11 Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, they came each one from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite; and they made an appointment together to come to sympathize with him and comfort him.12 When they lifted up their eyes at a distance and did not recognize him, they raised their voices and wept. And each of them tore his robe and they threw dust over their heads toward the sky.13 Then they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great. (Job 2.11-13)

The destruction of life and property in Moore, Oklahoma after the category 5 tornado tore through this suburb of Oklahoma City reminded me that bad things happen to good people, and that rather than attempting to provide explanations of why God allows these things to happen perhaps we should just be silent and mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12.15).

Job's friend got off to a good start by staying silent and weeping with their hurting fiend for seven days.  And if only they had left it at that they would have done well.  But they just couldn't keep quiet; they devised simplistic answers by looking for cause & effect where God had not given a revelation of such.  And so their comforting turned to inficting further pain on their friend.  It might have been well intentioned, but the outcome was further pain all the same.  And so at one point Job tells them,

2“I have heard many such things; sorry comforters are you all. 3Is there no limit to windy words? Or what plagues you that you answer?” (Job 16.2-3)

Sad.

And so to avoid saying things I know little about and risk inflicting further pain on those who are hurting I will simply pray for those who are afflicted and mourn with them.

God bless

CalvinCuban

 

It appears to me that the reason our kids leave church (when I say "our kids" I don't just mean Rio West kids but kids all over America) is not for the reasons most often noted, namely that churches are too old, irrelevant, boring, and so on.  Rather, I have come to the conclusion that our kids leave church for much the same reason that young adults leave church and that we are not seeing much growth in our churches.  

I have spoken of this in some form or another but I believe I have found my voice in this blog by "Marc5Solas."  The problem, as I see it and as this indivudal expresses much more eloquently than me, is that the contemporary church and American Evangelicalism in general has taken a detour from the apostolic historical faith onto something else which Michael Horton describes as "Christless Christianity" (I strongly recomend you read Dr. Horton's book, available @ http://www.amazon.com/Christless-Christianity-Alternative-American-ebook/dp/B00B0VMJ8E/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1374092624&sr=1-1&keywords=christless+christianity.  

OK, here's Marc5Solas excellent blog, also available @ http://marc5solas.com/2013/02/08/top-10-reasons-our-kids-leave-church.


Top 10 Reasons our Kids Leave Church

We all know them, the kids who were raised in church. They were stars of the youth group. They maybe even sang in the praise band or led worship. And then… they graduate from High School and they leave church. What happened?

It seems to happen so often that I wanted to do some digging; To talk to these kids and get some honest answers. I work in a major college town with a large number of 20-somethings. Nearly all of them were raised in very typical evangelical churches. Nearly all of them have left the church with no intention of returning. I spend a lot of time with them and it takes very little to get them to vent, and I’m happy to listen. So, after lots of hours spent in coffee shops and after buying a few lunches, here are the most common thoughts taken from dozens of conversations. I hope some of them make you angry. Not at the message, but at the failure of our pragmatic replacement of the gospel of the cross with an Americanized gospel of glory. This isn’t a negative “beat up on the church” post. I love the church, and I want to see American evangelicalism return to the gospel of repentance and faith in christ for the forgiveness of sins; not just as something on our “what we believe” page on our website, but as the core of what we preach from our pulpits to our children, our youth, and our adults.

The facts:

The statistics are jaw-droppingly horrific: 70% of youth stop attending church when they graduate from High School. Nearly a decade later, about half return to church.

Half.

Let that sink in.

There’s no easy way to say this: The American Evangelical church has lost, is losing, and will almost certainly continue to lose OUR YOUTH.

For all the talk of “our greatest resource”, “our treasure”, and the multi-million dollar Dave and Buster’s/Starbucks knockoffs we build and fill with black walls and wailing rock bands… the church has failed them.

Miserably.

