Dealing with Religious Rock-Throwers

I hopped on the treadmill and fired up my iPad to catch up on the day's headlines. I wasn’t prepared for the news from The Washington Post: Billy Graham’s grandson steps down from Florida megachurch after admitting an affair. My heart dropped and I felt deep compassion for the family.

If your first response to someone’s failure isn’t forgiveness, then you have missed the gospel. Nobody is perfect. Nobody.

And what an unbelieving world doesn’t need are more religious rock throwers (by the way, God never blesses religious people throwing rocks in the Bible).

What makes the world take notice is radical forgiveness like what happened in a South Carolina courtroom the same week that news broke. When evil is met by grace, the gospel is displayed in all its beauty and power.

Here are two steps you can take to become more gospel-centered:

1. Pray for your pastor.

These stats should give you a place to start:

  • 97 percent of pastors have been betrayed, falsely accused or hurt by trusted friends.
  • 80 percent of pastors feel discouraged.
  • 70 percent of pastors battle depression.
  • 7,000 churches close each year.
  • 1,500 pastors quit each month.
  • Only 10 percent of pastors will retire as a pastor.
  • 94 percent of pastors’ families feel the pressure of ministry.
  • 78 percent of pastors have no close friends.
  • 90 percent of pastors report working 55-70 hours per week.

Their load is heavy and the ministry needs never end. Give your pastor your prayers, not your complaints.

2. Speak well of other church leaders.

The anonymity of the Internet breeds trolls who use Twitter and Facebook to throw rocks. This does not honor God. Slander never advances the gospel (and no, you are not the Holy Spirit, so you can be relieved right now of being the “Truth Police”)!

I’ve never met Tullian, but I have attended a conference he spoke at. My wife and I were blown away by his message on law and grace: The law serves to crush while grace serves to lift. When that headline hit the fan, his family was being crushed in the public spotlight. How should we respond?  My wife and I choose to be people saved by grace who extend grace and lift up the fallen.

One Sunday as I was shaking hands with first-time guests after the service, I met a new couple who had strong opinions about pastors in the public spotlight. I listened politely, but after a while, my conscience stirred and I spoke up:

“That’s not true.”

“What’s not true?”

“What you just said about Steven Furtick. It’s not true. I met Steven while on staff at NewSpring and I can tell you that he’s a good guy, following the Lord, and frankly if 40,000 people knew my face and I couldn’t take my family anywhere in public, I’d build a fortress to protect them too!”

The conversation pivoted toward another evangelical punching bag: Mark Driscoll.
Again, I had to speak up:

“Sorry, but I’m a former member of Acts 29. I’ve spent time with Mark, and the legalism of Internet trolls is clouding your view. The God we serve is a God of second chances. If the Apostle Paul were in ministry today, he’d be hammered for murdering Christians, yet the Bible reveals a broken, changed man who advances the gospel to the ends of the earth.”

I could go on and on, but I think you get my point. Throwing rocks is easy. Any fool can criticize. It’s the sport of Pharisees.

I’d rather live out of gospel-centeredness and extend radical forgiveness to the broken. I will not beat up someone when Jesus already took the beating they deserved for them on the Cross!

Let us choose to reject condemnation.  Instead of talking about people, let's talk to people.

Let’s be a generation that leverages our platforms to speak life over people and lift up the life-giving message of Jesus. This includes the realm of personal conversations and the Internet.

Jonathan Herron

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