Sunday, May 19, 2013

Everybody Draws Lines (It Really Is All About Why)

One of the area evangelical churches, which has a rock band, had someone spontaneously begin taking his music to a different level with his behavior.  He was jumping up and down and spinning and generally making the people attending feel uncomfortable.  Leadership didn't allow him to continue.  They couldn't agree to disagree.  They wouldn't allow for Christian liberty.  They judged him in what one would have thought was, for them, a doubtful disputation.  According to some's evaluation, the leaders that cut him off must have been weaker brothers with more scruples than he.  They shut down his act with no verses to stop it.  People didn't like it.  It was their preference.  They drew a line.

Everybody draws lines.  Everyone has a dress code.  Everyone has a music standard.  Everybody has an entertainment standard.  The truth is that everybody just draws their lines at different places.  That's why I asked recently what was wrong with VSM? (here and here)  Most of the people who draw lines say that you can't judge, and then they proceed to judge, like the evangelical church above.   It's not that they don't judge, just that they judge according to a different line drawn.   That church knew someone had crossed a line.  The line was mainly about a level of comfort being violated.  If people had to continue putting up with the zany behavior of a worship leader, not what they would judge to be a violation of any written text of scripture, the church would have started shrinking.  Maybe they could have put up with the wild and crazy 'worship,' but they couldn't have endured the complaints that they were receiving about his participation.  At some point everyone thinks that someone is going too far, and it is, again, just a matter of degree.

The above church again would say that they are majoring on the majors, that they are caring about the things that matter the most -- men's souls (I know this to be their justification, because we've talked to them directly).  It's true that they put thousands of dollars into the lights, the staging, the sheet music, the instruments, the lessons, the leaders, the sound equipment, the computers, the training, as well as hours and hours into the practice, but it isn't that important, even though Rick Warren in Purpose Driven Church said 'what kind of music' is the single most important decision in a church plant.  It doesn't matter about like my neighbor isn't crazy who wears two eggs over easy in each of his arm pits.  It matters.  It's a big deal.  It's a big enough deal to stop a Tasmanian Devil impersonation from continuing.

There has to be a law or two concerning line drawing.  I believe the following would be one.

The more people excluded by a line drawn, the less popular that line will be.

This is how line drawing relates to church growth.  That evangelical church drew a line on one man's behavior that made only one person unhappy -- him.  A key in church growth, and I'm talking about numerical growth, size of church, is to find the sweet spot to draw your line:  the perfect mixture of minimal doctrine and worldly lust.  The evangelical church found it.  If it did not draw it to exclude this man, they would have lost other people.  There didn't need to be a biblical reason for that, because 'anyone would know that losing people is wrong.'  They were perfectly willing to sacrifice his small demographic, not receive a man in a doubtful disputation, in order satisfy the preferences of the larger group.  If you're going to make an omelet, you have to break a few eggs.

Our church draws the music and worship line in a more exclusive place than that evangelical church.  I know that isn't acceptable to that church in a very personal way.  They don't like us judging them.  They think we're wrong.  They warn their church about us and our types.  They call us names.  And they say we can't prove our point scripturally, even if we present a basis from scripture (here's a good essay about that).

Interestingly enough, that church doesn't think our music is wrong.  They don't think our dress is wrong.  What we do isn't wrong, but that church and others think that where we draw our line is the reason why our church is much smaller than theirs.  What's wrong is judging them to be wrong.  That's where we're in trouble.

So where we draw our lines excludes more people.  That line results in us having a smaller crowd on Sunday.  We sacrifice for where we draw that line.  We don't draw it because we think it makes us superior to others.  We draw it based on our belief that it is right.   But we are smaller because of where we draw lines.  And yet, that evangelical church thinks and even says that we shouldn't judge their church for where they draw their lines.  They're bigger because of it, even by their own assessment.  Shouldn't that be enough for them?  But they don't want to be thought to be wrong either.  They don't want us making that judgment.  If we have suffered a smaller congregation, a smaller group of people, because of where we draw the line, why would we judge that whole other church to be acceptable, when it isn't acceptable in our church?  If it was only a preference, we wouldn't draw the line where we do.  They are the ones who drew it on a solely preferential basis in the case of the man they stopped from worshiping as he felt was acceptable.  They're doing something even worse -- it's just a preference with them and they exclude him.  Why can't they understand?

I like to bring up the example of the soldier watching and guarding the tomb of the unknowns in Washington, D.C.  Many people are excluded from that opportunity based on lines that are drawn that no one complains about.  I've never heard of one person complaining about the discipline and the dress and the comportment and the training of the soldier guarding that tomb.  After all, that's about dead American soldiers, people who gave their lives.  That deserves such lines being drawn.  People will still visit that tomb, watch his movements for long periods of time -- thousands and thousands visit to see that happen.  What about giving a little slack to the soldiers and allowing them some freedom, some shorts, a tank-top, and flip flops?  Why not letting them carry some small snack foods to eat at different moments?  Or at least not iron and press their clothes to such an extent?  The code for the soldier limits the number of participants in his group.  People don't get too bent out of shape about that -- it's a worthy cause.  Should we say, unlike the church?

