Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Adam and Steve-not Eve

Jon, one of our copy editors, has a thought-provoking post on how poorly prepared to do actual ministry most churches are. Another blogger, Sam, presented the scenario of a married couple, with adopted kid, named Jack and John—that's correct, a gay married couple—where one of the men wants to become a Christian.

How would the average church handle it? Jon doesn't think the average church is equipped to:

My primary thought is that the American church has very little organizational capacity for correctly and compassionately engaging John and his family. For example, the current church model is that believers meet on Sunday morning and may or may not have other "ministries" or "programs" that they are a part of. So, basically, if you believe that homosexuality is wrong or perhaps not the best way to do things, then you have to ship the guy (in this scenario, John) off to "counseling" (or some other such ministry/program) or else you just kind of lay down the law (in a nice way) and say that we don't do things that way in these here parts so you can shape up or ship out.

So, we either have to issue an ultimatum or else send John to counseling. In the former situation I think we force a hasty decision on a new believer that he may not be entirely ready to deal with, in all of its many ramifications (i.e. the moral issue, issues of family/love, caring for a daughter, splitting a home, etc.). In the case of sending him to counseling right away this makes him feel freakish from the very beginning, and this is very unfair. The fact is that anyone who comes to Christ is going to have baggage, and they need a close-knit community and a group of individuals to share their faith with and to work through baggage that they bring in and baggage that they accumulate while being a believer. (The little-known secret, of course, is that most of us in nice churches have even more baggage that usually gets lost in the shuffle, and my experience is that you accumulate quite a bit of baggage in church circles because we often do not have the contexts for dealing real issues.)

The point thus far is simply to say that the current Sunday morning Christianity in America has no human or even biblical way to appropriately deal with Sam's scenario because we are an event-oriented institution. At our most fundamental level we are not relational. At our most fundamental level we are institutional and obsessed with "events."

Jon goes on to suggest his solution:

Ideally, all believers are not simply a hodge-podge group of people that meet once a week to sing and watch a sermon. Rather, the best scenario that I can see would be that when John enters into a fellowship of believers he is immediately plugged in with a group of believers with whom he can meet regularly and begin to share his life. In fact, in my mind's eye I imagine that it was probably through contact with this group of believers that he was able to come to faith, rather than on Sam's scenario where the guy happens across a Bible and starts reading.

Within this very small group of caring believers John can begin to explore who he is with people who are ready to care for his soul and impart grace into his life. These would be people who would be primarily interested in getting to know John, the person, and finding out what faith looks like for his situation. They would be interested in John, regardless of where they stood on the homo issue. If they believed that God stands against homosexuality, they would present their reasons and interact with various biblical passages. But then they would allow John the respect as a fellow believer to work through these issues himself. (This fulfills the Galatians 6 "bear each other's burdens" exhortation, as well as the Philippians 2 encouragement to "work out your salvation.") Furthermore, this caring yet insightful group of believers would suspend judgment and allow themselves to reexplore and reexamine an issue that needs to be reexamined.

Jon then concludes:

Unfortunately, Sam's scenario cannot be answered in the existing church framework. One is hard pressed to find an American church that truly acts in unison as the body of Christ. We have many "churches" but no body. And the sad thing is that there is no reason for someone like John to ever have any interest in Jesus Christ, because the Body of Christ is completely impotent. We have nothing to call John to - no true community or real fellowship. So, as unfortunate as it is, I believe that Sam's scenario remains an impossible quandary. Until the power of Christ is displayed in authentic relationships and true community we should expect very little.

What do you think? Do you know of a church that is equipped to handle this scenario?

I think even most house churches wouldn't know how to handle it. And, I agree with Jon that "Until the power of Christ is displayed in authentic relationships and true community" we can expect no revival, no true transformation, no respect, and no power. In short, we need to die to self, that Christ might truly live.

1 comment:

Ted M. Gossard said...

I wish all churches would simply take such a couple in without blinking. And do so with grace and patience and commitment. Don't we believe in Christ's power to transform? If not then while it may be good for us to keep being a part of it anyhow, it seems to put the lie to what we profess.