And most of the mistakes the church makes today happen for the same reasons.
No, I’m not talking about those vile, publicity-hungry, sign-waving people who boycott soldiers’ funerals. They don’t have anyone fooled. No one thinks they represent a real church, let alone real Christians.
I’m referring to the average pastor, church or media ministry that spends more time and emotion denouncing the sins of their society than reaching out to the hurting with love and compassion.
Here’s an example of what happens when our anger overtakes our compassion.
This article was originally posted on March 10, 2014. It wasn’t one of the most-read posts of the year, but I think it’s worth a second (or first) look as one of the overlooked #BestOf2014.
“We Thought You Didn’t Like Us”
Several years ago, our church did something that shocked our city’s public schools.
They were raising money to buy and repair instruments for their music programs. The kids in our church go to those schools, so we took an extra offering. Our small congregation generously gave $2,500. We sent it in and thought no more about it.
At the end of the school year, they had a small ceremony to thank organizations that gave over $1,000. When our church name was announced, the school officials in the room erupted in gasps and applause.
When the ceremony concluded, people descended on me to shake my hand and thank my church. On the other side of the room, I noticed the representative from a company that gave $50,000 standing alone.
I was confused.
“I don’t understand what’s happening here,” I said to the next person who shook my hand. “We only gave $2,500. Why is everyone so excited about this?”
“It’s because you’re from a church,” she said. “And we’re the public school system. We thought you didn’t like us. The only time we ever hear from churches is when they’re mad about something. We never dreamed that a local church would take an offering to help us.”
Outrage Has Short Impact, But a Long Memory
Anger can only take us so far. Sure, it’s a great way to whip up a Sunday morning congregation, a TV or radio audience, or blog readers. And yes, it can get huge numbers of people to boycott a company or buy some fast-food chicken and duck calls.
But are we giving enough thought to the long-term consequences of such short-term so-called successes?
Long after we’ve expressed our anger and moved on to the next project, the taste of something-that-feels-like-hatred lingers in the hearts and minds of the people on the other side of the issue.
For example, a few months after we gave the public school gift, I talked with a Christian teacher. She told me she’d soured on her church and was wavering in her faith. “My pastor constantly denounces the godlessness of our society and especially our public school system,” she said, shaking her head. “And I’m sitting in the second row when he does it! He can see me! Sometimes he looks straight at me when he says it.”
“Afterwards, he always shrugs it off by telling me he isn’t referring to me. But I can’t shrug it off. The people he’s talking about are my friends and co-workers. They’re good, hardworking people who sacrifice a lot to teach our kids. We need the church’s help, not their condemnation.
“I want to serve Jesus, but sometimes I don’t want people to know I’m associated with so much of what the church is known for. It’s not my fellow workers who are making it hard for me to express my faith at work, it’s my church.”
Something’s gone wrong. We need a new strategy. Or a very old one.
How Jesus Used Anger
Anger is not wrong. Jesus got angry.
But Jesus never got angry at the pagan culture around him. He reserved his fury for false religious piety.
Jesus was called a “friend of sinners”. The last time I heard a Christian or church referred to in that way, it was in a Christian blog denouncing them for keeping the wrong company.
So anger isn’t wrong. But it is very powerful and extremely dangerous. Jesus knew this and kept his anger very narrowly focused. We should do the same thing – use our anger narrowly and strategically, even surgically.
Instead, Christians have become so known for our outrage, it’s spilling over and hurting some very good people. Are we really OK when people are shocked that a church did something nice for school kids? What’s wrong with this picture?
What We Can Do Instead
Small Churches, are you looking for a way to stand out in your community? To have an impact bigger than your size? Don’t look for a sin to denounce. Try some shocking love and generosity.
You don’t need to be big or have a lot of money to pull this off. You can find some starter ideas from these posts about Small Churches that are already doing it:
- Do a community service day (video)
- Turn your congregation’s gifts loose to meet local needs
- The Church That Cares For Kids (video)
- Link up with organizations like Rural Compassion
No More Angry Christians
We don’t need any more angry Christians. I think we’ve reached our quota with plenty to spare for at least the next 1,000, maybe 2,000 years.
Love is stronger than anger. It has a longer shelf life than anger. It’s more multi-purpose than anger. Love is just all-around better than anger.
Anger should have limited use, because it has limited value. But love is limitless.
There have been many times in my life when I’ve expressed anger and regretted it.
But I’ve never regretted showing love. Because love never fails.
So what do you think? What can we do for the church to be known more for our love than our anger?
We want to hear from you. Yes, you!
Enter your comment right below this post and get in on the conversation.