JJ Watt and the Church

When the church gets it right — it’s so empowering. And I cherish those moments and store them in a box in my heart to dive into when I get discouraged.

The Washington Times recently published a story about how Christians outpaced FEMA in aiding Harvey and UMCOR (United Methodist Commission on Relief) got a shout out.
In the words of Stone Cold Steve Austin: give me a hell yeah!
(or I guess the more appropriate response was, can I get an amen…)

The church — at its best — is irresistible. We are unstoppable — for there is no force on this earth that can stop a community driven by God’s Spirit and grace. Not-a-damn-thing.

The response from faith communities after Harvey has been incredible (and continues to be so).
In my local church, we had great number of people flowing in with a simple question, how can I help?
My friend’s church had volunteers offering free childcare from 9–5 so that the parents can return to work and/or work on their homes until schools were in session again.
People of different belief systems came together for the greater good; to help rebuild their communities, as my colleague Hannah Terry shared:

One of our leaders texted this to me tonight: “Mormons, Episcopalians, and Methodists helping at a Catholic home in a Jewish neighborhood…did a check-in call on one of the families and he told me he had photos to send me. He sent this and as I went down the line and realized the demographics it made me tear up and realize that no one can ever touch with this city has. I figured we pretty much break every narrative that is out there every single moment of every single day.” So proud of my city and my community and my people. This is real life, folks. Let’s keep breaking stereotypes and tell a better story and seek scared and hungry and exhausted and vulnerable and forgotten folks who have yet to be reached

Then in Florida, there was the Nun with the Chainsaw.

In any other setting, this might make for a good horror flick. But it was an incredible, beautiful, and heartwarming sight. A physical reminder of faith in action.

Irresistible, I like to think.

It’s just that… we’re really good at making the church resistible.

I sat in a meeting with a bunch of pastors to see how we can help our greater community. We were working with a bigger organization.

Look — the bigger picture is that people are getting the help that they need. That’s the important part. That’s the part to fall back on; to fix my thoughts on.

But — one of the first things they said to us in the meeting was, here’s our statement of faith. Then it was shared that unless one abides and agrees to the statement of faith, they cannot help. We have to sign an agreement and then hear a 30 minute proselytizing message before heading out to help someone in need with this group.

Thankfully, they said that those who need help do not have to agree to the statement of faith to receive help.
I mean, I did not/could not agree to their statement of faith. But what does what I believe have to do with helping those who are in need? Why does that matter? Why should that matter?
And, yes, no one would be denied of help by this group — but what if — say — a Muslim family were in need of help… or a LGBTQIA family? Or someone that is fundamentally different from their Statement of Faith?
A bible will be given. A tract, maybe? A harmful prayer? An attempt of conversion?
Granted, I’m totally being unfair because I’m speculating.
But there was a representative from the Latter Day Saints church in that meeting and she received many glares and dirty looks when she shared who she was representing. She said she could just feel people just staring at her and the negative vibes being sent her way… if she — who was wanting to help with the rebuilding efforts of our community — felt unwelcomed and could feel the bad jujus and the glares ‘n stares of the pastors in our community… how would we able to behave ourselves when we were called to help someone who was fundamentally different from the statement of faith we had to sign and swear to adhere to? Again… I get it. Speculation.

I guess the ultimate question is — why put parameters on who can help?
I ultimately walked away from that meeting believing that, for this group, saving souls took precedence over saving lives and helping people.

So what does JJ Watt have anything to do with this?
I was never a big fan of JJ Watt and never a fan of the Texans.
But living in Houston, I learned and saw how involved JJ Watt was in the community. And then, this guy raises over 37 million dollars for Harvey relief.
He cares for the city he plays in, clearly. Can’t nobody deny that.
And darn it — I can’t help but like him a little and respect him a whole lot.
On top of that, since Harvey, I find myself (secretly) rooting for the Texans. Just a tiny little bit.

My point?
It’s super easy for the church to take a misstep — even a perceived one — because people are waiting for it. We’ve gotten such a bad reputation that it surprises people when we do good and it affirms/confirms their suspicions when we peddle fear and hate.

pictures of Lakewood during the flood.

Take Joel Osteen for instance. For the first time in my life, I found myself defending Joel Osteen. He got dragged through social media because the biggest church in the States couldn’t open up their space to give shelter to the displaced.
But, according to Osteen, they were waiting to see if their building would be safe, because it got flooded before. And when they felt it was safe, they opened their doors. Or maybe you’re convinced it was the pressures of social media and the negative attention that forced Osteen’s and Lakewood’s hand.

It’s easy to dismiss the church and think of us as an outdated and dogmatic group that has nothing to offer society except to harbor the religious nutjobs.
And often times, we make it super easy for folks to think that.

Actions will always speak louder than words.

Our actions have the power to change the mind of people.
Or confirm their suspicions.

Our actions can show how irresistible God’s grace can be.
Or make it even easier to resist God.

Our actions can bring people closer to Christ.
Or let people know that Christ has nothing to offer to this world.

It’s just that we make it very easy and convenient for folks to use the church as a scapegoat for not believing in Christ.

If the church lives out God’s calling; embodying that irresistible force — then someone can choose to not believe in God because they simply don’t believe in God. And not use the church as an excuse/scapegoat.

I mean, I still don’t know if I like JJ, but I can’t deny what a stand up guy he is — especially when it comes to helping Houston.

Likewise, as Francis Chan writes, we should make someone say, I can’t deny what the church does, but I don’t believe in their God.

We should try our best to resist becoming resistible — because there are so many good things that God can do through the church.

Let’s stop giving people an easy out — blaming the church for their unbelief. Instead, let’s make people unable to deny the work that God is doing through us; the good that God is accomplishing with/through us; let’s make them say, I don’t believe in their God, but dang — I sure as hell can’t deny the great things that the church does.

Can I get a hell yeah… er… an Amen?

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