Now, after reading/digesting/cogitating on this one, you might land somewhere different than where I did. And I just want to acknowledge that that’s okay. I think anyone with Jesus in their heart and a love relationship with Him goes to heaven—no matter what they think about the issue of Saddleback’s recent small group promo postcards.
Take a second, and look them over by clicking here. And if you’ve got the stomach for it, read the comments that follow the postcards. At this writing, there were 33 comments so far.
The comments were a range of reactions, but one thing was clear: not one person who was responding/reacting to the postcards was a non-Christian. What I mean by that is, every one of them was coming from a “biblical” perspective, citing Scripture to back up their stance. Fair enough.
And while I have commented in Josh’s blog before, I decided to steer clear of commenting on that one. Instead, I chose to bring my thoughts to my own blog and in doing so, try to link you to me, me to you, you to it, and it to us.
First off, Saddleback is a big church. I’ve been there. It’s big. It’s big in just about every visible sense. Lots of people, lots of building, lots of staff, lots of resources, lots of guts. It’s big. Now, big isn’t necessarily good. The Third Reich was big and look what it accomplished. Auschwitz was big. So, don’t think that I think that big is necessarily healthy or even good. But let’s just acknowledge the fact that Saddleback is big. Rick Warren is big. Doug Fields is big. Josh Griffin is big. Purpose-Driven Youth Ministry is big. Purpose-Driven Life is big. It’s all very big.
And in the bigness, the leadership and/or creators of the postcards on Josh Griffin’s blog have a certain amount of bravado in which they operate. I’m not sure bravado is the right word, but it sounds good in my head, so I’m using it. Honestly, what I mean is that when you’re that big and prominent, you have to know (and they do) that most everyone is watching. And I’d also like to point out that edgy promos such as the small group postcards have likely added to their bigness. In a word, Saddleback is an envelope pusher. Love that or hate it–its true. They are innovative, forward-thinking, and even (dare I say) progressive. But from what I’ve seen, not progressive in the way that word has been used; not in a way that is rocking the boat for the sake of rocking the boat. But instead, progressive in a way that is willing to pass or fail, but no matter what, is going to try.
So, if you have read or scanned the comments in the comment section below the small group promo postcards, there are some that are scathing, and some that are gentle, and some that are diplomatic. But I’d like to draw us back to the point that every person who comments proports to be speaking the truth in love for the most part. Some comments even quite devoid of love all together are touting that they are speaking the truth in love. Those are the comments I found most dismissable, since they seem to be authored by self-sanctioned rock-throwers. It’d be laughable if it weren’t so sad.
We’ll give an account of our actions–every one of us–to God and I wonder if we might hear something like, “I sent you out into the world to love all people into my arms. Instead, you argued over postcards.” Now, I know I’m leaning a little toward overdrama here, but if we as followers of Christ can be more passionate about loving people back into the arms of Christ than we are about correcting each other…well, I’m pretty sure we’d be better off.
And I guess some reading this would throw a yellow flag and say, “Hold it right there, Varner. We’ve got to call sin what it is!” I agree with that, but I honestly can’t find anything in those postcards that constitute “sin”. Off-color? Maybe. Distasteful? To some. Out of line? It’s debatable.
My question I guess is: #1: Did the postcards work? Did they have the desired outcome? Now, don’t get me wrong; I’m not a “by any means necessary” kind of pastor. I feel like I have a good grasp on boundaries. I’m not saying let’s offer teens free pot for coming to our worship services. But since these postcards are debatable in their appropriateness (evidenced by the many comments), can we simply call the issue one of those “non-essentials” and move on?
After all, Saddleback (in sending these postcards) has stayed quite true to its form: edgy, gutsy, and (usually) successful in its endeavors. But as one who has heard both Rick Warren and Doug Fields speak, they speak more about their own failures than their successes. This tells me 2 things: they’re relatable and they’re human.
For the record, when I first saw the postcards (especially the last one), I laughed. I thought they were funny, clever, and I wasn’t offended by them. Personally, I don’t think they’d be right for MY ministry context, and so I wouldn’t use them, but again–this is Saddleback we’re talking about. Not that they get any special treatment from God, you’ve just got to understand that this is many times the “envelope-pushing” they do. That’s my opinion and I totally respect every person who formulates their own opinion, especially those who try and use Scripture as their guide.
This is just a long post, but I can’t apologize. If you’re still reading (and there’s no gun to your head) then you obviously don’t mind. If you’re not still reading, then I don’t even have to finish this sentence.