say what you mean. don’t be mean when you say it.

facebook I dont want to see thisI cut waaay back on facebook over the last few months. Derisive sarcasm and hate were saturating my news feed, weighing and wearing me down.

As I tentatively become more active again, one of my new facebook practices is to select “I don’t want to see this” whenever I read a post declaring that something somebody said or wrote or tweeted “destroyed” something another person said, wrote or stood for. (or similar language)

These kind of smack-down statements are usually only true if you completely ignore or rule out every other aspect of a complex issue other than the one the destroyer targets.

“Destroyed” (and words like it) is the kind of inflammatory language that triggers pointless, unresolvable bickering. It doesn’t invite or facilitate open dialog. Rather, it takes the potential for conversation that might lead divisive people to discover common ground and crops it to a trite soundbite that ends in a period or an exclamation point, or worse yet – “BAM!”

If divisive issues were truly simple, there wouldn’t be so much controversy over them. #edify

“It is the mark of an educated mind
to be able to entertain a thought
without accepting it.” Aristotle

Ephesians 4 29 Bible

say what you mean, but don’t be mean when you say it.

I’ve been saying that for years. To my kids, to students and to myself, whenever the situation calls for it. It’s one of my idioms.

Ephesians 429This afternoon, I read an article about a controversial subject in which the writer gave the distinct impression that anyone who doesn’t agree with them is ignorant.

Not ignorant in an uninformed or misguided way. There was no attempt to inform or guide. The writer declared “palpable and inescapable love” for God and their neighbor, but as I read, I found myself thinking of the word contempt, not love.

The examples were taken to an extreme, seemingly in an effort to evidence the stupidity and expressions of hate by anyone who believes differently.

For the purposes of this post, the issue itself is irrelevant. I personally didn’t identify with either side of the specific issue being written about. The idea that no other (more complicated) possibilities of thought or action exist is implausible.

Issues under debate are not simple. If they were simple, there wouldn’t be so much debate.

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“Christ-centered Church.” I do not think it means what you think it means.

This is the 9th post of a series. CLICK HERE to view a page listing all the posts in the series.

oh, go ahead. click the youtube video. It’s 7 seconds.

Lemme ‘splain. No, there is too much. Lemme sum up.

When I talk about “preaching Christ”
I am NOT talking about preaching
“everybody is a sinner and they need Jesus or they’re going Hell.”

This is something we need to get out of the way before I continue. Purge this assumption from your mind. It is an obstacle to the actual message I’m trying to convey. A misleading tangent. A stumbling block. A wrong assumption.

So I need to say it again, louder.

When I talk about “preaching Christ”
I am NOT only talking about preaching
“everybody is a sinner and they need Jesus or they’re going Hell.”

My point, from the very beginning of this blog series is this:

and I WANT IT.

Is that whole “preaching Christ means preaching about getting saved” thing gone?


okay, lemme ‘splain.

I’ve gotten some very eclectic feedback on this blog series. One of the reasons I held off hitting the publish button for as long as I did was that I knew that what I had written was filled with the potential to confuse, discourage and tick people off just as much as it had the potential to wake up, inspire and encourage people.

I wondered. Would I hear crickets? Would anybody even read it? Would anybody want to talk to me about what I’d written? Or would it make people so uncomfortable around me they would avoid eye contact and walk the other direction when they saw me coming? Would something I’d written hurt someone? Make them angry? Would people tolerate my ideas if they were different than their own? Would I be dismissed with the silent treatment? Would ANYone identify with me? Would ANYone agree with me?

The answer?


But one thing I didn’t expect was that some people would think that by saying I wanted a “Christ-centered” church and that I wanted my pastor to “preach Christ” I was saying I wanted every sermon to be like this:

or worse yet, like this: (be sure and read it with a southern accent and yell the one syllable words that have morphed into two syllable words ending in “ah.”)



That is NOT what I’m talking about.

and yet, in spite of everything I had written, that’s what some readers were coming away with.

I’m telling you. It was driving me nuts. I went back over my Christ-centered posts again and again and I didn’t SEE it. I could NOT find it.


I didn’t.

