By Jonathan David Faulkner
It is hard to be a Christian in North America right now, I will not deny that fact, though we have it pretty good compared to Christians elsewhere it is getting increasingly difficult for us to minister openly. It does not help that the church in America in a lot of places borders on Apostasy if it is not there already and more and more people like myself are becoming disillusioned with both American Christianity and the American Church in general. To make it worse when something else goes wrong everyone is quick to jump on the hate-train and attack whoever made the mistake. Sometimes people do that when the issue that comes up is not a mistake or error or actually a good thing. Then fingers get pointed and voices get raised and everyone’s favorite “Facebook Evangelist” releases a hate-filled tirade that is directed at his brothers and sisters in Christ. Pretty soon MaCarthur is blaming Driscoll for Trump (which happened) and God’s Heart is being blamed for encouraging a “Sissy Faith” and there is not a peacemaker to be found.
Then of course you have the other end of the spectrum, like the pastor who sat with us at lunch yesterday who basically told us that by preaching law in any way shape or form was harmful to the flock. Who over-emphasized one side of the tension by dispensing of the other (more to come on this next week). Who would probably find our teachings legalistic because we hold that while the Moral and Civil laws are fulfilled in Christ (like the ceremonial law), they are still a part of the covenant relationship with have with God. (We now keep them out of gratitude and because we can by the power of the Holy Spirit). Who disagreed sharply when it was suggested that we still sin and that the experience of the Christian Life is not normative.
We know, it sounds crazy right? And if you want, you can blame us for being softies…I mean, it’s been done. How do you think we got the Hashtag #GospelDrivenSissyPreacher?
But when did blaming anyone for the problems in the church get us anywhere? When I was still a legalist it got me yelled at by my friend Jackie (She was right of course) and put me at odds with good friends. Later, in my post-legalist fog it would put me at odds with one the men who had helped lift me out of the mindset I was left in after the abuse. It was not nice and as I have said a lot lately I wish I could go back and mend those relationships and reconcile with those people whom I harmed with my fire-wielding, forest burning tongue.
Hey, guess what, the American Church has issues, American Christianity has a lot of issues. We can be real about that, acknowledge it. But why does the realization of these issues seem to give us the right to openly attack other believers both pastor and lay-persons alike because we think they done it? Here is a newsflash brothers and sisters…it does not.
Yes, I am disturbed that many evangelicals have given Trump their support, but does that mean I should blame Driscoll or anyone else for that? No, it is not the fault of one person. None one of the issues that American Evangelicalism is facing is the fault of one individual but the collective body. We have all played a part in creating issues we have in American Evangelicalism. By either not standing up for truth in a manner that reflected Christ and the teachings of Scripture or by perpetuating Folk Theology and Heterodoxy that have led people away from the truth Gospel of Jesus Christ.
We all share in tearing down the Church…so let’s work together to build it back up.
Granted, this will not be easy, it will require us to give up long held convictions that should be relegated to the realm of opinions. It will require us to lay down out weapons aimed at those who disagree with us and start to celebrate our common nature in Christ. 1 Timothy 2:1-9 might be a good place to start if we are to be united in love and if we are to return to a place where no outsiders can hold anything aginast us. Since, that is how it is meant to be anyway. Maybe we should give up our so perceived individuality and started being the corporate body of Christ. Worshiping in Spirit and Truth with whatever style you like and not looking down on another for his chosen style. If we started to see ourselves as part of the Covenant People of God, under the new covenant that was initiated through Christ.
If we decided to strive to be actual peacemakers…
Hey, I know, we paint a bleak picture of the church in America, but we also have the desire to see it renewed and restored. We want to take those things which are good about it (and there are some very good things going on in the American Church right now too) and see those things that have made us an abomination to those outside the church (In some cases) be put aside. To actually live differently and honestly and with integrity, to put on Godliness and remember that our righteousness comes from God and so we are now saved for good works.
We can fix this, by the leading of the Spirit and by the grace of God above we can fix this. We can follow again the example of Jesus Christ and return to the mission which we are called to. It does not mean we have to go back to doing things the way the early church did them, though we should definitely learn from them as much as possible, but it does mean we surrender our own understanding and choose to lean on and rely on God. Trusting in Him as a collective body and acknowledging Him with our ways as a body instead of acknowledging ourselves. It means setting aside our differences and returning to an Orthodox understanding and unity. Allowing for subtle differences and showing grace when needed.
It is possible to live life as believers in unison, it is something we need to relearn how to do and to do that we need to acknowledge that the Spirit is constantly dwelling in us and working in us and working for our sanctification. Seeing each other as brothers and sisters instead of enemies and living together in the tension of the Saint and the Sinner.
This view might make us #GospelDrivenSissyPreachers but that’s okay, we are fine with that.
Jonathan David Faulkner is a student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree inChristian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry