March 5, 2013
By Kenneth Stepp
First I want to explain where my view of the Christian Church began, is today, and the journey between. And why a local pastor’s words from his pulpit stung me so much. As a Christian just thinking this makes me an outcast. Writing it, well I don’t know what that will do. But in my heart I must speak out. My mentor was a pastor for 47 years. He had the ability to love unconditionally. It is my belief a truly called person would have this gift. Yes you can judge me now.
I grew up in a church that was long on judging and short on grace. As soon as I was old enough I stopped going. My early view of God was that he was a vindictive tyrant just waiting to flip the back of my head with what must be the biggest index finger in the universe. Why? Because all I knew was His judgment. I knew nothing of His love. In 1981 I began a speed dating course with Him. I learned that not only did He love me, but everyone that followed Him did too..His directive through His Son was to basically love people so much that they too would want what you had. Unconditionally, and showing no favoritism.
Wake up call!! I am the father of three boys & two girls. All are smart, good looking, and great citizens in general. All make me proud beyond what I can express here. So when one of them told me they had become an Atheist, I was stunned. First i thought it was a phase, then insulting, then etc, then etc, you know. All the things imaginable. Faced with something I saw as grave, I began studying why someone would believe in God and then stop. Did my kid believe at one time? Honestly I just don’t know. But I wanted to find out why the view of the church had changed so much. He pointed out some awful things over history the church had done and my journey to discover the core issue began. What did all the terrible things the church did throughout history have in common? “Judgment”
Entire races of people, scientist burned alive, towns torn apart, and woman burned at the stake for being witches. A sad history indeed. Judging others is the reason all the churches have different signs in front of them, people turn away from all things God, and innocence is lost world wide. Jesus told us to “Love One Another”. By today’s standards He’d be labeled a goof ball in most churches with talk like that. Pointing out flaws, faults, etc is just a self important person’s way of showing superiority and pointing out someone else’s sin that is different and less severe that their own. Of course they get applause when they do it. Never mind the damage done to the “target”. That can’t be an issue, because it “needed to be said”. On that note I have my own ‘needed to be said” here. Only I’m not saying it to a flock of followers, from a pulpit, representing church leadership. I am a Christian taking a stand.
On February 24th 2013 a local pastor, "Pastor Buddy Hoffman", Senior Pastor at Grace Fellowship in Snellville Georgia gave a message on cities, with some old testament references. And in a failed effort at standup comedy decided to attack the city council members on a very personal level. He needed to victimize someone to get a laugh out of his audience. This is at the core of why the church is failing. He used judgment for personal gain from his pulpit. I cannot think of a more damaging thing he could have done. Why did he do it? Other than being pretty “fleshy” himself, I don’t know. But he did damage the church. What he couldn’t have known is that one of the council members and I had been talking about God, His church, and what God had done in my life. He was unchurched. And no doubt will remain so.
It is a little too late for apologies, or I didn’t know, etc. THIS is the reason we were warned not to judge. This is the reason Jesus taught us that to love someone is to see their faults as forgiven and in the past, this is the reason He warned we would be judged like we judged. Until the church honors the directive of the very reason there is a Christian Church, more damage will be done. Stop attacking people and start loving them. John Maxwell says that people will not care what you say until they know what you care about (paraphrased). If it boosts your ego or makes you feel important to throw judgment around, then stop telling others you represent Christ. You do not.
I realize many will say “well your judging this pastor”. Yes I probably am. But I’m not leading an entire church body down a dangerous road to do it, I’m not doing it for laughs or applause, and I’m not doing it for me. As a Christian I believe this needed to be said. I hate that I had to be that person, but I can take it so judge away folks.
I will end by saying this act is indefensible so don’t waste your time trying. I am truly ashamed of what passes for biblical teaching sometimes. Using people God loves as comedy material is repulsive and wrong. The pulpit is a sacred place, and becoming a pastor is a calling to love others no matter who or what they are. Speak words that build, not destroy. If you miss that opportunity even once, you need to reevaluate your career choices.