lawlessness (“we won’t follow health protocols”), dividing over masks, refusing to distance during a pandemic, being hyper legalistic over when and how the church meets, or anything else, and those choosing to divide fellowship over such things are undeniably in error.
Personally, I’m trying to be better at not majoring in the minors.
The last year taught us too many “pastors” fail in their mission — to build up the body of Christ — choosing to divide rather than heal at the exact moment (during a pandemic) we need real ministers, not Pharisees.
That’s their choice, it does not need to be yours, so don’t follow their poor example. Christians need to remember nobody is perfect, and we all make mistakes — and that includes pastors.
Blind obedience to a pastor leads to all sorts of problems, so be a scout and open to new data, as only one man walked the earth with perfection, and it sure isn’t whoever stands in the pulpit next Sunday.
The list of what you must believe to be a Christian remains rather small, and Paul details it. As long as someone accepts Jesus as their savior for their sin, I’m with ‘em.
Whether they go to church on Saturday doesn’t matter.
Whether they use zoom for meeting doesn’t matter.
Post-trib doesn’t matter.
Calvinism doesn’t matter.
The list of what we must accept to be a Christian remains rather short; the last year too many legalistic pastors chose to divide the body over silly issues rather than minister to it.
Notice, o ye disciples of new legalistic doctrine, not wearing a mask and using Zoom during a pandemic are not on Paul’s list.
… Because in Paul’s time or ours, it’s still 3am.