The Vice President of Relationships with the Belong Tour called me on Friday. She was very sweet and said several times, “We just want you to know that we hear you.”
The VP informed me that the Belong leadership had spent years in prayer, seeking God’s plan for them to reach women who would not normally go to church. She said, “Our churches are dying. We need to be more relevant.” So, she explained, they produced something at which every woman would feel like she belongs. She said she’s so glad that God knows their hearts because their hearts are to love women and for them to know that God loves them too.
Her message was reiterated today on Facebook, as Jen Hatmaker posted several times about the purpose and intent of Belong. Like the VP, Hatmaker wrote that they wanted to use language and express ideas to which all women could relate.
During the phone call I thanked her for reaching out to me following my emails and blog (which you can read here). I said that I highly value dialogue and don’t desire to just say stuff online and then hide—that I’ve only written what I had hoped to be able to say to them personally. I told her that I don’t question their hearts—as she said, only God can see those—but I absolutely question their conclusions and their methods.
As Hatmaker said in a variety of ways on FB today, she believes the gospel was preached at Belong. They believe Jesus was proclaimed. They believe the good news was shared in the stories of women’s lives.
Hatmaker also shared that she’s been experiencing pressure on her chest lately. I mean this with complete sincerity and care—maybe that pressure is conviction? I debated about commenting on her FB post and just saying so, but decided not to—it’s her page, it’s her “tribe,” as she says, and I don’t desire to be ugly and divisive. I desire to speak the truth in love.
And, here’s the truth in love: sharing stories about women’s lives, being raw, being authentic, and sharing about your past and current valleys is not the gospel. Repeatedly proclaiming to women that they are enough, that they are worth it, that they are beautiful, that they should aim higher and strive harder is not the gospel. Telling women that they need to claim victory and can find it through exercise and yoga is not the gospel. Displaying quotes on the jumbotron such as, “It’s time to embrace all of the things that make you unique. You Belong” is not the gospel. Each presenter heavily pedaling her books in the lobby is not the gospel. They can call it that, but those things are not the historic, orthodox gospel found in the word of God.
Here’s exactly what I said to the VP—Jesus doesn’t need our help being relevant. He’s been relevant since before time, which He transcends. And the thing about Jesus is that He’s God. And if you want women to know God, then you need to point them to His word. In the end, the VP and I had to simply agree to disagree and cordially say goodbye. The takeaway is that what happens at Belong is on purpose and they currently have no intention of changing it.
As I said in my last post, I’m not suggesting Belong be a theology tour. I promise I do not want Belong to fit into a square box and present the gospel in five steps and have an altar call and require the attendees to repeat the sinner’s prayer. I am all for thinking outside the box! But what I am indeed saying is this: Belong presented a false gospel. I know it sounds harsh and hurtful, but it’s true. And it’s so sad that thousands of women are leaving Belong each weekend thinking that they are enough, they are all that they need, they just need to remember who they are and what they love and go for it—that’s the true meaning and purpose of life.
On FB Hatmaker said the Belong Tour is like an on ramp to Jesus. On ramps have signs and indications of what’s ahead. Very little at Belong pointed to Jesus. If I was wandering and looking for guidance and went to Belong, the on ramp would have taken me right back to myself, not any closer to Jesus, in whom we have redemption.
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible…all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together…For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven…” (Colossians 1:16-23).
Once alienated and now reconciled? THAT is Belonging. Forever and ever, amen.