A problem with the Church [and my response to ministry criticism]

I have to say that going into this weekend, though I was extremely excited, there was a bit of discouragement that stayed with me.

On Thursday morning I posted a status that spoke about how I was leaving for Toronto later that day. This was my status:
“Today I leave for Toronto to work with xxxChurch at another porn convention. I know for those that are not aware of who/what xxxChurch is, us going to to a porn convention is strange. We are a non-profit that simply wants to help those with sexual addictions as well as tell those who work in and for the sex industry that someone- God- loves them. No matter who you are, you are enough for God. If you want more info ask me or check out xxxchurch.com”.

This Facebook status led to so many people commenting with encouraging words, sending me texts, etc. because they were so happy that someone, a fellow Christian, was going into areas of our world and culture that so many Christians avoid because they have no idea how to outreach to people of the sex industry. However, to my dismay and discouragement, I had one person who questioned the minsitry. What started off as simple questions seemed to evolve into borderline criticism and judgment of the methods of xxxChurch. After a few very clear and polite responses on Facebook- and everyone still being civil- I asked for the conversation to be continued not on social media as conversations can often be misinterpreted and taken out of context.

Now let me just preface this before I continue. As I was getting the comments via Facebook I was on my iPhone minutes away from boarding my plane to Toronto, where I would not have service and would have only limited wifi [Canada surely needs to work on their wifi]. As I am waiting to hear my standby ticket called, I was, to the best of my ability, trying to respond politely, clearly, and correctly as possible. I am sure I could have done a little bit better of a job.

However, after having reread my comments and the later private message with this person, I found myself to have responded exactly as I tried.  What left me discouraged is that this individual did not let the conversation end via the comments on the status. This person, despite my desire to continue to the conversation later in person, privately messaged me their opinions on the ministry and my beliefs. She continued to throwing questions at me, disregarding my desire to speak later as I was literally about to board my flight. She seemingly got a bit more intense and even borderline bullying in her responses. Now granted, I know this person more as an acquaintance, but we have dialogued on the ministry I have been working with.  She was not at all against me or other Christians going to adult industry conventions or strip clubs to do ministry. She was not against us sharing Jesus with people who’ve often never heard of him loving them. What she had a problem with was that with xxxChurch and the other non-profits I am involved with, is that we rarely get to see major conversions of people coming to know Jesus. We have limited time with people at strip clubs, porn shows, etc. Rather than picketing or judging people and telling them they need to repent [that comes later], we want to send one very clear message: Jesus loves _______. With xxxChurch, we fill the blank in with Porn Stars. Jesus loves people, plain and simple. Once we can tell people that Jesus loves them, if they want to or if we feel God nudging us to go deeper, we then share more of the Gospel.

With these kinds of events, we literally have 30 seconds or less with people. We hand them a Bible and say Jesus loves them. We make a choice- tell the love of a God who wants to redeem and restore them or preach repentance and conversion. This is where the individual from Facebook disagreed. I totally understand what she was saying. Repentance is necessary for being a believer in Christ. We must confess our wrongdoings and sin, believe in Jesus and turn our lives toward Him. Totally get it. Totally believe it.  I felt as though this individual would not listen to me once I said our first priority is not speaking repentance. This was actually not the first time we had discussed this ministry. She always seemed mostly supportive but also somewhat critical. Being critical is not necessary wrong as long one learns that we are just as Bible based, gospel-centered as so many churches, ministries or other non-profits. Our methods may look different, but we do not dumb down or distort the Gospel or need for Christ.

It saddened me that once I got to Toronto and was able to check email and Facebook, I saw that this individual deleted all of her comments from my status, blocked me via Facebook and deleted all other contact from me. This woman is a Christian and it broke my heart that she was [and is] allowing such dissension among believers. We are both the Church- the body of Christ- and yet I feel as though she has written not only me off, but so many other people who have ministry that doesn’t look like hers. I believe her intentions were good, but response and reaction definitely did not show the same.

If you, blocked Facebook friend, read this blog somehow, I want you to understand one thing: I love Jesus, I believe he loves people no matter who they are and what they have done. I believe that Jesus can and will redeem anyone that seeks forgiveness and salvation. There is new life in him. I am sorry if you got offended at my not backing down from your criticism. Forgive me if I was harsh or lacked eloquence or clarity in how I explained the ministry. I am sorry if I offended you and especially if I was wrong about calling you hostile, a bully, or condemning- that was the very reason why I believe these kind of discussions should not take place without being in person. I am sincerely sorry for any offense as that was not my intention. I thank you for being bold enough to want to hold other Christians accountable, but please understand that this ministry is legitimate and true to the Word.  We are Jesus going to Samaria. We are the disciples going to the poor. We are Paul speaking to those with the Unknown god. Please don’t be so quick to shut out ministries that have different methods so long as they preach the same salvation through Jesus.

To other pastors, Christians, ministry leaders who read this: don’t be afraid to take a stand for what is right according to God’s Word, but don’t be too proud to admit if you are wrong, critical, or judgmental of another’s ministry. Be the Church, regardless of denomination, gender, or age. Be Jesus’ loving eyes, smile, arms, hands, and feet. Let God’s Word resonate throughout everything you do, be humble enough if you are wrong, and be steadfast in your beliefs.

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