I've written extensively on unhealthy Christian organizations, so I appreciate it when Christian leaders are writing on issues of organization dynamics. Here, Tony Morgan gives some indicators or poor health. (You also might find his article, "A Culture of Honor is Hurting Churches" to be helpful regarding Christian organizational health.)
I recently finished reading The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business by Patrick Lencioni. If you ever wondered what I do to help churches with their strategy and structure, this book captures the core from a business perspective. That said, there are many truths that apply across any organization including the church.
I had well over 100 highlights by the time I finished reading, but here are the top ten that grabbed my attention...with my color commentary in brackets. In fact, you could view these as:
- Inattention to Organizational Health
- Adrenaline Addiction
- Leadership Team Disunity
- Artificial Harmony
- Prioritizing Consensus
- Not Answering the Key Questions
- Being All Things to All People
- Poor Vision Casting
- Hiring the Wrong People
- Ineffective Meetings
I have had a few run ins with the haters at Westboro Baptist Church (which is neither "Baptist" nor a "church"). My desk nameplate says, "Lying Whore False Prophet" in honor of their nickname for me. Well, I have to say, I found this blog post to hit it on the head. And, yes, using these criteria, I believe that God does indeed hate Westboro Baptist Church. Now, that does not mean that God hates the people, but it is hard to read these verses and not come to the conclusion that God hates the sin that is Westboro Baptist.
I recently read that the Westboro group is planning to picket the vigil of the Connecticut school shooting victims. As I read that report, I immediately thought about the message of hate that the group will spread during a time of great sorrow and grief. The WBC message is full of hate and void of grace. As I considered their commitment to spread a message of hate, it occurred to me that they should personally apply their own message before taking it to the streets. Is it possible that God hates Westboro Baptist Church?
The Bible refers to God's hatred toward sin. God's hatred is controlled, calculated, and righteous. You never see God in a fit of uncontrolled rage. However, God's fury and wrath is something to greatly fear for all unbelievers. That message is abundantly clear in Scripture. Consider the following statements about God's hatred.
In Proverbs 6:16-19 the Bible says:
There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,  a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil,  a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.
Out of this list of things that are an abomination to the LORD, WBC is certainly guilty of several of these points on an ongoing basis.
- WBC appears to be guilty of having haughty eyes (a state of self exaltation).
- WBC is guilty of having a lying tongue.
- WBC may not be guilty of shedding innocent blood, but they appear to be guilty of 1 John 3:15 which states, "Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him."
- WBC is guilty of devising wicked plans.
- WBC appears to be guilty of being swift to run to evil.
- WBC is guilty of being a false witness who breathes out lies.
- WBC is guilty of sowing discord with their hateful signs and messages.
Before Westboro Baptist Church shows up in Connecticut with signs that read "God hates you" - perhaps they should consider the possibility that God hates Westboro Baptist Church. Before they go and preach for people to repent, perhaps they should practice what they preach. Before they scream out to crowds of people to fear God's coming judgment, perhaps they should fear God's coming judgment. Self righteousness is a powerful trap - and one that entraps many people.
I am a big fan of of Matthias Media, connected to the Sydney Anglicans (and was honored they would let me preach at Moore College while I was in Australia last year). Well, Phillip Jensen (founder of Matthias) has a helpful article about atheists and Christmas.
This Christmas the American Atheists have posted a large billboard in Times Square New York. It has two pictures: one of Santa Claus and the other of Jesus on the cross. The captions under the pictures are "Keep the Merry" and "Dump the Myth". Apart from having the captions under the wrong pictures, the sentiment is one I agree with.
Christmas is a merry season that is based on truth, not myth. Confusing the truth with myth doesn't help people understand the event, or experience the merriment. Santa Claus is an ever growing and developing myth. It is possibly based on some fact, lost to any serious historical research. St Nicholas is said to have been born in AD 270, and became a bishop in Myra. He is reputed to have suffered and been imprisoned under the persecution of Diocletian and subsequently attending the Council of Nicaea in AD 325. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church says that this is "most improbable, as he is not in any of the early lists of bishops present at the Council, nor referred to in the writings of Athanasius." Indeed the Dictionary goes so far as to state that "scarcely anything is historically certain about him". The earliest reference to him is a church built in his honour in AD 565, and his popularity only rose after his supposed remains were moved to Bari, in Southern Italy in AD 1087. The mythical quality of Santa Claus has increased over the last century through American advertising campaigns. Today, he is one of the most treasured and universal icons of Western civilisation--promising to generously give gifts to good children.
In comparison to this, the historical evidence for the death of Jesus is overwhelming. It is widely referred to during the first century. The very earliest Christian writings build their arguments on the basis of his crucifixion. Some of these were written within 20 years of the event. Non-Christian writings (both Jewish and Roman) also refer to his death by crucifixion.
Even sceptical scholars accept that Jesus was crucified. After all, it is an extraordinary idea to have the Messiah killed. Who would have expected such an outcome? Yet it is in his death, and subsequent resurrection, that the merriment of Christianity is found, as Christians claim to find forgiveness and new life in Jesus' death and resurrection.
The difference between Jesus and St Nicholas is not only in the historical evidences but also in their meaning. One man comes like a cargo cult, as the smiling face of our malignant materialism; rewarding morality by giving gifts only to good children. The other does not give gifts but himself - and not for the good, but for the bad, for he came to not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. His gift means forgiveness and a fresh start.