How elders must encourage fellow Christians to behave.

by K.W. Leslie, 08 June 2023

Titus 2.1-10.

Throughout ancient literature, sages would put together a list of rules for how every person’s meant to fulfill their role in a family. Husbands act like this, wives act like that. Sons do this, daughters do that. Male slaves do this, female slaves do that. Scholars call them household codes. We find a few of them in the bible too. Like today’s passage.

The list in Titus likewise includes slaves, because slavery was legal in the Roman Empire. But God forbade people from treating slaves like animals instead of people, and Greco-Romans generally shared that attitude about their slaves: They’d become slaves because they lost a war, or were dirt poor and sold themselves (or were sold by family members) into it, or they were criminals and slavery was the punishment. American slavery was entirely different, regularly ignored scripture (as Americans do, ’cause we love to imagine we’re exceptions to the rules), and was rightly abolished. But if we were to port these household codes into the present day, the instructions to slaves would sorta apply to household employees—housekeepers, groundskeepers, nannies, maids, butlers, contractors. With the obvious caveat that employees can quit or be fired. Slaves didn’t have those freedoms.

Popular American culture has their own household codes. Most of ’em have to do with authoritarian men trying to establish their own little despotic patriarchies—they want their wives and children to submit to them, instead of mutually loving one another as is taught in the scriptures. A lot of toxic masculinity is mixed into today’s household codes, as men try to insist “only real men” behave certain ways. (And men who reject these ideas somehow aren’t real men. Yet this doesn’t mean they get to identify as women!) There’s a lot of sexism, vulgarity, and inconsistency in the way they teach it. It’s all very fleshly and graceless. Denounce it wherever you see it, and stick with the bible.

Titus 2.1-10 KWL
1 Speak out, Titus, about whatever comes up,
with healthy teaching.
2 Elders ought to be in their right minds.
Well respected. Self-controlled.
They should have healthy faith,
healthy love, healthy consistency.
3 Women elders likewise with devout behavior.
Not backstabbing.
Not enslaved to heavy drinking.
Teachers of good things,
4 so they might train the new Christians
to love their men, to love their children.
5 Self-disciplined. Clean.
Good at running a household.
Submitting to their own men,
so God’s word won’t be slandered.
6 Teenagers likewise:
Help them in self-discipline.
7 In everything present yourself,
as an example of good works.
In teaching, integrity and honesty,
8 a healthy, irrefutable word,
so those from the opposition might respect it,
having nothing evil to say about us.
9 Slaves are to obey their own wardens
in every acceptable way.
Not to argue.
10 Not to embezzle.
Instead demonstrate all good faith
so God our Savior’s teaching will decorate everything.

Now y’notice Paul’s list began with instructions to Titus about the sort of traits we oughta see in as church elders. The men are to behave thisaway; the women are to behave thataway. But then, in 2.4, as Paul’s explaining what the women elders oughta be teaching the newbies… it mutates into a household code. Verse 5 arguably applies to either the elders or the newbies; I would say both. Verses 6-8 are obviously about Christian teenagers; verses 9-10 are obviously about Christian slaves.

So yeah, this passage didn’t begin as a household code. But it became one. Because every Christian oughta become an elder. All of us should aspire to Christian maturity. Therefore every man and woman should become an elder in our churches, and contribute to its leadership and upkeep.

How the “elders” of Crete 𝘥𝘪𝘥 behave.

by K.W. Leslie, 07 June 2023

Titus 1.10-16.

Epimenides of Cnossos was a shepherd, living on Crete. He claimed one day he took a nap in a cave that’d been dedicated to Zeus, and woke up 57 years later with the gift of prophecy. Meh; I figure he was just an old guy who decided to finally publish his youthful poetry. Next to none of it has survived to our present day, but in Paul and Titus’s time it was still pretty famous. Paul even quotes a line from his ode to Zeus, called the Cretica:

…having built you [Zeus] a tomb, holy one, great one.
Cretans always lie, the evil beasts. Lazy stomachs.
But you aren’t dead! For you live, and live forever!
For in you we live, move, and have our being.

Yep, Paul also quoted it in Acts 17.28. Epimenides meant Zeus, but Paul repurposed it to mean the LORD. It more accurately describes the LORD anyway.

