a rant by a runt about the american church, part 5

important preliminary comments here (part 1)
our american identity here (part 2)
my framing theological assumption here (part 3)
the unfortunate results of being reactors here (part 4)

who we are informs our theology. or, as i said in part 3, we develop our theology based on what we want that theology to do for us. this seems to be especially true in the arena of ecclesiology and the practical implications (structures, programs, worship approaches) of that theology.


since we’re simplifiers…

we have very little or no place for nuance or gray. americans love things in black and white. we love concrete answers. and we want our answers to be simple — memorable and aliterated only increases the value! unfortunately, this plays out in our churches in an abhorance of nuanced or grayish answers. while ambiguity can play a wonderful role of causing us to seek harder, to seek further, to question and listen to god; our pop-culture church response to ambiguity is to villify it and dismiss it as weak or faithless or ‘not committed to truth’ or, at the end of the day, unpractical.

we settle for simple answers in areas where they should be complex. this is ancillary to the point above, i suppose. but there’s a nuanced difference (ooh, nuance!): because we like things simplified, we are all-too-willing to settle for simplified answers to questions that are just too complex for a simple answer. how do we respond to homosexuals in our midst; or even more complex, in the world around us? how should the church respond to a postmodern cultural turn? what’s the best way to live my life? all these, and thousands more, are complex questions that are simply ruined by simple answers. why do i say they’re ‘ruined’ by simple answers? i could have said they were not well answered by simple answers, or that they deserve more. but i said complex questions are ‘ruined’ by simple answers because i believe complex questions are a wonderful gift to us. they are pregnant with the potential beauty of growth, begging for us to think and listen and discern, and promising something much greater than simple answers: they promise the opportunity to seek god. simple answers do not motivate us to seek god.

here’s an example: i was in a brainstorming session a few years ago for a large evangelistic event for teenagers. and one of the framers, knowing my frustration with over-simplifying things, asked me: “tell me this — what the least a person can do and be a christian?” i hesitated, and responded: “i’m not sure that’s the right question.” she signed, frustrated with me, and reframed: “ok, then what’s the least a person can believe and be a christian?”

these questions were loaded — WAY-loaded — with backstory and assumptions. the primary assumption was, how low can we lower the bar to get as many kids ‘in’ as possible. and the other primary assumption was that this was the goal of the event. nothing about living in the fullness of christ. nothing about being an active part of the kingdom of god, and the work of jesus on earth. if we only think of something like salvation (sure, it’s simple in one way; but the implications are wonderfully and terrifyingly complex) as a simple “cross this line and you’re done”, we would be literally robbing those teenagers of the life jesus declares for us in john 10:10.

next up (part 6): since we’re systemetizers…

9 thoughts on “a rant by a runt about the american church, part 5”

  1. I’m guessing at some point somebody is going to give you hell for all of this.

    Just know that your insights are forcing us to relook and rethink this global good news we are so in love with.

    Keep writing, bro!!

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  6. there was a youth in our church, who, SINCERELY, asked: “if God doesn’t condemn people who never had the opportunity to her the Gospel, why did my parents have to tell me about Jesus.”

    Simplicity taken to it’s logical conclusion-“why bother”.

    What have we done.
    Lord have mercy on us.

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