To Debate Or NOT to Debate?

boxinggloves.jpegIf you’ve followed this blog and its comments you noticed that the discussion turned errr… a little feisty yesterday. The heat centered on one commenter in particular whose comments tend to be critical of things I say. There are a couple like that, and I occasionally reply, but often do not.

Fellow commenters did.

Now it’s my turn.

When the Dow Jones removed Sears from its averages and substituted Home Depot, complaints were raised around the nation. Home Depot was a young company. It had not survived the ups and down of history as had Sears. Sears survived the Great Depression, World Wars, presidents, global events. Home Depot had no such track record.

Yet now Home Depot would be given a voice bigger than it had earned.megaphone.jpeg

To me, this is the parable of the EMERGING CHURCH. In the past, young church leaders in their 20’s and 30’s had no voice. Unless they were in spectacularly growing churches or doing some extraordinary ministry, the American church took little notice. Yes, these leaders were well known in their communities. Some were well known within their denominations nationally. Other than that, they were just young leaders doing what every generation of young leaders had done: doing their best in their corner of God’s Vineyard to make their mark for eternity.


The INTERNET changed all that.

Here are some of the changes:

  1. Young church leaders and theologians can have a VIRTUAL voice far beyond the scope of their ACTUAL ministries. (So can older church leaders too, but the leaders who’ve been commenting are from the emerging generation).
  2. Untested leaders–who have not led in times of war, conflict, depression, etc., –get to propound untested ideas that do not comport with the historic Christian faith and have thousands of readers. And they can receive congratulations from likeminded peers.
  3. Because of the relative anonymity of the internet, people feel a level of freedom in communication that has not been present in the past. The community of accountability isn’t there. If one blog or online community shuts you down, there are hundreds to choose from, and nothing is lost. In the past, if you were a jerk, or deceptive or unkind you lost real friends, and had to move across country to find new ones. You gained reputation in the community. Not any more. Just click a different link and find a whole new community. You can do that forever, and it doesn’t cost a penny.
  4. veterans.jpegIn the past, us young guys would go to pastor meetings with seasoned, battle-scarred veterans and keep our mouths shut and listen and learn. Yes… we had TONS OF COMPLAINTS ABOUT THE OLDER GENERATION. But we were remarkably civil and respectful in how and when and to whom we voiced them. That’s gone. Now we’re all peers. First year pastors or 28 year veterans. It’s part of the larger coarsening of our culture, and denigration of aging.
  5. Having said all that, I TRULY WANT TO HEAR WHAT THE YOUNGER GENERATION has to say. I would be saddened if they went away or stopped commenting. Why?
    • Because I was them once and I knew it all too.
    • And because what they say, hundreds of others think… AND I DON’T WANT TO BE THE GROUCHY OLD CHURCH GUY WHO TURNS THEM OFF TO JESUS, GOD OR CHURCH.
    • And because I really want to reach a younger generation for Jesus, and it’s imperative that I listen carefully to what they are saying. Much I agree with. Much I don’t. But having them comment on my blog is really helpful to me and my ministry, even if it’s frustrating.

Every generation has to throw off some shackles from previous generations. I LOVE THE EMERGING METHODOLGY and TREMBLE WITH FEAR AND ANGER AT THE EMERGING THEOLOGY.

knockout.jpegI want to be part of the dialogue. The older guys who are speaking into emerging churches… like Brian McLaren and Spencer Burke, need guys their own age to stand up to them and show them where they are wrong. And we need to do that in ways that a younger generation will listen to.

The young guys on sharpen me. I’m glad you guys are here… 84.2% of the time. PLEASE stay.

But also please understand how you are coming across to other readers on this blog. It’s important that you realize how you are being read.

I also want to add that the quality that one brings to the theological conversation is not always related to age.  Melanchthon was young and was the voice of Luther.  Timothy was young and Paul told him to let no one despise his youth.  Others are old and their theology seems off to me.  I learn a lot from talking with all kinds of people, young and old, of all different kinds of churches.

