Tag: poneros

Competitive Christian Blogging Sucks

Over the course of many years in Christian ministry, I have discovered there is a thick, competitive spirit in virtually every aspect of it. Our consumer-driven, Americanized Christian culture has been a primary fuel that has led many in ministry to utilize the cause of Christ for personal gain and ministry empire building—at times, myself included. Sadly, the fame-seeking sentiment communicated by Bob Wallace in the iconic movie White Christmas is highly relevant in describing much of the modern scene that is Christian ministry, “everyone is working an angle.”

The competitive currents circling within the oceans of Christian ministry can be so strong at times, it’s hard not to get pulled into its spin unaware. Soon, your entire sense of worth, success, and value as a person, Christian, and minister subtly becomes connected to the numbers—baptisms, budgets, book deals, attendance charts, speaking engagements and the like—been there, done that, have the t-shirt.

Less than a year ago, I began to write seriously as a blogger, focusing on communicating a voice of advocacy for those disillusioned and harmed by conservative Christianity—namely the de-churched, spiritually marginalized, religiously condemned, and LGBT communities. Somehow, in stepping back into the world of Christian ministry in a fresh way, I believed things would be different. Perhaps within these circles, the nobility, urgency, and plight of these causes would leave little to no room for the onset of a competitive spirit among those who seek to be a light in the darkness.

Yet, after I reached out to a few highly prominent, progressive bloggers for their wisdom and guidance, sadly, most of what I heard was centered around gaining followers, watching how many hits your website gets, and how to package your writing for greatest appeal while harnessing your personal branding. One of the top challenges asserted… how to transform subscribers into financial contributors. I have to admit, at first, I got a bit caught up in the allure of it all. My writing was gaining a good bit of attention and once again, the apple of “ministry success” was dangling all so deliciously in front of me.

That is, until the cold splash of water. A highly beloved, popular, Christian blogger clearly, intentionally, and knowingly criticized and sought to undermine me in front of my audience. The ego and purposefulness of their actions was so obvious that others reached out to me in shock. It was then that I realized, we’re not in Kansas anymore. The wild wild West of Christian ministry had indeed pushed up a stool within the saloon of my new blogging venture, revealing to me a clear problem that not only exists, but that I too could potentially become.

To be sure, I am certainly now fully aware of my gross naiveté, but back then, I truly never thought that within the arena of Christian blogging, especially among progressive circles, there would be personalities and ministries more territorial and exclusive than the Mafia in Vegas.

I find it interesting that in the New Testament, the word translated as “evil” has a deeper meaning. The Greek word “poneros” actually means, “full of labors.” When the Biblical writer asserts, “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God,” the evil that is being referred to points to one who is not stereotypically carnal, denying, or doubting, but rather one who is full of labors—a person who is seeking to make a name for themselves, who embodies a kind of internal striving to produce something worthy of their life, a performance-driven mentality that looks to one’s abilities for the procurement of success. It’s the heart that concludes… my identity, worth, and closeness with God are intrinsically tied to my achievement, skill, and performance. One may never say it that way, but so many of us are living that way—self-aggrandizement, self-improvement, self-actualization. Call it what we will… “best practices,” “excellence,” “ministry effectiveness,” “promotion,” “radical Christianity,” “faithfulness,” “personal branding,” “marketing,” or “platform building.” When it’s done out of spirit of success-gaining, ministry empire-building, or competitiveness, it not only sucks, but God calls it “evil”—everyone and everything subtly becoming a leverage towards a personal ministry future of our envisioning and creating. It’s the difference between a dream and a scheme, and sadly, many of us in ministry are doing more scheming than dreaming. The same narcissistic erosion that has engulfed the contemporary Christian music industry I fear is beginning to sink its claws into the Christian blogging world. If only we can pump the breaks before we all are neck deep in the ditch.

As humans, it’s easy to medicate our insecurities with the pursuit of ministry “success.” In a performance-driven, church-franchising, personal ministry empire-building, consumer-addicted Christian culture, this becomes even more alluring and deceptively tempting.

I guess it’s unrealistic to think that any aspect of Christian ministry would be devoid of the exclusive “cool leaders” lunch table to which only the select are welcome and invited. Yet, that is all the more reason why voices like Michael Hardin, Brian Zahnd, Daisy Rain Martin, Susan Berland, Matthew Distefano and Robert and Susan Cottrell, to name only a few, are such a breath of fresh air, giving hope and a sure example upon which to aspire.

The day that the sun sets on competitive Christian blogging (and ministry) will be a beautiful day.

May the coming of that future begin with me, and begin with you.

Is Your Christian Life, Evil?

Most of us who are people of faith would probably never think nor consider the idea that our Christian lives could in fact become, “evil.” Most of us try to live in such a way that moves past the temptations of darkness and its work in this world.

Yet, when we look at how God defines evil, we may discover the sobering reality that the very thing we purpose to avoid is the very thing our Christian life has in fact become… evil.

