Monday, June 6, 2011

3 Kinds of Christians (According to Leonard Sweet)

Today Leonard Sweet posted a thought-provoking statement on his twitter feed:

"3 Kinds of Christians: pooh-poohs (negative, disdainful), oom-pah-pahs (monotonous, legalistic), and umphs (vitality, verve, enthusiasm)."

I got to thinking about this post after the intial humor had subsided.  And, as most probably would, I began thinking of all the types of Christians I've met and interacted with over the years.  I think I've known several of each.

I've certainly known some Pooh-Poohs.  These are the sort of folk who can suck the life out of a party.  In church we often refer to them (lovingly, of course) as Black Holes of Spirit.  They make it their purpose in life to rain on everyone's parade.   For every great idea they've got a criticism. No matter how powerful and Spirit-filled the worship service is they always manage to find a complaint.  They're a bucket full of spite and more.  They bring SNL's character Debbie Downer to life.

And I've know a few Oom-Pah-Pahs as well.  They are the stubborn tuba section who think people bought tickets to see just them rather than the entire symphony orchestra surrounding them.  No matter what song the Spirit pours out upon the people, no matter what beautiful lyric is thrust into the life of the congregation, no matter what masterpiece of resurrection or resusscitation is pumped into the people by God, they drone their monotonous message: nothing must ever change, and they've got the rule book to prove it.

And I think I've met some Umphs as well, although they are a rare breed.  Spotting an umph is a bit like spotting a snipe.  You've heard of them, but they appear so infrequently (especially in institutional congregations) that it's easy to convince yourself they don't exist.  They are almost all recovering Oom-Pah-Pahs or recovering Pooh-Poohs.  But somehow, someway, they've allowed Jesus to destroy their self-propagational instincts and to disrupt their internal negativity.  They've latched onto the joy of Jesus...nay, the JOY of Jesus, and they've become forever changed--forever ruined to the church, in favor of Christ. 

After a brief flight into self-righteous mental classification of all the Christians I've known, the Spirit retorted with a bit of ego-shattering critique: I have been, and at different points in time still am, all 3 of these types of Christian.  I am at times full of the JOY of Christ and ready to live completely for him and in him. Then at times I am full of negativity and criticism.  And still other times I find myself droning on to the beat of the way things are and always have been. 

And now I wonder, what type of Christian are you?  Before you start reading this and thinking about the types of Christians that surround you, think first of yourself.  When have you been each of these three?  When do you usually become each one?  And what would it take for you to become a perpetual Umph?

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