Oh… and theological debate is rich in colorful history. The Catholics referred to Martin Luther as a “syphillitic madman.” I’m sure he had even more colorful insults for them. Paul and Barnabas had “no small dissension,” litotes for a huge fight. It’s okay. Let’s just remember that our real fight is not against flesh and blood. Christ is preached. I rejoice.


9 thoughts on “To Debate Or NOT to Debate?

  1. All I can say is, “wow!”

    I don’t intend to hurt anyone’s feelings, and I don’t feel like I have crossed any lines… but apparently I have hurt some of your feelings.

    My apologies.

    I don’t frequent lots of blogs. This is one of two blogs that I participate in that are not hosted by people I am intimately close to; and I have at least met Pastor Bill.

    I only know what I know, I only think what I think, I am not trying to be difficult (at least not too much 😉 )…

    …I am open to what others have to say, but I don’t want to engage in dialogue if every dispute is viewed as hostility.

    I LOVE dispute and competition. I started wrestling at the age of five and didn’t stop until my early twenties, I was fortunate to compete at the Div I level…

    I enjoy giving and recieving rough blows, physically and intellectually; as long as it is playful and not intended to do any real harm… perhaps I bring too much of that with me into a realm where people who don’t know me and cannot see my body language are prone to misunderstand my constant critique as more than what it is intended.

    I have real respect for Dr. G, if I didn’t, I wouldn’t hang out here.

    The two blogs I hang out at the most are this one (run by what I would consider a pretty conservative Christian in a really conservative town) and one run by an atheist. I thrive on the interchange of ideas…

    If you don’t like what I have to say, respond, if what I say comes accross as insensitive, or overly critical, say so… I promise to do my best to be nice!

  2. Steve… you’re a gentleman and a scholar. Keep it up. I am glad and honored that you visit my blog. Sean too. I love that you’re here, and as I said, you sharpen me. Just realize that your “wrestling spirit” might not come across as you intend or perceive. Bill

  3. Nice to hear from you, Steve. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the exchange of ideas but when it gets into the realm of “dispute” and “constant critique,” there must be another goal in mind other than the pleasure of the struggle (or competition, as you described it).

    And, as Christians, we ARE in a struggle!! But, it shouldn’t be against one another! We ARE a Body and working on the same team – or at least, I thought we were. Disputes and critiques don’t seem to match with the unity we should have as believers.

    I am an older generation Christian but certainly don’t think of myself as someone “outside the box” solely because of my age. In fact, there’s a LOT to be said for the experiences and maturity I have had to endure much to obtain. And as a member of the Body of Jesus Christ, I have definitely learned we all have our different functions and can’t expect to do things the same way. My only caveat to that statement is to realize I’m speaking of our use of the gifts given by God to be used for His glory.

    And, I’m having a difficult time trying to understand just why “conservative Christians” seem to leave a bad taste in your mouth. (I am responding to you, Steve.) Another comment I’d like to “respond” with is to ask if you have a wife and/or children and just how they respond to your disputes and critiques. A constant hammering crushes spirits. Not a good thing, at all.

    You’re right, we don’t see your body language. Typing is cold and expressionless. Words are stark on the paper. It is good for you to realize this and apologize. You haven’t “hurt” my feelings at all. I just thought you were ornery and obnoxious. I’m sure that was NOT your intent! And it does pain me to have this type of conclusion when I haven’t even met you! How sad is that?

    So, this has been interesing….

    Dr. G – please tell us about your dad!!!

  4. Wow – Bill, I respect your courage in addressing the tense environment of late.

    Steve, really respect the humility of your response and the authenticity of your explanation.

    I always read this blog and internalize but don’t like to comment when things seem heated (which is not every time there’s a dissenting idea). Though I can relate with the ‘competitive’ thing, being energized by different ideas bumping against one another – AND think it’s important that we ‘sharpen’ one another toward truth… I think a lot of spiritual abuse can happen in the name of “sharpening one another.” Sometimes the iron ‘blade’ slips and it all just starts to sound a whole lot like someone wanting to make sure someone else acknowledges their rightness. (I know what that sounds like ‘cuz I struggle with really liking to be right too). Noise.