Kudos to my friend “Flutterby43” for reminding me about decoding. Sad, really. I was a communication major. I should have remembered this.

encoding and decoding

Encoding is, to simplify it, the words and pictures I use to convey my message. DEcoding is how that message is interpreted. The constant here is that the encoding of my message is the same for everyone who is reading my blog posts. The variables are the personal filters that my message has to make it through as people interpret (decode) that message. The discrepancies in those interpretations are due to the fact that sometimes my message isn’t making it through the decoding process unscathed by those personal filters.

Translated? We all have baggage, people. And sometimes, that baggage leads us to interpret – or decode – messages in messages that aren’t really there. I’ve done it. We’ve all done it. We’ll all do it again.

But this time, I got some feedback about this message.

Here’s the conversation that finally led me to figure it out:

Flutterby43: “My quiet, introverted nature gravitates toward a more contemplative worship style, and I would be overwhelmed and, yes, SCARED by fire and brimstone – but I totally get where you’re coming from.”

Me: “Your comment “fire and brimstone.” Where does that come from? You’re not the first person to take that away. What did I say that caused you to think that? I can’t find it. I don’t see it.”

Flutterby43: “You didn’t use the term – That’s just my phraseology – honestly, if I had a pastor telling me every week that I needed Jesus, because I’m a hopeless sinner, it’d get old. (Again, that’s just my interpretation of what you’re saying) I know I need Jesus. I know I’m a sinner. But I’m just not an “in your face” kinda gal. I tend to beat myself up on my own – if I heard that every week, I’d come away from church feeling so bad about myself, I’d probably just crawl into bed and never leave the house!” (emphasis added)

Me:ahhhhhhhh. Thank you! That was driving me crazy. I think I get it. “Preaching Christ” gives the impression that I’m talking about evangelism. and it appears evangelism means “fire and brimstone” and “turn or burn” to some people. I REALLY need to finish this series. I still haven’t gotten through what I mean by Gospel and preaching Christ. I thought I clarified that I wasn’t just talking about evangelism, in my post “the gospel is more than evangelism,” but I need to hurry up and explain – more and better.

There’s more to Christ than salvation.

I knew when I started posting this series that it was long and that it would take me a while to get through it, but I didn’t think through how the drawn out nature of the process could lead to premature and incorrect assumptions about my point.

My bad.

The fact is, some people are going to run my message through their personal internal filters and think I am saying:

“I want to hear fire and brimstone turn or burn sermons every week. And every chance they get, I think everybody in my church should tell all their friends (and strangers) that if they don’t repent they’re going to hell! And when they don’t, they should feel really guilty about it. It’s just more evidence that everybody is a horrible, hopeless sinner and bad Christian.”

That’s NOT what I’m saying. Thankfully, from the feedback I’m receiving, I’m confident that some people are identifying with what I actually AM saying – my true message is resonating with them.

But here’s the thing, now that I know there are some people are going to interpret the words “Christ-centered” as “fire and brimstone turn or burn evangelism”, it’s MY RESPONSIBILITY TO MODIFY MY ENCODING in an effort to clarify my message and minimize any misinterpretation.

So, I’m holding off on my story for a little longer. I’ve got some encoding work to do.

To read the next post in this series, click here: F5. How many people like me? F5. How many people like me?

Ephesians 4 29Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Ephesians 4:29 (ESV)

“Everything is made to center upon the initial act of “accepting” Christ . . . and we are not expected thereafter to crave any further revelation of God to our souls. We have been snared in the coils of a spurious logic which insists that if we have found Him we need no more seek Him. This is set before us as the last word in orthodoxy, and it is taken for granted that no Bible-taught Christian ever believed otherwise. Thus the whole testimony of the worshipping, seeking, singing Church on that subject is crisply set aside. The experiential heart-theology of a grand army of fragrant saints is rejected in favor of a smug interpretation of Scripture which would certainly have sounded strange to an Augustine, a Rutherford or a Brainerd.”
The Pursuit of God (free on Kindle from Amazon)
by A. W. Tozer.

This is the 9th post of a series. CLICK HERE to view a page listing all the posts in the series.