Monday, April 18, 2011

The Focal Point of Unity

I'm sitting in a class on church history with the current discussion on the church in America in the early 1920s. Before I continue, allow me to express the success of your scolding for the division of my attention in the middle of a lecture. There, now that we have the chastisement taken care of I can continue with what I hope does not turn into a rant.

Being a lifelong participant in evangelical churches I am pained at the reactionary stance of these churches in America. Where throughout history the response to disagreements on the finer points of theology resulted in the calling of councils and the crafting of creeds, there has been for quite some time in America a growing tendency to leave and rebuild instead of stand and fight for truth and morality within communities claiming Christ's character. This concerns me. If the church is supposed to represent the Bride of Christ and is to be an inexplicable unified body that transcends culture, race, national borders, generations, and genders, how can such a track record be considered healthy?

Here is my concern. There is a church for every taste, style, preference, and mindset. A passing consideration of this trend may produce applause at the ability it has to provide a brand of church for every person. The problem is that when we try to craft local churches primarily on the foundation of personal preference there seems to be a danger of sacrificing the string of tradition that extends to the apostles themselves who sat directly under the teaching of the God-Man Himself. Yes, I am implying that church history and tradition matters.

If I'm to further distill my concern, I suppose it is that we seem to be raising an iPod generation even as it relates to participation with Christ's church. We are raising a generation that buys only the songs that they want to load on their iPod rather than buy a whole CD; a generation that has been inundated with slogans encouraging them to "have it your way". I would contend this doesn't work with the church. If everyone has it their way and each individual is able to pick the brand that is tailor-made to their personal preferences, how can we hope to build true unified communities? Are we not as followers of Christ to give up our own desires and claim the desires of Christ as our own? Is the common ground that we are to claim as members of a local church supposed to be our musical preference and our penchant for trendy techniques, or is our common ground supposed to be the risen Christ and indwelling Holy Spirit that can unify all humanity under one Father?

I think the last question I asked is the important question, and I would say that it is Christ who is to be our point of unification. I want to take that one step further. If our churches do not reflect multi-generational, multi-cultural, multi-economic, multi-political, and multi-ethnic unity then we are doing something wrong and must reexamine the focal point of our Christian communities.

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