"For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light(for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord."
— Ephesians 5.8-10 ESV
This article is a sequel of sorts to "Giving Good Service", but this one is not about our employment. In that article, I discussed how followers of Jesus should be bringing him honor by remembering that he is the one we are ultimately working for and not just Mr. Greedyfingers that signs our paychecks. So, we should do our best in our jobs to bring glory to God.
One additional note that may have belonged in that original article is that some Christians wear it on their sleeves, so to speak. They get showy and announce, "Hey, you're going to be glad you hired me, I'm a Christian!", and then they proceed to do lousy work. In some cases, the employer begins to wonder if it is a bad idea to hire Christians! If we consistently gave good work, then it would be true, the employer could very well become glad to hire Christians. Unfortunately, it is not the case.
It is not just in employment that believers are lacking. So often, Christian products and services leave a great deal to be desired. Recently, I gave a CD of Christian music to a friend. She was hesitant, because she had heard Christian music before, and the quality was absent. Well, that was true in many cases of early "Contemporary Christian Music", which had good intentions and enthusiasm but not very many skilled producers and engineers; secular experts were often needed. Today, yes, there is definitely quality in the field.
When I read reviews of Christian movies, many of them are panned because the acting, the writing and the production values are lackluster at best. (However, some of the critics are atheists who want to bring down the total scores by giving one-star reviews, so watch out for the extremes, which are suspect.) Some of the criticisms are justified, others are from people who have preconceptions of what comprises a "good" movie. I can tell you of several that I have seen that seemed to be a good ideas at the time, but had poor execution.
The first two examples, music and movies, involve having the money to make a good product in the first place. Sometimes, you just have to do the best with what you have, including a low budget. Some movies are genuinely good, despite bad reviews. Other times, you want to ask, "Did you seek God's will before you made that dreadful product?"
I listen to radio shows that are podcast. Some of them are very badly done. I know that they exist to spread their message and not dazzle me with entertainment, but how about a bit of basic radio engineering skill? One microphone is too hot and distorted, the other is too low. Things like that.
Christians are sloppy in business practices, especially in dealing with the public. There are major ministries that I have corresponded with, and they failed miserably. One had a discussion board, and the "unsubscribe" button did not work. Someone promised to fix it for me, but instead, I had to block it from my e-mail account! Another one replied to my e-mail, said they would forward my question to someone else — and I never heard about it again. But I did get an appeal for money. In other instances, I have asked questions or given information, but received no reply. What would have happened with someone who was not a well-grounded believer, or a seeker? That opportunity may have been lost because of carelessness, and the person may have felt pushed away.
What about "us regular people"? We should be giving excellence in all areas. I have received too much garbage from well-meaning religious people in my e-mail that is nothing more than making wishes on fairies, angels and "saints" (I put that in quotes because all Christians are saints according to the Bible). Also, I have had some gullible things sent to me, such as the "atheist professor drops chalk that does not break" tale and so on. (Readers of my other Weblog know how I feel about forwarded e-mail that contains sentiment and sensationalistic rubbish.)
In crusades against the evils of rock music, I have heard some rather startling things: Ozzy Osbourne insisted that people stomp puppies to death (but not real ones), he bit the head off a dove (no, it was a bat, and he thought it was one of his rubber props), Black Sabbath did Satanic altar calls &c. Listen, if you want to talk about the evils of rock music, get the facts and not the rumors or urban legends. There is plenty of documented evidence from the raunchy lifestyles of the performers. More importantly, simply use the lyrics. While you're at it, add to your anti-rock lecture something about the alcoholic promiscuity of country music lyrics. But those have cleaned up and become substantially better in recent years, I must admit.
One problem I see with the enthusiasm for spreading the sensational in an effort to shock people into getting right with God is that many Christians seem credulous. We should take a cue from the "skeptics": Pause and say, "Substantiate this assertion" instead of spreading rumors.
By the way, this may seem out of place, but it has to be said: Christians can be downright cheap. For people who claim to love the Lord, we sure to like to hang onto our money (Matt. 6.24). Waiters and waitresses complain that they do not like to wait on church groups because they work very hard but get very little by way of a tip. We're driving people away by our selfishness (Luke 6.9)! I waited on tables for a while, and I believe that I only received one tract. And that was in lieu of a tip, if I recall correctly.
I could go on with examples, but I want to say that we need to use discernment. Pay attention, check your facts, don't run off at the mouth with something "big" unless you can back it up. Avoid stinginess, and trust God to meet your needs so you do not tightly cling to your money. Do your work wholeheartedly. Some people believe in "lifestyle evangelism", where people will see how different we are and come up to us and ask, "What must I do to be saved?" It does not happen to me much, I hate to admit. OK, it does not happen to me at all. I know full well that the things I am writing to you are written to me as well.
Remember 2 Peter 3.15? I like the NET Bible's wording: "But set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess." While I think this verse is a foundational verse for apologists (remember, "give an answer" is based on apologia, apologetic, a reasoned defense), this part had to be pointed out to me: "...to anyone who asks about the hope you possess." Here is your lifestyle evangelism, Horatio! Be a sensible, discerning, generous, knowledgeable Christian. Be strong in the Word and prayer and full of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5.22-23 NASB), then maybe people will come up to you and ask what is different about you.
But since Jesus said to go (Matt. 28.18-20 NASB), we need to be presenting more than we need to be waiting.