Our church draws a line, for instance, on modesty in swimming.  We don't practice the modernistic mixed swimming.  Other churches have their youth activities at a water park.  Which do you think will be more popular?  We don't accept where they draw that line.  They gain people from having those activities.  We lose people by not having those same activities.  And yet those same people will say that they think that we should not allow this to cause disunity between our churches, that it is even some kind of heresy that we don't.  By allowing that line to cause us not to get along, they would say, we're flattening the gospel to the level of other less important doctrines, we're not practicing the body of Christ, and we're making too much out of something that should just be a preference.  They draw a line where they're bigger, so they don't suffer that loss, but they also have to be accepted by those who don't draw the same line as they do.  They want to have it both ways.  They can't have it both ways.

On music, I will tell our people that rock music is wrong.  I tell them rock music is false worship.  I tell them that we will not fellowship with churches that use rock music.  If we're going to exclude rock music, why would it seem odd that we would also exclude those who use rock music?  That above evangelical church excluded someone who went to an extreme further than what they did.

Everyone is practicing line drawing.  I am contending that the line drawing is not mainly about what God wants or what will honor Him, but about numbers, numerical growth, and people's comfort.  I don't know and probably can't know for sure, but my opinion is that they get upset when we talk about where they draw their lines because they know their line is wrong.  It doesn't feel comfortable to be judged. Some are past feeling bad about it, but some still do.  And some get very angry defending their more inclusive line drawn.

When people say they don't want to be judged for where they draw their line, they are really looking to find a certain sweet spot that will allow them to have what they want and what God wants -- both.  They draw lines that allow people things they like from the world and at the same time being able to obey and honor God.  It doesn't actually work that way.  You can't have it both ways, and they are deceiving people by giving them that impression.  

I don't like where others draw their lines, because they're wrong.  I write about it, because I believe it matters.  I want there to be some place still online where people like us can come to read a decent explanation or defense.  Those who are more inclusive won't like it.  I know that.  I wish it wasn't the case, but it must be that way.  There will be divisions like Paul talked about in 1 Corinthians 11.  You can't judge without differences.  Two things that are different can't be the same.  When they're not the same, people should know the reason.  The reason matters.

Did you think that church growth comes from preaching the gospel?  It does.  But bigger numbers come from excluding less people by drawing your lines in more comfortable places.  If the churches of the gospel-centered actually grew from the gospel, then where they drew their lines wouldn't matter.  How could more modesty stop a church built on the gospel from growing?  It couldn't.  How could more reverent music stop a church built on the gospel from growing?  It couldn't.  And yet where the lines are drawn affects numbers.  Everyone knows this.  True church growth, biblical church growth, is supernatural.  And yet these churches know that they're bigger, not because they preach the gospel more, but because of where they draw the lines on cultural issues.  They know that their numbers aren't because of the gospel.  It is because they know that people like rock music and casual and immodest dress.  They've drawn their lines in accordance with what it takes to get and stay big.  How do you know?  People who are really saved, that the gospel has saved, wouldn't have a problem with more modesty or more reverent music. They would like it. They would be attracted by it.  But the people of these churches are not.  They react with great anger at those prospects.  And then they don't want to be judged.  That sounds kind of like flattening the gospel or just not depending on the gospel, which might be cratering the gospel, something worse than flattening it.

The gospel-centered churches are not built on the gospel.  They're built on a confluence of worldly lust and the assurance of salvation.  There's a sweet spot there, which is perfect to build and maintain numbers.  They talk about the gospel, because they've figured out that is the best way to justify what they do.   You want to know why we get to dress and play and act and talk this way?  It's grace.  So you're both honoring God and getting what you want.  It's a floor wax and a dessert topping.  People want to be saved.  Yes.  They don't want to go to Hell.  And they don't want to feel guilty.  The gospel takes care of that, but it also allows you to have a certain comfortable degree of worldliness.  That's where the sweet spot is.

The sweet spot, by the way, is moving further to the left.  It's like the Hyles church over the long haul. Kids through the years have needed more to bribe them to get on a church bus.  By the time they get into junior high, a lot of the stuff doesn't work any more and so there is a major turnover at that point.  So the Hyles churches, to keep that method working, have had to get even more innovative.  Some of them moved on from that and went to the full Hybels type of mode or created some Hyles/Hybels hybrid.  These gospel-centered churches on cultural issues will keep moving further and further, since it's all relative anyway, until they'll be explaining why it's OK to have homosexuals in the church. Some of them are there already.

One of the critiques of this type of post is that I write it because I'm jealous, because I think I'm better than other people, or in other words, a whole lot of extra-scriptural judgment (you read these same judgments, identical, of Paul in 2 Corinthians).  They don't draw the line on judging me that way.  They are very tight in their ability to perceive these types of motives, and draw the line very much on total assurance of their mind-reading abilities.  They are very exclusive.  It is one of the ways they protect their inclusiveness -- by attempting to intimidate anyone who might judge them for what they're doing.  It's hypocrisy.  If you can tolerate a wide range of possibilities, then tolerate our possibility, since that's all it is anyway, just another possibility.  They can't judge music or dress, but they can judge people with a more exclusive line than they draw, even though they are drawing lines too.  Hypocrisy.

Everybody draws lines.


Joshua said...

I have bookmarked this post to use as a reference, because its an excellent illustration and then explanation of what is going on with lines and standards.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Thanks Joshua. I was hoping to encourage and help people who draw lines where we do, as well as possibly challenge the thinking and practice of those who don't.