Missional Monday – Voices

mmI am thankful for the many voices, resources, institutions, and ministries that are actively assisting churches today in living out a missional lifestyle. Our communities, cities, and states are ever-evolving. For that reason it is critical that the local church be the missionary for the gospel in their given field. I hope this collection of thinkers and ministries will further challenge you to live a missional lifestyle. They have certainly challenged me.

Read: When Missions Shapes the Mission; You and Your Church Can Reach the World by David Horner. Born out of a research study of evangelical churches and their commitment to making Christ known worldwide, Horner makes an impassioned plea to place the biblical missions mandate at the center of the church’s life. He offers theological, practical, and personal implications of missions shaping the overall mission of the church. This book has made an impact on our missions team who worked through it this year.

Follow: Mark Clifton. Mark is the Director of Church Replanting at the North American Mission Board author of the outstanding replant book, Reclaiming Glory; Revitalizing Dying Churches. His passion and concern for seeing dying churches live again through replanting and revitalization is very much needed today. His experience in replanting and revitalization makes his voice worth listening to. Follow him on Twitter – @johnmarkclifton

Meet: Heifer International. Their purpose is to “empower families to turn hunger and poverty into hope and prosperity”. Heifer brings sustainable agriculture and commerce to communities with a long history of poverty. This happens through the provision of farm animals that provide both food and reliable income in the form of agricultural products such as milk, eggs and honey that can be traded or sold at market. Families in turn pass on farm animals to other communities who have similar need. This sustainable income brings opportunities for building school and funding small businesses. Follow them on Twitter – @Heifer

FYI: According to NAMB research in 2017, more than half of all churches started by Southern Baptists each year identify as ethic or multiethnic.

 

The Simplest and Most Difficult Thing I Do; My Reasons for Writing

penpapercoffeeI enjoy writing. I enjoy turning internal thoughts, ideas, fears, feelings, and emotions into external words for others to read. I enjoy the process of organizing thoughts, arranging sentences, revising, revising again, and presenting the thoughts I have wrestled with. I enjoy the sound that a pen makes as it pushes its way across the vast emptiness of paper. There are days when writing is very easy for me- almost second-nature. There are days and seasons when this is agonizingly difficult. It almost hurts to have something to say and not be able to put it into words. I do not make a living through writing primarily. It is however a big part of who I am as a person and a pastor. You may ask, “If it’s not your primary task, why?” You may ask, “With all the other duties and responsibilities you have, why take the time and write?” “If it so agonizing at times, why bother?” All good questions. Allow me to answer.

I write because blank pages hold great promise and immense potential. The Declaration of Independence began as a blank page that would later be filled with words decrying the British throne and words confidently for the establishment of a new nation anchored in certain personal freedoms. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation began as a blank page that would later cry out against the human tragedy of slavery and state the truth all men all created equal. Iconic poems, short stories, and sermons by Frost, Angelou, Wells, Poe, and King all had their beginnings as blank pages. Works by authors such as Melville, Dickens, Aquinas, Twain, Augustine, Faulkner, Woolf, Austen, Lewis, Rawlings, Hawthorne, Homer, Steinbeck, Hemingway, Orwell, Stowe, Mitchell, and Salinger all began as lifeless blank pages- until the author made them come alive and speak.

Throughout human history, great leaders and thinkers have used the power of words to prick our emotions, enlist us in their causes, voice frustration, challenge our convictions, and shape the course of destiny. These words, when digested, created actions. Many famous works moved readers to think differently, act violently, and dream confidently. Hitler’s Mein Kampf details the political ideology of one of the world’s most notorious dictators. His work would later become the basis of Nazi Germany and impassioned millions of German youth to his cause.  Darwin’s Origin of the Species put forth a theory of natural selection that profoundly challenged orthodox thought and belief; introducing the theory of evolution. Orwell’s dystopian novel, 1984 sounded the alarm to the dangers of totalitarianism, surveillance, and censorship. Today, Orwellian phrases like “Big Brother” and “doublespeak” are part of our vernacular.  Augustine’s City of God challenged society to choose which city it wishes to be a part of; marking out the parameters of each choice. He concluded that the purpose of history is to show the unfolding of God’s plan. A notion hotly debated to this day. Paine’s Common Sense presented an argument for independence from England and the creation of a democratic republic among the 13 colonies. Because of its treasonous content toward Britain, it was written anonymously and later framed the discussion for a formal declaration of independence.

