The recent LifeChurch.tv Series FAQ Week #3 Message created some controversy on some Network Campuses. I was contacted via email by a leader from one of these Network Churches where there was some negative feedback. They asked if our Network Church had any negative feedback, and if we so, how did we handled it. Specifically they were referring to Craig Groeschel's jokes using the following passages.
- "You must not touch it, or you will die." Genesis 3:3
- "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might." Ecclesiastes 9:10
As background, our church is mostly older – baby boomers and up – with five new young families who have started attending regularly since we became a LifeChurch.tv Network church. Four of these new families have asked how to become members and one couple has recently been baptized. The new families range in age from late 20's to just under 40.
Prior to becoming a Network Church we were a traditional older church so even the idea of a video Message was somewhat foreign to many of our older members.
That as a back drop – I have not had any negative feed back from those in our church who heard any of the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) topics, etc. Also, I sit in the back because I run the video controls, so I can see everyone's responses to what Craig Groeschel says. But I did not notice any unusual responses from those attending.
That said, I will tell you that the two verses you refer to in FAQ #3 did cause me to pause. As a result, since I am able to preview the messages I decided before both FAQ #2 & #3 we would make an announcement that the content was definitely PG13. I also mentioned that if any of us long time believers thought the content was a little edgy or inappropriate, we needed to understand why Craig Groeschel was addressing these topics.
I explained that LifeChurch.tv, both their United Campuses and their Network Campuses are drawing in a lot of new believers especially in the "X", "Y" and Millennium Generation. Many of these new believers have little or no background in Biblical teaching and how to live a Christ centered life. They attend a LifeChurch.tv Experience, accept Christ, but then often continue with their old life style thereby creating a total disconnect – hence the need to address these topics.
Also, unlike the baby boomers, where certain topics were considered off limits, the "X" and "Y" generation freely talk about sex, etc. in public much more so than past generations. My wife and I have often noticed this when we are attending training sessions for our business. When these trainings are led by someone who is in the “X” and “Y” generations, the topics are much more edgy than when baby boomers are running the trainings.
So were the comments inappropriate and/or irreverent?
My take would be no and for this reason. I have lost track of the number of jokes, etc. about Scripture passages I have heard over the years during sermons. And that includes Craig Groeschel, especially his cat jokes where he frequently uses scripture. So that would lead me to conclude that if someone complained about using the above passages in a joking manner, it was not the humor that was at issue, rather it was the topic that flipped the switch for some.
So how does one deal with that fact? I attack it using the book of Acts. When we take into account the Jewish culture of that day in the Book of Acts, and what some of the Gentile Christians were doing, and how offensive these things were to the Jewish Christians, Craig Groeschel's comments and jokes using Scripture don't even register.
An example of the disconnect between the Jewish and Gentile believers is in Acts 10. It deals with the issue of Jewish Christians and their idea of how things should work as contrasted with how things actually took place among the Gentile Christians. In Acts 10:45 is says, “All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.” The Greek term that is translated “amazed” is ἐξέστησαν. It literally means:
- to change from one condition to another
- to put out of its place
- to drive one out of one's senses
The idea conveyed with this term is simply this; what happened at that moment was a total disconnect from the Jewish believers accepted reality. For the Jewish believer God’s Spirit only rested on those who were circumcised. For many Jews it was impossible for the uncircumcised to have the Spirit because the uncircumcised were unclean and the Spirit could not take up residence with the unclean as it would be defiled. And since Cornelius’ was a gentile and they were in his home, it was not possible, as far as the Jewish believers were concerned, for these Gentiles to have the same Spirit the Jewish believers had, at least not until they were circumcised.
Basically what the passage is saying is this event put them out of their place, it drove them outside their senses, or it drove them outside what made sense to them or it drove them away from what was acceptable in their eyes.
I help run the services at our church and I am continually reminding our members that "it is not about us, it's about them". The "them" referring to those who have yet to come to Christ or who have yet to learn how to fully walk in His path. Since it is not about us, but them, we have to be willing to be uncomfortable at times. For me, this topic would be one of those times. But I willingly surrender to it for the sake of those who might come to Christ or might walk more fully as one of His followers.
Or as Andy Stanley put it “Most churches are designed for Church People.” But we should not do things just to make the “Church People” comfortable. Rather we should at all times seek to convey the Message – to believe in Christ and to devote one’s life to Him – to all who are lost or seek to walk His path.
Another passage that relates to this situation is Acts 15:1 which says, “Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.””
Then in 15:2 it describes the confrontation. “And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them…”
The Greek term translated dissension literally means, "dissension, uproar, insurrection and/or sedition". In other words this is not a simple disagreement. This is an intense disagreement with people taking sides to the point of insurrection or sedition.
Depending on the direction this issue will take, it will completely change the nature of what it means to be a Christian. Paul and Barnabas take a stand for the Gentiles even though the Christian Pharisees believed the Gentiles were unclean – by unclean that means lower than a dog. This would be far more offensive to them than Craig Groeschel’s joke is to us.
Another point to make on this issue is the entire New Testament is written in what is known as Koine Greek also called common Greek. It was the Greek used by Alexander’s solders and was the Greek used for business transactions, etc.. For many at that time, all quality literature was written in Classical Greek. Any literature written in Koine Greek was considered less than desirable.
So why did they use Koine Greek? Because it was not about status or reverence, rather it was all about communicating the truth of the good news to all. And the best way to do that is to meet people where they are, not where they should be. Even if a few of the cultured elites were offended by the grammar and language used to tell the story, it needed to be communicated to all.
One more item that will help in understanding why Craig Groeschel pushes the envelope a little, even if it creates some controversy among believers, is explained in the Series "Dangerous Church 2".
Basically what the Series teaches is that we need to understand we are not called to be a safe church. When we are with Jesus, we become dangerous to the status quo.
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