Stop complaining about people you aren’t trying to reach: A rant about ranting.

When was the last time you heard or went on a rant about some general demographic? Foolishly, I often find myself guilty of the very subject of this article. In fact, this short op-ed might come across as a bit of a rant. I prefer to think of it as a challenge to a general demographic, namely, “Christians.”

Either way, it is perfectly biblical to challenge our brothers and sisters who reside within the fold to operate in a more Christlike fashion. The reason for my rant today is that I more often see Christians moan and complain about those outside the fold. I Cor. 5:9–13 makes it pretty clear that we don’t have any business judging those outside the church.

I am continually surprised that so many Christians are surprised when non-believers live in a way that is consistent with non-belief. Many times we give the non-believer a label, deem them as the enemy, complain about them and their “agendas,” and then, worst of all, do absolutely nothing to show them the love of Christ nor share the gospel with them. Some of these common targets of complaining, demeaning and all other manner of unwholesome sentiment include homosexuals, college-students or in general, “the young,” Democrats and/ or “liberals,” etc.

“Well, Klint, should we always support those people and what they ‘stand for?’” Of course not, but you should always love them. And what does your complaining accomplish?

Nothing.

In fact, it is worse than nothing. Continually smack-talking others, whether they are present or not, is counterproductive to advancing the kingdom. It fosters hostility toward those we are called to reach. We should ask ourselves two questions before whining about the outsiders:

1. Is this speech profitable to the kingdom. (This sort of speech is actually very profitable monetarily speaking. Talk radio and cable news have made billions.)

2. Have I actually put any effort into taking the gospel to the people about whom I am talking?

If you can’t answer either of those questions in the affirmative — especially question #2 — then what on earth do you have to complain about other than yourself?

So, when is the last time you got to know a person, made in the image of God, who identifies as gay? Is your church lacking “young people?” When is the last time you had a deep conversation with one where you listened to understand the issues a college student is dealing with and then taken the time to help them through it? And who among us can honestly say that they have ever convinced another human being to change their political vote because of a Facebook post?

There might be a lot less to complain about if we would spend less effort into being offended and more into showing the love of Christ to a lost world.

“Rant,” over.

If you would like to hear Klinton come rant and rave in your church, email lifeinprogressministries@gmail.com

What Boldness is Not

I want to be bold. You know? I want to live a life that makes a difference and one where people don’t have to wonder who I really am or what I believe. I think that’s good. Right?

Lately, as I study the scriptures, I have been encouraged by the boldness of Jesus and His followers. Interestingly, what is standing out to me is what boldness is not.

As a personality expert, I spend an abnormal amount of time analyzing my personality type and it is, in most every way, bold. I’m not afraid to speak my mind (which does come in handy since I am a speaker), wear loud clothing or make decisions and stand by them. But, I’m slowly realizing that a big, loud personality is not the same thing as boldness — at least not boldness that is effective.

So, here are the top 4 things boldness is not:

1) Boldness is not arrogance. If I’m not careful, I can really twist this up. All it takes is a moment of self-righteousness and an attitude that says, “I am right. You are wrong,” to come off as arrogant. Even if those words never come out of your mouth, the attitude of your heart is always evident to others.

2) Boldness is not jumping up to be heard. When I try to visualize what boldness looks like, I see a brave — loud — person standing up in a room full of people and making some controversial, but important statement. Others applaud while some mock or get angry and, I cheer them on. Why? Because I like their courage. (It’s my personality’s issue, again.) But the kind of boldness that matters does not demand a crowd.

3) Boldness is not creating your own flashes of glory. Effective boldness waits and intently watches for opportunities composed by God as grand and divine appointments. Then seizes the moment. It’s more about being obedient and following the leading of the Holy Spirit than trying to manufacture times of intervention.

4) Boldness is not kicking opponents to the curb. Too often, we want to draw lines and pick fights in the name of boldness. When others don’t agree with us, we may think we are being “bold” by taking strong stands and sending challengers packing. We may feel better about ourselves for being so “strong,” but what we haven’t done is made any kind of difference.

