Thursday, May 5, 2011

Down In Flames?

There is an amazing thing going on across the blogosphere this week.  It started innocently enough over at the very popular blog of Rachel Held Evans ( and has spread like wildfire through the Christian corner of the web. Rachel is calling it The Rally To Restore Unity, and the idea is that bloggers will take some time this week to lift up the concept of Christian unity.  Here are a few of my thoughts.

In 1982 I attended a national convention of youth pastors in Dallas, and while there I took part in a 2-session workshop led by Tony Campolo called Issues That Divide the Church.  Tony spoke about abortion, pacifism, homosexuality, politics and worship styles (among others), and it often occurs to me that nearly 30 years later we are still divided by all of those exact same things- and a few new ones.  Not only does it feel like we are more divided than ever, but it seems that it has become commonplace to take joy in the misery of those with whom we disagree.  In seeking to prove we are right, we are destroying those who disagree with us.  We have become our own worst enemies, leaving little need for The Deceiver to wreck havoc among us.  The band Relient K says it like this in their song Down In Flames:

"Christians-- we mourn, the thorn is stuck in the side of the body watch it self-destruct.
The enemy is much ignored when we fight this Christian civil war.
We're cannibals, we watch our brothers fall.  We eat our own, the bones and all."

I read many Christian blogs and follow a wide variety of Believers on Twitter, and I have to admit that there are days when I am tempted to just give up.  Recently I witnessed people who are church leaders- pastors, elders, youth ministers and the like- seek to destroy each other over issues like Rob Bell's new book, the killing of Osama Bin Laden and the politics of the USAmerican government.  Sometimes their angry words are over theological issues, as denominational leaders seek to defend their territory.  On rare occasions there is civilized debate; more often there are verbal shots fired from both directions that result in casualties.  I cannot imagine what it must be like for a new Christian or a seeking soul to watch this battle play out in the public arena.  It must truly feel like the Church is going down in flames...

So what can be done to extinguish this fire?  I believe Rachel is dead on in her call to unity.  Not conformity- we will never all be just alike. But we can find common ground because we all began on common ground.  The life, teachings, death and resurrection of Jesus must once again become the focal point of our faith.  We must make the "white noise" around things like social issues, theology, politics and denominational doctrine decrease and let our shouts of praise to Jesus be heard from the mountaintops.  I believe that God's plan is for the Church to save the world in His name.  I also believe we are doing a pretty sorry job of it.  In fact, we may be doing more harm than good.  And we must do better, because lives are at stake.  I have faith that the Church can and will get it right- if we return to Jesus as the central leader and the central message of our faith (for more thoughts on this see my older post, All I'm Saying Is...) .  That is the ONLY thing that can bring us unity, just as Jesus is the ONLY thing that can save this burning world.  I'll finish with a few more words from Relient K:

"Let me pause to clarify ('cause I'm sure you're asking, "Why?").
I stand before you and proudly claim to belong to what this song complains.
I'm part of the problem, I confess, But I gotta get this off my chest.
Let's extinguish the anguish for which we're to blame, and save the world
from going down in flames..."

Because of Jesus,

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous5/05/2011

    "We can find common ground because we all began on common ground...Jesus!" That, my friend, is an amazing quote and one that every church leader should remember. Thanks, as always, for your insights. - Chris Cooper


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