I write because words wield great power. Words have the capacity to educate, to inform, to bless, to express love, to articulate hate, to cry out against injustice, to declare war, to call for reform, and can transport us to different times and places. It has been the consistent combination of pen and paper that has for centuries called for revolutions, brought the news to our mailboxes, challenged Americans to serve their country, institute treaties, and dissolved nations. I believe in the power of the pen. Therefore, I write.

Constructing a New Reality – Part 4

ourwayforward_LIOver the past three days I shared what amounts to my heart when it comes to seeing the church engage in ministry and fulfill its God-given assignment in its specific context. I shared our purpose. A carefully crafted statement is not the end goal. I shared our vision. If we’re not careful we will only talk about what we want to become. I shared our core values. These values hold meaning only when we remember our desired outcome – a life transformed for and through Jesus Christ. As I mentioned yesterday, Alan Platt’s book City Changers was impactful and resonated with what I believe God was/is desiring to do with the people who make up First Baptist Church Perry. Platt wrote:

If the church is going to positively affect and even transform Babylon, we’re going to need to make a fundamental paradigm shift in how we approach ministry. A paradigm is a framework of assumptions. True community transformation will mot succeed if all we do is add programs to our existing paradigm. What we’ve been doing in church ministry up to now has been good, but it isn’t big enough. Much of the church’s engagement in the community in the past has focused on benevolence, not really on transformation.

I shared two strategies with you yesterday. Strategies tell us how something will happen. They articulate the path to be taken toward a desired result. Strategies move purpose/mission/vision from the air to the street. This was an important part for our people. If members of churches are consistently told how important mission and ministry is and encouraged to be involved (the air) but are never given a place to live out what they have been encouraged to do (the street), they will remain in a constant state of frustration and confusion. Below are our two remaining strategies for moving forward.

 Strategy #3: We live in a community suffering from the breakdown of the physical, emotional, and socioeconomic health of the family unit. We will be prepared to assist in ministering to the needs of families and be a source of hope and help in our community. 

 Neighborhood Adoption

  • We will seek neighborhood/multi-housing units with whom we can form partnerships with the goal of establishing Bible studies that would serve as a bridge from the community to the church. This will require meeting with housing unit managers and asking them how we may serve their residents.

Evangelistic Block Parties

  • This is linked to the point above. Block parties are key to forming relationships within neighborhoods through activities for children. It is very important that we put in the work necessary to form/strengthen relationships within the community.
  • We have purchased our own portable ministry trailer and equipping it with bounce house, concession equipment, tents, and games that will allow us to enter a neighborhood/event and set up for block party with little effort. We envision its use during VBS, Upward, Back to School Bash, Fall Festival, and other community events, as well as for carrying equipment for our mission teams serving within the state/region.

Seasonal Events

  • We will seek to schedule events throughout the year that allow First Baptist Church to serve people in a meaningful way that strengthens families (back to school events and school supplies, outdoor family movie nights, etc.)
  • I envision one Sunday a year to be designated as “Be the Church” Sunday where we will mobilize our people to serve in strategic, pre-arranged projects throughout our community in lieu of our traditional worship service. What better way to show our community what we care about them by giving up, for one day, our time of corporate gathering to serve them.
  • I envision a city-wide initiative under the name “Serve Taylor.” This initiative would bring together churches once a year for a few hours on Saturday in service projects all around Perry/Taylor County simultaneously. Our community needs to witness the body of Christ in action together.

Social Service Agencies

  • Services are needed for struggling families that will aid them in becoming better equipped in the workforce and at home. We should work alongside agencies who are providing job skill training (resume writing, interviews, etc.) and determine how we can be of assistance. Perhaps space in a newly renovated Missions Center could be devoted to this effort (computer lab, etc.)

City/County/Law Enforcement/Judicial/Business/Health Facilities

  • Pastors and church leaders from across the county meet weekly with county, city, and school district officials. These officials share with the pastors their challenges and how they can be prayed for. Churches are being asked for help in making a positive difference in our county.
  • Our county judge has asked churches who have parenting classes to make them available that he may offer them as an option when such classes are mandatory.
  • Business owners, how can you leverage your influence for the sake of the gospel in the community?

