A Church Without Labels

September 8, 2009 at 12:12 pm (Uncategorized)

NAMETAGSA few days ago, I tweeted that I dreamed about being a church without labels.  Though it got a little online discussion, I have had a lot of real-world discussion about it.  I  thought it would be helpful to write a little bit more about it here, and explain myself. This may turn into a multi-day post. (We will just see if I live up to the long-winded preacher sterotype!)

Is your church conservative or liberal?  In the churches I am associated with, (Christian Churches/Churches of Christ) liberal is the worst insult that can be thrown around.  For the record, I HATE the terms liberal and conservative, and NEVER use them to describe me, or the church I serve with.  Here are a few reasons why:

I avoid the use of political language.

If you don’t know that I don’t think we should mix church and politics EVER, then you don’t know me. In today’s world, conservative and liberal have a hyper-political meaning wrapped up in them. (Even if we are not intentionally using them that way.)  And when we communicate about the church to others, I don’t want them to associate us with one political bent or the other.  Church ought to be beyond politics.  We serve a kingdom far different than the country we live in.  So, one of the reasons I HATE using the terms liberal and conservative when describing churches is because they are very politically charged words.

Its comparative language.

Another beef I have with the “lib/con” language is that they are not definitive terms.  Conservative and liberal are only comparative terms.  Although we often use it this way, (incorrectly) something cannot be conservative or liberal in and of itself. It has to be conservative/liberal in comparison to something else. I am not a big fan of comparing my church to yours and yours to another’s.  We get false assurances and arrogance when our standards are someone else.  We can always find someone more liberal or more conservative (depending on who you are trying to be) and then you can feel better about your church.  (And still be wrong.)

Jesus was a liberal.

If the first century used the terms liberal and conservative, do you realize who would have been the liberal?  Think about it.  The main target of Jesus’ harsh words were always the ultra-conservative, rule-crazed, right-wing, legalistic Pharisees. (who were wrong, by the way.  Yes, let me emphasize, conservatives can be wrong.)  In the world of comparative terms Jesus fell a different place than where most of my colleagues want to fall today.  Maybe that is why comparative terms fail us.  They shift and change and alter.  Conservative in 2009 means something very different than it did in 1959.

Anyway, let me sum it up this way.  Let’s stop trying to be ________ church. (You fill in the blank.)  Let’s just be church.

1 Comment

  1. William Rude said,

    Let’s stop trying to be a legalist church. Let’s just be the church filled with the love, mercy, and grace of Jesus Christ (which is freedom and liberation)!

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