In The Gathering, we are going through the gospel of John. It has been a wonderful study for us! I still feel convicted when I really study Christ’s “missional” ways and his passion for people…ALL people. It is just not possible to really come to an understanding of the Biblical Jesus without feeling moved toward people in need.
But even as we read convicting passages from God’s Word, many in my church will be thinking to themselves, “Our church needs to be about feeding hungry people and helping the homeless in our community…our church needs to continue clothing them and providing other help for them…this is something our church needs to do.” And those are good thoughts, but they are indicative of the institutional mindset which is keeping many of us from ever reaching our true Christian potential as individuals.
You see, there is more to the missional mindset than just becoming a missional institution. The missional lifestyle is a lifestyle for each of us as individual Christians, whether or not our particular church is ever seen by its community as being missional. The attitude at my own church provides a great example. Not that long ago, my church was literally blazing trails in the area of social ministries. We owned and operated a restaurant run almost entirely by volunteers, the profits from which went to feed people in our near-by soup kitchen. We provided leadership in some of our community’s homeless shelters and clothes closets. We had a strong presence in several of our city’s project housing complexes. We provided Christmas meals to between 400 and 500 impoverished families each year. In this area of social ministries, our institution was a well-run machine.
So, over the last 30 years, each of us as church …
My South African friend, Frank, tells a great story about being in a motorcycle gang when he turned his life over to the Lord. A member of the gang confronted him: “So, I hear you’re a Christian now.” “That’s right,” said Frank. The gang member continued, “So, if I hit you, you have to turn the other cheek.” “That’s right,” said Frank, “That’s what the scripture tells me.” So the gang member belted Frank, right across the face. Frank obediently turned the other cheek. The gang member hit him again, maybe a little harder this time. Frank straightened himself out, looked back at the gang member…and flattened him. Then Frank told him, “Scripture gives no further instructions after that.”
It’s important to know the rules of engagement.
In the Christian church, the rules of engagement are all spelled out for us in God’s Word. The Bible, then, becomes the cultural guideline for all of our interaction with one another, whether in times of conflict or in times of agreement. In most Christian churches, the Bible is held among the very highest of values. Understanding that culture (i.e., the rules of engagement), then, requires understanding God’s Word. I think it is fair to say that, in the church today, one of the critical limiting factors to finding peace with one another is Biblical illiteracy. By the same token, all of the most effective peacemakers I know in the church, past or present, have had a pretty good working knowledge of scripture.
In the secular world, at least in our culture, the highest value in mediation is the agreement. In other words, that the parties agree is what matters most. It doesn’t matter so much whether the agreement is fair or unfair or good or bad. If the parties
Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.
My impression is that the church in America is getting LESS Biblically literate, not more. I don’t have any scientific data to support that impression. Maybe the Barna Group or someone like that has researched it. I’m just saying that, when we compare the evangelical church of today to the one that existed 50 or 100 years ago, I have a distinct impression that our understanding of the God of the Bible is not deepening–rather, it is getting shallower. I believe we are becoming a Biblically illiterate church. I would welcome your impression on that issue.
If I am right about that, then here is what is really mind-boggling: I suspect we are graduating more students from our theological institutions than ever before. I mean, I strongly suspect that there are actually more theologians among us today than we have ever had among us at any other time in the history of the church. Moreover, the church in America has groomed and perfected the art of preaching beyond measure. We have truly amazing, gifted teachers and preachers in the American church, and their lessons and sermons have never been more accessible than they are right now. Anytime I desire, I can go on line or tune into the radio and listen to Charles Stanley, Andy Stanley, John Ortberg, John MacArthur, Max Lucado, Chuck Swindoll or any of hundreds of other great preachers. You want choices? The church in America has choices galore!
So here is the critical question: how is that we have so much fantastic preaching and so many really smart theologians in the church today but we are actually less Biblically literate than ever?