We had a great week-end at Northside this week-end. I heard that over 50 people watched our webcast on its second week and we are just beginning to advertise it! We had a great spirit in both our morning services as I spoke from Titus 1:1-4. (You can watch the celebration service here.)
Last night, I was able to do some training with around 50 of our Bible Fellowship Teachers. I thought the fact that the Carolina Panthers were playing during the evening hour, there would be a light turnout. I was wrong I cant see that it affected us one bit which makes me proud of our folks not letting a football game change their pattern of worship and training. As it turns out, they didnt miss much anyway.but theres always next year!
Ive had a few folks ask me about the hullabaloo around the newly released movie End of the Spear which is the story of martyrdom of Jim Elliot, Nate Saint and three other missionaries in the Amazon jungle fifty years ago. It was recently revealed that one of the lead actors in the movie is Chad Allan an open homosexual and an advocate of radical homosexual causes. The company that produced the movie ETE Productions (Every Tribe Entertainment) is a self-described Christian entertainment country allegedly designed to promote cinema and other entertainment opportunities which would have a Christian worldview. Additional questions arose questioning the lack of a clear presentation of the gospel in the movie.
People I respect and admire have rallied others around their disappointment in ways that range from letters of question or condemnation to pseudo-boycotts. This all seems to have come to a head in the last few weeks. Now for my part in the saga.
A couple of years ago, Steve Saint, son of one of the martyred missionaries Nate Saint spoke at the Shepherds Conference at Grace Community Church (John MacArthur). One of my dearest friends and others who were there told me that Steves testimony was electrifying and challenging. On somewhat of a lark, I decided to contact Steve to see if he would be willing to come to Northside as a keynote speaker for our Global Outreach Conference which we hold the last week in February. To be my delight, he accepted an invitation and will be speaking at our Celebration Services on the last Sunday in February. I had no idea at the time that a movie was being made, that Steve would release a book by the same title or that there would be any unusual attention on his sttendance other than that garnered from his personal story.
I am delighted that Steve will be in our services in February. I have not, for a second, entertained any thought that I wouldnt be anything but delighted or that I would make any changes in our plans. I have not seen the movie, but I have every intention of doing so. My friends who have seen the movie have told me it is wonderful, powerful and stirring. In fact, Ive been amazed at how they and others have discovered that folks who have seen the movie, upon finding that Steve is scheduled to come to our church, have indicated that they plan on coming to hear his story personally. It looks like many will attend services that day just to hear and meet him some that are unchurched and unsaved.
What are my feelings on the controversy? Let me sum them up briefly.
1. Im generally not surprised when unbelievers act like unbelievers. Therefore, it really doesnt surprise me to find out that Chad Allen is gay any more than it surprised me that a Catholic portrayed Jesus, that it was rumored that one of the player in the Passion was gay or that divorce or promiscuity is rampant among the vast majority of actors and actresses.
2. Im disappointed that Every Tribe Entertainment lacked the discernment evidenced by their decision to hire a homosexual activist to portray an evangelical folkhero. It either shows an appalling deafness to how many conservative Christians think or a disturbing absence of wisdom and discretion.either way, its really quite a blunder. But again, most people wrapped up in the Hollywood culture are not known for their possession of a keen sense of moral absolutes.
3. I think Steve Saints comments regarding Chad Allen were the gracious words of someone who knows he cant change what has already occurred, but at the same time recognizes that he might have the opportunity to reach someone who is obviously not a real follower of Jesus Christ. What would he have gained had he made a big stink about this? On the other hand, do you think hell be able to talk and converse with Mr. Allen due to his gentle response? It kind of reminds me of the times when Jesus spoke to the woman at the well in Sychar or to the woman caught in adultery.
4. A movie is just that a movie. A portrayal by people pretending to be people that they usually have never met and certainly do not know if the person they are portraying ever existed at all. Its fantasy, acting, imagination. Its NOT a sermon. Its not Scripture. Its not Truth. Call me simple, but I dont watch movies expecting them to be true. I do enjoy them for their entertainment value and their ability to provoke thought and conversations but rarely more than that. I felt that way about the Passion and I feel that way about The End of the Spear. Its just a movie.
5. I love and appreciate people who want to take stands on moral issues, cultural trends and other issues. But I also think that we at times tend to be reactionary and at times excessive in our rhetoric. I dont think Jason Janz (the individual who first and best made this situation public in the blogosphere) has been rhetorically excessive. I think he makes a valid point. I think communicating his thoughts to ETE was a wise thing to do. Beyond that, I dont know that it matters all that much.
That said, I plan on seeing the movie. Im very much looking forward to Steve Saints visit to our church. I was touched as a boy by the books written about these martyrs and I hope my children will be touched as well. Everyone who knows me or our church knows where we stand on homosexuality. That said, I hope and believe that Chad Allen will be called by the Holy Spirit to repentance better by our love and gentle, but straight words of truth more readily than through a good sound thrashing by over-wrought rhetoric. Speaking the Truth in love is an effective strategy and it also happens to be Biblical.
On other topics
For NorthsidersIm a little ticked off at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association for having successfully recruited our beloved Director of Food Services from our ministry to join theirs. They tried to do so a couple of years ago and were unsuccessful. Unfortunately, this time they were. Stephen will be enjoying a significantly lighter work load in his new spot and were happy for the changes that will foster for him and his wife. Were still looking forward to his ministry to us at the organ and in other ways across the Northside campus.
Again for Northsiderswere all looking forward to a fun time Saturday as we groom out the road bed for our new connection roads which will be part of our major parking lot reconstruction project this year. If you havent let us know you are going to be helping out, please call the church switchboard right away. If you want to bring tools, we suggest rakes, perhaps some wheelbarrows, gloves, lopping shears and light chainsaws (only if you are experienced using them). Youll want to wear work boots as well as it is a bit muddy back in the woods. Well have biscuits in the a.m. and lunch a little after noon.
Today marks the anniversary of the infamous Roe vs. Wade anniversary.one of the darkest days in American history. The blood of 40 million babies cries for relief from the abortion mills of this country. An entire generation of young people with potential, souls and individual gifts has been lost forever. Lets pray that new Supreme Court Justices Roberts and Alito take a stand for life in the future and that drifting and weak-willed Justices like Justice Kennedy realize that they have a responsibility to protect the lives of the pre-born. I hope that every adoptive parent will join me in thanking the Lord for those birthmothers who chose life for their infants and have graced so many Christian homes with beautiful children.
Im out of time for tonight, but will try to update this blog as possible in the coming week.