Monday, December 18, 2006

RED BRICKS, PADDED PEWS, AND BEER

Tom Elliff preached at our church last night. I was going to post about it, as his very challenging sermon interrupted my train of thought several times. But then the Missouri Mess got "shown me" and I figured I'd strike while the irony was hot.

Wade Burleson already posted about the investigative committee, formed amid allegations of nebulous character issues on the part of the Exec. Dir. No need reinventing that wheel, so I'll move on to the "controversy" surrounding The Journey, a rather unconventional church in St. Louis. I hasten to admit I know only what Ive read on their website and in an article in the Baptist Press, so cannot speak to lots of things about it. But I do know that they have a monthly outreach with a Bible Study in a Brewery.

Hey .. I'd bet some of the apparent upset is about that, wouldn't you? Particularly since the MBC lent the church some money.

This points out something that seems inherent in organized religion. We read in the Bible to see what we're supposed to do, in His service (assuming we're well motivated to do so). We then go do some of that, and God blesses our efforts. Now, we know, in the abstract, that it's God giving the increase, but we forget that after a while. We then confuse how we are to act with how God acts..

HUGE difference, folks. What He's instructed us to do, and which has become custom and acceptable for us, in no way limits how God goes about furthering His Kingdom work. To think that He's limited to doing it the way we do it, is egotistical, to say the least. But then, we've always been quick to give ourselves more credit than we think we're giving.

Case in point, about The Journey's outreach in a brewery. Some even said they showed a picture of folks hoisting a glass of beer, in connection with the Bible Study. They stated the church said (although I add that I saw this quote on the Brewery's website, and not on the church's)"Grab a brew and give your view".

I've heard for years, that not washing your car on Sunday, not drinking a beer when you're sweaty, not mowing the lawn on Sunday, were testimonies to our faith. Two thoughts about that.

1) They are testimonies to not washing your car on Sunday, not drinking beer when you're sweaty, and not mowing your lawn on Sunday. They're not testimonies to your faith. I've heard folks state "I witness via my life.", but that simply isn't witnessing. It's a witness to your life, and not your faith.

2) If your life is a witness, it's only a witness to saved folks. The spiritual evidence found in your life, is spiritual in nature, and God said natural man cannot perceive it. Folks can watch your life for all your life, and learn nothing from it that will save their souls.

In the case of the Brewery outreach, how's that different from Jesus going to Levi's house and kickin' back with the "tax collectors and sinners"? The pharisees accused him of "eating and drinking" with them. ... and I bet there was wine involved.

Did you notice that Jesus didn't send someone else to minister to them? He went Himself! Yet here we have a controversy about a church that wants to reach folks who go to a brewery, so they go there after them.

If The Journey's "Theology at the Bottleworks" is a source of controversy in the MBC, then I suspect they've got a sprinkling of "Pharisees and Teachers of the Law" up there, too.

There's more to "church" than red bricks and padded pews. In fact, in heaven, there probably won't be any of that. But there may be some folks who "grabbed a brew and gave their view" under the auspices of a church that isn't afraid to go outside the lines to reach people.

24 Comments:

At 6:48 PM, December 18, 2006, Blogger bc said...

After reading the MBC article it appears (sadly) that some of the members need to read Matthew 18. It always amazes me that folks that should know better are the ones who don't bother to follow the instructions.

 
At 6:59 PM, December 18, 2006, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Thanks for the comment. It is obvious that you are an intelligent person who was raised by caring and compassionate parents.

**cough cough**

 
At 9:24 PM, December 18, 2006, Blogger Les Puryear said...

Bob,

I really enjoy your humor. :)

Regards,

Les

 
At 9:30 PM, December 18, 2006, Blogger Wade Burleson said...

Great post Bob.

I wholeheartedly agree.

 
At 9:48 PM, December 18, 2006, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Les: I've been told I'm funny, but looks aren't everything.

Wade: Thanks for the kind words.

 
At 11:05 PM, December 18, 2006, Blogger Debbie said...

bc: I'm assuming that your dad is intelligent as well and compassionate? Just a guess. :)

Bob: As usual you don't mince words. Well said and once again I'm glad you is for us and not agin us which is probably why I agree with you so much. :)

 
At 11:08 PM, December 18, 2006, Blogger Kevin Bussey said...

Bob,

Great insight. This whole thing is sad. 1200 people in a few years, God must be blessing them.

 
At 9:33 AM, December 19, 2006, Blogger Alycelee said...

It would seem that some simply can't tolerate anything but weekly visitation in the local neighborhood. Stepping out of the box is scary-but looks like in many places what God is doing
Great post!

 
At 10:03 AM, December 19, 2006, Anonymous Lee said...

If you really want an excellent passage of scripture on this subject, go to I Corinthians 9:19-23 in The Message. That will give it to you straight. Paul says that he has become a servant to all by getting into the world of the unbeliever so that he can lead them to a God-saved life. In so doing, however, he kept his bearings in Christ. We need to be in the places where the "tax collectors and sinners" gather, keeping our bearings in Christ but at the same time, creating multiple opportunities to combine the example of living that we set with a verbal testimony.

Since coming to my current church staff position, I've identified a couple of places where I can go and be among the "tax collectors and sinners". For me, it wasn't easy, and it still isn't. I've had to set aside my own personal comfort, as well as a certain uneasiness about being "seen" by my Christian friends. However, there are leaders in my church who not only understand, but who do the same thing.

The last time I checked, lost people were not lined up at the door to our church. Nor do they flock into the building when we have some kind of activity or event. They don't even come in significant numbers because we have contemporary worship. They haven't elected to participate in Bible study groups that we have re-organized and promote. I've had more than one conversation in recent months about a relationship with Christ over Mexican food with an individual who was drinking a beer while I sipped on a Sprite Zero. I've learned not to be distracted by that. Perhaps the members of "The Journey" in St. Louis have learned that, too.

 
At 11:01 AM, December 19, 2006, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Debbie:

In Indiana, they have a saying: "Put the corn down where the hogs can get to it". I liked that. Still do. My kids are pretty plain-spoken, too.

Kevin: I'd like to see some numbers on the missionaries who were "edged out" of eligibility. Fortunately I have one in my neighborhood. I believe I shall ask.

Alycelee: I saw a cartoon 20+ years ago. In front of a Baptist church, 2 nicely dressed guys were saying to a shabbily dressed man .. "Sorry we can't stay and talk .. we have to go out on visitation". 'Nuf said.

Lee: Bingo. If the church finds you "guilty by association", so much the better. Always good to observe the "spiritual temperature" of the church.

All: thanks for the comments. I am sharpened thereby.

 
At 5:13 PM, December 19, 2006, Blogger CB Scott said...

What is it that I like about Bob Cleveland?

I met Bob in Blog Town and later met him in Greensboro as he prepared himself to speak to the Convention giving him the grand position of being able to say that the "first SBC he saw he spoke to" and I will say he sounded like he had been doing it for 30 years.

Since that time we have met for lunch a few times and I must say I enjoy his company as if I had known him all my life. I think God brings some folks together at a certain time in life as a blessing and Bob is one to me.

I am a man of few friends and have never really searched for any. My wife and children have always satisfied my needs in that department. I have a few other friends like the infamous Ben Cole and a few others. I have learned that not everyone that calls himself friend to your face is such behind your back.

Therefore, I keep near to my heart the teachings of that famous "theologian" Neil Diamond in his great sermon, SOLITARY MAN from back in the early 70's.

Why do I like Bob Cleveland? Is it because I think he has the best understanding of any man, regardless of background, I have ever met relating to the gifts of the Spirit? He does, but that is not the reason. Is it because we agree on everything, social, theological, political, etc. and have a grand time slapping each other on the back? No, because we do not think alike on everything and I would not like him if we did. I don't waste time with people that do not challenge me to think. Bob makes me think and thinking is good if one can still do it at my age.

Is it because he is a man of no pretense that is the same today as he was yesterday and can speak in comfort to lawyers, insurance brokers, theologians, socialites and rednecks? No, even though he can do all of that and more while wearing a PINK HAT and still be more manly in his manner than John Wayne was able to do even as an actor and not in the real world.

