Jumping Off The Line

Issues.

Why are we defined by the issues?

Why do we label churches and each other according to the issues?

Why do our language and our attitudes and our thought processes center on the issues?

Why have issues become the heart of Christian leadership?

It seems that in the Church—and it’s been this way for a long, long time—we judge you and your spirituality and your doctrinal soundness on how you feel about this buzz word or how you think about that catch phrase regarding the issues. Or sometimes whether you use those pet words or phrases at all. If I’m having a casual conversation with you and you use the word “brethren” or “missional,” I’m going to label you as being somewhere on an imaginary line between liberal and conservative, between progressive and traditional. And I’m going to assume you’re heading in one direction or the other. If you declare an affection for the King James Version or express a fondness for a “praise team,” I’m going to know everything about your theology and your relationship with God and his Church based on this line between conservative and liberal, between one extreme and the other. I judge your congregation based on whether you do Small Groups or whether you assemble together at the building on Sunday nights. Or whether you meet on Sunday nights at all. When we think along this line between Point A and Point B, there becomes a big difference between a brother or sister who enjoys singing There’s A Stirring and one who prefers A Mighty Fortress. It’s become so ingrained and so absurd in the way we do church business that we draw a hard distinction between a female children’s minister and a female children’s coordinator.

These buzz words and catch phrases are now conversation-enders. If you use one in a discussion you and I are having, our conversation ends. We may still be talking to each other, but I’ve already heard enough to label you. I know exactly where you are and where you’re going based on your use of that word. I know your agenda. So you may still be moving your mouth, but I’m not listening. I already know.

This kind of thinking along the A-B Line and our reactions to the prevailing A-B Line culture in our churches have led to much mistrust and suspicion. This kind of thinking stifles true communication and growth. And it leads to churches being guided by outside forces and church leaders making decisions based on fears.

What would happen if we jumped off the A-B Line?

What if we totally changed the spectrum? What if we adopted a different vision? What if we did things in an alternative way?

What if every conversation in the church and every decision made by church leaders was based purely on the topic at hand on its own merits? What if, instead of being guided by what such-and-such congregation is doing down the road or what so-and-so across town might think, we did things that were best for Legacy and best for the lost of Tarrant County?

What if we found ourselves in a church culture in which a brother could wear a suit and a tie and still read The Message? What if a sister raised her hands while singing Standing On The Promises? What if a group of church leaders decided a praise team isn’t right but it is good for women to pass trays during communion? Can a person clap during worship and still use the small letter “c” in the word “church”?

See how those above scenarios go totally against the A-B Line thinking?

Thinking on that line causes us to believe that the issues or the practices all go along some kind of predetermined order. If a church uses a praise team, it’s only a matter of time before women are preaching from the pulpit. If a church still uses songbooks, it’s obvious they’re going to eventually tear down the kitchen and pull their support from the orphans home.

The alternative is to do what’s best for Legacy according to our understanding of the Scriptures, not according to what somebody might say or think. Or write. It’s to judge each issue and each practice solely on its own merit. It’s to never assume that anybody’s sliding toward or away from anything other than toward God and his will and away from Satan and his. It’s pro-active instead of reactive. It’s being guided by Christ Jesus and his Word, not by outside forces. It’s not a compromised position, it’s a responsible position. It’s not content with trying to stay in the middle (a futile exercise if there ever was one), it’s doing everything possible to be out front.

It requires strong and dedicated leadership, no doubt. And it’s only accomplished with mutual love and trust.

What would happen if we jumped off that line?

Peace,

Allan

2 Comments

  1. Rob's Dad

    People have trouble dealing with non-linear thinking and thinkers. We could fill up a wall-sized whiteboard going through a root cause analysis on why so i won’t whip everybody by doing it here, but people struggle when it gets gray and complicated.

  2. jason reeves

    As Luther stood before the Papacy in 1521, it is demanded of him that he recant his 95 theses or suffer the consequences. With his life on the line he states, “Unless I am convinced by Scripture or by right reason I am bound by the texts of the Bible, and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither right, nor safe to act against one’s own conscience. Here I stand. I can do nothing else. God help me. Amen.”

    Of course the Reformation Movement is born out of those words in the 16th century; and then later, out of that same spirit, the Restoration Movement of the early 19th century.

    Scripture, conscience, and right reason – are our guide…. As we “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling before God” (Philippians 2:12).

    As to the A-B line (I like the analogy by the way) – I think the Apostle Paul would assert, “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant?” (Romans 4:4). Paul is not saying that we must not make a “judgement call” for ourselves – he is emphasizing we are not to judge others.

    And further, his emphasis is that in the way that we live, and in the things that we do, and in those things that are important to us – that in everything that we are about – we are to bring glory and honor to the name of Christ – of whom, and to whom, we belong….

    Good stuff….

    And it’s the exact kind of dialogue the Church (big “C” and little “c”) needs to continue to chew on….

    Later.

    Jason

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