Saturday, August 14, 2010

Expanding the Big Tent (Further Thoughts)

In my last post, I wrote briefly about what Big Tent Christianity means to me. I'd like to expand a little bit on that post:

Big Tent Christianity is Kingdom, not kingdom, focused. It's not about denominations or territories or any of the other minor, petty differences that have kept churches from being the Church. It's about embracing the fact that the God we serve, the Christ we follow, the Spirit we seek, is bigger than any one of us, and not something we can cram into some simple package. None of us have a monopoly on Truth.

For example... I was raised in Baptist churches. I currently work at a United Methodist church, my wife is a UM pastor. I went to a UM seminary. So, I like to refer to my spiritual heritage as Methobaptist or Wesleyan Baptist. One of the primary threads of Baptist theology is the belief in believer's baptism, that is, baptism by choice of the person being baptized. They make the decision as to when/if they want to be baptized, whereas the UMC has long practiced infant baptism. Historically, this conflict over the theology of baptism has been something that has caused some drama/beef/etc. Big Tent Christianity embraces both approaches, acknowledging that each one is theologically sound and has merit. It doesn't just push ignore differences, but rather realizes that each position is one that is tied in sound theological thinking and application. Believer's baptism acknowledges our ability to choose and enables the believer to actually remember their baptism, which they can then reflect upon and draw strength from in trying times. Infant baptism rightfully acknowledges that God is active and present in our lives before we ever even realize it (prevenient grace). There's room under the big tent for both approaches, and in interacting, Baptists and Methodists find themselves strengthened and blessed by the foundation behind both approaches. We learn and grow from each other, and the fellowship created is a gift of God.

Now, my hopes and dreams for the future of the Church...

Well, they're big. I know that much. I see a Church that spends little time squabbling over petty doctrinal disputes and more time practicing the incarnation of Christ, being the hands and feet of God in the world. We will be vested in our communities, a voice for the voiceless and sharing hope with the hopeless. We stop chasing the next fad or trend and instead practice the art of pointing to Christ. Instead of trying to be cool, we try to be Christ. If we really want to make any impact in this world, then we need to stop investing all our time in fitting in, and instead spend our time reaching out. Despite the protestations of some talking heads and supposed figureheads of Christianity, the concept of social justice is inherently tied to the message of Jesus. The church, when it is being the Church, is dedicated to sharing the love of Jesus with those around her, and that takes many, many forms. It's feeding someone physically and pointing to the need to be fed spiritually. It is helping the poor and pointing them toward the richness of Christ. It is breaking the bonds of oppression and pointing those newly freed (and those doing the oppressing) toward the freedom found in Jesus Christ.

I'm prone to dreaming big. The way things are are NOT the way they have to be. If there is no hope for change, then there is no hope in Christ. The very message of Jesus Christ indicates that we can be changed and we can take part in the changing. We can't do it on our own, but we don't have to. We have an advocate, and we have each other. So if we're talking about our hopes and dreams, then we cheat ourselves when we don't dream big.


No comments: