I Can’t Lead This Church

I put on slacks, dressy black shoes, a shirt with more than three buttons, and drove to the interview for the Lead Pastor position at Redeemer Bible Church.

All of the guys doing the interviewing knew me. We team-planted the church together. But, rightfully so, they put me through the paces just like every other candidate—and I was the last guy on the list. After two years since the church’s first public meeting, it was in trouble. No elders, no membership, no structure, and in decline. It was more like a big Bible study on Sunday mornings than a church.

I sat there on the couch, nervous, unsure, and walking in faith in what God may have in store for me, 25 years old at the time, and this fledgling church.

One of the leaders asked me, “Do you really think you can lead this church?” I paused. Gathered my thoughts.

“No, I don’t. In fact, I know I can’t. But if the Holy Spirit moves, we will be more than fine. I don’t have the abilities and knack for this kinda thing, but if we trust Jesus, follow his word, I know we will be fine—we will be faithful, and that is successful.”

Seven years later. Nothing has changed—except for the name of the church.

Every Pastor Needs The Work of God

I still believe I’m not naturally equipped to lead our church. I haven’t acquired any new leadership abilities. I haven’t developed the human entrepreneurial instincts. I haven’t become a catalytic leader. That’s all balderdash. I must rely on a work of God more than anything I’ve read in a leadership book or heard at a conference.

What’s happened in our church, and in me, is a work of grace. I’m more aware of my weaknesses and more aware of God’s strengths. I’ve learned more from the Bible. I’ve discovered more about my union with Christ. In other words, I’ve progressed in sanctification—this makes for good leadership.

“Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (1 Timothy 4:12–16 ESV)

Every Pastor Needs The Other Pastors

I still believe I’m not supposed to lead our church…by myself. God has given our church a plurality of leadership. Six elders lead our church. I’m one voice of six. I’m one leader of six. I’m grateful for the other five men who lead and shepherd the body, right beside me. I’m not above them. They aren’t below me. We are side by side, leading and shepherding our local church.

I can’t lead this church without the work of God. I’m not meant to. Praise God for his grace.

I can’t lead this church by myself. I’m not meant to. Praise God for the elders.

Do More Than Admit Your Sin

Christianity doesn’t pretend we are sinless people.

So, why do we pretend that we don’t struggle with sin? Why do we put on fig leaves? Why do we hide? “If we say, ‘We have not sinned,” we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:10 CSB). One reason is our seven-layer pride. We want people to think highly of us. We don’t want to disappoint others. We don’t want to look like some icky Christian who still struggles with that sin. Or, the sin we’ve committed feels like the odd one out, no one else in our circles seems to be tempted there (so we think).

Confession Is More Than Fessing Up

If God’s word is in us, we won’t be able to hide our sin for long. When we get to the point of seeing our sin for what it is, and we’ve confessed it to God and others, God’s grace is at work in us. We are experiencing gospel power. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 CSB). And if God’s grace is truly at work in us, we will do more than confess our sins.

Biblical confession involves more than admitting our sin. Sometimes we think fessing up to our sins is enough. “Alright, I’ll say what I’ve done, get my grace ticket, and go on my way.”

That’s a confession booth. That’s not biblical Christianity.

Repentance is Required

Biblical confession involves repentance, turning from the sin. It’s a two-step process. Proverbs 28:13 is a blueprint for Christian confession.

The one who conceals his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them will find mercy. (Prov. 28:13 CSB)

Concealing, hiding, lying, and pretending about our sin leads to a dead-end. There is no blessing on the other side. There is only more frustration, more layers of lies, and more web-spinning. But, the gospel shows us that mercy is available to sinners like us. We conceal our sins because we fear the hammer of God’s wrath. But the gospel tells us mercy swings down because the punishment of our sins already landed on Christ. Do you believe that God’s mercy is ready for you? There is one more thing you must do.

The blueprint goes: Concealing ceases, confession launches—and now the step we often overlook. Renounce. We must do more than admit our sins; we must turn our back on them. We must be willing to gouge out an eye or cut off a hand (let the reader understand).

While Christianity doesn’t pretend we are sinless people, it also doesn’t pretend we have to keep sinning.

When it comes to our sins, renouncing, repudiating, spurning, casting off, disowning, rejecting, shunning, and the like are what we must do. Mercy awaits us. Compassion from God is available to those who admit and abandon their sins. God’s power is available for both. Do both today.

Top 10 Books I Read in 2016

Better late than never. Be sure to also check out Tim Challies’ compilation of the best books. My list of books isn’t limited to books published in 2016. These are my 10 favorite books I read in 2016.

Top 2

Destroyer of the gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World by Larry Hurtado. This is my book of the year. Christianity is a stumbling block. We believe in a virgin birth, a splitting sea, a God-breathed book, and a resurrected Nazarene who is God in the flesh. And it is the beautiful bizarro-ness of Christianity that makes it appealing, and made it so dangerous to the idols and gods of the Roman Empire. I loved this book. You’ll learn about the life of early Christians and see how we should be living today.

Reading Backwards by Richard B. Hays. Hays takes us on tour of the underbelly and mountain top of the four Gospels. He opens up pathways, points out markers, and demonstrates how the Gospels show the true North of the Old Testament: Jesus of Nazareth. A thrilling read.

My Other Top Reads. No Particular Order.

Seinfeldia: How A Book About Nothing Changed Everything by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong. My worlds are colliding in this book list. I’ve always been a Seinfeldian. This book is part history, part trivia storehouse, and totally fun. Enjoy.

No Little People by Francis Schaeffer. Ray Ortlund said this book is one of the most important things he’s read outside the Bible. When I heard him say that, I went out and bought this right way—well, I opened my Amazon app and bought it. Specifically, the chapter entitled, The Lord’s Work in the Lord’s Way, is convicting, correcting, and encouraging. Prophetic.

The Heart of Christ by Thomas Goodwin. Recommend by Ray and Dane Ortlund. Man, Jesus loves us. Right now, his heart is beaming toward us.

Heaven by Randy Alcorn. Eternity is often overlooked and misunderstood. Alcon helps us think rightly and excitedly toward the New Earth.

Three Priorities for a Strong Local Church by Ray Ortlund Sr. Man, what book. Simple. Strong. Needed.

Newton on the Christian Life by Tony Reinke. A gospel-riveted book. Tony helps us glide and steep in Newton’s vision of the Christian life.

Faith Speaking Understanding by Kevin Vanhoozer. Vanhoozer fills the seats when he speaks and when he writes. His metaphor on the theodrama of the gospel is a combustible and compelling vision on what it means to be “in Christ”.

Recovering Eden: The Gospel According to Ecclesiastes by Zack Eswine. Zack’s commentary on Ecclesiastes is one of the best I’ve read. Piercing and guiding us to the hope of the gospel amidst the steam of this world.

7 Questions for Andy Stanley on the Virgin Birth

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Update: I’m grateful for Andy reaching out to me on Twitter and pointing me toward his Christmas sermon series. In the sermon given on Dec. 17th, Andy affirms the truth of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ (around the 12-minute mark). While I’m thrilled to hear of his affirmation in this message, Andy’s words given in the sermon on December 3rd are theologically dangerous and wobbly. It does matter if the virgin birth is historically true, not just if we personally think it is. Carefulness and clarity matter in our stewardship and preaching of the gospel of Christ—which is why I wrote this post. The virgin birth is historically true. And it matters.

I’m no heresy hunter or watch-blogger. I’m simply a small-town pastor who heard a brother in Christ preach something which concerned and startled me. And I’m still troubled. Preaching a Christian faith that allows for the virgin birth to be “virgin” is to preach a “Christian” faith.


In a shocking and unsurprising turn, Andy Stanley says the virgin birth of Jesus isn’t a big deal. Two direct quotes from Stanley:

  • “If somebody can predict their own death and their own resurrection, I’m not all that concerned about how they got into the world.”
  • “Christianity doesn’t hinge on the truth or the stories around the birth of Jesus.”

Years ago, this is the same argument Rob Bell made. Andy, sadly, is on Bell’s path. Hear Andy’s exact words in the message he gave, in the first few minutes, on December 3rd.

Al Mohler addresses this development on his podcast, but I’d like to take a moment and bring up the pertinent questions and fallout from denying or diluting the virgin birth of Jesus Christ.

Questions for Andy

  1. Jesus was, or was not, miraculously placed in Mary’s womb by the Holy Spirit?
  2. If he wasn’t, why would Matthew (Matthew 1:18–25) and Luke (Luke 1:26–38) say so? Are they liars or hype-men for Jesus?
  3. If Jesus wasn’t born of the Virgin Mary, how did the eternal Son of God enter this world?
  4. If he wasn’t virgin-born, when and where did the divine nature of the man Jesus come from? Joseph’s sperm? Mary’s egg? Or the divine nature Jesus always had from eternity, via the virgin birth?
  5. If Jesus wasn’t divinely placed in Mary’s womb, it was an ordinary conception—normal fertilization—do you think Jesus became God at some point? What other option is there?
  6. If Jesus wasn’t placed in Mary’s womb by the Spirit, how is Jesus free from the stain of Adam’s sin? Without the virgin birth, we don’t have a sinless substitute, we have no atonement, and we have no resurrection.
  7. Why pick one miracle over another? Why believe in a dead man coming back to life, never dying again, and reigning over the Universe—and not the virgin birth?

We cannot believe the gospel and edit the miraculous. The gospel is a bundle of miracles.

Last-Minute Christmas Gifts

We are less than a week from Christmas, and if you are still looking for a gift for your husband, brother, or son—or pastor—you better hurry. But don’t worry, I got ya covered. Below are a list of perfect last-minute gifts. You can either snag these gifts on Amazon Prime (2-Day shipping) or rely on a flexible delivery date. You’ll see what I mean.

Headphones

If he likes music, chances are he will like a nice pair of headphones. There are the fancy Bose Noise-cancelling headphones, but I’m down on ‘em. I had a pair and got rid of them. Sure, they do great on planes, but the music sounds terrible in every other setting. It’s better to spring for a nice sounding pair of cans.

Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Professional Studio Monitor Headphones. Classic. Can’t go wrong.

B&O Play H6 (2nd Gen). I have these headphones and I love them. They sound amazing and create such a detailed breadth of sound that they are more than adequate to drowned out the noise of a coffee shop, an airplane, or screaming babies. I don’t miss my Bose at all. I’m always recommending these headphones.

Books

Now, this can get dicey. I love getting good books. And I want to stress good books. See if he has an Amazon wishlist, or if one of his favorite bloggers, writers, or pastors has a list of their favorite books from this past year. Tim Challies has a fine collection of those lists.

If he’s a Seinfeld fan, you can’t go wrong gettingSeinfieldia: How a Show about Nothing Changed Everything.

Nice Bible

In the book realm, consider snagging a premium Bible. Crossway has a stellar Heirloom line of Bibles, as well as their new 6 volume Reader’s Edition.

Subscription services (coffee, vinyl, jerky of the month)

The gift that keeps on gifting. Subscriptions are a great gift because they bring variety and surprise. And, hey, they are nice for us last-minute givers since they have flexible delivery dates. If you gift a subscription, print out the subscription and put in a box, and it’s probably a good idea to also give something along with it—something that jives with the subscription

My sister-in-law gave me a jerky of the month club one time. It. Was. Awesome.

Coffee: Mistobox. Pair it with a coffee mug.

Vinyl: Magnolia Record Club or Vinyl Me, Please. Pair it with headphones or an iTunes gift card.

Tickets to a Game or Concert

Is he a big fan of the local basketball or hockey team? Get him tickets. Is his favorite band or artist rolling into town? Check out StubHub.

Gift Cards

Well, I guess you are officially out of ideas at this point. No shame. No worries. Stroll into CVS or Walgreens and fill up a gift card to a restaurant, get a variety of cards, or go with ol’ trusty: Amazon. In fact, go with Amazon.

Now, there is an unspoken catch with gift cards: You gotta make that card heavy. Load it up. You can’t put $10 on a card; that’s weak. $30 and up is a good range. Hey, if you would have planned ahead, you could have gotten him a $15 book. You snooze, you lose more money.

Cash

This better be at $50 or higher. Just sayin.

14 Things We Learn About Jesus in 14 Verses

Hebrews begins with an exploding fire hydrant of the awesomeness of Jesus. The glory of Jesus is for our good and our joy. He wields for our benefit. This all-amazing and omni-awesome Jesus is also all-committed to his sheep, his brothers and sisters.

In Hebrews 1—alone!—there are 14 worship igniting truths about Jesus from which we find comfort, joy, peace, and confidence in Christ—all in 14 verses.

1. Jesus is God’s Sermon

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…” (Hebrews 1:1–2 ESV)

2. He is the heir of all things

“…whom he appointed the heir of all things…” (Hebrews 1:2 ESV)

3. Jesus is the co-creator of all things

“…through whom also he created the world.” (Hebrews 1:2 ESV)

4. He is the exact brilliant display of God

“He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature…” (Hebrews 1:3 ESV

5. Jesus guides and sustains the entire universe

“…and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” (Hebrews 1:3 ESV)

6. He made the final sacrifice and payment for our sins

“After making purification for sins…” (Hebrews 1:3 ESV)

7. Jesus is risen and reigning in the Heavens.

“…he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3 ESV).

8. He is God’s Son

“For to which of the angels did God ever say, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’?” (Hebrews 1:5 ESV)

9. Jesus is worshiped by the angels

“And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, ‘Let all God’s angels worship him.’” (Hebrews 1:6 ESV)

10. He sits on God’s throne

“But of the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever’” (Hebrews 1:8 ESV).

11. Jesus is God

“But of the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever’” (Hebrews 1:8 ESV).

12. He is the Anointed One, the Messiah

“God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.” (Hebrews 1:9 ESV)

13. Jesus is Eternal

“You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment…”(Hebrews 1:10–11 ESV)

14. He is unswervingly the same

“…like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.””(Hebrews 1:12 ESV)

Games to Play with Your Family at Thanksgiving

Once the pecan pie crumbs have settled, and the leftover turkey is nestled in the fridge, and the football games are over, and the naps have ended, have hilarious fun with the family this Thursday. Board games—mainly goofy games—have become an essential staple of our Thanksgiving tradition.

Here are some fun, competitive, and laughter-inducing games to play with the family. You can run out to Target or Walmart and snag these. You got time.

Use your discretion on game content on the cards, and family members playing, and if your kids can play.

Time’s Up

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The funniest game I’ve ever played. We play this every year. There are two teams, everyone gets a stack of cards with a famous person on it, all of the cards get put into a giant stack. On each turn, one person from each team tries to get his team to guess the person on the card. You get 30 seconds to complete as many cards as you can. The round is done until all of the cards are claimed.

But, there’s a major catch. While there are three rounds, and all three rounds use the same deck of cards, the rounds change. The first round, you can say almost as much as you want about the person on the card, but in the second round, you can only give a one-word clue to get your team to guess—and your team only gets one guess. And if that weren’t hard enough, in the third round, you can’t speak at all! Only motions are allowed to try and get your team to guess. Imagine trying to get your team to guess Fabio in the third round!

Trust me; this game is a hoot. I don’t think you can get this at Target. Better check your local Walmart or Barnes and Noble.

Pie Face

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The title says it all. Whip-cream gets piled on the lever, players spin a number, put their face in the hole, and click the handles according to their number. If you didn’t get hit, it’s the next person’s turn. Get your video ready. Slow-mo if you got it.

Kids love this game. Grandparents are hilarious at it.

Guesstures

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Charades will never go out of style. Classic.

Scattergories

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The ever-popular, mental power game. Make a list of items in a category that all begin with the same letter. Tough game. Funny reactions and answers.

Taboo

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You have to get your team to guess what’s on the card, but you aren’t allowed to use any of the blocked words on the card. Tough stuff. And it’s even worse that you have an opposing team member looking over your shoulder with a buzzer in hand. Grrr.

Headbandz or Heads Up (App)

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Whether you get the board game or the app, the concept is the same. Your team gives you clues to what is on your forehead. I have the app, and it’s pretty fun.

Speak Out

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Get your team to guess the phrase on the card while you are wearing a funky mouthpiece. I haven’t played this yet, only seen videos, but it looks hilarious. Now, this is one of those games that could potentially rely on course jesting. So, take care. I have seen the family version; I hope we can snag it.

Preaching Politically and Biblically Correct

The United States of America may be one of the most powerful and influential countries in the world, but she isn’t Lord over all. It’s been said before that the U.S.A. isn’t mentioned anywhere in the Bible. That’s so wrong. America is found smack-dab in the middle of Isaiah’s prophecy.

“Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales.” (Isaiah 40:15)

There’s the land of the free and the home of the brave—like a single, barely noticeable water droplet falling out of the bucket. If you lose that droplet, do you lose your mind? Nah. If you ask the server at the ol’ Cheesecake Factory to fill your glass, and you notice a teeny drop hits the table as he pulls the pitcher away, would you say the glass isn’t full? Of course not. One little drop of water falling from the bucket is nothing.

God likens the nations to dust on a scale. Before the doctor weighs you or your kids, they don’t purge the scale of particles. They are negligible. Nothing. While it is good and right to love our country and to seek its welfare, remember, America is like a drop of water, a speck of dust. At the end of the day, at the end of the age, non-impressive.

God doesn’t panic over a speck of dust. He doesn’t wonder if a lost drop of water is going to shake things up. He knows the nations for what they are in the grand scheme of his sovereignty.

“All the nations are as nothing before him, they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness.” (Isaiah 40:17)

It’s not that the nations are unimportant. God cares about the people in the nations (Matt. 28:18–20). But the nations—their power, pride, government, military, policy, and place in the world—to God, they are nothing. Less than nothing. Do we see our nations as God sees it? We need perspective.

Christians in America are Aliens (And We’ve Always Been)

When we see America for what it is, we’ll see we are strangers in this land—sojourners, aliens, exiles (1 Pet. 2:11). We haven’t always realized it, but we’ve always been strangers in this land. We don’t have a lasting city in the United States. “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come”(Heb. 13:14). We look forward to the Kingdom who’s founder and architect is God (Heb. 11:10). We are to let our light shine before others, and this light isn’t red, white, and blue. Our light is Christ.

It is good for American Christians to remember our place in the universe, our place in eternity. We are trending toward the place where voices from every tribe, language, and nation will live in harmony, with a co-heir and co-reign with Jesus Christ. We need a more robust politic in mind. You won’t be Democrat or a Republican forever. You will be Christian forever. Our citizenship is in a lasting monarchy.

A Powerful Politic

Jesus is Lord of all—that is a politically charged statement. A wonderful politic.

Presidents are powerful but just like everyone else, their job will end, and they will fade out of public life. Then one day, it’ll come across the newswire that President so-and-so has died. Folks will read it on social media, a moment of nostalgia will strike, and then people will roll over and watch reruns of Seinfeld. It sounds cruel and cold, but that’s how things happen under the Sun. “There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of later things yet to be among those who come after” (Eccl. 1:11).

The coming generation won’t pay much attention to this generation’s president. Presidents are fleeting. Here today and gone in a few years. They are given the keys to the car for four years—eight if they don’t total the country—but only Jesus has a name that is above every name. Only Jesus has a name where every knee will bow, and every tongue declares that Christ is Lord.

These are the kind of politically-powered sermons we need. Ones with gigantic enjoyment and exaltation of Jesus. Most Americans can’t name the 23rd President. What does that tell you? It tells you Solomon is right. “For of the wise as of the fool there is no enduring remembrance, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten” (Eccl. 2:16). We can’t bank on the steam and vapor of this world.

Preach Politically Where The Bible Brings It

A friend asked if I was going to preach on the presidential election. I did not. But I know we will have to preach, pastor, teach, counsel, rebuke, and exhort our church in politics where the Bible does.

Since Jesus is Lord over us, he is Lord over our politics. He makes gentle commands on how we treat our President.

  1. Honor the President. “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor” (1 Pet. 2:17). This means no slander, no gossip, no hateful thoughts, no punching bags or toilet paper with the President’s face on it.
  2. Pray for the President. “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Tim. 2:1–2). This means actually praying for the President. Praying for their protection, their leadership, their heart, their conversion, and more.
  3. Live Peacefully Under This President. “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed” (Rom. 13:1–2,7). To honor this President, to live peaceably, is to honor God and to live peaceably with God.

God put this President in place for reasons that align with his ultimate end and will (Dan. 2:21). Why would God allow such a President in the United States? God knows. But remember, America isn’t “God’s country.” The United States is a country filled with a lot of God’s people, and so is China and South Korea. And as an American Christian, I have more in common with a Christian in Ghana than a pro-family, pro-life, pro-gun, agnostic American.

God is helping rid the American Church of our narcissistic tendencies. America, and the Church in America, is not the epicenter of God’s activities in the world. This is unsettling to our patriotism, but realigning to reality.

We are not lackeys to a political party or a nation. Chance The Rapper is right when he says, “Don’t believe in kings, believe in the Kingdom.”

  • “It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.” (Psalms 118:9)
  • “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.” (Psalms 146:3)

There is a particular kind of politics we need in our pulpits:

  1. The nations—including ours—are like a drop of water. We need perspective.
  2. Jesus is Lord of all. We need perspective.
  3. We are aliens in America. We need perspective.
  4. Let us honor our President. We need perspective.

Same-Sex Marriage and State-Sponsored Churches

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Kids love playing Simon Says. All the little children line up, and the orders begin. Raise your hand, stick out your tongue, stand on one foot. But they can only do it if “Simon says.” The kids who follow what Simon says, get to stay and play. The kids who act without Simon’s sayings? Out. See ya. Bye.

The Evangelical Church in the United States finds itself in a cruel game of Culture Says. We didn’t sign up to play, but we are in it. And you don’t want to win this game.

Marriage and the Church

Churches that align with the culture, rather than the Bible, are slowly ceasing to be churches. When our Christian witness syncs with the whims of the cultural winds, turning its back on the rock of God’s word, the dryer is set to tumble. And tumble down it will.

Brandon and Jen Hatmaker are the latest, high-profile, evangelicals to affirm same-sex marriage. Brandon is a pastor in Austin, TX, and Jen is a well-known writer and speaker. In a Religion News Service interview, Jen gladly approved of same-sex marriage, going all-out, saying gay marriage can be holy.

Their position isn’t novel or brave. It’s predictable. People have been distorting Paul’s letters since they first hit the streets (2 Peter 3:16). They aren’t the first, and they won’t be the last, to be led by the culture. But this isn’t about the Hatmakers; this is about the whole hat rack. This is about the hat buyers, suppliers, and fashionistas sporting a redefined view of marriage and sexuality—and what’s sin and what’s not.

We see a tide turning in the evangelical-ish church. And, to me, this tide has a Red Party hue to it.

Communist Party Approved

When their not-so-new news hit the Internet, I wondered about our 100 million brothers and sisters in China. “Are there churches in China compromising with their culture?”

Of course: The Chinese Communist Party approved churches.

There are, broadly, two kinds of churches in China. There are the real, faithful churches—the underground church—and there are the government-owned churches. The true churches in China, due to government atheism and communism, are forced to meet underground, without the red stamp of China.

China tried to destroy Christianity, but it failed. So, they launched Plan B. Government run, approved, and appointed churches. They control the theology and practice so that the church will sync seamlessly with the struts of the Chinese government and culture. These churches follow the Chinese government’s agenda rather than Christ’s.

We see the same thing on our side of the globe. We see churches following the culture’s agenda rather than Christ’s.

The liberal Protestant churches are becoming the government-approved churches. The same-sex marriage affirming churches are shifting to state-sponsored, culture-coded, apostolic-abandoning, above-ground churches. They won’t ruffle any feathers. They won’t step on any governmental toes. Their witness will eventually become wallpaper. China would give them a thumbs up.

Underground And Above Where Christ Is

Our churches in America are hitting a fork in the road. “Do you accept gay marriage or not?” If you do, you can stay above ground, state-sponsored and culture-approved, and feel like the real deal. If you don’t accept same-sex marriage, you are against the government and the culture, and you are going underground. You’ll be on the outskirts. You’ll be the fool. And you’ll gladly oblige.

The day will come when us out-of-step churches will lose our non-profit status. Ok. Whatever. You can’t put a price on keeping in step with the Spirit.

Every church leader, every Christian, every church must decide which path they will take. Will I go with the Bible or the culture—or the culture’s idea of what the Bible says? This isn’t a choice between the truth and loving our neighbors. We will still love our neighbors. We just won’t love ourselves more than we love them by not telling them the truth in love.

People in authority, friends and family, and people with lots of Twitter followers will tell us to fall in line. When this happens, imitate the Acts of the Apostles:

But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)

We may have to go underground, but we will still be seated above, where Christ is.