Sunday, March 16, 2014

Sinning Baptists

A few decades ago, Baptists were known for their hellfire and brimstone preachers who spoke of the evils of drinking, dancing, and going to the movies. People were excluded from the church frequently “for heresy” and many eventually apologized to the church and were welcomed back into the fellowship (though some did not). But today, the world is a different place. No longer do the Baptists who drink hide it, just in case the preacher comes around, they post pictures of it on Facebook. And many have lost sight of why dancing was considered wrong. Many people have the idea that as long as the dancing doesn’t happen in the church building, it is okay. If you read Psalm 149:3 and Psalm 150:4, it seems like that if there is anywhere that dancing is okay, it ought to be “in the congregation of the saints” (Psalm 149:1). And as for movies, now churches bring them in and show them on the big screen in the auditorium.

It’s a kinder, gentler church environment, but are we better off for it? I’m not sure how to answer that. Some say we are. Some say that it really wasn’t necessary for the preachers of the past to take such a hardline approach, because it is the Holy Spirit who convicts of sin and our responsibility is to love people. Telling people that what they are doing is wrong will just run them off—perhaps to a church that doesn’t teach the truth, or out of church altogether.

One approach that seems to work for pastors is to take the high road. Just preach through the Bible. Pick a book and preach what it says. When a pastor gets to Matthew 19:9, he’s going to preach about adultery and divorce, no matter how many in the church have been involved in those things. And it isn’t he who is picking on them; Jesus is the one who said it.

It doesn’t work that way on the Internet. Even if you write posts by moving chapter by chapter through the Bible, people will pick and choose what they read. If you write about the Book of Jude, people are going to read what you say about homosexuality, not what you say about “[giving] all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation.” And if you participate in social media, others will pick the topic and you are left to either participate or not. If you mention what the Bible says about what people are doing, it may be seen as “judging.” But if you say nothing, either they won’t realize you are reading their posts, or they’ll assume that you approve of their actions.

I struggle with this every time I post something on the Internet. If I post what I really think about some of the things I see, I’m likely to make someone angry. If all I do is post things that are all touchy feely and nice, I might as well not post anything at all, because people don’t read that stuff. So, since I don’t know how to answer my own question, I’ll end with a quote from the first Baptist, “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:2)