the mclaughlin group: keith thomas

today i am proud to introduce keith thomas to all my bloggy buddies.  keith is a member of the rarest of all species: the bivocational pastor (that means he is not in the ministry for what he can get).  keith and his wife, judy, have pastored for many years while keith has held a high-level position with the government.  due to a series of physical setbacks in his family, keith recently resigned his church and has been worshipping with us.  keith has proven to be a real friend to me (i sense genuine emphathy in keith, and i exploit it at every opportunity).  keith is a great preacher, and i’m sure you will enjoy his writing as well.

i simply asked keith for his perspective of the current condition of the church in america.  here is his response: 

It is with great humility and trepidation that I answer Randy’s request for my thoughts on the state of the church. The previous articles rightly posit that the format or delivery method for the gospel must and will change. I don’t think I can add anything of value to their call for reexamining our methods of telling people about Jesus.

What I see missing is a clear call to a higher standard of living. We have become so fearful of being legalists or losing our freedom in Christ that we’re afraid to challenge anyone or anything. When I joined the Navy, back when the earths crust was cooling, the head of the Navy was a man named Admiral Zumwalt. Recruitment and reenlistment in the Navy was very low as result of the Vietnam war. Admiral Zumwalt instituted a series of changes designed to make the Navy more user friendly. He relaxed the hair and dress codes, designed barracks and living quarters to be more like college dorm rooms, and directed officers to find a way to maintain discipline but be more friendly and accessible. These changes backfired. People began to leave at an alarming rate and their reasoning was universal. This isn’t what we were looking for in life. We joined the military because we wanted military discipline and lifestyle. If we wanted to live like college room mates we would have chosen that.

I see the same sentiment in the church in America. I believe people are looking for a call to a higher standard of living. They don’t want their lives to be the same. That’s why they come to us in the first place. We tell them about Jesus and being saved then, once saved, they don’t see any fundamental differences. Being Christ-like is not about nice people doing nice things. It is about being transformed or changed by the renewing of our minds.

Many times in scripture Jesus said, “Don’t be like the Pharisees.” Paul went to the head apostle of the church, Peter, saying, “You’re a hypocrite. You’re in sin.” I wonder how long it’s been since a pastor, deacon or Sunday school teacher, following biblical principles, went to someone to say, “What you’re doing is wrong. Let me share with you the biblical standard for this area in your life.” Would some get mad and leave? Absolutely! I believe more would grow to the point where they are thankful. I’ll close with Proverbs 27:5 “Better is open rebuke than hidden love.  6 Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses. 7 He who is full loathes honey, but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet.”

well said, keith.  thank you for your gracious words.

i am seeing a common thread in the thought processes of each of our guest bloggers: the church has suffered irreparable harm because people who call themselves christians profess a great deal more than they demonstrate.  well, dear readers, what shall we do about it?

my problem is that i have discovered (through experience after painful experience) that i am able to change absolutely no one.  i’ve been married to the same woman for 32 years and i can’t even change her.  and she loves me (or so she claims).  when it comes to life changes, i have sufficient influence over precisely one life…mine.  that’s all.  period.

so i guess i’ll stop whining about how carnal all of you are and get about the business of changing me.

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4 thoughts on “the mclaughlin group: keith thomas

  1. Good words Keith.

    I have been thinking quite a lot about this lately. It seems that church leaders (at least many I know, myself included) have spent a great deal of time and effort trying to figuring out how to get unchurched people to feel comfortable in church.

    It seems to me that if unchurhced people do show up, they are doing so because they expect something to be different, something that resembles sacred.

    Efforts to change the church may be well intentioned, and they may acutally be good…I just wonder if we are shooting ourselves in the foot by not focusing on what Christ would have us be. (Another conversation…another time).

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  3. Hey Randy, met you after section 9 council at lunch a few weeks ago and started reading your blogs. Very intriguing, I must say.

    This topic has really been taking up a lot of my thoughts lately. In two weeks I will get my license with the AG and some people, even family keep giving me a hard time about joining with it. I will begin by saying that no church is perfect, even the AG. It is funny that Keith put it that society is looking for something different from the church, but there are people within the church criticizing other churches because we “haven’t caught up with society” and we are “excluding people.” Why is it that “members” of the body of Christ, to put it loosely, are criticizing others because we still believe in taking what the Bible says as a sin, and still call it a sin in today’s society. It is sad that the church tries to make the Bible relevant to today’s society by taking away as it chooses to make it more consumer friendly. I used to believe that it was just cults that did that, but I was certainly naive about that.

    It is amazing to me that for some of the most profound scriptures in the Bible, I have never once heard a sermon preached over them. Maybe because these are the scriptures that should truly inspire one to live to the fullest potential that one has in Christ. But, is that pushing the “boundaries” that church is supposed to have in people’s lives?

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