Have you ever had that feeling in the pit of your stomach? The feeling that something isn’t quite what it should be? And it doesn’t go away? I had that.
The other day. On Facebook.
During my usual late evening stroll (one letter off from “troll”) through my FB Newsfeed, there were these two posts about different “Church Conferences.” For those of you who are all that churchy – one thing you really need to know is that churchy people like to have conferences. Anyway, this blog post isn’t about that…
Back to the two conferences that caught my attention and the irony of it. The first post was from a friend within my particular churchy tribe (the RCA) who was at the closing of the Room For All conference. The Room For All folks are fighingt hard for the full inclusion of the LGBTQ community into the life and ministry of the Reformed Church. Right below this post was one from another friend in the denomination who LIKED a conference called We Are Protestant and certain letters were in red so the words “We Protest” stood out. This conference is put on by an organization called Together 4 the Gospel, or T4G. T4G and Room For All really couldn’t be further apart.
Or could they?
If one was to put them on a map, then absolutely they are far apart. As far as the east is from the west along latitudinal lines. And, I dare say, they probably don’t like each other. Of course, being good Christian folks, they would tell us they love one another; but chances are the people in T4G don’t hang with the peeps from Room For All and it is hard to actually love someone you don’t hang with…
But I digress. Let’s get back to the map. Both groups actually represent a deeper move taking place within the Church today – a significantly growing gap between two polarizing positions around political issues: Gays, women, immigration, guns, schools, etc. Because of this, I also believe there is an ever growing shift away from Christ being the center. I know, I’ll probably tick someone off here, but at least I can tick everyone off at the same time.
What do I mean? Both camps have an agenda. Room For All, and others like them, have a very expressed agenda. T4G’s agenda was harder to find, but on their website there is a set of assertions where it was made clear – that if I did not think like them, then my theology is wrong and that their agenda is to “recover the Gospel.” So it would seem, that the two are so far apart.
Let’s put it this way. If we lay out a map of the world on the table and we find that very place where the Prime Meridian intersects with the Equator, 0 degrees longitude and latitude, somewhere in the Gulf of Guinea. Let’s say that is the very place where Jesus is central to life and ministry. If we start there and we begin to move along the equator, based upon our THEOPOLITICAL ideology and positions, we move East and West. And the harder we become with our positions, the more right we think we are, the further we move, until we are as far apart as the East is from the West.
On a map. That is flat.
Flat map theology is polarizing theology. And, if you think of the world as flat – which is indeed how we experience it most of the time – then we allow our theologies to become polarizing.
But the world ain’t flat. Google it. So if we put these two groups onto a map, as representatives of what is happening in our church culture today around almost any issue, we would need to put them as far apart as possible. However, since the world isn’t flat, lets take their two positions on the map and find them on a globe and suddenly they are a whole lot closer than at first we thought.
So, how is it these two polarizing sides can be so close together?
They both have really strong agendas. They both are deeply rooted in some right/wrong thinking. Both have moved away from keeping the Gospel central by declaring their theopolitical agendas to be what keeps them Gospel centered. Both functionally operate from within a vacuum of relationships with the other. Both are looking back at the direction from which they have moved in order to keep distance from one another.
And suddenly they are standing back to back, hurting the people they are closest to.
The world we live in isn’t flat. But the world is experiencing flat map polarizing theology from the Church. And flat map theology moves us away from Jesus. And then we will start bickering over the cups at Starbucks…!
It is time to turn around, toward each other and begin practicing the love Jesus taught & modeled. That only happens in relationships that are deep, vulnerable, and life changing.
November 9th, 2015 at 2:38 pm
Well stated Pastor Brian. I have tended to view unity in the Church as a prerequisite to maturity in the Church. Agenda driven theology is dangerous, as it threatens the greater unity. The Gospel invites us to cast aside all agendas, save that of the lost knowing the Savior. Your article is a good reminder for me to consider if I am deeply rooted into any belief other than the Gospel.
Then again…I was thinking those cups at Starbucks are too small.
November 9th, 2015 at 3:21 pm
Thanks Barry! I know there are areas in my life where it because easy for me to slip into an agenda driven theology rather than do the hard work of unity.
Those cups are small, aren’t they?