Just finished reading this very thought provoking post by David Fitch (HT: Rob Martin) about conflict and the Church. One of the main thoughts is about how the reconciliation that happens when Christ breaks in and causes conflict (exposing of sin, wrestling with new issues). Christ can really break in and change us more into His image. Here is his summary:
All of the above is reason for why I continually find myself saying “Conflict is ground zero for the inbreaking of the Kingdom.” Too often I or our church have failed at this (this is why I have to write this stuff to remind everybody including me). I find this kind of cultivating the Kingdom to be almost impossible once you get above a certain number in your church (three hundred?). It is probably because of the tendency for churches to self organize into CEO leadership once their numbers dictate this is the only way to survive. I wonder, as a result, whether megachurches can experience God’s Kingdom in this way? Whay say u? I have become convinced that you do this kind of cultivating for five years with a group of twenty to thirty people and you will be amazed at that vibrant Kingdom life taking shape among you. Anyone have experiences that can validate this way of Kingdom life?
I don’t attend a mega-church, but we do have far more than three hundred in attendance each Sunday. I do wonder how our pastoral staff would respond to this. (You out there John King?) I do think that part of the answer is the involvement of Christians in small groups. Large churches need to give opportunity for individuals to connect with others in small groups so that they can be in the types of relationships where Christ can break in through others who know who we are and are willing to put it all on the line to help us become more like Christ. Fitch gives three recommendations for churches that want to allow this type of conflict to come in and make us more like Christ:
- Nurture mutual submission to Jesus as Lord
- Don’t manage conflict
- Ask what Is God doing here/ and observe
Seems like some pretty good ideas to me. (see his post for his explanation of these)
While I’m here, one area of conflict that Fitch mentions in his post is the issue of same-sex relationships. On that topic, I recently read an article on the Sojourners blog about evangelicals and what the author called a “Great Gay Awakening”. (HT: Beth Transue) I understand (and had heard) the argument that the prohibition against homosexuality in the Old Testament is one of many prohibitions in the law. Many of them (no shellfish, no eating pork, no wearing fabric with more than one type of thread, etc.) we Christians have decided are not required for Christians. This makes the passages in Leviticus weak for those of us who would argue homosexuality is an abomination. The passages in Paul’s letters that condemn homosexuality have been much more influential, at least for me. In this article, the author quotes from Jay Bakker who claims that the original Greek in those passages is more appropriately used to refer specifically to men having relations with male temple prostitutes. I am far from a Greek scholar (what Greek I know is mostly from mathematical and statistical formulae, not a Greek language course), so I don’t know if Bakker’s claims are accurate.
Also, the title, “Is Evangelicalism Having a Great Gay Awakening”, is a bit of a misnomer. Almost all of those she references as having this awakening are a part of the so-called “Emergent” church (though Rob Bell refuses to officially associate himself). This certainly gives some food for thought, and I’d welcome any insight from those who know the Greek better than I. Confirming Bakker’s claim could make a huge difference in how those passages are used to build theology on this issue. I don’t want to change my view based on a lie, or based on a whim, but I do want to be open to the leading of the Spirit where my beliefs are wrong. I know that, no matter what, I am called to love them as Jesus would, and to pray for them to become more like Christ. While I still believe that homosexuality is incompatible with Scripture, that is no excuse to be unloving.