Lessons from a poet and a pastor.

Posted: January 19, 2012 in Business and career, Leadership, Life, love, Me and people, Politics, The Bible, The Church

“Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus || Spoken Word”

You’ve seen the video, it’s cool and hip. A very passionate young man named Jefferson Bethke, whose excellent communications skills made this poem to go viral on YouTube with a whooping 15,131,676 views as of the writing of this post (click here to see the video). He makes a very compelling case about how Jesus hates religion and how wrong so many of us may have it.

Although it surely has caused a lot of positive reactions, and it is worthy of many praises in most regards, I came across a ‘critique’ that a pastor wrote on the popular video. Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor at University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan, made a very meticulous and detailed dissection of the poem and offers comments, suggestions and corrections from a theological and Biblical standpoint (click here for full critique transcript). Interestingly enough, Jeff wrote back to Pastor DeYoung with an answer to his observations. Some argue that Pastor DeYoung went too far in his examination; others suggest it was not only acceptable but necessary.

Either way your opinion about this matter may be, there were a few huge things that stuck to me from this interchange. I saw them as important lessons to be learned for any Christian; from pastors and leaders to regular people like me:

1. How you say it may matter as much as what you say -when offering feedback. Although Pastor DeYoung was pretty detailed in his critiques, he made sure to first acknowledge and emphasize all the positives of Bethke’s production. Then, when approaching the ‘negatives’, he made it very respectfully, kindly and gracefully –never putting down Bethke’s character or motives. He stuck to the facts. Having the same reasoning but a different approach in regards to these two steps may have produced a far different result.

2. Listen and consider the possibility that you may be wrong -when receiving feedback. I almost jumped from my chair in joy when I saw Bethke’s response (click here for response transcript). Bethke’s acknowledges DeYoung’s intention to help and ultimately build the kingdom, and responds very humbly and graciously to the critiques accepting where he may have been wrong –and even asks for more feedback.

3. Most Christians are ‘good people’. (socially speaking) Not all Christians are hypocrite greedy bastards who live double lives, create wars, steal money from the laity and fight with each other. Although indeed there are some -and have been some cases, that for its very scandalous nature make it to the news headlines, the overwhelming majority of Christians are normal imperfect humans trying to live a good life as a response to what Jesus did for them. These two gentlemen are a bright example. Furthermore, DeYoung notes in his critiques against the song:

“Christians need to stop perpetuating the myth that we’ve basically been huge failures in the world”. … “it’s not true”. …”The evangelical awakening in England in the eighteenth century is widely credited for preventing the sort of bloodbath that swept over France in the “enlightened” French Revolution. Christians (and conservatives in general) give more to charitable causes than their secular counterparts. Christians run countless shelters, pregnancy centers, rescue missions, and food pantries. Christians operate orphanages, staff clinics, dig wells, raise crops, teach children, and fight AIDS around the globe. While we can always do more and may be blind to the needs around us at times, there is no group of people on the planet that do more for the poor than Christians.”…”…we have to stop the self-flagellation and the slander that says Christians do nothing for the poor

4. Use the Bible as your standard. DeYoung’s obvious knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures allows him to relate point by point each of the aspects he addresses, back to the Bible. He very successfully shows how, if you look at in detail Jesus not only loves religion (in the most accurate definition), but he died to fund Christianity and The Church as His bride, We may or may not agree with DeYoung, but he manages to present a compelling case because of his foundation, not on his opinion, not on his feelings but on The Bible. I wonder how many of today’s interactions and arguments among Christians, friends, couples –and in politics for that matter, may have better outcomes if we solve problems more based on facts and less opinions and feelings. Granted, personal interpretation of facts –or the Bible may differ, still, the area of discussion would narrow down dramatically, wouldn’t it?

5. Prepare your message as if it was the most important message, -be as Biblically accurate and clear as possible –you never know who will receive it. Pastors, small group leaders, Sunday school teachers, bloggers and tweeters, we need to make sure as much as possible that everything we communicate, from a tweet of Facebook status to a sermon on Sunday morning, is true from the Scriptures point of view. Sometimes people’s eternity and life on earth may be at stake when we are careless in what we communicate. After Bethke read DeYoung’s observations he not only agreed with them, but expressed regret in not having paid more attention to it–because he didn’t know it would become so famous. Bethke wrote :

“If I can be brutally honest I didn’t think this video would get much over a couple thousand views maybe, and because of that, my points/theology wasn’t as air-tight as I would’ve liked. If I redid the video tomorrow, I’d keep the overall message, but would articulate, elaborate, and expand on the parts where my words and delivery were chosen poorly…”

There are many many more rich lessons in this interchange that, for the sake of space I may  address on a different post. Comments?

  1. […] looking in says, “wow!, even when they disagree, they love each other in respect and kindness” (click for an example)That would get some positive attention! Exactly what Jesus would […]

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