An Addition to Yesterday’s Post – Reflections on an Editorial in the Baltimore Sun

So Wendy read my post yesterday (which was a response to a Baltimore Sun editorial) and she didn’t agree. 

She said that while, yes, the church is the only group that can combat the culture of disrespect destroying our city; she disagreed that the church should be held responsible for the culture of disrespect’s current dominance.

Actually what she said was that I was being a reactionary jerk, that I had missed a great opportunity to speak to the church, and that because I chose with the post to “condemn instead of inspire” my message was lost.

She’s right. 

Which is more often than not the case because, lets face it, she’s much smarter than I am.

So let me explain my knee jerk condemnation of the church as the one that should be held responsible for the Culture of Disrespect.   

About a month ago I got a call from a 19 year old kid that was a part of a youth group I led in downtown Baltimore.  He had been arrested for drug possession with the intent to distribute.  He wanted me to get him a lawyer that might be able to get him off. 

“Did you do it?” I asked.

“Common Jeff.  Of course I did it.”  he said.

“What in the world is wrong with you?  Your dealing drugs now?”

“Well you know Jeff,” he said sheepishly.  “Once the group (meaning the youth group) was over I was out here alone bro.”

“Don’t put your crap back on the group.  Man up and take responsiblity for what you did,”  I replied in anger.

Laughing, “So no lawyer then huh?”

Now the teen’s answer infuriated me and was completely unfair.  It was not the group’s fault that he started dealing.  He always knew that at some point he would age out of it.  And we prepared him for it.  It didn’t come as a shock. 

But his comment still stung.  I couldn’t help but reflecting on it for a weeks after 

You see, I spent a lot of time with this kid.  A lot of time.  He was in the group for almost three years.  And the group was fantastic.  We had incredible leaders, amazing kids, and great times together.  And I did a lot with this kid one on one.  It is hard not to see his fall as a personal failure.

Where did my discipleship go wrong with him?

Back then for me living the Jesus life consisted of:

  • daily, well equiped engagement in the Word  (The group would mock my southern accent by chanting “Read your bible five minutes a night and it will change your life.”)
  • love God and people with all you have (which I realize now I modeled through activity but never defined)
  • and stay in community because growth and life only happens in the context of community.

If I could go back and do it again I would disciple differently.  My discipleship would be based not on Jesus centered activity, but rather on modeling the character of Christ. Every time I was with those kids I would look them in the eye and say, “The world tells you to live like… but the Kingdom life is defined by humility, surrender, forgiveness, sacrificial service, and love.  Is your life defined by love?”

I didn’t equip the kids with Acts 2 Christianity.  I didn’t empower them to take the Jesus virus whereever they went and spread it through the content of their character.  Instead I led them in a faith that centered on activity.  When the group disappeared the activity was near impossible to continue.

There is a good chance that this particular kid would still be in jail today because he didn’t follow the discipleship we did give him…I have no logical reason to believe he would have followed the new; but he wouldn’t have been to say to me “the group disappeared” because I would have equiped him to, with the power of the Spirit, live counter culturally Jesus’ love.

So you see.  My condemnation yesterday was not of someone else or some other church.  It was of me.

If we are to turn our dying cities around, we must rediscover the counter cultural discipleship of Jesus.  We have to once again learn how to be viral.  Our discipleship needs to equip one another to share the Jesus life, the Kingdom life, regardless of where we are and who is with us.  It needs to set us a part as “the ones that passionately love” not “as the ones that attend stuff.”

My city needs the love of  Jesus.  Not delivered through a program or a worship service; but delivered through the hands and feet of thousands of Jesus imitators loving wildly, bringing light to every dark corner.

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An Addition to Yesterday’s Post – Reflections on an Editorial in the Baltimore Sun

4 thoughts on “An Addition to Yesterday’s Post – Reflections on an Editorial in the Baltimore Sun

  1. Seriously dude, you need to study Fowler’s theory on faith development. It changed my whole perspective on the role of the Pastor… My job, as a youth pastor, and then as whatever kind of pastor I became next was to create a space where people were able to doubt enough that they began to own their faith in a way that those who have not properly wrestled through it can not.

    I agree with your first post that this falls squarely on shoulders of the churches in this city. Politics will not solve this problem, neither will the schools, nor government programs. Jesus is the only thing that will. We have churches on every corner, but our murder rate, aids rate, and all that are ridiculous… hello? church? The shame of it is that so many times we are afraid to ask the hard questions that we need to ask about this stuff: “Are we discipling well?” “Are we focusing on the right things?” Because we lack the leadership guts to weather the storms that will come from asking those questions.

  2. Hey Jeff – this is SOOO good!! (well, not the bit where you blame yourself! Grace, fella – & trust God with that young man’s future, all is not lost!) But what I hear you saying is that “doing stuff” is not what this Way is about – it’s viral (love that term) & it’s love. Learning to love one another & walk in grace-filled relationship. Awesome!

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