Staying Put

Here’s a quote from an excellent article by David Fitch:

I believe God’s calling upon us starts where we are born. And we are to work within that tradition, or the tradition by which we first were brought into the gospel, until informed otherwise (i.e. kicked out). We are to work for its reform from within. And just perhaps, if we stay put and keep working long enough, a true ecumenism can happen that brings all traditions together in a grand convergence of the Spirit.

I’ve been an advocate for years now of non-denominational churches, seeing in the abandonment of traditional denominational structures the hope for a re-unification of the body of Christ.  But lately I’ve had to question that advocacy and I’m ready to chunk it altogether, because I see more clearly now the disastrous effects on a church when the voices for change leave to join hipper, newer movements. 

It’s the most vicious of vicious cycles:  advocates of change who are frustrated with the church’s resistance to change exacerbate that resistance by removing themselves, their ideas, and the distress they create from the resisting church to form new churches.  I’ve been one of those people, having gone so far as suggesting that my present church would serve the Kingdom best by disincorporating and giving its property to a body of believers that is less laden with fundie cultural baggage and truly serious about serving the community surrounding the property.  Wouldn’t it be better to empower the people who get it than to fight the battle of convincing the comfortably recalcitrant?

No, it wouldn’t be better.  It would only be easier.

Here’s a greatly simplified (and probably inaccurate) picture of where ______ Baptist Church sits on the family tree of church history (you can click on the image to see a larger version):

If people within _________ wish to be and act like the Acts 2 church, there are two choices.  We can follow and continue the trend of our history by branching off from our roots to form yet another “new” movement, announcing on the way, “We’re the new and improved version of what you are.  We’re now an Acts 2 church.  Get used to it.” 

Or, we can stop what we’re doing, turn around, and take the more difficult path upstream, through our history, seeking to heal the rifts that caused the branching to occur in the first place.

Maybe I’m being a little naïve, thinking that the only way to undo the categories that drive me crazy (contemporary/traditional, fundamentallist/modernist, Southern Baptist/General Baptist, etc.) is to commit to resolve the issues that created the categories in the first place rather than defeat each category’s advocates.  If we can resolve the issues surrounding worship style by effectively changing hearts and minds, then the category can go away.

What if we all agreed to stop leaving churches, and started talking to each other about issues rather than at each other?  What if we all could accept the imperfection of the church and love her anyway? 

What if I agreed to remain a Baptist until no one cares to use the word anymore?


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