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Category: Evangelical

Rubber Bands

06

For hundreds of years, churches have been like rubber bands. Their focus has been on getting as many people as possible inside the circle (of tradition, of polity, of community, of doctrine). The bands only stretch so far, however, making it inevitable that a point will come at which some people will get squeezed out unless the old band is replaced with something newer, larger and less restrictive in each of the senses listed above.

This model isn’t working the way it used to. Southern Baptists — the nation’s largest protestant denomination — reported in 2008 that new baptisms were down to the lowest level since 1987 and that membership had dropped by about 40,000 people this year. These numbers are generally in line with downward trends among all mainline protestant denominations.

How should Christians respond? Maybe it’s time to reconsider the model. Who says the world should be knocking on our door (let alone sitting in our pews)? After all, Jesus didn’t tell his followers to sit in an upstairs room—door locked—counting down the days to His return. He sent them out to be his witnesses “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Who says the world should be knocking on our door (let alone sitting in our pews)?

Conversion Danger

04

Faith is fused with identity. I am what I believe. As a result, the discovery of a truth opens new worlds and changes my character.

What, then, is the danger of conversion, trying to bring others into truth? It is this. To convert is not to open up new worlds. Instead, its aim is to destroy old ones, leaving the converted in a land not their own and dependent on us, their human saviors.

Do you see that proselytizing is patronizing? That it is a way for us to lord over the less-enlightened? That it objectifies?

Too often, we seek to convince people that they must exchange their boxes for ours. This is sin. Our aim, instead, must be to help them tear holes in their boxes, to see the light of day, to enter this new world as free men and women.

But first, we must work on tearing down the walls of our own boxes. After all, the beam must be removed from your eye before you can take the speck of dust from your brother’s.

we seek to convince people that they must exchange their boxes for ours

Are Humans Evil?

08

A friend writes that “we are all essentially evil at the core.” And I’ve heard this statement shared so many times in Sunday sermons, in the arguments used for a “just war” or in explanations as to why nobody can ever live a truly “holy” life.

But I disagree. If we’re created by God and in God’s image, then the core of our very being must be good. Even someone who doesn’t know God (or believe in God’s existence) has the ability to recognize truth, to give and receive love.

Sin (or evil) must be more like an artificial covering, something we like to wear because of the false feelings of protection and power that it provides. The problem is that in trying to protect our interests, we selfishly cause harm to others (or short-sightedly cause harm to ourselves). And in trying to gain control over our destinies, we too often decide that someone else’s dreams don’t matter, giving ourselves permission to do whatever is necessary to “win.”

we too often decide that someone else’s dreams don’t matter

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