My Fourth Cousin, Twice Removed… in Christ

It was a typical morning at the coffee shop—but I’d forgotten my headphones. Productivity plummeted! I’m not good at tuning out my surroundings.

I overheard a conversation … OK, you caught me, I was blatantly eavesdropping! A young man was counseling a younger man. They were talking about Jesus. I zeroed in because I was encouraged. The advice was good, the knowledge of Scripture was apparent. They were talking about their church, which sounded like an awesome place!

And then, in only a matter of seconds, I went from highly encouraged to deeply disappointed, and even pretty angry. The younger one asked his very knowledgeable mentor how he felt about a long list of today’s most prominent Christian leaders, along with several local ministers. The answers were short and absolute:

“What about preacher #1?”
“Oh, he’s amazing!”

“What about preacher #2?”
“I’m uncomfortable with his eschatology, don’t listen to him.”

“What about preacher #3?”
“He’s brilliant, but too easy on sin. Be careful.”

“What about preacher #4?”
“He’s a great interpreter of Scripture—I just wish he didn’t endorse preacher #3.”

“What about preacher #5?”
“He’s a heretic. I admit there’s fruit in his ministry, but I have concerns about whether or not he’s really a follower of Jesus.”

“What about preacher #6?”
“He’s great, but he’s definitely not ______ ! [i.e., in their theological corner] Steer clear.”

“What about preacher #7?”
“Are you serious? She’s a woman!”

“What about preacher #8?”
“I like him, but you’re better off listening to preacher #1.”

“Why does preacher #1 do ministry with preacher #7?”
“I think he wants to work on unity. It makes me very uncomfortable.”

There were more … many more. I listened in horror. There was, it seemed, genuine disgust. Even more unsettling: In terms of theology, these ministers were all very similar. They weren’t from all over the map … in fact, they were all conservative and primarily evangelical ministers with a deep love for the Bible. Yet, many of them were completely dismissed as ignorant, misguided, confused and even heretical.

I’m glad that young man studies hard and is determined to find his theological moorings. It’s more than admirable—it’s fantastic! And yet, in determining exactly how to align himself, he was also building animosity for all of the fools with whom he didn’t agree.

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Lead Pastor of the Maryville Vineyard, a growing church filled with incredible people in East Tennessee. He and his wife Sharon have two amazing children.

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