The Top 10 Reasons We’re Losing our Youth:

10. The Church is “Relevant”:

You didn’t misread that, I didn’t say irrelevant, I said RELEVANT. We’ve taken a historic, 2,000 year old faith, dressed it in plaid and skinny jeans and tried to sell it as “cool” to our kids. It’s not cool. It’s not modern. What we’re packaging is a cheap knockoff of the world we’re called to evangelize.

As the quote says, “When the ship is in the ocean, everything’s fine. When the ocean gets into the ship, you’re in trouble.”

I’m not ranting about “worldliness” as some pietistic bogeyman, I’m talking about the fact that we yawn at a 5-minute biblical text, but almost trip over ourselves fawning over a minor celebrity or athlete who makes any vague reference to being a Christian.

We’re like a fawning wanna-be just hoping the world will think we’re cool too, you know, just like you guys!

Our kids meet the real world and our “look, we’re cool like you” posing is mocked. In our effort to be “like them” we’ve become less of who we actually are. The middle-aged pastor trying to look like his 20-something audience isn’t relevant. Dress him up in skinny jeans and hand him a latte, it doesn’t matter. It’s not relevant, It’s comically cliché. The minute you aim to be “authentic”, you’re no longer authentic!

9. They never attended church to begin with:

From a Noah’s Ark themed nursery, to jumbotron summer-campish kids church, to pizza parties and rock concerts, many evangelical youth have been coddled in a not-quite-church, but not-quite-world hothouse. They’ve never sat on a pew between a set of new parents with a fussy baby and a senior citizen on an oxygen tank. They don’t see the full timeline of the gospel for every season of life. Instead, we’ve dumbed down the message, pumped up the volume and act surprised when…

8. They get smart:

It’s not that our students “got smarter” when they left home, rather someone actually treated them as intelligent. Rather than dumbing down the message, the agnostics and atheists treat our youth as intelligent and challenge their intellect with “deep thoughts” of question and doubt. Many of these “doubts” have been answered, in great depth, over the centuries of our faith. However….

7. You sent them out unarmed:

Let’s just be honest, most of our churches are sending youth into the world embarrassingly ignorant of our faith. How could we not? We’ve jettisoned catechesis, sold them on “deeds not creeds” and encouraged them to start the quest to find “God’s plan for their life”. Yes, I know your church has a “What we believe” page, but is that actually being taught and reinforced from the pulpit? I’ve met evangelical church leaders (“Pastors”) who didn’t know the difference between justification and sanctification. I’ve met megachurch board members who didn’t understand the atonement. When we chose leaders based upon their ability to draw and lead rather than to accurately teach the faith? Well, we don’t teach the faith. Surprised? And instead of the orthodox, historic faith…..

6. You gave them hand-me-downs

You’ve tried your best to pass along the internal/subjective faith that you “feel”. You really, really, really want them to “feel” it too. But we’ve never been called to evangelize our feelings. You can’t hand down this type of subjective faith. With nothing solid to hang their faith upon, with no historic creed to tie them to centuries of history, without the physical elements of bread, wine, and water, their faith is in their subjective feelings, and when faced with other ways to “feel” uplifted at college, the church loses out to things with much greater appeal to our human nature. And they find it in…

5. Community

Have you noticed this word is *everywhere* in the church since the seeker-sensitive and church growth movements came onto the scene? (There’s a reason and a driving philosophy behind it which is outside of the scope of this blog.) When our kids leave home, they leave the manufactured community they’ve lived in for nearly their entire life. With their faith as something they “do” in community, they soon find that they can experience this “life change” and “life improvement” in “community” in many different contexts. Mix this with a subjective, pragmatic faith and the 100th pizza party at the local big-box church doesn’t compete against the easier, more naturally appealing choices in other “communities”. So, they left the church and….

