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Life in the church has become like life elsewhere in America: “Issues are us.” ┬áBut isn’t God bigger than the issue of the moment?

3 Responses to “The Issue Driven Church”

  1. Paul McKay says:

    I get this, but I’m wondering–might the only thing worse than an “issue-driven church” be a “non-issue driven church”? I’m always most comfortable in a church home that splits the difference–that takes the middle way–and that sort of church home is actually hard to find. I want a church that looks unflinchingly and seriously at personal salvation and all that goes with that–the power of sin over our daily lives–as well as the power of love and grace to overcome our sinful nature. But I see all too many of my own United Methodist Churches where the studies and discussions in Sunday schools are about anything EXCEPT the Bible, UNLESS the study is about the Social Gospel and the Old Testament’s Social Justice stuff. And that’s always a reflection of the senior pastor’s heavy tilt toward the Social Gospel and a personally left-leaing, activist political POV. But then there are so, so many of those “Non-Issues Churches,” where a preacher may see his anti-abortion activism as the one social activism that’s OK. Otherwise, that preacher wouldn’t dare rock the boat by sermonizing in favor of an issue like, say, the full inclusion of gays in the church and society. I want a church that takes the entire Bible and all its theology seriously–the personal as well as the social, a church that’s not leaning further than the Tower of Pisa to one side or the other in its theological or political bent. But sadly, I don’t know how many times I’ve heard an ordained minister at a big church say, “I wish I could preach what I really believe sometime about (gay inclusion, peace vs war–or, even a specific, sort of “momentary issue” in the news like sexual harassment).” Some preachers are afraid to touch hot button issues for fear of making people in the pews uncomfortable to the point of revolting. But then, other preachers are afraid to touch anything BUT hot button issues, usually as seen from a left-leaning POV, for fear of people who lean left in world views not coming to church and filling the pews. They’re all about afflicting the comfortable while comforting the afflicted. ALL about it. You may not see any cross front and center in such a church–much less anything like a cross outside the church unless it’s something like the Methodist Cross and Flame insignia (the Cross and Flame is always OK for a left-leaning church and never mind that that’s out there like a corporate “brand.” So much irony to be found in a left-leaning church, but the same could be said of the other kind.) But you might very well see a giant rainbow banner that signfifies the church as oh so very welcoming to gays. I dont’ think a church has to be either-or, but in fact should be both/and–it should be about both personal salvation AND a living faith in which praxis, and even political and social activism in the streets, spring forth from an understanding of personal salvation , and from serious Bible study that encourages struggling with issues rather than flying the right banners. In the theology of Church, as in the science of politics, nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong. And God help us–we might all be wrong.

  2. fwschmidt says:

    Paul, I certainly see your point. I think that my reaction is that the need to complement a church that is devoted at its core to the Gospel and understands that the journey inward leads to a journey outward doesn’t need another kind of church. I suspect we are talking about the same result. But when the debate over what the church should be becomes a matter of offering an alternative model instead of a deeper understanding of what church was meant to be in the first place, I think something is lost.

    Make sense?

  3. Paul McKay says:

    Makes more sense than the comment I banged out without enough reflection. I should never email, blog, reply to somebody’s blog or anything else on the fly; much prefer to reflect on stuff a while–writing on the fly is a habit I’m trying to break, lol.

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