Releasing Your Inner Muppet — Sam the Eagle

Continuing the previous Muppet adventures, let’s look at one of the less-known Muppets: Sam the Eagle.

Sam is a dedicated bird. He has strong beliefs about propriety around the show, a thankless task considering the crew he plays with. Here’s an example.

The good news is that Sam has definite beliefs, and he’s willing to take a stand for them. Unlike Sam the Eagle, we should probably strive to be less irksome. Although the way he plays straight man to everyone else’s comedian is funny, in real life, we have all met these folks who become unnecessarily obnoxious when a softer approach might actually yield better results.

Unfortunately, people seem to work in the extremes. Some people are Sam the Eagle obnoxious about their beliefs.  Others never take a stand for anything for fear of causing offense. In the first case, our harsh approach turns people off. In the latter, we’ve lost before we’ve even begun.

I have been guilty of both extremes.

There is a sad tendency these days for churches to attempt to be more “relevant” to the world by adopting beliefs and attitudes that run contrary to the clear teaching of the Bible. There are many arguments for allowing that to happen, but all of them put the church in general and the believer in particular on very treacherous ground.

I attended a church that was actually quite a distance from my house. I’d been in the church for several years when I started noticing changes. The “Bible study” classes no longer studied the Bible but focused instead on books about getting in touch with feelings and different ways to encounter God. Claims were made that we couldn’t really be a Christian unless we got ticked off at God now and then and told him so.  (Don’t misunderstand me. God can handle it when we’re mad at him, but that’s not a requirement for a “real” Christian.) A lot of focus was put into setting the right mood for the contemporary service. I recognized what was going on but said nothing because I didn’t want to offend my friends. In the end, I couldn’t attend that church anymore. Just walking into the sanctuary made me uncomfortable, so I took my leave and went to a huge church that my parents attended.

At first, this seemed like a breath of fresh air, but then, after I’d been there for a while, I started seeing the same kinds of things. “Life groups,” the snazzy new name for “Sunday school” or “Bible study groups,” studied anything but the Bible.  They were more about getting together for parties and reading pop-psychology and self-help books than studying anything like Scripture. The church became obsessed with filling the pews. Contests were held to see who could bring the most people to church. Everyone was expected to go through special training in a canned evangelism speech that was supposed to “bring in believers.” The opposite effect happened. The church of 6000 dropped to 2000 in just the year or two I was there.

This time, I was determined to do something about it. I had done a bunch of independent study on the phenomenon that had wrecked the previous church, and I presented the information to the church leadership. I even recruited help from like-minded people, and the discussion turned ugly going both ways. In the end, I was effectively told to shut up or leave. I left.

My next stop was a tiny Baptist church very close to my house. I was there for a few years when I noticed one of the books proposed for use with a youth group was part of this church-wrecking paradigm. I’d read it. It was horrible. I didn’t want to do nothing, and I didn’t want to have things explode again. Determined not to be screechy or accusatory, I approached the leader of that group and told him what I knew along with a link or two with more information. That was the way to do it.

Now, whenever I feel the urge to release my inner Muppet as Sam the Eagle, I keep him under a tighter leash. Ignoring problems solves nothing. Getting obnoxious makes them worse.

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