I think I like Bob the Greek so much because God brought us together at a certain time for a blessing-a gift, if you will--to each other.

Many cuss the folks that live in Blog Town as if we were Corinthians of "old". Well, let 'em cuss for if I had not "moved to Blog Town" when I did it may have not been so easy to have met Bob, although, I believe God would have arranged it some other way. For I really do believe it was His will and in His time and I am better for it.

Now, I know this is really a post and I have hijacked Bob's blog but I want him to read it first and I wanted his wife and good friends to read it second and usually only "fighters" read my posts over on THE REPORT.

It is Christmas and I needed to give Bob something and since he has everything a real man can have including a PINK HAT I thought I would just share my honset thoughts about him.

Merry Christmas, BOB THE GREEK!!

cb

 
At 6:14 PM, December 19, 2006, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

CB (and others):

I wrestled with whether to post your comment or not. I finally decided to, even though it makes me uncomfortable to do so. There are a couple reasons (and more if I think of more as I'm typing the couple);

1) It's evidence that God knows what we need, when we don't know what we need. Or even that we need something. CB, you probably weren't longing for some new best bud when we stumbled across one another. But God had other ideas. We get so darned focused on what we do that sometimes we overlook that God might have something else for us, that we ain't thought of. And wouldn't, except He brings it up.

In fact, that was the topic of the excellent sermon that Tom Eliff preached at church last Sunday. Mainly, do we want to know "What Else" God might have for us?

2) I can assure one and all that I'm just a guy in a pew. I am the least likely guy in the world to do, be, or say anything exceptional. Hey .. I've known me most of my life and I oughtta know. So if God ever does anything exceptional in, for, through, with (etc) me, He can do that and greater in, for, through, with (etc) ANYbody. Period. So quit downplaying your expectations about God, and accept the fact that you've probably settled for less than what God has in mind for you.

It's axiomatic that when we settle for less than what God has in mind, we'll probably get less than we settled for.

3) God says He will use the weak, base, foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise guys and smart alecks. We spend a lot of time in our lives striving for excellence, sometimes at the expense of obedience. One of the first things that happened to me that told me God wanted to do some stuff with me, was that He revealed a truth of scripture to me, that the best Bible teacher I've (still) ever heard, hadn't noticed in scripture. I learned right then, December 1970, that God means business with folks who mean business with Him.

4) I heard, in a sermon by Joseph Garlington, that it's quite possible that God may tell you something that He didn't tell anyone else. And that there may be folks who think He DIDN'T tell you. But, that sounds like God, to do something like that, and that kind of obligates me to speak up when I think He's told me something. Don't get all hinky .. I'm not talking about "word of knowledge stuff here. So, at the convention, when I thought God had tapped me on the shoulder with an observation, I had no choice but to speak up. Fear, trembling, and all.

And I can assure you if He'll tell me stuff, He'll tell you stuff. IF .. you're willing to use what He tells you.

5) CB has nothing to gain by posting this, as Peg's and my wills have been sealed for years, and I already like him. So if any of the guys who think he's just an ogre happen to read this, know that he's the sort of guy who'd write the oozy stuff for altruistic reasons. I know CB better than most of you do, and I have never had a lot of best friends.

He's one, only in my case, I knew I needed a friend like CB.

I'll probably think of some other stuff ... the "couple" already has five in it .. but I'll end this by just saying thanks, CB. You sure know how to hand out a Christmas present there, hoss.

So Merry Christmas, already.

 
At 7:27 AM, December 20, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

CB has been giving many a Christmas gift with his eloquent word. Thank you, CB. I do hope to meet both of you soon. I spent quite a bit of time in Birmingham when I was still practicing law; perhaps now I can come as a missionary and share what God's been doing.

Signing anonymously only because my computer is not allowing me to sign into blogger,

Bryan Riley

 
At 8:12 AM, December 20, 2006, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Thank, Bryan. Do be sure to let me know if you ever head this way.

How about dropping me an email and expanding on what you did when you practiced law here. My biggest client is a law firm in Bham.

Merry Christmas to you and yours.

 
At 6:21 PM, December 21, 2006, Blogger Scotte Hodel said...

Bible study in a brewery --- what a concept!

