Welcome to the maiden voyage of my blog.
I never dreamed I’d do this. So it’s ok to ask “why.” Why am I doing this? There are several reasons. First, I’ve been encouraged to do this by people I trust who think I need to tell the “rest of the story” after I speak to the church each weekend. But the second reason I’m doing this is probably the most compelling reason: I need a place to say things that couldn’t be said on Sunday, or things I hadn’t thought of until Monday, or just vent random thoughts that you may find interesting.
I’ve been speaking to my congregation most weekends for thirty-one years now, and most Sundays I finish delivering my sermon and walk away thinking, “There’s more to it…” Most often I’m simply limited by time constraints. We have multiple services across multiple campuses and staying on schedule is necessary. Sometimes I’m constrained by my audience. I’m not saying that my audience isn’t equipped, or doesn’t want to hear certain things, but rather that there are some cultural topics better addressed away from the pulpit and in more of a conversational platform.
I’m motivated by something else, too. I feel as though we are living in a time in our world where we have lost the art of respectfully agreeing to disagree. I want to look at that. What does it mean to respect someone else’s opinion if it is different than yours? Do we always have to be committed to one side or the other or is there an in-between place we can live peaceably? This has been eating away at me lately, as I am watching what is happening at college campuses, in politics, in neighborhoods across the country.
And it isn’t just outside of the church or Christian circles. I have witnessed "virtual public stoning" of good, loving, Christians when their stance on various issues are opposed by other good and loving believers. Have they read John 17? What happened to the idea of being “one”? This has to stop. I think if Jesus were standing on the sidelines watching the way we present Him to the world--and each other-- He would walk away with his head bent saying, “They just don’t get it!”
So this will be a place where we look at “living in the in-between,” building bridges, and what it really means to love and respect one another.
We need to realize that we are all broken. None of us are perfect.
You can check that in the Bible if you want – it’s in there. So why do some broken people find the joy of Christ only to turn around and judge other broken people? A few years ago I was criticized by some good friends who are seasoned believers. I was there when they first came through the doors of the church, fearing rejection but finding love and grace. Those friends wanted me to be far more harsh than I felt necessary on a particular issue. I was caught off guard by their rather legalistic responses, reflecting back on their conditions when they first walked into the church.
So I posed a question to them. I asked them, “What if we were taking the approach you are suggesting when you first walked through our doors?” They quickly backed off and apologized for their insensitivity to lost people.
I’ve found that personal interaction with people that don’t fit my perfect Christian mold changes me. It expands my ideas of what that mold really looks like. The first time I sat down with __________, my perspective changed. Not my beliefs. My perspective.
My firm belief in the biblical perspectives has not changed. But how I communicate it has. The way I engage with lost people today is very different than the way I did it thirty years ago. Then, it was a “transactional” event. Accept Jesus, you're in. All good. Now, it is a relationship of trust that I find most effective in earning the right to discuss with non-believers the issues that trouble us and divide us.
We will be looking at who fills in that blank, how my opinions changed each time I sat down with someone I thought should remain on the “outside,” and how God showed me time and time again that I was on the outside too. It is only because of grace that I am able to participate in his kingdom. I think the statement that “his grace is sufficient” means it is just that: all sufficient. For everything. Unlimited. Boundless. Covering everyone and everything that fills that blank.
We’ll look at “the first time I sat down with ____________” and how big God’s grace really is.
I hope conversations will be started, both those that agree and disagree with what I have to say. Respectfully. With grace.