4. They found better feelings:

Rather than an external, objective, historical faith, we’ve given our youth an internal, subjective faith. The evangelical church isn’t catechizing or teaching our kids the fundamentals of the faith, we’re simply encouraging them to “be nice” and “love Jesus”. When they leave home, they realize that they can be “spiritually fulfilled” and get the same subjective self-improvement principles (and warm-fuzzies) from the latest life-coach or from spending time with friends or volunteering at a shelter. And they can be truly authentic, and they jump at the chance because…

3. They got tired of pretending:

In the “best life now”, “Every day a Friday” world of evangelicals, there’s little room for depression, or struggle, or doubt. Turn that frown upside down, or move along. Kids who are fed a stead diet of sermons aimed at removing anything (or anyone) who doesn’t pragmatically serve “God’s great plan for your life” has forced them to smile and, as the old song encouraged them be “hap-hap-happy all the time”. Our kids are smart, often much smarter than we give them credit for. So they trumpet the message I hear a lot from these kids. “The church is full of hypocrites”. Why? Even though they have never been given the categories of law and gospel…

2. They know the truth:

They can’t do it. They know it. All that “be nice” moralism they’ve been taught? The bible has a word for it: Law. And that’s what we’ve fed them, undiluted, since we dropped them off at the Noah’s Ark playland: Do/Don’t Do. As they get older it becomes “Good Kids do/don’t” and as adults “Do this for a better life”. The gospel appears briefly as another “do” to “get saved.” But their diet is Law, and scripture tells us that the law condemns us. So that smiling, upbeat “Love God and Love People” vision statement? Yeah, you’ve just condemned the youth with it. Nice, huh? They either think that they’re “good people” since they don’t “do” any of the stuff their denomination teaches against (drink, smoke, dance, watch R rated movies), or they realize that they don’t meet Jesus own words of what is required. There’s no rest in this law, only a treadmill of works they know they aren’t able to meet. So, either way, they walk away from the church because…

1. They don’t need it:

Our kids are smart. They picked up on the message we unwittingly taught. If church is simply a place to learn life-application principals to achieve a better life in community… you don’t need a crucified Jesus for that. Why would they get up early on a Sunday and watch a cheap knockoff of the entertainment venue they went to the night before? The middle-aged pastor trying desperately to be “relevant” to them would be a comical cliché if the effect weren’t so devastating. As we jettisoned the gospel, our students are never hit with the full impact of the law, their sin before God, and their desperate need for the atoning work of Christ. Now THAT is relevant, THAT is authentic, and THAT is something the world cannot offer.

We’ve traded a historic, objective, faithful gospel based on God’s graciousness toward us for a modern, subjective, pragmatic gospel based upon achieving our goal by following life strategies. Rather than being faithful to the foolish simplicity of the gospel of the cross we’ve set our goal on being “successful” in growing crowds with this gospel of glory. This new gospel saves no one. Our kids can check all of these boxes with any manner of self-help, life-coach, or simply self-designed spiritualism… and they can do it more pragmatically successfully, and in more relevant community. They leave because given the choice, with the very message we’ve taught them, it’s the smarter choice.

Our kids leave because we have failed to deliver to them the faith “delivered once for all” to the church. I wish it wasn’t a given, but when I present law and gospel to these kids, the response is the same every time: “I’ve never heard that.” I’m not against entertaining our youth, or even jumbotrons, or pizza parties (though I probably am against middle aged guys trying to wear skinny jeans to be “relevant).. it’s just that the one thing, the MAIN thing we’ve been tasked with? We’re failing. We’ve failed God and we’ve failed our kids. Don’t let another kid walk out the door without being confronted with the full weight of the law, and the full freedom in the gospel.

Marc5Solas

God bless

CalvinCuban

As a follow-up to my recent entry, "The Top Ten Reasons Our Kids Leave Church" I wanted to post some more information on this subject hoping to learn more about why we lose so many kids.  

I think of my own kids and why they left not the Church (universal) but our church (Rio West).  And although Gabriel and Carmen are very different individuals, the common denominators include: same set of parents, same schooling (home school and Rio Grande Enrichment Studies), and same church (Rio West).  And in spite of being raised in a conservative and evangelical church, Gabriel now worships at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Byzantine Catholic Churchan Eastern rites congregation, and Carmen at Mars Hill, a neo-Reformed congregation. 

