Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Not Perfection, Just Obedience

I had a wonderful lunch meeting today with my friend Jim Belcher. Jim's book, "Deep Church" is the number one book on right now in the religion section. His book is an attempt to find a middle ground for the traditional and emerging christian church to dialog in civil tones.

Jim himself is an ambassador, and an embodiment, of such an idea. I met him a few months ago when he interviewed me and visited our house church family while he was writing his book. That first meeting at Starbucks (which he recounts briefly in his book) came at a time when I was at odds with some brothers in Christ who would not sit down with me and make peace. Here was Jim, a total stranger to me, and not only did he sit down and have coffee with me, he openly, and lovingly, disagreed with me on matters of ecclesiology. When we were done I had made a new friend and discovered a new brother in Christ after spending over an hour disagreeing on the very same issues that divided me with other men of faith.

The difference was that Jim honestly believed that he and I were brothers in Christ in spite of our differences on the practice of church. It was refreshing beyond belief to hear him say, "We may disagree on ecclesiology but we still serve the same Lord. We're still Family." I must confess I nearly burst into spontaneous tears when he said that.

Today over lunch Jim and I met again. He handed me an autographed copy of his book and, once more, we shared as brothers and rejoiced over the (mostly) peaceful dialog that God was creating through his book and the ideas represented. Although I haven't read the book I'm sure there are some things I agree with, and probably a handful of other things I disagree with, but that doesn't change the fact that Jim and I are still family. I love him as a brother and I left today's lunch meeting feeling that Jim felt the same.

Driving home after work I couldn't help but think further about the different ideas of church that Jim and I have. I'm in the process of putting the final touches on my own book about the church. In it, I am sure that there are many ideas that Jim would agree with, and probably more than a few ideas that he might disagree with. Still, there's room for open dialog and honest disagreement between member of the Family of God. Jim has wonderfully demonstrated this to me and this inspires me to do the same as I look towards the inevitable backlash my book might create.

One final thought: Our ecclesiology doesn't make us better people. One look at the New Testament will proove this. You can have the most New Testament model church since the one in Jerusalem and you will still have weak, foolish, selfish, broken people who need to be constantly immersed in the presence of Christ and daily in need of forgiveness and grace.

What our ecclesiology can do is to help us to be more like what Jesus intended His Church to embody- a family where He is the Lord, a body where He is he Head, and a temple where He is the center of everything.

At minimum we who are called by His name are commanded to be known by our love.
My hope is that God will continue to show us, especially me, how to love in truth and not just in word or tongue, especially when it comes to the household of faith.



Tracey Alan Sheneman said...

Thanks for the post, Keith.

I advocate for a "back-to-basics" approach for all Christians, traditional or emerging, with Christ the (obvious) central focus. As good as that sounds, human pride, and our stinking egos tend to complicate matters. I see corruption and abuse in organized religion. I've encountered narrow-mindedness and intolerance among emerging groups. Where's the middle ground? As usual: the cross. He made peace between us in his body on the cross. Let's have our disagreements over ecclesiology without losing respect for one another. How in the world is it possible for me to maintain personal respect for a brother or sister whose political views are opposite my own but when it comes to church practice we see each other as enemies?! Nonsense.

A cultural and generational gap has emerged which can only be bridged through humility and mutual respect. If we will listen to each other compassionately, with open minds and open hearts, we will discover that bond of kinship in Christ that no earthly differences can sever. I pray this to be so for every member of God's household. Amen.

Peace to you,


Mary said...

Nicely said, Tracey:)