    I’ve experienced this happening in Christian circles and have watched our enemy gain (perceived) victories on precious ground. Bet lots of other people have too, and, sadly, have been turned away from truth altogether. I too have strong opinions on emerging church concepts, but SO don’t want this issue to divide us as a world-wide body. Still love my bros and sisters – and still believe in the importance of the dialogue happening here.

    I never want to confuse “love” with always having to agree with each other. That’s fake love. But from the outside (as we’re live here), I’m sure we would all agree that we want those who don’t know Jesus yet to see us loving and respecting one another – even when (and especially when) we disagree with one another…

    Bill – thanks for inviting honest discussion. Still believe God is using your life and ministry for powerful purposes. And I too would like an update on your dad. Goodnight, all.

  5. Thanks for the honesty Dr. G.

    I have without doubt enjoyed this blog. For almost one year Bill I have wrestled with theological questions that you raised in class or have posted online, & I have learned a great deal.

    Thank you.

  6. Pastor Bill, Sean, and Steve

    Thank you Bill for addressing this issue. I attend Neighborhood and started reading your blog when you started it. (Thanks to the slide show before service starts that announced it.) I love your blog because it enables me to get a deeper understanding of you and your beliefs. It makes me look deeper into the Word and ponder theological questions that are relevant to the times, How the old thinking of the Bible applies to the crazy world of today. I read several blogs from all different kinds and types of people and one of the best things is getting to read the comments and banter. BUT…..

    Lately the commenters on your blog are way meaner than they use to be. It use to be fun to read the differing opinions but now there are times where I want to jump into cyberspace and beat up the “bullies that are picking on MY Pastor”. LOL Not that you can’t protect yourself and fight a mean battle. Thank you for asking them to continue on with the comments. Thank you for battling with them sometimes also…It is nice to read a reply that is as hard hitting to them as their’s are to yours. BTW I am in the target demographic of our church. Not too old and not too young.

    Sean and Steve….
    I actually read your blogs too….

    Sean I grew up in Santa Cruz…Miss it sometimes. Congrats on the new job.

    Steve…It is sometimes hard to interpet ones nuiances when it is all faceless writing. I think I got a better understanding of you when I started reading your blog.

    Sometimes you both come off as rude and know it all. I get the feeling that you are trying to start debate but the attitude in which it reads is not always very nice. There is a difference between disscussion and getting on a diatribe. It appears at times that you two sit around and pick apart every single comment and very rarely find anything positive to contribute.

    In Comment to the “Resume” entry… I am a person who attends Pastor Bill’s church and is involved in doing other things besides Sunday attendance (AWANAS, iGroups, etc.) Pastor BIll and NCR always post “Current Job Openings” in the bulletin. Also Pastor Erich, Pastor of Announcements :), will announce them and let the church body know the status of the search once in awhile. Sometimes the person you are looking for is right in front of you and sometimes it is not. I do know that the last 2 administrative postitions have been filled inhouse. I also know that our Interim Worship Pastor is inhouse. I have never seen an ad in the local paper for a job opening at our church. I agree with Bill when he posted “WE have successfully discipled our next worship pastor and our next Community LIfe pastor. We just haven’t found them yet.” If this wasn’t true than our Worship Pastor wouldn’t have been called to move to Temecula.

    Sean and Steve….I agree with Bill please continue to comment and thank you for letting us blog readers beat you up a little. May God continue to work in us and through us all.

    Jean….I love your comments. I wish you had a blog I could read. 🙂

    Bill…I continue to pray for your father. Thank you for the update.

  7. Theresa: Thank you so much!! Wow, sometimes I think I’m writing in the wind…talking in the wind? Oh, I know…spitting in the wind……?