So, why are so many kids leaving Evangelical churches and going elsewhere?  There are many reasons, of course, but at the gist of it is a desire for a deeper spirituality, theology, historic rootedness, and so on.  The following insightful message is from The Christian Pundit, specifically the last three paragraphs of "Young Evangelicals Are Getting High" (you can read the entire blog @ http://thechristianpundit.org/2013/07/17/young-evangelicals-are-getting-high/).


The kids who leave evangelical Protestantism are looking for something the world can’t give them. The world can give them hotter jeans, better coffee, bands, speakers, and book clubs than a congregation can. What it can’t give them is theology; membership in a group that transcends time, place and race; a historic rootedness; something greater than themselves; ordained men who will be spiritual leaders and not merely listeners and buddies and story-tellers. What the kids leaving generic evangelicalism seem to want is something the world can never give them–a holy Father who demands reverence, a Saviour who requires careful worship, and a Spirit who must be obeyed. They are looking for true, deep, intellectually robust spirituality in their parents’ churches and not finding it.

But not all kids who grew up in American evangelicalism are jumping off into high church rite and sacrament: congregations that carefully teach robust, historic Protestant theology to their children are notably not losing them to the Vatican, or even Lambeth. Protestant churches that recognize their own ecclesiastical and theological heritage, training their children to value and continue it in a 21st century setting, usually retain their youth. These kids have the tools they need to think biblically through the deep and difficult issues of the day and articulate their position without having a crisis of faith. They know the headlines, church history, theology and their Bibles, and so are equipped to engage culture in a winsome, accessible way. They have a relationship with God that is not based on their feelings or commitments but on the enduring promises of the Word and so they can ride out the trends of the American church, knowing that they will pass regardless of mass defections to Rome. That’s not to say that the Book of Common Prayer is unbiblical in its entirety–far from it! It is to say that children raised in spiritually substantive and faithful homes usually find things like holy water, pilgrimages, popes and ash on their faces an affront to the means for spiritual growth that God has appointed in His Word.

“He cannot have God as his Father who does not have the church for his Mother,” said Cyprian, nearly two millennia ago. Perhaps if Protestant churches began acting more like dutiful mothers instead of fun babysitters, there would be fewer youth leaving their ecclesiastical homes as soon as they are out of the house.


I couldn't agree more!  We tend to think that making things younger, hotter, flashier, energetic, and so on will attract and keep young people.  And it will attract some, but it won't keep many.  It appears to me, therefore, that what we need in church--music, sermons, teaching and so on--is the best of the old and the best of the new, or put another way, freshly presented traditions.

This poem from a 20-something who describes him/hersel as a...

Scared of Hell. Walked the aisle. Said a prayer. Baptized. Felt some feelings.
Only recently learned how Law & Gospel are appropriately separated.
& have learned about the external Word and sacraments.
I am currently studying at the University of Arkansas. I’m 21.

says it best...

Dear Church, My Plea

We don’t want modernity.
We don’t want your empty promises.
We don’t want your self-help sermons.
We don’t want to find security inside of ourselves.
Stop telling me that Christ needs my commitment.
Stop telling me that I’m good.
Stop giving me new law to keep.
Stop idolizing youth.
Stop dumbing down the message.
Stop sugar-coating truth.
Stop feeding me donuts.
I need His body and blood.
Point me not to a prayer.
Point me to His Word.
Teach me His promises.
Teach me His Law.
Tell me I can’t keep it.
Tell me He fulfilled it.
I am a sinner. Just like you.
You tell me what to do.
& leave out what’s been done.
Care not about my entertainment.
Care about His message rightly proclaimed.
You give me a purity ring.
I need armor.
I need this message of reconciliation.
I need Christ crucified for sinners.
This news is good.
This Word brings life.
Rebuke this moralism.
Rebuke this mysticism.
If moralism is the message,
I don’t need Jesus.
If mysticism is the message,
I’ll get high on something else.
I’m done with this pretending.
I need solid food.
If my best life is now, I’m going to hell.
I don’t care about Friday.
I don’t care about feelings.
I’m a sinner like you.
I need Christ.
He brings life.
This fake smile’s getting old.
My Sunday clothes are wearing thin.
My heart is growing numb.
I’m broken by sin.
I need conviction from the Law.
& healing from the Lord.
My strivings are futile.
The Law leaves me condemned.
Please talk about sin.
Let your message be bloody.
Place the cross in the center.
For Christ, He alone is worthy.