I don’t know whether the Cretica prejudiced Paul against the people of Crete when he finally met them in person. Acts doesn’t tell of him spending a lot of time there; at most a week, ’cause his ship was anchored there due to foul weather. Ac 27.7-13 Likely he visited again at another time. In any case he encountered many people among the Christians who were just awful, and the very last thing he wanted Titus to do was put such people in positions of authority. It’d ruin the church.

Titus 1.10-16 KWL
10 For many people do refuse to submit to others.
They’re all talk, and misleading.
Particularly those of the circumcision faction.
11 It’s necessary to muzzle them—
whatever teachings knock down whole houses,
which they ought not teach,
but do to gain an immoral advantage.
12 A certain one of their own—a prophet!—says,
“Cretans always lie, the evil beasts. Lazy stomachs.”
13 This witness is true.
For this reason rebuke them quickly,
so they might have a healthy faith,
14 paying no attention to Jewish myths,
and human commands which turn away from truth.
15 Everything is ritually clean to clean people.
To contaminated people, and unbelievers,
nothing is clean—
instead it contaminated them, the mind, and the conscience.
16 They claim they know God,
and their works deny it—
being disgusting and disobedient,
and worthless in every good work.

Don’t mince words Paul; how d’you really feel about Cretans?

How the elders of Crete oughta behave.

by K.W. Leslie, 06 June 2023

Titus 1.5-9.

Paul left Titus in Crete because its churches had a leadership vacuum. I mean, there might’ve been people the Christians imagined were leaders, but Paul considered them inadequate, as we can tell from what he had to write to Titus. They lacked spiritual maturity. Titus didn’t.

Here, Paul reminds Titus that maturity—good fruit and good character—correctly defines a person who’s considered an elder of the church. You’re not an elder without it, and ought not be a leader without it.

Titus 1.5-9 KWL
5 This is why I have you remain in Crete:
So you might organize the things we leave there.
So you might designate elders for each city,
as I commanded you.
6 If a certain person has no controversy about them,
a one-woman man,
has believing children,
has never been accused of excessive living
nor of being unsubmissive
7 —for a supervisor has to be uncontroversial,
being like God’s butler.
Not arrogant.
Not quick-tempered.
Not drunk.
Not picking fights.
Not greedy for “prosperity.”
8 Instead, loves strangers.
Loves goodness.
9 Holds tight to what’s consistent
with the message of faith as taught,
so he might be able to help in the sound teaching,
and in rebuking those who contradict it.

A number of Christians claim Paul’s only describing pastors, ’cause Paul mentioned “a supervisor” in verse 7. (Greek ἐπίσκοπον/epískopon, KJV “bishop,” NIV “overseer.”) This is a word the New Testament tends to use to describe bishops and head pastors; it’s not just any church leader. Thing is, the elders of a church do supervise all sorts of things in a church, whether they have the title “pastor” or not. And really everyone in church leadership should be qualified to step up when the pastor or bishop isn’t available; everybody should meet these ground-floor qualifications, no matter what title they have. Got it?

The apostle’s job.

by K.W. Leslie, 05 June 2023

Titus 1.1-4.

Okay, tackling Titus this week. Paul wrote this letter to Titus during his last missionary journey of 63–66. That journey isn’t told of in Acts, but it took place after Paul stood trial before Nero Caesar in 62 and was acquitted; and took place before Paul was arrested again, stood trial before Nero again, and that time was beheaded in the year 67. Nicopolis, Epirus, Greece was one of the cities on Paul’s itinerary, and where Paul expected to see Titus again. Tt 3.12

Titus was a member of Paul’s apostolic team, a Greek Ga 2.3 originally from Crete (Greek Κρήτη/Kríti), the largest of the Greek islands, about 160km off the coast of the Greek mainland, and 100km southwest of Türkiye. There were Cretans at the first Pentecost, Ac 2.11 and for all we know Titus was among them.

But since Paul calls Titus his son in this letter, Tt 1.4 Christians figure Paul likely introduced him to Christ Jesus. Though elsewhere in the scriptures Paul calls him a brother 2Co 2.13 and partner; 2Co 8.23 so if Paul had led Titus to Jesus, these descriptions indicate Titus had quickly matured to a point where Paul considered him an equal in Christ. Paul occasionally sent Titus to help out churches and deliver his letters. Corinth, fr’instance. 2Co 2.13

In this letter, Paul states he’d sent Titus back to Crete to organize Jesus’s church there. Tt 1.5 From what little we know, that’s where Titus served till he died, either in the 90s or early 00s. The Church of St. Titus in Heraklion, Crete, still has his skull.

Titus, along with 1–2 Timothy, are called the “pastoral epistles” because, duh, they were written to pastors. Naturally they contain a lot of advice from Paul to these two pastors about how to best do their jobs, and it’s served as useful advice for every other Christian about how to be in leadership. That’s why we study it.

As usual, Paul’s introductions were done Roman-style, so you could unroll the scroll a little bit, quickly read the author and the recipient, and roll it back up. Paul’s introduction in this letter is a little wordier than usual, ’cause he’s trying to slip some theology in there.

Because certain scholars try to make a name for themselves by challenging everything, some of ’em have tried to argue Paul didn’t really write this letter, and Titus wasn’t really the recipient. Few take these scholars seriously. I don’t.

Titus 1.1-4 KWL
1 Pávlos, God’s slave
and Christ Jesus’s apostle,
consistent with the faith of God’s selected ones,
and consistent with the recognition of the truth—
consistent with piety—
2 in the hope of life in the age to come,
which the never-lying God promised
before the time of this age.
3 He made his message of this eternal life known
through preaching in our own time,
which was entrusted to me
according to the command of our savior God.
4 To Titus, my genuine child
according to our common faith:
Grace and peace from God the Father,
and Christ Jesus our savior.

Notice it took four verses to get to the typical Christian greeting of “Grace and peace from God and Christ.” Let’s unpack that, shall we?

Pride Month.

by K.W. Leslie, 03 June 2023

A Gallup poll released in February 2022 revealed 7.2 percent of Americans identify themselves as queer—by which I mean something other than heterosexual; either lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, or any other categories not covered by the first four. The younger the adults are, the more those percentages go up.

  • Generation X (which’d include me) is about 3.3 percent non-hetero.
  • Gen Y, the millennials, is at 11.2 percent.
  • Gen Z is at 19.7 percent.

I didn’t include the stats for baby boomers and silents because—let’s be honest—a bunch of them are still in the closet. Or in denial.

And I have some questions about those Generation Z figures. Because—let’s keep being honest, shall we?—some of the younger adults don’t know what they are. Young people are still figuring it out! Some of them might legitimately be queer. Some might not be, but they’re trying queerness, because being straight hasn’t really worked out for them. I’ve got one coworker who figures he’ll try anything once, and that includes gay stuff, because who knows?—maybe he’s gay. He doesn’t know, and aren’t parents always telling their kids about food, “Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it”? So he’s trying it.

Yeah, I can already hear my conservative readers wringing their hands from here: “Woe is us; our nation is going to hell.”

(Relax folks; it was always going to hell. Isn’t that what your favorite End Times prognosticators have always taught? Or were you paying more attention to politicians than them?)

But lemme leap back to that previous comment I made about the baby boomers and silents. ’Cause if you think I was just making a joke about ’em, no I wasn’t. If you think I was just being facetious, I’m really not. There have always been queer people. They’ve been hiding. Those low numbers in those older generations do not mean there used to be fewer of them, but their numbers are growing. They mean many of ’em are still hiding.

Because not too long ago in America, you could get killed over it. Still can. All it takes is someone with hate in their heart, who thinks nobody’s looking, and thinks God’s actually okay with killing people over it. ’Cause you can certainly get that idea when you quote certain anti-gay scriptures.

Leviticus 20.13 KJV
If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

There are other countries, like Russia and Uganda and Saudi Arabia, which have made laws based on such scriptures, and will jail and execute you for being gay, and think they’re righteous for doing so. And when you listen to certain conservatives in the United States, they think those countries are right to do it, and wanna know why we don’t do it.

Well duh; because we’re not the nation of ancient Israel. Because their covenant with God is not ourcovenant with God. We don’t even have a national covenant with God. True, one idiot or another claims the Mayflower Compact, or the U.S. Constitution, or the Bill of Rights, is a covenant with God… and of course these things absolutely aren’t. Likewise some Christian yutz might cobble together a statement or declaration or creed, and claim they’re making a national covenant with God, and of course they don’t speak for all American Christians any more than I do.

Our Constitution (specifically article 6 section 3, and amendment 1) establishes no religion nor religious system over this country. The United States may be predominantly Christian, but it was intentionally made a pluralistic society. As such we can have among our citizens and residents Christians and pagans, Jews and Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus, Wiccans and nontheists, and no covenant is in violation. God’s not gonna smite us with tornadoes because we harbor gay people. Nature will, because we won’t stop polluting.

So all those conservatives who imagine God’s gonna be very, very angry with America unless we purge every queer person from sea to shining sea? Man have they got God wrong. There’s an awful amount of projection in their interpretation of him: They are upset and hostile towards non-heterosexuals, so they imagine God must share all their frustration and rage. After all, they imagine they’re tight with God; surely he’s at least as pissed and murdery as they.

And that’s where we are this LGBT Pride Month.

When pagans believe they’re Christian.

by K.W. Leslie, 31 May 2023

In the United States, roughly seven out of 10 people believe they’re Christian. I live in California, where it’s six of 10. I’m not pulling these numbers out of my tuchus; the national stats and state stats are from the 2019 Pew Forum study. Those numbers might’ve gone down a bit since the pandemic.

But generally they match my experience. Whenever I share Jesus with strangers, about two out of three tell me they’re Christian already. They don’t necessarily go to church; that’s another issue. But they definitely figure they’re Christian. For all sorts of reasons:

  • Personal experiences with Jesus. Even personal appearances.
  • They said the sinner’s prayer once.
  • They’re a regular at their church. (How regular varies. Many figure twice a year counts.)
  • They got baptized.
  • They were raised Christian. Or their family’s Christian.
  • They consider themselves spiritual. And when they contemplate spiritual matters, Jesus is in the mix somewhere.

Now, let’s explode that last reason: They’re “spiritual”—by which they nearly always mean they believe in supernatural things like God, spirits, and the afterlife. And for the most part, they have happy thoughts about it. If they identify as Christian, Jesus is included in their spirituality. But once we analyze their spiritual beliefs, we find what they really believe looks a lot more like this:

  • There’s a God. Jesus is his son (but not God though, nor God’s only son) and the holy spirit (note the lowercase) is God’s power (but not God though).
  • God loves everybody and wants us to be nice to one another.
  • Death means we go to heaven, and probably watch over the living somehow.
  • Organized religion is unnecessary, and just confuses things.

Basically it’s what pagans typically believe. Of course there are exceptions, but generally that’s it. It’s the belief system of popular culture. It’s not Christianity.

Nope, these folks aren’t Christian. They’re Christianists.

They’re a subcategory I call incognito pagans: They honestly think they’re Christian! After all, it’s how popular culture loosely defines Christianity. They like Jesus! They believe he’s a good guy. They have their weddings and funerals at churches. If you deny Jesus it’ll actually offend them. If their kids decide to become Muslim or Hindu (or tell ’em they’re gay) suddenly they really get Christian—usually to the surprise of their kids, who usually thought their parents didn’t believe anything.

But no, they’re not Christian. They have no Holy Spirit within them. Which is why they produce none of his fruit. As far as their knowledge about Christ is concerned, they couldn’t tell a Jesus quote from a Benjamin Franklin proverb. Since they figure they’re saved, they’re good; why bother to learn about their Savior? That’s for clergy to worry about. For theologians; for academics and experts. Meanwhile they have bigger things to worry about.

Speaking as one of these experts, our religion has to have a living and active relationship with Christ Jesus at its core. They don’t have that. At all. So they’re pagan.

Which they don’t realize. And will totally object to, when you call ’em on it. It’s the one area of knowledge they refuse to concede to the clergy and experts.

Tell ’em they’re not Christian, and they’ll loudly insist they are so: “Who are you to tell me I’m no Christian?” Doesn’t matter if you’re a pastor, professor, bishop, or pope: Suddenly they get to define what “Christian” means. And it’s not based on fruit, nor orthodoxy, nor even Christ Jesus and the scriptures. It’s based on their best judgment. Which is simply more proof they’re pagans.

We Christians recognize we don’t define what a Christian is: Jesus does. That’s why we look for fruit and orthodoxy. Simple combo. Heretics let the orthodoxy slide, and hypocrites and cultists let the fruit slide. The rest of us realize we can’t just claim the title “Christian” without the faith and good works: We gotta actually follow Jesus. Pagans don’t realize this, and think all it takes to be Christian, is they gotta name it and claim it.

As a result, there are a lot of the people showing up on surveys as “Christian” who aren’t really. It’s how they self-identify. Not how Christ identifies them. They’re not truly his.

Fake Christians.

by K.W. Leslie, 30 May 2023

I used to write about fake Christians a lot.

Probably too much, which is why I went cold turkey for a few years. It was getting a little graceless of me. I mean, based on my criteria, 15-year-old me would’ve been a fake Christian. And I wasn’t! Yeah, there was a lot of hypocrisy in my life. But I was legitimately Christian. A lousy one, but an authentic one.

So lemme ’splain what I mean by fake Christian: Somebody who claims to be Christian, or gets mixed up in Christian activities or the Christian subculture. But knowingly, deliberately, isn’t.

  • Like a politician who goes to church to win votes, or meets with pastors to get their approval. But in private he thinks Christians are easily-fooled idiots. After all, he just fooled ’em.
  • Like a business owner who puts a Jesus fish on her business cards to get Christians as customers. But she never goes to church. Privately, she has a lot of contempt for those who do.
  • Like a husband who goes to church with his family because he approves of the moral guidance religion can provide. But he never follows its guidance. Doesn’t think he needs to; he’s good! And would think you’re a fool if you ever seriously suggested it to him.
  • Like a woman who wants her neighbors to think she’s a good Christian woman, because they appear to be good Christian women, and she’d like to fit in, and not be rejected as the neighborhood heathen.
  • Like a man who’s offended because his coworker is living with his girlfriend “in sin.” Who’s offended when anyone’s gay or lesbian or bisexual, because “that’s a sin.” Who’s offended when someone figures they're nonbinary or trans, because “that’s a sin” too. But when anyone calls him out on his regular practice of sleeping with skanks every weekend, suddenly “what I do in my private time is none of your f---ing business, and who are you to judge me?”

Fake Christians aren’t interested in Jesus. They’re only interested in the fringe benefits of Christianity. And in predominantly Christian countries and communities, there are plenty of benefits! You fit right in.

  • “Fellow” Christians will automatically accept you!—’cause even though we Christinas are supposed to love everyone, loads of us suck at it.
  • “Fellow” Christians will unquestioningly endorse you!—’cause even though we’re supposed to test everything, loads of us suck at it.
  • “Fellow” Christians will often show you abundant grace!—’cause even though we’re supposed to show grace to everyone, loads of us suck at it. And don’t really extend grace to our own as much as we should.
  • Plus you can be as bigoted as you like, but say it’s really because you’re offended by “sin.”

If you're a con artist of any level, we Christians are easy pickings. Too easy.

The flood story.

by K.W. Leslie, 29 May 2023

In Genesis there’s a story about a massive flood. Rain for a month and a half; waters which covered every hill in the area, and killed every living thing. It was, states the author of Genesis, God’s way of getting rid of the violence in the land: He got rid of everybody except this one righteous (well, righteous enough) family.

Starts like this.

Genesis 6.11-21 KWL
11 To God’s face, the land was ruined.
The land was full of violence.
12 God saw the land. Look, ruin!
all flesh ruined its way in the land.
13 God told Noah, “To my face,
the end of all flesh is coming:
They fill the land with violence before them.
Look, the land is ruined!
14 Make yourself a box of cypress trees.
Make living spaces within the box.
Plaster it from the inside to the outside with asphalt.
15 This is how you’ll make it:
A box 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide, 30 cubits high.
16 Make a window in the box, a cubit from the top.
Make a doorway in the box’s side.
Make bottom, second, and third floors.
17 Look at me: I bring the deluge of waters on the land
to destroy all flesh on it,
the breath of life under the heavens:
Everything on the land dies.
18 I raise my relationship with you.
Come into the box.
You, your sons, your woman, your sons’ women with you.
19 All living things, all flesh:
Two of all comes into the box to live with you.
They’ll be male and female.
20 From the bird to its kind,
from the animal of its kind,
from all which swarms the ground of its kind,
two of all comes to you to live.
21 Take with you all the food you can eat.
Gather it for yourselves.
It’s for food, for you and them.”
22 Noah did everything God commanded him to do.

So God has this man, Noah ben Lamekh, build himself a big black box…

Yeah, black box. What d’you think an ark is, a boat? What, were the Hebrews carrying around the Boat of the Covenant through the desert for four decades? Did Indiana Jones excavate a Nazi-killing gold boat, or am I remembering that movie all wrong?

But you’d be forgiven if you made the mistake of thinking a תֵּבַ֣ת/tevá is a boat. After all, American popular culture has the image of a boat cemented in everybody’s brain. Noah built a boat, they say—and on dry land! How the neighbors must’ve laughed and jeered at Noah and his kids for building a boat on dry land. Then when the floodwaters came, boy did they get their comeuppance.

Except it nowhere says in the bible, nowhere in Genesis, that Noah built a boat. That bit about the jeering neighbors? Not in the bible either. I know; you’ve been told this story so many times, you half remember it being biblical, don’t you? Nope. Go read Genesis 7 again. Isn’t there. Never happened.

Wait, what about those people in Kentucky who made the Ark Encounter, the life-size Noah’s Ark which they claim is totally based on the bible? Again, read your bible. Read that bit of Genesis 6 I just translated, in any translation you please. But remember, “ark” means box. God told Noah to build a box. Covered in כֹּֽפֶר/kofér, “bitumen,” or asphalt, so it wasn’t be bare or stained wood, like the Ark Encounter depicts it. It’d be black as the roads outside your house.

Arguably log-cabin style, ’cause it’s made of עֲצֵי גֹ֔פֶר/ačé-gofér, “trees of cypress.” God didn’t say planed wooden planks. I know!—you imagined Noah building a boat, so of course you imagined him building it out of planks, but there’s nothing in the bible to describe what Noah did with the trees once he chopped ’em down. Now, figuring a cubit is half a meter (or half a yard, if you’re American like me), Noah was instructed to make it 150 by 25 by 15, square. Not with a curved bow to easily cut through water, and certainly not with a rudder—who’s gonna steer it? What’s its destination? Why would Noah presumptively assume his box would even float?—for all he knew, it might stay where it was, underwater, watertight, waiting for the floods to pass.

The Kentucky monstrosity is entirely based on popular Christian culture, based on what generations of American preachers and their art have speculated about Noah’s box. Something which actually requires less faith in God than Genesis is describing. ’Cause they imagine Noah built something seaworthy, that could survive on its own—instead of something God would have to miraculously preserve, and did.

So whenever skeptics ask me whether I believe the bible’s flood story, I can’t give them a simple yes. I do believe the story. But the story I believe is the plausible one we find in the bible. Not as it’s told by young-earth creationists, who turned it into Christian mythology… then turned that into junk science.


by K.W. Leslie, 28 May 2023

Pentecost is the Christian name for the Feast of Weeks, or שָׁבֻעֹת֙/Šavuót: Seven weeks after Passover, at which time the Hebrews harvested their wheat. Ex 34.22 On 6 Sivan in the Hebrew calendar, the 50th day after Passover, they were expected to come to temple and present a grain offerng to the LORD. Dt 16.9-12 Oh, and tithe a tenth of it to celebrate with—and every third year, put it in the community granary.

Our word comes from the Greek τὴν ἡμέραν τῆς πεντηκοστῆς/tin iméran tis pentikostís, “the 50th day” Ac 2.1 —the Greek term for Šavuót.

Why do Christians celebrate a Hebrew harvest festival? (And have separate “harvest parties” in October?) Well we don’t celebrate it Hebrew-style: We consider it the last day of Easter, and we celebrate it for a whole other reason. In the year 33—the year Jesus died, rose, and was raptured—the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus’s new church on Pentecost. Happened like so:

Acts 2.1-4 NRSVue
1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

The speaking-in-tongues part is why the 20th century Christian movement which has a lot of tongues-speaking in it is called Pentecostalism. Weirdly, a lot of us Pentecostals never bother to keep track of when Pentecost rolls around. I don’t get it. I blame anti-Catholicism a little. Anyway, Luke goes on:

Acts 2.5-13 NRSVue
5 Now there were devout Jews from every people under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”

Christians like to call this “the first Pentecost.” Obviously it wasn’t. It’s the Feast of Weeks, which meant every devout Jew on earth was bringing their grain offerings to temple on that very day, 25 May 33. And suddenly a house full of Galileans broke out in every language they knew—spoken to as if to them personally.