Strategy #4: As Southern Baptists, we are connected at the denominational level. We will strengthen our cooperative partnerships that advance the Gospel.

Taylor Baptist Association

Florida Baptist Convention

  • Opportunities exist for church to partner with church planters in South Florida through an initiative called “Send South Florida.”
  • It is important that we provide opportunities for mission work that does not require our people getting on a plane.
  • Disaster Relief

North American Mission Board

  • Explore initiatives within NAMB that seek to address generational poverty, literacy, and church revitalization.
  • Explore the possibility of partnering with churches within the 32 identified Send Cities with large populations and minimal evangelical presence.

International Mission Board

  • Although not an IMB work, we should strengthen our partnership with Clubhouse Guatemala.
  • I envision an additional international partnership in the future. To best utilize the various gifts and talents of our people, this additional partnership should consist of work different from that of Clubhouse Guatemala.

There are questions we are asking and must consistently ask if we are to be a Sending Church:

  1.  Does our current ministry programming reflect an outward focus?
  2. Does our current staffing/committee structure facilitate an outward -focused ministry?
  3. How are we preparing people for outward-focused ministry?
  4. What are the needs of our city?
  5. Who can we partner with?
  6. How can we get more people involved?

All of this looks good and easy on paper. I know I am asking a lot from our people. Some of these ideas will come to pass and others will not. Some of these ideas are ongoing and others are seasonal. Some of these ideas will be comfortable for our people and others will not. These strategies embrace a true paradigm shift. What excites me moving forward and encourages me a pastor is the willingness of our people to attempt new things and embrace a way of thinking that may be foreign to them. Will every single member of First Baptist Church buy in and go all in? I would be naïve to say yes. First Baptist Church has a long and storied history: most of it good and some of it bad. I am sure there are certain perceptions of us in our community that are false and others that are true.  What has happened in the past is just that -something that happened in the past. For me, it’s all about moving forward and becoming a Sending Church. We have stayed long enough.

Constructing a New Reality – Part 3

ourwayforward_LIOne of the books our Missions Team has been reading together this year is City Changers; Being the Presence of Christ in Your Community by Alan Platt. He challenged us to consider a hard truth: those outside the church will see as meaningless the church’s attempts to engage and connect if we do not genuinely care about them as people first. This became an important truth for us. Platt wrote:

“We can engage Babylon by caring about its people. If you’re bringing a message of change but your attitude and actions reveal that you don’t really care for the people you’re offering it to, not many are likely to want what you’re selling. But if you demonstrate a burdened heart for the people and their hurts, the situation will be different. If you actually care for them as people and families, not to judge them or preach to them but to love them as fellow sojourners, they’ll be more likely to want what you’ve got. This is how we become God’s presence within the world.”

It is important for a church to go outside the walls of the building and into the community. I think most churches believe this, at least in theory. It’s difficult to move from the academic understanding to the practical application. First Baptist Church had struggled with this for years. God is preparing the people here for a different future. We desire to see the people who make up First Baptist Church mobilized and involved in their communities for the sake of the Gospel. Therefore, we want to sponsor or participate in opportunities and make strategic partnerships in the community where First Baptist Church is represented by her members and attendees. These events and partnerships will provide opportunities to engage with individuals and the community at large in ways that are meaningful.  I share the following strategies not as a means of prideful boasting, but as a demonstration of how First Baptist Church will move community ministry from the abstract to the concrete – from somewhere in the air to a certain spot on the ground – from theory to practice – from a good idea to strategic plans.  Based on our context, resources, and vision, we’re pushing forward in four areas. I’ll share the first two today.

Strategy #1: The Taylor County School District is our largest mission field. We will seek to establish long-term partnerships that positively affect the lives of students and their families.

1. Academics

  • At Perry Primary School, we have adopted the 2nd grade for the 2018-2019 school year. This adoption includes prayer support for teachers and students, an annual recognition during Teacher Appreciation Week, assistance with school supplies, etc.
  • Also, at Perry Primary School, with Florida Baptist’s Write Beside You School Initiative in view, we are enlisting volunteers to spend one-half hour a week, every week with a student who struggles reading on grade level. Our volunteers will see the same student every week. Consistent time spent with the same student fosters a sense of consistency and trust that many children lack today.
  • Our school superintendent has asked for help from the churches of our community. His desire is to have mentors in all schools.

