I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the future of the evangelical church in America as I prepare to attend the Missio Alliance’s initial gathering focused on the Future of the Gospel next month. I thought I’d put together a few posts that speak to the complex issues that we’re facing.
A few weeks ago I posted a link to a blog post by Zach Hoag that attempted to explain and honestly challenge the “Empty Politic of Evangelicalism.” He explains it by pointing out its political rules and signifiers that take precedence over true piety, empathy, compassion, and love. That’s where Zach got in trouble because he used a tweet by Mark Driscoll about President Obama to do so.
I guess I’m not sure if it got Zach into trouble but it’s what got me into trouble. Instead of sparking conversation around how we can regain ground as a people defined by our piety, empathy and compassion and not an issue based movement on a Christian witch hunt the conversation on my social media sites became just that. People began to question Hoag’s statements, his faith, his commitment to “truth” and his “judgmental attitude.” All this because he dared to question a megachurch pastor’s overtly political tweet. Eventually those comments turned their attention on me for posting such a link.
What has become clear to me over the last few years is we have organized “church” around the wrong things. We are convinced that what the world is looking for is truth and God has charged us to speak, defend and uphold truth whenever we can. By convincing ourselves of this we have also bought into the idea that we have the market cornered on truth and if you can’t tow the party line then you are evil and therefore have no connection with God.
The reality is the church isn’t meant to be organized around “truth” but instead should be a people who are defined by the Truth who walked the earth as Jesus. It’s cliché to say but Jesus’ life was organized around mission and you could see it by what he said, who he hung around and how he responded to those in power. Of course this upset the religious elite of his day and they labeled him and pushed him to the side as well.
I understand that I’ve set up quite the impossible argument by implying that somehow I am on the Lord’s side and those concerned with “truth” are not – and I don’t think it’s that simple – but mission will always push us into circles where truth is not as clearly defined and people who need to sense the love of Jesus more than judgement – the fact of the matter is Jesus would find himself loving those people and speaking against the judgmental religious folks because they are the kind of people he came to save.
And of course when I say “they” I mean us… and you… and me.
The question we must answer as we move towards the future is what will the church be organized around. I would argue that if we are going to have a chance of reaching the world we are currently in we’re going to have to organize around the same mission that Jesus’ life was organized around – if not we will continue to alienate ourselves by alienating others.
(look for more thoughts later this week…)