The producers of the venue had been very specific about it all. He was supposed to submit all notes, slides, verses and any other elements of his sermon beforehand. Show up in a suit and tie, smile often, and wear the ridiculous boyband headset microphone.
He’d declined on all points. Still, he was recommended highly for the Christian Conference, so he got away with it. He was in tennis shoes, jeans and a button down shirt. And he’d talked the sound guys into a real microphone. One you hold. His rebellion was good natured. Most of the other speakers liked him well enough but either thought he was an idiot or envied his chutzpah. He didn’t mind either.
In front of the giant stage was over 100,000 people. Church members from all over, pastors, teachers, scholars, and more. Probably most of them wouldn’t like him much when he was finished. That was all right, too; he knew that less than five years prior, he would have hated hearing what he was about to say just the same.
He stood behind the podium for a moment as the hush settled. Then he walked from behind it, to the edge of the stage. He looked out and waved. That got some chuckles. Then he sat down on the edge of the stage and turned the mic on. There was an echoed thump sound.
“You all well tonight,” he asked. The crowd responded. “Good, good,” he said. “Because you’re gonna be sick by the time I’m done.” He smiled at a rather uncertain crowd. Then, he stood up.
“Have you all lost your minds?” The preacher let the words hang.
“Because that’s all I can figure. Nothing else makes any sense to me, beyond that perhaps you all stopped worshiping God and started worshiping yourselves. And I don’t want to believe that. So I’m going with lost minds. Hearts, too.”
“For the last half hour, you’ve been waving your hands, some of you crying, others with closed eyes, to the sounds of Jesus As My Girlfriend songs, droning to feel good words. The musicians up here are nothing short of professional. Their sound is magnificent and this production team is the best of the best.”
This drew a few hoots and claps.
“But do you really believe God wants to be your boyfriend? Do you really believe that what you’re doing is worship? Yes, it’s clear you do, and wholeheartedly.” Murmurs had begun in the crowd. “Listen,” he said, “this is only going to get tougher. If you want to leave, I understand. Make your way and all is well.”
He waited as a few people walked away, made their way to the exits, found concessions and comfort. That was all right with the preacher, too.
Then he came alive.
“Who do you think you are? To take God and reduce Him to this colluseum spectacle of feelings and dogmatic nonsense? Dogma, I might add, that no longer even parallels the Word you purport to know.
“Who do you think you are, to have the Hubris to ignore history, context, and true knowledge of that Word? You see it as your talisman; you carry it around as such, long having forgotten what it looks like apart from your residual imagery of its words. Fake imagery, false imagery out of sync with God’s wisdom entirely.
“And you are, right now, shocked that I’d have the temerity to ‘judge’ you. Well, relax, friends; I cannot judge, I can only discern. God will judge. And thankfully, He gives us all a chance to escape it. Otherwise, my soul would already be lost.
“But I can discern your actions. That I can do well. And your actions have as of late earned you a new name, far more insulting than the label you wore before, Little Christs.
“You are now The Churchians.”
More people started to leave, while many more drew nearer the stage, fascinated by the man’s bluntness.
“Your talisman tells you that you will be known by your fruit; the result of your beliefs will be obvious to all. Yours is stale, rotten and untended. Weak and ineffectual. We can’t win arguments! How do you expect to ‘win souls,’ you fools? The tragic thing is you never needed argue in the first place. You do not apologize for God, you declare His Truth, then you let Him go to work.”
The preacher almost chuckled as he heard a few quiet but determined ‘amens’ from the remaining.
“Who do you think you are, to police the world? You want to supposedly take back your country, your cities, towns, and neighborhoods. You won’t even cut your cable off, however. What do you want, then? TV FOR JESUS? You whine of morality gone but you buy all that immorality yourselves, your wallet loudly declaring your allegiances.
“And those allegiances are not to God, to country, or to your fellow man. THEY ARE TO YOURSELVES, YOUR NEW GOD.
“It hurts. You think me wrong, you think me arrogant, perhaps heartless and prideful. I am all of these, yes, for I am a man. But I am not wrong. You here know it, else you’d have left with the others.
“If you feel shame, go home and lie with that shame, for you bought it with a heavy, heavy price. I did. For some two years, I ate that shame like a meal daily. Until I had none left to eat. Then I asked myself what greater journey could I EVER take than one set out to find God in His Word, in other cultures, in history, in Time itself. Without the dogmatic adherence to modern thought.
“When you are done worrying about my words, about the anger you feel, go find Him. Really look. Keep looking. Dig. Everyone is running a surface level rat race. You don’t have to. Stop. Let them run. Run right past you. Stand still long enough?
“They’ll pass you again. It’s a cycle. It never ends.
“Stop. Dig. Study to show yourself approved. Eat the shame, conquer your mind, then go out and ask people who say childish things about your God just who they think they are, because by then, you’ll KNOW who you are.
It’s likely you’ll never see me at this conference again, so thank you for listening.”