It's easy to get twisted into a knot about what is and isn't ok. Apparently I'm guilty. I was joking about being Sam the Eagle (from the Muppet Show) incarnate; my brother in law asked if I was "loose enough" to be Sam.

Ouch.

One wonders how Christ would measure up on our traditions. The woman who washed his feet with her hair comes to mind. I once asked my Sunday School class what they would think of our senior pastor if he let a woman do that to his feet. Big, wide eyes.

Big, wide questions.

So far, I know only enough to ask.

 
At 8:38 PM, December 21, 2006, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Scotte: Right you are.

I commented somewhere that it's no wonder the Jews and the Romans crucified Jesus. If He came around most conventional Baptist churches and did what He did, 2000 years ago, I think we'd kill Him, too.

 
At 10:47 PM, December 21, 2006, Anonymous Titus said...

Bob,

I just wanted to work in a Christmas wish for you and your loved ones. I have been reading your comments for some time now and I really enjoy all you have to share with us. Thanks for your insights and contributions this year.

May the Lord bless you and keep you and bring to you and yours a very Merry Christmas!

 
At 7:56 AM, December 22, 2006, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Titus:

Thanks for looking in and commenting. I guess it's a reminder that, when we do stuff that we think God wants us to do, it has effects beyond what we anticipated.

I hope this Christmas is the best ever for you and yours, too. May God bless you.

 
At 3:40 PM, December 22, 2006, Blogger JohnJaxtheBaptist said...

Bob - another post in support of drinking beer. And more pats on the back for doing so. I don't see why you beer drinking advocates continue to make references to this and make assumptions that Jesus was drinking at the places he went. Can't one share the gospel with prostitutes without the insinuation they received sexual favors. Can't a person with a heart for the lost go to where the lost are, out drinking beer, for example :) and not be accused of drinking beer? I, for one, have gone to many a wedding and many places where beer is being served and have not taken a drink. So your assumptions about our Lord could be wrong. But they could be right, so those who want to drink regardless of the obvious effects on people, families and society, will find others who amen them and will make arguments on behalf of drinking liquor. The alcohol industry spends billions to get people to buy their product. We don't need more people who strive to model our Lord advocating the use of this beverage.

 
At 4:23 PM, December 22, 2006, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

JohnJax:

"I don't see why you beer drinking advocates continue to make references to this and make assumptions that Jesus was drinking at the places he went."

I never said that. You apparently assumed that. You are free to do that. You also refer to me as a "beer drinking advocate" Your assumptions are dead wrong.

You said...

"Can't a person with a heart for the lost go to where the lost are, out drinking beer, for example :) and not be accused of drinking beer?"

Yet you equate a post about a church that goes "to where the lost are .. out drinking beer..." with advocating drinking beer.

Wow.

I said Jesus went to a party at Levi's and I bet there was drinking there. You equate that with my presuming Jesus drank.

Another wow.

You stated "I, for one, have gone to many a wedding and many places where beer is being served and have not taken a drink".

Did you go there to study and discuss the Bible? That seems to be what The Journey is doing at the brewery. And you equate my blog about their presence with support for drinking beer?

Yet another wow.

Finally, the insinuation that I "strive to model our Lord advocating the use of this beverage".

That's quite an imagination you have, there, John.

 
At 8:19 PM, December 22, 2006, Blogger JohnJaxtheBaptist said...

Bob - apparently, I completely missed the point of your post and drew several incorrect inferences. Nevermind. I obviously blew it on this one. Poor communication on my part. I will read more carefully in the future...:)

 
At 8:39 PM, December 22, 2006, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

John:

Been there. Done that.

I met CB Scott that way, in fact. We argued the same side of an issue and went a couple rounds before we figured out what was happening.

Stop in again.

 
At 5:45 PM, December 24, 2006, Blogger Jason said...

I appreciate what you said in #1 and #2. Very well said.

 
At 5:52 PM, December 24, 2006, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Jason: Thanks for looking in and for your comment. I appreciate it.

Some day someone's going to figure out that what the church has been doning, has built what it is. Maybe then they'll figure out how to fix it isn't to do more of what we've done before.

Have a wonderful Christmas.

 

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