The word used for “evil” in the New Testament is poneros. Every time the word “evil” appears in the New Testament, “poneros” is used. When we think of evil or people who are evil, our minds gravitate to dark visions of things that are bad or carnal. Yet, the idea that “evil” is simply an immoral, malicious, or devilish type reality is highly misleading, and quite frankly, a spiritual copout.  

In Paul’s letter to the Hebrews, we see a reference to a person having an “evil heart…”

Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God. -Hebrews 3:12

What does a person with an evil heart look like? What are the hallmarks of their living?

The answer could very well send you into a tailspin of shock.

The word “poneros,” actually means… full of labors.

Being “full of labors” is the idea of living to make things happen out of self-effort, a kind of internal striving to produce something good or worthy out of your life. It’s the performance-driven mentality that looks to one’s abilities for a better future or the procurement of success. It’s the busy-with-things-to-do-and-become mindset. It’s the heart that concludes… my identity, worth, and closeness with God are intrinsically tied to my achievement, skill, and performance. One may never say it that way, but so many of us are living that way. Self-promotion, self-improvement, self-actualization. “Seven steps to success,” “Become all you can be,” “Take your life to the next level.” It’s the Christian with their spiritual to-do lists of tasks, rules, and rituals used to feel like peace with God and affirmation of self is theirs for the taking. It’s the foundation of the religious spirit that is so prevalent in many a Church and Christian in our western culture today. Call it what you will… “best practices,” “excellence,” “changing the world,” “radical Christianity,” “faithfulness,” “vision,” “discipleship,” “spiritual maturity,” “leadership,” or “obedience.” When it’s done out of spirit of labor, God calls it… “evil.”

Oh snap.

In the opening lines of the book of Genesis, God rested on the seventh day of His creative work. Better yet, He set that day apart as being Holy. Why? Because God associates holiness with resting.

By resting, I’m not talking about doing nothing or having zero responsibilities, rather about living from an internal foundation of trust and faith that believes God’s finished work on the cross is enough for every aspect of your life. Your value, your worth, your merit, your entire essence. It’s a posture, a state of emotional and spiritual centering that relies on God’s work, favor, and provision completely above our own. It’s the realization that our part is to realize we really have no part, only to believe. His performance defines us, not ours.

Simply put, to believe is to rest. To labor… is evil.

In fact, the only labor that fits in the Christian life is to work hard at… resting…

Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. –Hebrews 4:11

Sadly, we have become a people full of labors. We say we believe, yet we worry. We say we trust, yet we strive and push to move things forward in our life. Leveraging relationships here, working angles there. We talk about forgiveness and being forgiven, yet we live in fear, guilt and shame. Racing to do more good than bad and somehow right our wrongs. We speak of Grace, yet we mix it with rules, regulations, rituals, conditions, and obligations. We proclaim the work of God in the past and present, but we rely on our efforts for the future, nonetheless.

We are full of labors, not rest. Goals not gratitudes. Striving and trying, not trusting. Performing, achieving, pushing, promoting, and stressing, not believing.

Consider Job in the Bible.

What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me.  I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.” -Job 3:25-26

Fear is built out of unrest. And where there is unrest, turmoil is just around the corner. Where did this stressful existence of turmoil come from, for Job?

When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would make arrangements for them to be purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom. -Job 1:5

Are you kidding me? Do you see it? Job is laboring day in and day out, doing something spiritual in hopes of protecting his children from an imagined reality with God that he fears. Let’s all try to get our heads around this. It was a spiritual pursuit that began his downward spiral into a state of turmoil and further unrest. He feared for his children, but instead of believing and trusting, he decided to labor his way through it as an attempt to take control of the situation and make things right.

Oh snap.

Ironically, as Christians, it is often spiritual looking things that we are doing that bring us into a further state of unrest, stress, and ultimate disbelief. Why? Because we are not living from a foundation of faith, but of fear, selfishness, and insecurity. Our spiritual song-and-dance maybe be fooling everyone else and even ourselves, but God is not fooled.

It’s evil.

Just look around at how many over scheduled, burnt-out, stressed, worrying, performance-driven, self-righteous, self-promoting, guilt-ridden, judgmental, religiously-spirited Christians there are. And this is what we hold up as the model, the goal, the essence of our faith walk.

For Job, something so spiritual looking was actually so ladened with evil. And dare I say, this is what is happening throughout American Christianity today. Our Christian lives have become, evil.

The holiest, most spiritual thing you can ever do is to rest in faith.

Your greatest responsibility is to rest in faith, believing the work of God in and through your life has already been accomplished on the cross. You are already a success. You are already whole. You are already faithful. You are are already complete. You, were one and done on the cross.

As you believe, and only as you believe, watch it all flow from you. Like rivers, quenching a dry land.

When we we rest, and only when we rest, the true work of God gets released through us.

This, is the way of Jesus.

To believe is to rest, to labor… is evil.

© 2019 Chris Kratzer

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