Insider trading in the church

February 10th, 2015

Before becoming a pastor, I sold insurance and securities. In order to get my license I had to learn about compliance, which amounted to a whole lot of “don’t ever do this, this, that and certainly not this.” One of the thou shalt nots was insider trading. Insider trading is defined as the illegal buying or selling of securities on the basis of information that is unavailable to the public. Insider trading creates an unfair advantage for those who already know the complexities and nuances of the financial market when our primary duty as agents is to be a fiduciary — one who acts in good faith with regards to the interests of others. To put it one way, financial representatives such as myself were forbidden to engage in water-cooler-like business because our primary responsibility was to the public, who knew nothing of our water-cooler business.

You can imagine my great delight, then, when I entered into professional ministry and discovered there were no such restrictions placed on me! On the contrary, I quickly learned that insider trading was not only allowed among Christians, it was encouraged! It was practically a sport. It fast became my favorite hobby. For many years I was absorbed by the water-cooler talk among my fellow Christians and colleagues in ministry. With the age of the Internet it was extremely easy to carry out our insider trading enterprise, and, since it wasn’t illegal, we could publish it in the open for all the world to see.

Blogging was my favorite way of conducting insider trading. It gave me a platform where saved people could talk to other saved people about how other saved people were making life miserable for other saved people. The titles of my blogs were not meant to deter compliance officers but to ensure they clicked my post and, with any luck, either said Amen to it or hated it (but shared it anyway). Titles like “Why I’m no longer an evangelical Christian,” or “Why I’m no longer a progressive Christian,” or, “How to spot a fundamentalist,” or “Mark Driscoll is wrong/right/evil/angelic/pick-anything-cause-just-his-name-will-generate-blog-hits” and many other such articles which made for great water-cooler chit-chat.

Saved people telling other saved people how much better their version of being saved is better than the one they left. I confess I was an avid member of this insider trading scheme until it dawned on me that no one was getting saved because of it. No one was being introduced to the life-transforming, saving power of Jesus Christ because of a single thing I had done or written.

Sure, many felt either further justified in beliefs they already held or infuriated because they didn’t agree. But every one of them was already part of the club. They were already, at least by their own confession, saved.

I was not their pastor and therefore had little right to tell them how they should live out their walk (and even if I was, there are far better ways to do that than through a blog post, and with far more grace than I ever mustered as an insider trader). But no one was being saved.

The unsuspecting, unknowing, unsaved public, for which I have a responsibility as a Christian, cares nothing about Mark Driscoll or about why you left evangelicalism. They don’t care about my disillusionment with authority or established religion; they don’t care about what one group of saved people say to another group of saved people about sex and who should be having it with whom; they don’t care about the reasons why you still think Jesus is pretty cool despite all the ways the church has dragged his name through the mud.

The unsaved aren’t asking the questions our insider trading religion has become obsessed with answering … and answering … and answering. And sadly, we’ve spent so much time around the water cooler we don’t even know anymore how to talk to someone who doesn’t know Jesus and has never once set foot into a church (and has never read your blog or this one).

A few Sundays ago, a first time guest at my church hugged me and thanked me for “allowing her to come” and asked if it was OK for her to come again next week. This woman didn’t know much about the church but it seems she knew enough to know that a lot of insider trading goes on and wanted to know if she was welcome into the “club.” Such is the impression we have given to the unsaved — an ever-increasing population — in our communities.

I don’t want to be an insider trader anymore. I want to invest my time and energy into reaching out to the people who know nothing about Jesus or his church. I want to find ways to answer the questions like “Does God love me? Will you love me? Can Jesus forgive me? How can Jesus change my life? How can I get sober? How can I get free? Can Jesus heal my marriage? My relationships? Can Jesus take care of my fears, my guilt, my shame?”

I confess I was once an insider trader but with God’s help, I want to focus less on arguing with the already saved and more on winning the yet-to-be-saved. As a Christian, I have a fiduciary responsibility to the public around me who don't know Jesus and whose eternities could potentially be changed by my — and your — attention to their concerns and questions rather than our water-cooler discussions. 

Chad Holtz blogs at UMC Holiness.

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