I’ve never actually seen a moth burn up as a result of being drawn into a flame. But I’ve seen them buzzing around my back porch light enough to get the idea. It is a great illustration for how we are often drawn into the very things that will ultimately destroy us. That has been the experience of the church in America. We fight to obtain the very things that will ultimately weaken us and make us wholly ineffective.
I believe that the spread of Christianity in the early church was attributable primarily to two God-ordained circumstances: (1) persecution from outside the church, and (2) conflict from within, due to the differences among them. Take away the oppression of the Roman government and Christianity does not have a reason to spread beyond Jerusalem except by mere happenstance. Take away the vast cultural differences within the early church, and Christian doctrine never really gets tested and grown and purified, it never develops any of the Spiritual “immunities” to false teaching which it currently enjoys.
It is always funny to me, then, when we in the church spend so much time and energy trying to rid the world of both of these catalysts. The church in America is actually fighting for two things that will kill us: (1) political favor from the outside and (2) homogeneous culture on the inside. I spoke to the second item in my recent post here. I will only summarize that post by saying that, contrary to what many of us seem to believe in the church, diversity is actually our friend, i.e., our strength…not our enemy. But what about the first catalyst? What about persecution from outside the church? History tells the story best.
Historically, Christianity has always grown stronger in the …
There is a public park in Luhans’k, Ukraine where my ministry has gone to work with churches in the past. The park is in a “forest”. It is a beautiful place. But there is something eerie about it. You can’t quite put your finger on it, but there is something about it which just doesn’t seem right. You feel like you are out in nature, but not really. Then you learn the story…the “park” is a man-made forest built by the Nazis. The trees are all lined up! Then it’s not eerie anymore…it’s just funny.
I had a long conversation with “Thomas”, a church leader whose church was blessed with a diversity of people. The topic of the conversation was worship styles, but the principle at issue was much larger than that. When confronted with the reality that a variety of preferred worship styles (I usually refer to them as “languages”) existed in his church, this leader sternly refused to use any other styles other than the one they currently used, the one they had been using for many decades. His premise was this: in our worship we must stay unified, with a common “language” or style, because the more homogenous we are, the stronger we are…diversity only weakens us. Hmmm. It flustered me a little, because it was an entirely new argument for me. I honestly never thought anyone could make an argument against diversity among God’s people. Frankly, pictures of a Nazi forest came to mind.
I have always seen our diversity as an incredible strength. It challenges us, to be sure. It is difficult at times, to be sure. But it stretches our understanding of God and of one another. It is that whole “you complete me” thing. I actually am energized being …