Got their attention.

Do you have friends in your church?

by K.W. Leslie, 26 May 2023

Christians tend to go to church for five reasons.

  • MUSIC. We love music, and the church has good music. It’s like going to a weekly rock concert! And if we never help fund the church, it’s free!
  • TEACHING. We wanna learn about God, Christianity, and the bible. We want a good informative sermon. We want good informative bible studies. We wanna know more.
  • SERVICE. We feel a great personal reward in ministering to the needy, and the church has some ways to do that, and encourages us in it.
  • SACRAMENT. We gotta stay connected with God, and what helps are the rituals we can only do as a group. Like praising together, praying together, holy communion, and so forth.
  • FELLOWSHIP. We wanna see our friends.

Churches tend to focus primarily on sacrament, sermon, or music. Today I’m gonna bring up the fellowship thing. It’s a way bigger deal than a lot of Christians realize.

Well, some of us already realize it’s a big deal. It’s why certain churches structure things so people can interact a lot. They have a lot of small groups, and promote ’em constantly. They have a “meet ’n greet time” in the middle of the service, which can go on for as many as ten minutes. (I used to take advantage of my church’s meet ’n greet time to go get another cup of coffee.) They have potlucks and pizza parties and movie nights and other social functions—sometimes monthly, sometimes weekly. And they refuse to create a church café, ’cause they know the way people tend to run ’em, it’ll ultimately discourage fellowship.

This fellowship activity isn’t for any ulterior motive. That’s the motive. They want the people of their church to make friends with one another. Jesus ordered us to love one another; Jn 15.12 they’re trying to make it happen. You’re not gonna love one another when you don’t know one another. You’re not gonna make friends with your fellow Christians when they’re nothing more than the other people who go to your church.

Yeah, there are fringe benefits to the people in your church making friends with one another: They’re gonna come to church to see their friends. Or, to put it shorter, they’re gonna come to church.

That’s what got me coming to church, back in my young-hypocrite years: My friends were there. I could do without the church services themselves: The music sucked. The sermons were shallow. (Coincidentally, I and my faith were also sucky and shallow, so more likely this was just me.) I would’ve had no problem with sleeping in Sunday mornings, like every other pagan. But I looked forward to sitting in the back of the church auditorium, quietly goofing off with my buds, whether it was Sunday morning or Thursday night youth group.

I grew out of the hypocrisy, but it’s still true: Lotta times I don’t feel like going to church. But if I have friends there, and I wanna see them, I go. If I find out my friends are gonna be absent—they gotta work, they’re on vacation, they’re out sick, and so forth—there goes my motivation to attend.

or they’re on vacation, or otherwise won’t attend—sometimes I’ll attend anyway, and sometimes I won’t. And I’m far from the only one.

In fact one church I went to, I had really spotty attendance because all my friends left. I used to have lots of friends at that church, including some of the pastors. Some left for work-related reasons, some for ministry-related reasons. Lots because they were college students and graduated. Some because they just decided they were done with that church. My final year there, before I moved away, I had no friends there. Just acquaintances. Nice people, but not friends. So some weeks, when I felt like going to Noah’s Bagels instead of church, that’s precisely what I did.

Later I moved, it was time to go church-shopping, so I visited one church—we’ll call it “Mars Hill.” Went to the morning services; went to the evening services; said hi to loads of people. One evening, about a month in, the head pastor finally said hi, and we chatted a bit. He was the only one who bothered to chat a bit. He was also, sad to say, going through a severe health crisis at the time, so he couldn’t make any other time for me. But none of Mars Hill’s other leaders bothered to fill in for him, and none of Mars Hill’s other people cared to venture outside their cliques. I really patiently hung around three months, but just didn’t make connections. So I didn’t stay.

The next church: Made friends immediately. Guess where I did stay.