2. Athletics

  • Several times last year, First Baptist Church worked the concession stand during Friday night football games. This gave parents of the high school band members an opportunity to watch their children perform on the field. We will continue this partnership this year.
  • We will seek opportunities in other sports where our people are already involved as coaches and staff. to be of service to athletes and parents.

Strategy #2: We live in an area prone to natural disaster (hurricanes, storms, flooding, etc.). We will be prepared to assist the members of First Baptist Church, as well as the members of our community when their lives are disrupted, or they are displaced by natural disaster.

 1. Taylor County Emergency Management

  • We will strengthen our partnership with TCEM. This partnership will include, at a minimum, the use of our buildings and property in times of sheltering and evacuation. We will continue our service, in conjunction with TCEM, as a cold-weather warming station.

2. Florida Baptist Convention Disaster Relief

  • We will make/have made ourselves available to serve as a place of staging/service in times hurricane/storm relief. This assistance may include the use of parking lots, kitchen, student center, etc.

3. Neighborhood Awareness

  • It is important for us to be aware of our immediate neighbors and assist with the after-effects of hurricanes/storms (debris removal, etc.). We will ensure the same assistance for our membership as well.

4. Facilities Renovation

  • I believe we have a great deal of under-utilized space in our Student Center. This space has great potential. I envision a renovation of the Student Center. The Student Center would move from a single-use building to multi-purpose Missions Center. The Missions Center would not only be a place primarily for our students to gather, it would be a place to serve the community in a real and meaningful way. This renovation would, at a minimum, include:
    • Shower facilities
    • Laundry facilities
    • A generator that would enable consistent usage during and after a crisis.
    • An improved kitchen
  • This newly renovated facility will allow us to prepare food and provide showers/laundry for our membership and community. Also, the space can be utilized by Disaster Relief to coordinate relief work in our area. The laundry facilities could serve a double purpose: usage in times of outages and as a potential outreach/ministry to struggling families/single mothers.
  • This Missions Center would also allow us to host mission teams who are serving alongside us in our community. All basic needs would be available.

 

Constructing a New Reality – Part 2

ourwayforward_LIYesterday I shared with you the beginning of a journey for FBC Perry. It is a journey I had taken before. I 2009, I was called as pastor of a church in South Carolina that I would later define as a staying church in decline. It was there God taught me some things about revitalization and set my heart for leading my congregation from staying to sending status; although I didn’t know that’s what I was doing at the time. There were convictions about ministry and people that were set in my heart forever during that time that I employ today. The people believed, prayed, and worked. It took almost three years for the vision to fully seat. It was not an easy journey, but it was a necessary one. Recently Mark Clifton shook the church-revitalization world when he asked, “What is there about a dying church that brings glory to God?” His answer, “Nothing.” Ouch. Looking back, that makes perfect sense.

Things are different today – different people, context, resources, opportunities, expectations. Thankfully that which is the same is also the most crucial: God’s faithfulness. We have literally just started this journey and is not as easy one. That’s okay, we didn’t think it would be. It is one plagued with questions, setbacks, and misunderstandings. That’s okay, constructing something new is never problem-free. It is a journey I believe started late. That’s okay, it’s not when, where, or how you start, but that you start. It is however a journey with a clear end in mind- to be a sending church. To live in obedience to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) and embrace the imperatives of the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:35-40), FBC has embraced a vision to become a sending church. The following statement offers a picture of what I believe God desires us to become.

A Sending Church – a community of Christ-followers who consistently mobilize, train, and send members to the mission field, both locally and globally, serving as a place of refuge for many people, including those who are far from God.

For us to achieve God’s vision for our church, there had to be a focus on what truly matters. We must live in the truth that Jim Collins espoused, “Good is the enemy of great.” The following core value statements serve as anchor points and a lens to filter ministry work. These core values will shape our budgeting, refine ministries, and serve as a framework for membership expectations. This is what matters to us.

