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post 1: why we should make church conflict personal

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This is a blog mini-series about the specifics of church plant failure (oh and some some darn serious doctrinal conflict). Hence the title ‘what’s wrong with me and my religion…’ More on that later. For now I should set the tone for what is to come - the ‘please’ tone in my ‘reform please’ bloggin. What I mean is I really want this all to be cordial, irenic, polite - otherwise it’ll just be fragging rather then reforming… 

I could do that a number of ways but I think the best way is just to make it personal right from the git go. 

I remember in my army officer days that whenever someone in the crew room said  ‘mate, don’t take this personally…’ sure as a politicians smile on budget day someone was going to take it personally. Same same when someone said ‘I don’t want to offend you…’ and then… yep, pouty look, someone’s offended. 

But I’m not talking about making church conflict personal in this way. That’s not authorised because you can bet your last salami sandwich that if the one who told us to love our enemies was serious about that then He was serious as anything about loving our church ‘enemies’. Which means, at the very least, not getting grumpy pants over and over about the things they might say (it also means a lot more than this of course, like flying means a lot more than the takeoff run) 

No, what I mean by taking it personally is this: If I hear an ‘-ism’, ‘-ics’ or ‘-its’ critique I am learning to make it personal. That is to say I try to think of the person I know or love who would perhaps place themselves in one of these ‘-ism’, ‘-ics’ or ‘-its’ categories and I see if the criticism sticks.

It works like this. I hear a cliched and tired old ‘charismatics (an ‘ics’ group) are a cult’ like JM said recently or  ‘all those Calvinists (you guessed it…an ‘its’ group)  are this, that or the other thing’ I immediately think of my calvinist friend ‘J'. Well is J like that I ask myself? Does J really think those things? Is J really this, that or the other thing? Did not J just pray with me the other day and did he not show love and concern for ’sinners' in way that busts open this harsh critique that ‘Calvinism is a doctrine from hell’. 

So it is when I hear JM say Charismatics (those who believe, teach and practice the use of supernatural gifts for the glory of God) belong to a movement  ‘as dangerous as any cult or heresy that has ever assaulted Christianity’ I immediately think of my sister and brother in law who I love very much and who pastor one of these 'dangerous cults’. Are they like this? Are they really cultists assaulting Christianity? Did they not just pray with me earnestly for our little church that it would grow and win people for Christ in holiness and maturity? Are they not  as concerned by chicken clucking and barking and misuse of funds as anyone? Are they not seeing people come to Christ and growing, maturing? JM you say they are cultists? Really? Why not come over and have ‘a week in the life’ of their church JM. Have lunch with them a few times. Ask them hard questions over a few beers. See their kids. See their struggles and their heart then…

Well who knows what might happen then. What I do know is that critiquing the faceless masses of a movement is far different from critiquing your sister and your brother who you love heaps. 

So… next time the doctrinal fire glint comes into the eye make it personal, really personal: think of someone you know and love who is in that ‘box’. Are they like this? Do they do this and that? Really? 

And if you don’t know someone on the other side, well do the Christ thing and get all incarnational and get into their shoes not just their face, go where they are, make friends with them, talk to them, read their books, tell jokes…

Who knows what might happen? Perhaps you - we - might actually really start to love and care and then, at long last, Christ’s love might actually be seen as gloriously real and the webcast articles arguing about Him seen as gloriously pathetic. 

But please don’t take this personally… 





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