Your Church Is Probably Lying to You

In a recent speech, Donald Trump was distracted by a baby crying somewhere in the crowd. As a pastor who has experienced firsthand what it’s like to have your train of thought jump the tracks because you hear a crying infant, I immediately sympathized with him.

I even appreciated how he handled the situation.

“Don’t worry about that baby; I love babies … I hear that baby crying; I like it.” Trump said. “What a baby, what a beautiful baby. Don’t worry … Don’t worry about it.”

Imagine the baby’s mother in the back of the room. She knows her child is being a distraction to people. She’s desperately trying to keep him quiet. She wants to make sure her child is comforted, and she wants to be considerate of others.

Donald Trump’s words must have been a huge relief to her. A moment of grace when she was panicking. She was welcomed. Her baby was welcomed.

And so, she did just as Trump said. She didn’t worry about it. Her baby had been called beautiful by a man who could be President. She relaxed and presumably enjoyed the speech.

But her baby kept crying.

Once again Donald Trump noticed. He stopped again. And this time, he said what he really thought.

“Actually, I was only kidding. You can get the baby out of here,” he said sarcastically to roars of laughter. “I think she really believed me that I love having a baby crying when I’m speaking … People don’t understand.”

No, apparently they don’t. 




When someone says that something is not be worried about, the people who are worrying take comfort and stop worrying. When someone says that people are welcomed, the people who are wondering if it’s OK for them to be there relax and feel welcomed. They do really believe the words that are said to them.

That’s what makes it so tragic that Donald Trump was lying to that mother. Her crying baby wasn’t welcomed. He didn’t love it. It was something to worry about. And he mocked her for believing him.


welcome-matIt’s sometimes easy to point a finger at a national figure who is so blatantly caught in a lie. It’s much harder to point the finger at ourselves when we tell similar lies.

I’ve noticed that a lot of churches advertise that everyone is welcome in their communities. They say that they are a place for all. Anyone and everyone is welcome to come in their doors. “Come just as you are,” they proudly pronounce. “We love everyone.”

On some level, I’m sure they mean it. After all, most churches keep track of their attendance, and new guests help to pad the numbers. Of course they’re welcomed. More people in their services are more people who can hear the message, who can be ministered to, who can be reached.

Sure, you might “come as you are,” but like the crying baby at the Trump rally, sooner or later (and really, it ought be sooner) you better stop crying and get your life in order.

Our welcomes have limits. If you don’t clean up, shape up, quiet down, and get along, you’re no longer going to be welcome. And, if you don’t realize this, we might end up mocking you. “I think they really believed us that we love everyone. People don’t understand.”


The idea of welcoming someone is to gladly receive them. The word doesn’t have limits in its connotation. Further, the Christian value of hospitality is not one that has strings attached.

Over and over again, the example of Jesus is to welcome people no matter what.

Self-righteous religious people? Jesus welcomed them.

Adulterous women? Jesus welcomed them.

The outcast and marginalized? Jesus welcomed them. 

The handicapped? Jesus welcomed them.

Poor people? Jesus welcomed them.

People from different racial, ethic, political, and theological backgrounds? Jesus welcomed them.

Crying babies? Jesus welcomed them.

In a scene that is strikingly similar to the Trump rally, Jesus was once inundated with parents who wanted their crying, squirming children to get close to him. Jesus’ disciples rebuked those parents, “You can get those babies out of here.” But Jesus was having no part of it. “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them,” he said, “for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19.14).

The kingdom of heaven belongs not to the people who lead churches or develop their clever marketing schemes. The kingdom of heaven belongs not to those who make up the cool sounding slogans like “Come just as you are” and “All are welcome.”

The kingdom of heaven belongs to the seeking religious people, the adulterous women, the outcast, the marginalized, the handicapped, the poor, the different, and the crying babies.

It seems to me that when Jesus says the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these, he wasn’t putting a time limit on it. It’s a no-strings-attached promise. The welcome doesn’t get revoked if someone doesn’t make the right profession of theology or changes their personality or overcomes their sin. It just is. The kingdom of heaven belongs – and will continue to belong – to such as them.

Because we’re all crying babies in some sense. If the kingdom of heaven doesn’t belong to us, it doesn’t belong to anyone.


Churches need to be really careful that when they advertise a hospitable culture and a welcoming atmosphere that they are not actually lying. 

Is a person who is transgender welcome in your church?

Is a person with serious doubts welcome in your church?

Is a person with mental illness welcome in your church?

Is a person going through a messy divorce welcome in your church?

Is a person who is gay, lesbian, or bisexual welcome in your church?

Is a person who disagrees with your pastor welcome in your church?

If not, your church is probably lying to you.


I Quit the Republican Party

Today, I quit the Republican party.

This decision had been brewing for a while, but after taking a week to absorb the reality that Donald Trump is going to be the GOP nominee for President this year, I decided it was time.

The roots of this decision go back to Election Day 2012. Vanessa and I got up that morning as undecided voters. This was very unusual for us. We are not usually undecided when it comes to politics, but we just couldn’t bring ourselves to commit to either President Obama or Mitt Romney. Since we live in a solidly red state where our vote doesn’t really matter, we decided together to vote for the one candidate whom we actually agreed with on most issues. It was the first time I didn’t vote for the Republican nominee for President. I voted my conscious instead, which meant I voted for Gary Johnson. And there hasn’t been a day since that I’ve regretted it. Read More…

21 Tips for Being the Busiest Person You Know

Over the past couple of months, I’ve been asked several times how I do everything I do. My answer has been, I don’t know, I just get stuff done. The truth is, the more I’ve thought about it, I really love productivity hacks.

I’ve blogged about it at times. I think I talked to one of our ExCos once about the productivity hacks I use. Let me share a couple with you. First, I am a huge fan of Evernote. It’s this program that lets me keep everything in one place. It’s like my digital brain, synced to all of my devices. Second, I love Siri and Reminders. Siri sends me reminders all the time that keep me on track. Third, I love the idea of Inbox Zero. I work hard to keep my inbox empty as much as possible. I don’t like the digital clutter to build up. Fourth, I am careful about how I manage my To Do List. When I am prioritizing all the stuff on my list, I ask myself “When I get in bed tonight, what are the things that will let me sleep well if I’ve gotten them done?” Those are things I put at the top of my list every day. Read More…

A Challenge: Say Something Nice

This my column that appeared in Saturday’s Arkansas-Democrat Gazette:

I’ve conducted a little experiment over the past couple of weeks. On Facebook, I posted status updates that were unqualified compliments of all the major candidates for President.

I said Donald Trump is creative and innovative. Marco Rubio is a gifted speaker. Jeb Bush and John Kasich seem like genuinely good human beings. Bernie Sanders is principled. Ted Cruz is brilliant. I appreciate Hillary Clinton’s commitment to her family and Ben Carson’s gentleness in the midst of a raucous campaign.

I did not endorse any of the candidates or indicate for whom I would vote. I simply said something nice about each and everyone of them. Read More…

3 Biblical Reasons Why Christians in Fayetteville Should Vote For the Uniform Civil Rights Ordinance – Even If They Believe Homosexuality Is a Sin

For the second time in as many years, Fayetteville is being torn apart by a civil rights ordinance that codifies protections for LGBTQ people. If passed, the ordinance will allow for LGBTQ people to be guaranteed the same rights and services that any Fayetteville resident enjoys without fear of discrimination. A landlord will not be able to refuse to rent to a man simply because he’s gay. A trans woman won’t be able to be fired from her job simply because of her gender identity. A lesbian couple will be able to buy a wedding cake from any bakery that serves the public. Read More…

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