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Jul 20

Is Your Church Scary?

In Matthew 16, after Peter made an accurate statement about the identity of Jesus, Jesus makes an amazing statement:

“Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (vs. 17-19).

I’m not going to go into an exegesis of Jesus’ statement except to say that Jesus is talking about the church…a church that ought to be really scary and a powerful church that ought to be awesome.

Does that sound like the church you know? Is your church scary?

No, I don’t mean scary in the same way that Freddy is scary in A Nightmare on Elm Street or the way a bully is scary because he is so big, intimidating and cruel…and not scary in the way people with money and power can be scary.

The scary about which the Scripture speaks is a different critter altogether.

The late Robert Webber in his book, Ancient-Future Faith: Rethinking Evangelicalism for a Postmodern World, says that the culture that has been called “postmodern” is really, in a lot of ways, a reversion to the first century when the church had no power, no influence and no leverage.

That’s bad!

No, that’s good.

Webber says that we’re living in a cultural milieu in which people won’t be manipulated, coerced or bullied even if we had (which we don’t) the power, money and influence we once had to do it. Webber says that the people of God are being forced to do it Jesus’ way.

John Whitehead, the founder of the Rutherford Institute, sent me a bumper sticker I now have on the back of my car right under the pro-life license plate (confuses the liberals!) that reads: “Speak Truth To Power.”

Now that’s scary.

Christians are scary when they speak truth to power, knowing that they have nothing to lose.

Yesterday, I heard a man who is dying of cancer give his testimony. It was powerful. He talked about his sins with great authenticity, about his struggles with great care and about his faith with great power. He said that he didn’t have anything to lose.

In Matthew 10 Jesus sends out his disciples, warning them about the persecution that they will face, and then he says, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (v. 28). Everything that everybody thinks is important isn’t. It’s all going to pass away. But not you. You’re going to live forever and everything you know is important is going to be important forever.

Religion isn’t scary. Truth spoken without fear of losing anything…now, that’s scary. Makes everybody uncomfortable.

Christians are scary, also, because we can speak truth to power without anything to prove. Did you ever think that when you became a Christian you made an announcement to the world that you are screwed up, desperately needy and weak, and horribly sinful? Jesus didn’t come for well people…he is only the Great Physician for really sick people. That’s why we ran to him. And Luther said that the definition of sanctification is “getting used to being forgiven.”

What if you didn’t have a reputation to protect and didn’t give a fig what people thought about you? Now that would be scary.

There’s one other thing: Christians are scary because when we speak truth to power we don’t have anything to fix. “Fixing stuff” is way above our pay level. That is God’s business. Once someone stops being the world’s mother, having an agenda or trying to make people into our image, there is great freedom and incredible joy. That’s scary.

My friend John Freeman, president of Harvest USA, was on our talk show the other day (on Harvest USA is a ministry to the sexually broken in general and to the gay and lesbian community in particular.

Erik asked John, “What’s your point? You have a goal, right? You’re trying to get them to change.”

John said, “Absolutely not. That’s God’s business. I’m just trying to get them to Jesus. Getting people to change is God’s business. I’m not in the judging business…but the pointing business.”

That was powerful…and, I might say, quite scary.

I’ve given up trying to fix people. I can’t even fix myself. But I haven’t given up speaking the truth about what needs to be fixed in me and in the world. All I have to do is say it. That makes the world angry and anger is always a sign of fear.

The other day someone told me about a grammar school teacher who asked her students to tell a family story with a moral.

Judy said that her father was a farmer and they raised chickens. “The other day we put all the eggs in a basket and headed for the market, and we hit a bump. All the eggs fell out of the basket and most of them broke. The moral of the story is that people shouldn’t put all their eggs in one basket.”

Sara said that her father was a farmer too. “We raise chickens too. In fact, we have a hatchery and we put fifteen eggs in the hatchery and only nine of them hatched. The moral of the story is that people shouldn’t count their chicks until they’re hatched.”

Billy was sitting on the front row waving his hand and the teacher called on him.

“My uncle, Art,” he said, “was a pilot in the war and he was shot down over enemy territory. When he jumped out of his airplane he only had his parachute, a bottle of bourbon, a machine gun and a machete. He landed right in the middle of a hundred of the enemy. He drank the bourbon on the way down and then took his machine gun and killed fifty enemy soldiers until he ran out of bullets. Then he took his machete and killed forty more of the enemy until his machete broke in two. Then he killed the other ten with his bare hands.”

“Billy! That’s so violent. What moral could possibly come out of that kind of story?”

“The moral is,” Billy said, “don’t mess with my uncle Art when he’s been drinking.”


Well, when Christians really understand that we have nothing to lose, nothing to prove and nothing to fix, the world will say:

The moral is that you don’t mess with Christians who have been with Jesus.

The world ought to be afraid…very afraid.

He asked me to remind you.

(c) 2007 Steve Brown | KeyLife

Steve Brown

Steve Brown is a radio broadcaster, seminary professor and author. He previously served as a pastor for over twenty-five years and now devotes much of his time to the radio broadcast, Key Life. With such varied experience and unique perspective on life, Steve is an original. He refuses to be a “guru,” doesn’t want to be anyone’s mother and gives, in his teaching, the freedom to think. Overall, Steve has become known for his refreshing and practical Biblical applications. Steve serves as Professor of Preaching at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. He sits on the board of the National Religious Broadcasters and Harvest USA. Traveling extensively, Steve is a much-in-demand speaker. Steve is the author of numerous books including Born Free, When Being Good Isn’t Good Enough and When Your Rope Breaks. His articles appear in such magazines and journals as Leadership, Decision, Plain Truth and Today’s Christian Woman.

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