I’ve added Jay Guin’s blog, One in Jesus, to my list of links there on the right hand side of this page. Jay is a long-time elder at the Alberta Church of Christ in Alabama. And I find his writings provocative and inspirational. It’s addicting. I’ll get on his site once a week and easily spend a couple of hours reading his articles regarding our walk with Christ in our American Restoration churches. His scholarship is obvious. His research is more than thorough. And he comes at delicate issues and explosive topics with a humility and grace that reveal Christ in him.
I’ve thought about adding him to my blogrole for several months now. Here’s what put me over the top: an article he wrote in March 2007 about leading a moderate church. The article was just pointed out to me late last week. It’s excellent.
If you’re a preacher or an elder or a ministry leader of a congregation that positions itself as “moderate” or, God forbid, “middle-of-the-road,” you absolutely must read this article. It’s called Overseeing the Moderate Church. After reading this article, you may feel that Jay has been a member of your congregation for 20 years and spends his evenings under the table where your elders meet. Or that he’s tapped your phones.
A moderate church has leaders and members at every conceivable point on that dreadful A-B Line. (Please see my previous posts Jumping Off the Line and Jumping Off the Line: Part Two.) When they come together on Sunday mornings they’re all over the map. And, instead of addressing the inevitable disagreements from Scripture, we ignore them. Or we try to manage them. Or we make political compromises. The inarguable truth of what Guin presents here will frighten you. It may also — possibly — give you great comfort to know that your church isn’t the only one facing the perils that come with a theologically-divided church led by theologically-divided elders and ministers and staff.
The inspiration comes in Jay’s instructions to leaders and members of these churches: “The solution is for the leadership to lead.”
In this case, leading means teaching a version of the Gospel that encourages people to accept one another despite their differences. This means the centerpiece of the church’s teaching has to be love and unity and grace. Now, this shouldn’t be a problem, as this happens to be the centerpiece of the New Testament’s ethical instructions for Christians (read, for example, Romans 12-15).
You simply cannot be Christ-like and care more about your preferences than those of your brothers and sisters. There is no other Gospel. Guin says the key is for elders and staff to insist on this attitude of love and unity and grace, on the Philippians 2 principles of considering others better than ourselves.
This means asking those who refuse to comply to leave. Selfishness is simply intolerable in church. Jesus died to cure it, and if we insist in wallowing in our self-love, we’ll damn ourselves.