 The Gospel:

  • We believe the Gospel is the greatest love story ever told. It is the message that Jesus Christ is God’s Son, born of a virgin, who lived a sinless life, and who offered Himself as a sacrifice for our sins, and He rose from the dead the third day. It is our desire that the Gospel is at the center of all that we do. While there are many good things that churches should be doing, above all else we are called to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ’s love to a lost and dying world. (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)

Mission:

  • We believe saved people serve. We choose to live on-mission and be an outwardly-focused church who engages our families, neighbors, co-workers, communities, state, country, and world with the life-changing message of the Gospel. We engage in mission work both locally and globally; putting our God-given talents, passions, and abilities to work in service to others. We long to see the lost find new life in Jesus Christ and believers discover the calling God has placed on their lives. (Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 10:45, John 20:21, Acts 1:8, 2 Corinthians 5:19-20)

Growth:

  • We believe living things grow. Spiritual growth is about “becoming.” As we pursue Christ-likeness, we are changed from the inside out, becoming more like Christ, and loving others the way He loves us. Spiritual growth requires commitment and focus, and is nurtured by corporate worship, personal and family devotions, Bible study, prayer, and fellowship with other believers. (Ephesians 4:11-16, Philippians 3:14, Colossians 1:28, 2 Peter 3:17-18)

Generosity:

  • We believe you cannot out-give God. We believe living a significant life and foremost a call to generosity, because we serve a generous God. He has graciously given us everything we have: our life, our breath, and our abilities. He has entrusted these to us out of His great mercy and love. In God’s economy, believers are called to a life giving and sacrifice. We joyfully and sacrificially give of our time, talents, and treasure. It is through the Church we consistently and faithfully support the advancement of the Gospel. (Proverbs 11:24-25, John 3:16, 2 Corinthians 1-5, 9:6-8, 1 Timothy 6:17-19)

Community:

  • We believe you cannot do life alone. Genuine life-change happens best in the context of relationships. Scripture offers many “one another” statements that remind us of how we are to relate to each other. We believe life-change also happens in the context of community. This includes the concepts of discipleship, vulnerability, and accountability. The image of a solitary Christian life is foreign to the Scriptures. Biblical community affords the believer strength and encouragement, as well as fosters a sense of unity. (John 13:34-35, Acts 2:46, 4:34-35)

Teamwork:

  • We believe in pulling together in the same direction. For the Gospel to be made known to our neighbors and the world, we understand the need to surrender our individual preferences and seek God’s perfect will. As we work side by side, we share in the joy of seeing our unique strengths, abilities, and gifts unite to advance God’s kingdom in our community and around the world. We will work under the banner, “In the essentials, unity; in non-essentials, grace; in all things love.” (Psalm 133, Acts 2:42-47, 4:32-33, Philippians 2:2)

Excellence:

  • We believe only our best will do. God is worthy of our very best because He gave us His very best for the forgiveness of sin- His Son, Jesus Christ. We believe excellence honors God, reflects His character, and influences people. Therefore, a growing spirit of excellence should permeate every activity and ministry. We strive for excellence without compromise in all areas of our ministry and lives. (Malachi 1:6-14, Colossians 3:17, 23-24)

 People:

  • We believe each individual matters to God. As a result, we believe God has commanded us to love and value our neighbors, regardless of their racial, cultural, or socioeconomic background. Because each person is made in the image of God, he/she possesses value and deserves the opportunity to hear the good news of the Gospel. (Genesis 1:26a, Luke 5:30-32, Luke 15)

Constructing a New Reality – Part 1

ourwayforward_LIWhen I arrived at FBC Perry in August of 2017, I knew there was a great deal of work ahead. This truth was communicated by the search team that brought us to Perry. It did not take very long to learn just how big the job was/is. The church was/is in decline. The blame for the decline could not be laid at any one person’s feet. Everyone had a part to play in the church’s condition – the same way every person will have a part to play in the church’s turn around. I did very little to begin with. I listened. I loved. I observed. I preached faithfully. I prayed for clarity, direction, and vision. Early in 2018, God began to reveal what I believed was the way forward for FBC Perry. In June of this year, over two Sundays, I shared with the people of FBC Perry a new purpose, vision, core values, and specific strategies that would serve as our guide going forward. This would also allow us the freedom to say “yes” to what we needed to say “yes” to and the permission to say “no” to what we needed to say “no” to for we had already decided what was important and worthy of our time, energy, and resources. at FBC Perry, we believe that our job is to connect the people of Taylor County and beyond to Christ, help them mature in Christ, and together serve Him by serving others.