Amen to that!  It appears to me, then, that we need to rethink much of what we do and teach in our Evangelical churches, keeping the best of our Evangelical tradition (and there's much of that) but also "...carefully teach robust, historic Protestant theology to [our] children," as the article notes.

Just food for thought...

 

God bless

CalvinCuban

In my most recent blogs I wrote about The Top Ten Reasons Our Kids Leave Church and More Reasons Our Kids Leave Church. In both of these I made reference to and copied verbatim from several other blogs/articles to this effect. My main point that the reason Millennials and Generation X’ers are dissatisfied with the contemporary American Evangelical Church is for reasons other than what is mostly talked about. What youth want is more genuineness, openness, honesty, freedom to discuss various and sundry issues (e.g., creationism, morality, politics, theology, history) without arriving at a conclusion beforehand. In other words, they are more interested in substance than style.  Furthermore, they prefer pastors who speak honestly and coherently (and dress appropriately for their age) than those who attempt to entertain them and wear skinny jeans.

A recent report from the Public Religion Research Institute and The Brookings Institution (http://publicreligion.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/2013-Economic-Values-Report-Final-.pdf) published on July 18, 2013 reveals how Americans of all ages view religion, politics, economics, society, and such. If you’re interested in a realistic perspective on this subject you should read this report. Yes, it’s 62 pages long but it does include lots of pictures (well, charts, actually) and you can access the parts which are of most interest to you. Parts II and III on pp. 25-47 are most apropos to what I’ve been blogging about lately. 

This time I want to quote from Rachel Evans, 32 year old Millennial, author, blogger, CNN special correspondent on religion, wife, and Christian:


Armed with the latest surveys, along with personal testimonies from friends and readers, I explain how young adults perceive evangelical Christianity to be too political, too exclusive, old-fashioned, unconcerned with social justice and hostile to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

I point to research that shows young evangelicals often feel they have to choose between their intellectual integrity and their faith, between science and Christianity, between compassion and holiness.

I talk about how the evangelical obsession with sex can make Christian living seem like little more than sticking to a list of rules, and how millennials long for faith communities in which they are safe asking tough questions and wrestling with doubt.

Invariably, after I’ve finished my presentation and opened the floor to questions, a pastor raises his hand and says, “So what you’re saying is we need hipper worship bands. …”

And I proceed to bang my head against the podium.

Time and again, the assumption among Christian leaders, and evangelical leaders in particular, is that the key to drawing twenty-somethings back to church is simply to make a few style updates – edgier music, more casual services, a coffee shop in the fellowship hall, a pastor who wears skinny jeans, an updated Web site that includes online giving.

But here’s the thing: Having been advertised to our whole lives, we millennials have highly sensitive BS meters, and we’re not easily impressed with consumerism or performances.

In fact, I would argue that church-as-performance is just one more thing driving us away from the church, and evangelicalism in particular.

Many of us, myself included, are finding ourselves increasingly drawn to high church traditions – Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, the Episcopal Church, etc. – precisely because the ancient forms of liturgy seem so unpretentious, so unconcerned with being “cool,” and we find that refreshingly authentic.

What millennials really want from the church is not a change in style but a change in substance.

We want an end to the culture wars. We want a truce between science and faith. We want to be known for what we stand for, not what we are against.

We want to ask questions that don’t have predetermined answers.

We want churches that emphasize an allegiance to the kingdom of God over an allegiance to a single political party or a single nation.