    Oh well. Thank you! Since I have four adult children, at times I feel my thoughts just vanish when expressed to my treasures. Now, that’s not always true – sometimes they do listen to me (I’m thankful!!).

    Sean and Steve: I, too, would like to read further your thoughts and ideas – respectfully, though. Dr. G is not my pastor, but I feel like Theresa, stop beating him up on his every word! He was so right on when he said there’s a “coarsening of our culture…and denigration of aging” going on that is rude and unsettling today. Makes me wonder just how this generation was reared, not showing respect or honor to their elders. (Seen the behavior of our Congress lately??) Of course, we as parents want our children to be strong, independent, courageous, GODLY, but those characteristics seem in short supply today replaced by a self-assured egotism that fails to appreciate the wisdom and maturity of the aged. That is certainly an unScriptural attitude! (Yeah, I know a lot of old folk HAVE lost their marbles, but that’s no excuse for dumping all the aged out of the bath with the bathwater!)

    What great news about Roy! Praise God!! He’s fortunate to have a restructered tongue to use. Maybe he’ll have a “new” accent too?? Thanks for the update!

  8. I am really surprised at the defensive attitudes that have been expressed here, especially when the ones who expressed them were not the one being supposedly “attacked.” Bill doesn’t need the help. I have never known Bill to shy away from defending himself when he felt it necessary. And, in this case, he didn’t. I honestly never perceived a malicious attitude, or personal attack, or coarseness from Sean and Steve. Wrong, maybe, but not mean. I like that they bring a differing opinion, almost all the time. That’s why I read this blog. If every comment was going to be an affirmation of what Bill wrote, there would be no purpose for the comments section. (That’s not to say those things don’t exist. They most certainly do, especially in our national political conversation, e.g. Ann Coulter, Molly Ivins) I don’t have a blog, but aren’t there editing capabilities built into it? But editing is where the danger comes in. When the “blog master” (is there a technical term for this?) starts editing every differing opinion, that’s when the readers (and, in this case, his church) should worry; not when people disagree. But Bill doesn’t do that, at least not noticeably (meaning, if Bill does edit, he lets more than a fair amount of criticism through). That’s what blogs are: a place where people who would not be able to discuss, can discuss. There’s nothing we can do about it being faceless. To sum, Bob, nobody is forcing anyone to visit this blog and read things they don’t like. And, Sean and Steve, not everyone who reads you is offended. Thanks, Bill, and Neighborhood Church, for the forum.

  9. Matt,

    Yes I (the blogger–I think that’s the term you were after) do have the ability to edit. I have used that ability twice… once I emailed the person directly and stopped the comment altogether, asking for a different kind of response. The other time I just blacklisted a person who prints pages of Bible verses about damnation aimed at me (this person has gone after me in the past via email at my church). Otherwise I let the comments thru. I agree: the level of debate has not been personal. I haven’t taken it that way, and I hope that nobody else has either.

    It is really important that we LISTEN to the emerging generation. One thing that I see clearly is that they are looking at the church through very different eyes. Radically different. What older Christians take for granted, they challenge or outright reject. Visa versa.

    What should we do? LISTEN. Respond. Nail down our rationale. Biblically. Theologically. Historically. CULTURALLY. That takes a healthy level of debate. And aggravation perhaps. As I said, theological debate isn’t always nice. Doesn’t have to be.

    The medium of the internet presents its own challenges. it’s especially bad for debating issues while maintaining relationships.

    I think I’m rambling becuase I’m emotionally fried right now. A very long day for me, my family, and then… I preached at Sat night service. Go read Gen 38 and you’ll see why we issued a warning that the message was R rated. So I’ll sign off.

    I do hope to hear more from Steve and Sean. I hope that you will be courteous to them. I also hope that they hear from you, and see how they come across at least in writing.

    I’ll shut up now.

    Pray for me and my family.

    My van broke down tonight (transmission?). But I SPOKE TO MY DAD! AND HE SPOKE BACK!!!! HOW COOL!


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