So what is effective boldness then?

When I wrote King Hezekiah, Examining a Life of Bold Faith, I discovered a few insights about boldness. Hezekiah was one of the boldest people I’ve ever read about, but he wasn’t arrogant, he wasn’t just trying to make his point — he had to wait on the Lord to put him in a position for effectiveness, and he understood his opposition.

Let me tell you what he was that was so effective in turning the hearts of people: honest.

As soon as Hezekiah was crowned king, his first priority was being honest with the people. He neither sugar coated the mess they were in nor dwelt upon it. Later, when he found himself in desperation, facing death, he was honest before God in prayer. He held nothing back. Later yet, when he faced serious threats from a ruthless enemy, he was honest before God and his people about what could and should be done in order to be victorious. It was his ability to speak truth about circumstances and about God that made him so effective as a leader and as a king. Hezekiah was not perfect, nor did he always do the right thing, but he was truthful before God and before his people, and I believe God honored the integrity of his heart.

That is what boldness means. It means honesty with yourself, with God and with others. It means you have integrity in your heart that produces truth from your mouth.

A young lady I mentor sent me a podcast by Southern Hills Baptist Church in Bolivar, Mo. this week. To my delight, the speaker addressed this issue of boldness. He stressed the point that the biggest differences are made in the lives of others through the small moments when we speak the truth. We don’t need to be scripted, calculated or even prepared. We just need to tell the truth.

For example, when someone asks you how your day is going, tell them the truth. When someone asks you what you think about a controversial issue, tell them the truth. When they want to know how you do what you do and stay happy or sane, tell the truth. In doing so, the true believer and follower of Christ will always point back to Him. Watch this:

How am I doing today? Better than I deserve because God is gracious.

How do I do it? I depend on God for everything. He is my everything.

What do I think about that issue? Well, I do my best to know and trust God’s word and I’ve surrendered to what He has to say about it.

See how that works?

Perhaps if I would shift my energy from trying to impress, remain neutral, be inoffensive or from being fearful of rejection, I could reroute that energy into focusing on simple honesty that points to Christ. That’s bold.

Unacceptable Answers for Your Thinking Teens

I spent Dec. 29–31 at the Youth Alive conference in St. Louis. About 300 students from Missouri youth groups were in attendance. It’s been more than a week since the conference, but I’m still recovering as I was a room sponsor for my home church, was on the Questions and Answers panel, taught a breakout session and played bass in the band. I’d like to share with you something I learned at this conference.

The youth group students in your church are thinking on deeper levels than you realize. They have to think deeply because being labeled as a Christian is not something that generates respect. It generates animosity from the majority of their peers and sometimes from teachers as well. “Christian” teenagers are not given initial labels of “nice,” “good kid,” etc., but rather many teenagers associate Christianity with “judgmental,” “closed-minded,” “bigoted” and possibly “stupid.” The Christian faith is not popularly assumed to be something that is true — it is not even considered morally good even if it was true — and so, for your students to hold firm, they need to be equipped to deal with hard questions. 

Let me give you an example:

In my breakout session, I was speaking on Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (If you don’t know what this is, I implore you to research it. It is the default religion of America, especially teenagers.) to 12-to-18-year-old boys. They understood the material just fine. I asked if anyone had a question, and then I got blind-sided. 

A 12-year-old boy raised his hand and asked in all sincerity something to this effect: “If God doesn’t want people to sin, but He knew that Satan would convince Adam and Eve to sin, and He knew that sin would cause all these terrible things in the world to happen to people, then why did He create Satan and allow him to go into the garden?”

Answer that off of the top of your head right now.

Having any trouble?

Now imagine being a teenager at school and being asked, “If your God is so powerful and loving, why are there children literally starving to death in Africa?” “If your Jesus loves you, why is he letting ISIS murder and rape thousands?” “If your God loves me, why are my parents abusive?” “Why do you Christians care so much about stopping two men or women who love each other from getting married? Isn’t ‘the greatest of these’ love? Aren’t you supposed to love your neighbor as yourself?”