In my mind there was/is one critical question:  What type of church were we going to be? Churches regularly exist somewhere between two opposing ministry models: staying and sending. What do I mean by that?

Staying Churches – “I go to church” – attractional, consumer

The church is seen as a dispenser of religious services.  People come to church to be “fed”, to have their needs met through quality programs, and to have “professionals” teach them God’s Word. The focus is often on ministry programs with success defined by the number of people who gather in the building.  These churches acknowledge their community but do not necessarily feel responsible for it.  Budgets and ministry programs reflect an inward focus. The tendency is to look through the rear-view mirror instead of the windshield.

Sending Churches – “I am the Church” – missional, kingdom-focused

The church gathers in Christian community for worship, encouragement, and teaching from the Word so that they will be equipped and empowered to live as Christ-centered, outward focused disciples wherever God daily sends them to be His witness. There is a commitment to sending people and resources into the community for the sole purpose of introducing people to Jesus Christ. The acknowledgment of their community translates to responsibility and action. Budgets reflect an outward focus.

For us to fully embrace our mission statement, it was necessary to make a commitment regarding the type of church we are going to be. FBC has existed somewhere in between these two models throughout the years. To be perfectly honest, as hard as it was to say, FBC was/is a staying church. If FBC was going to connect the people of Taylor County and beyond to Christ, we would need to make an intentional and significant shift to the sending model. In the next two posts, I will share our core values and strategies we are utilizing to begin the difficult turn toward a thriving, sending church. We have begun to make the turn. How can I say that so soon? The people of FBC have embraced the current reality of decline and have committed to a different future. That’s a win.

When Service is Not Enough

eyedocI have been thinking a great deal lately about ministry effectiveness. Over the past five or six months I have experienced highs and lows around the church. I have witnessed meaningful ministry take place. At the same time, I have witnessed some things that got in the way of meaningful ministry. In a recent Missions Team meeting I was challenged by a question no one in the room was expecting. We were debriefing a recent ministry event; having shared the highlights of the night (how many people, types of activities, how much food, etc.) At the end of the discussion, this question was asked, “Yeah, but did we tell them that God loves them?” It was uncomfortably quiet. I had to face the fact that I assumed our service automatically conveyed this truth. I had to face the fact that we were so busy serving (giving away water, popcorn, candy, food, etc.) we didn’t intentionally focus on engaging people with the truth that God loves them and desires a personal relationship with them. In summary, our focus was not clear. I’m not saying that no one had a gospel conversation with those we were serving. I know a few did. Although we served well, overall, we missed the most important thing. We must do better next time. I must do better next time.

When the focus in wrongly placed, we shift the direction and movement of the church into reverse.  It is in reverse that good is accepted in place of great. Activity becomes a suitable alternative to difficult conversations. Personal agendas become more important than the Lord’s mission. Criticism and fault-finding starve out encouragement and love. Evangelism and missions give way to committees and constitutions.

The lost person is always on my mind. Their condition convicts me. Their future frightens me. Their worship is desired by God. They deserve a New Testament church that is focused on the important things. They deserve truth, not excuse. They deserve love, not a loathsome look. They deserve a verbal witness, not simply a prayer or nod of acknowledgment. I wonder what the lost person thinks of the church today? I have often wondered what kind of questions go through their mind. What would the questions of a lost person look like? I believe it may look something like this:

  1. I am lost. I do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. You do. Why do you spend most of your time adding and perfecting programs that appear to be designed for those who already know Him? What about me?
  2. I am lost. I do not have peace in my life right now. You do. Don’t others have the right to hear about the source of your peace? What about me?
  3. I am lost. I do not know why I am here. You do. Why do you choose to build buildings instead of building bridges? What about me?
  4. I am lost. If I were to die today, I would enter an unimaginable torment. You would not. Have you forgotten what it is like to be separated from God’s presence?What about me?
  5. I am lost. I do not know the good news of the gospel as you refer to it. You do. Why do you spend so much time debating and discussing trivial matters while futures of many like me hang in the balance? What about me?
  6. I am lost. The only father I know is my earthly father. You know Him. Are you content with letting me figure out this “salvation” thing on my own? All religions are the same, right? What about me?
  7. I am lost. I will not be held accountable for keeping my mouth shut. You will. Is the fear of embarrassment and rejection more of a concern to you than obeying the God you say you love? What about you?

Guilty.