We want our LGBT friends to feel truly welcome in our faith communities.

We want to be challenged to live lives of holiness, not only when it comes to sex, but also when it comes to living simply, caring for the poor and oppressed, pursuing reconciliation, engaging in creation care and becoming peacemakers.

You can’t hand us a latte and then go about business as usual and expect us to stick around. We’re not leaving the church because we don’t find the cool factor there; we’re leaving the church because we don’t find Jesus there.

Like every generation before ours and every generation after, deep down, we long for Jesus.

Now these trends are obviously true not only for millennials but also for many folks from other generations. Whenever I write about this topic, I hear from forty-somethings and grandmothers, Generation Xers and retirees, who send me messages in all caps that read “ME TOO!” So I don’t want to portray the divide as wider than it is.

But I would encourage church leaders eager to win millennials back to sit down and really talk with them about what they’re looking for and what they would like to contribute to a faith community.

Their answers might surprise you.


I want to make it clear that I do not necessarily agree with everything that the authors I’ve quoting from have to say. However, they do make some very important points which we should listen to. I fear that we often make assumptions about what it takes to keep and attract 20-somethings and 30-somethings which is well intentioned but often based more on our perceptions (i.e., our particular ideas of reality) rather than on the facts (i.e., real reality) and the truth (i.e., facts, goodness, beauty, etc., all rolled together).

We sometimes use 1 Corinthians 9.22, “I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some,” as a rallying cry and justification for applying certain techniques to attract certain groups of people. But I don’t believe that Paul is saying this here, that is, that a church should target any one particular group of people at all, whether that is based on age, culture, socio-economic status, race & ethnicity, or whatever. Rather, he says, that he becomes “all things to all men,” not “some things to some men.”

If a church—our church, even—would simply focus on Jesus Christ, “…the way, and the truth, and the life,” the One without whom “…no one comes to the Father,” (John 14.6), such a church will be healthy and growing, which is to say, it will attract to Christ peoples of all ages, cultures, socio-economic status, race & ethnicity, and so on. And such a church—our church, even—would do so by way of to magnifying Him, proclaiming His gospel, calling everyone to repentance, glorifying Him, preaching & teaching the word, living in accordance to His teachings, … and whatever else I’ve left out which Scripture teaches. 

God bless

CalvinCuban

Campbell’s Soup Cans,” by Andy Warhol, 1962

Happy New Year's Day!  Can anyone think of a better way to start the new year than with an academic (sort of) essay on labels?

I’m good with labels.  In fact, I see no liability with labels.  I have progressed through all three stages of change of attitude—tolerate, accept & embrace—with regards to labels.

Labels are perhaps the most utilitarian thing on the planet.  Imagine buying a can of green pea soup (yuck!) when you intended to get a can of chicken broth (great for making arroz con pollo!) simply because it was mislabeled.  Yes, labels are a most useful thing.

So why do some otherwise good Christians take issue with labels as they pertain to our faith?  The argument I hear most often is that labels (other than just plain “Christian”) are divisive.  But is this really the case?  For instance, most Christians I know are big proponents of the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms.  The opposition claims that “guns kill people,” but gun enthusiasts respond that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”  So, wouldn’t it then follow that “labels don’t divide people, people divide people”? 

But of greater relevance to me is that labels are inevitable even if no words are used.  It’s a fact of human nature that we label folks at first site by race, sex, age, beauty, weight, clothing, and so on.  And once we get to know the person we pile on—silent and not so silent—labels with regards faith, work, politics, education, etc.  Therefore, since labels are inevitable, it appears to me that it would make more sense to manage labels rather than to avoid labels, that is to say, to creatively and civilly use them with an end to promoting unity rather than settling for a default cause for divisiveness.

