In 1969 Barb and I moved to Pennsylvania to preach for an established church that needed a pulpit minister. Little did I know that that move would begin my journey out of legalism and into a broader understanding of God’s Grace. We were away from the Bible Belt and in an area with few Churches of Christ. I was fortunate to have fellow preachers within a short driving distance of where I lived. When together with these fellows I began to learn that they did not always see eye to eye with me on my understanding of scripture. The challenges that would follow would send me on a mission to learn the Bible and not just rely on pat answers that I had accepted from our brotherhood preachers, books and publications.
Mike Cope’s blog from the 26th. reminded me of those early years.
Len Sweet talks about the passing of the Jeopardy churches: churches that think their job is to answer every question. (I guess more precisely to match the show, they provide the exact question to fit every answer!)
Most people aren’t dying to be with people who think they know everything. It’s much more exciting to be on a journey — where everyone’s insights and everyone’s experiences are valued and then considered through interaction and discernment.
People don’t need to be given a thousand answers. They need to be invited to follow the One who is himself the Answer/the Way. They need to be invited to a life that is other than self-obsession, self-preoccupation, and self-preservation.
The way of the cross. That is the answer.
Those early years of transition from finding all the answers to finding the one who had all the answers opened my eyes to how immature it was for a person or church to think they could have all the answers. I gradually came to realize that I was simply on a journey with others seekers. We had all begun at different points, but our ultimate goal was to find Jesus and His will for our lives. They were not evil “truth” haters, closed minded defenders of evil. They were much like me, filled with preconceived ideas and opinions put there by folks that thought they were doing the will of the Father.
I am a big fan of “The Dog Whisper” on the National Geographic Channel. This guy understands how dogs think. One evening recently he mentioned how important it was not to introduce two strange dogs to each other – eye ball to eye ball. Rather he suggested that they meet and walk side by side for a bit before they begin the other routines dogs have to check each other out.
That made me think. Meeting eye ball to eye ball sounded a lot like the days of debates. Introductions were made and then the fight was on. I wonder if those meetings could have ended differently if first they had walked side by side and discussed what they had in common. What if we had seen each other as equals on a journey together to seek the will of the Father? What if we had seen each other as people with honest motives and intent?
I like Len Sweet’s characterization of “Jeopardy Churches”. It is sad but so very true. I think “Jeopardy churches” are just generations away from death. The declines of the past years will continue to increase and take there toll as more and more members either die or awaken to the reality of God’s Grace. Their children are already voting with their feet. Sadly, it is just a matter of time.
Answer: They don’t understand God’s Grace. Question: What is the reason churches are on the decline?