The speaker at the conference is the pastor of a large church in a suburb of St. Louis. He told a story where a teacher at his daughter’s school literally made the class stand on separate sides of the room depending on their stance on same-sex marriage. Only his daughter and two or three others wound up on the opposed side. His daughter was later approached in the hallway by some girls from the class and was informed that because of her position, regardless of the reason, that she was a “f***** b****.”

This is reality for the American Christian teenager. What is your church doing to equip them? Your youth group has to be more than a holding tank with pizza and games before college. It also has to do more than continually preach the dangers of sex, drugs and alcohol. Those things are easy to avoid compared to the intellectual attacks your students are facing.

It is time to focus on the battle for your students’ minds more than just making sure they behave. Right thinking will lead to right behavior.  I’m not going to answer these hard questions in this column, but I’ll give three tips on what students don’t need and do need.

Your students don’t need:

Pat answers: Clichés, clever one-liners and “Christianese” are not helpful. Hard questions need real, thoughtful answers. I sometimes wonder if these are avoided because the faith of the person who is supposed to be the mature Christian is shaken a bit.

You to know everything: You don’t know everything and that’s OK. You want to gain a student’s respect and trust? Learn and live this phrase, “I don’t know, but let’s do some digging and let the Holy Spirit guide us to the answer together.”

Watered-down theology: Youth are not as dumb as they sometimes act. They’re not. They need deep theology now, not when they are older. Big topics take big amounts of time. Go slow. If you want mature students, start feeding them real spiritual meals. Sometimes, we get it backwards and won’t take people off the “milk” until we think they are spiritually grown. How is a person supposed to grow to maturity on a diet of milk alone? Force-feed those kids some meat of the Word.      

Your students need:

Authenticity: Kids can smell a setup from a mile away. Don’t try to be cool. Just be yourself. If you are putting on a show for church, being hypocritical or your answers feel scripted, youth will tune you out.

Training in Christian philosophy: For many, these are uncharted waters. Why would I use the word philosophy? Because philosophy deals with logic and how to think. The world knows how to corner your students into a trap. Your students need to be able to recognize the flaws in logic that lead to the traps. For example, if a teacher asks students to pick sides on a moral issue, it’s likely a trap that will ostracize those on the unpopular side. But what if a student refuses to choose but instead says something like, “Teacher, I’m not going to choose a side unless we can first establish ‘What makes anything wrong with anything?’.”

You to do your homework: Are there things in this article that are foreign to you? Do you know anything about Christian apologetics? If you answered “no,” that’s fine! Just pick a word and go type it in Google and learn. There is always more to learn about the things of God. Force-feed yourself some meat of the Word.

Ultimately, all of these things must be done with the intention of reaching a lost world. Our initial reaction might be to pull away from the world and insulate our youth from it, but they are salt and light to a big mission field. And while it is hard, the gospel living through them still reaches the lost. Right thinking leads to right doing, and right doing gives glory to God, even from the unbeliever. (Matt. 5:16)

Let me finish the story about the girl who had to chose sides on same-sex marriage in class:

A few weeks later, one of the boys from that class, who had sided with the majority approached her in the hallway. He told her that he saw her at a gas station where a homeless man was sitting outside. He saw her go in and come out of the convenience store, but then she sat her car for a few minutes.  She then got out, went back in the store and bought the man a sandwich. He saw her also hand the man something else, hug him and say something in his ear. The boy asked her, “What did you give him? And what did you say?”  She told the boy the same thing as the homeless man; “Jesus loves you,” and handed him a card with the basic outline of the gospel on it.

Now, that boy has spoken up for her and those same girls that had called her a b**** have informed her that they think she is just about the nicest person they know.

Your youth can reach people whom you cannot. Let’s look past their youthful goofiness and invest in their potential.