Take the doctrinal issue of Calvinism vs. Arminianism with regards to soteriology in particular (i.e., how a sinner is justified before God).  There are significant differences between Calvinist and Arminian doctrines in this respect.  Calvinism teaches monergism, that is, the redeemed were unconditionally and sovereignly chosen/elected by God for salvation and for reasons of His own.  Conversely, Arminians teach that justification is synergistic, that is, God sees through the tunnel of time and elects those who will choose Him.  These issues were divisive over a thousand years before John Calvin and Jacobus Arminius and remain so to this day.

But to simply say, “can’t we just call ourselves ‘Christian’ and let it go at that” is insufficient to bring about unity, not to mention, being a bit Pollyannaish.  Instead to “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4.3) we will need to heed the previous verse, “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love” and to “have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” (1 Peter 3.8).  Let’s break this verse down into its five components:

  • Unity of mind” I understand this to mean that we will need to unanimously agree to the non-negotiable, indisputable or essential elements of our faith.  The Nicene Creed is a good summary of this.  Furthermore, Protestants can also agree to the five solas of the Reformation, that is justification is by grace alone through faith alone, in Christ alone, that Scripture alone is authoritative, and that all we do is for the glory of God alone.  Even if it’s just the Nicene Creed, that alone (pardon the pun) will grant us sufficient “unity of mind” to consider one another “Christian.”
  • Sympathy” Older translations such as the 1599 Geneva Bible reads, “one suffer with another,” and the King James Bible reads, “having compassion one of another.”  I like that better than just plain “sympathy.”  With respect to unity what this means to me is that we have to put up with one another because we are sinners alongside being saints.  Couple that with different personalities, likes and dislikes and you could end up with a toxic mix.
  • Brotherly Love” I see “brotherly love” as a matter of treating one another as though we were members of a family (which we are, of course).  Family members disagree on numerous issues and often irritate one another to the point of disdain, ridicule, and even contempt.  But at some point they will need to put their differences aside and accept one another because they are family.  Paul wrote about this in Colossians 3.14, “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
  • Tender Heart” Here again I like the older translations.  Both the 1599 Geneva Bible and the King James Bible read, “be pitiful.” I take this to mean that we are to take pity on another as fellow saint-sinners.  Such pity leads us to agree with and live according to Paul’s admonition in Colossians 3.12-13, “Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
  • Humble Mind” Four words best describe a “humble mind.”  Are you ready?  Here they are: “I could be wrong.”  Now, I cannot be wrong about the existence of God or of the Holy Trinity, the deity of Christ, the Incarnation, the Resurrection of Christ, the forgiveness of sins by Christ’s atoning work on the cross, and other essential matters of the Christian faith.  In effect, to deny the veracity of any of these doctrines is tantamount to apostasy and heresy; we must accept these things or we cannot call ourselves “Christian.”  With regards to other matters of the faith, however, I could be wrong.  These include (in lessening order of importance):
    • The five solas of the Reformation I mentioned earlier are not “Nicene Creed grade” (I’ll try not to drop too many metaphors on you), but are at a high enough octane (sorry) to be deemed essential for local church fellowship, especially someone in leadership (i.e., it would be difficult to locally fellowship with someone who believes or teaches that we are justified both by faith and works, or that Scripture is not the final word on matters of the faith). 
    • Drop down a notch and you arrive at issues such as the doctrines of grace (Calvinism), which at one was a major divisive point (or five points, to be exact) amongst Protestants but which need not be as I have learned from being a GCC pastor, which accepts pastors on both camps and those in between (the majority, please refer to my “A Question of Balance” post from March 27, 2013). 
    • But when it comes to matters lower than these, such as doctrines of eschatology or determining the will of God, or practices such as which movies are OK to watch, proper attire, and so on, we must ask for wisdom (James 1.5-8) and apply it wisely (James 3.13-18).  And we must grant freedom (Romans 14.22).  And no, I do not think I am wrong about that.

So, now that I’ve made my case I see myself as having the following labels pasted all over my body (using a can of Campbell's chicken broth soup as an anthropomorphism):

There!  I feel better now that I got that off my chest!

God bless

CalvinCuban