This past week I’ve seen a great deal of hand-wringing over two Christian organizations who claim to see fresh movements from God and the criticism seems to come for precisely the same reason. Since last Wednesday morning Asbury University has been holding a continuous and student led worship service, which while praised in some quarters has been vilified in others by some who question its motives, sincerity, and lasting outcomes. Then over the weekend an organization called He Gets Us aired a commercial during the Super Bowl with the stated intent of helping Americans revamp their image of Jesus. This commercial, and the organization, has likewise sparked controversy because of its tactics and message. I will readily admit that I am not following either of these stories very faithfully, and though I am an Asbury Alum and have read the He Gets Us website I’m not terribly familiar with either event. But in both cases it seems that a large portion of those who are complaining are upset because the event discussed are displaying a different expression of the Christian faith than that individual favors. I see people complaining about Asbury because the “revival” is not directly leading to concerns for justice, or because it uses the wrong music, or because it is simply a cultivated emotionalism. I see people criticizing He Gets Us for using the wrong language, or for emphasizing the wrong theology.
Is this what Christianity has become? Are we so shallow that we cannot respect that others might start their journeys in different places? Can we not respect these events as coming from God, praise them, and use them as the first steps in a person’s growth? Can we not understand that a student who is trying to figure out his or her way in life might begin in an emotional euphoria and that state might translate into that individual caring about others who are impoverished, or lost? Can we not understand that He Gets Us might not be perfect but they are putting real energy into speaking to people who have given up on the Church?
I’ve been to Asbury chapel services and there are certain times emotionalism plays into them, but I have also seen where those services touched a specific student and transformed that individual. They may pursue the same major but with a different vigor and a new sense of purpose. I have seen messages like those of He Gets Us speak to people who I cannot reach, and that message has helped individuals begin a journey to God. I think what is behind the criticism is a twofold belief, a belief that others must begin their journeys to God further down the road to perfection than they are and an overconfident belief that their tradition has it all figured out. The people I see criticizing these events seem to lack any appreciation that God might actually use these methods because they are open doors to where a person is, and that the only way these are not positive events is if the people touched by them do not use them to continue to grow and become as cold as the critics.
I have not yet had the opportunity to deeply interact with anyone who has been impacted by either of these movements, but I have dealt with people who have been impacted by The Chosen TV series. Again, some find this series controversial, but I do not. When people come to discuss The Chosen with me I simply begin by asking, “What does it teach you about Jesus?” And then I can begin where the person is and hopefully help that individual grow. There is no need for a TV show to be the perfect encapsulation of all that right and good. The only question I need to ask of it is, “Is there a profound error in it that I cannot in good conscious recommend it?” If there is no profound error in the show then why would I discourage people from watching it, why not accept the fact that people are being simultaneously entertained and educated. Christians have been doing this for generations (Pilgrim’s Progress anyone?).
I am not saying that “the proof of the pudding is in the tasting” so let’s all wait and see what becomes of these things, I am saying let’s stop with the criticism that displays a fractured Church. Are these genuinely issues that are actively leading people away from faith in Jesus, no. Since they are not actively leading people away from Jesus let us either support or ignore them. And even if you believe these are not the best approaches to finding God leave them alone. And if you find yourself in a position where someone directly broaches one of these issues or is directly inspired or impacted by these events, do not react in hostility. Take this as an opportunity to help a person continue their journey with God and to move into a more profound relationship with Jesus.
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