Sometimes I wonder how my tribe (Churches of Christ) will fare in the years to come. We came to be in the modern era. We are the product of modern assumptions.
We believed that we could objectively read the Bible and do what it said. We believed that all anyone needed was a little common sense to be able to figure it all out and therefore be assured of heaven. The only thing we couldn’t figure out was why so many of our religious friends didn’t possess the same common sense objectivity that we did. Why couldn’t they see it? Why were they so stubborn? Why did they insist on worshiping in error? Rather than reflect too deeply on these questions, we assumed the worst about them as we arrogantly held out “our” way as “the” way.
We aren’t the only ones who have made exclusivity our claim to fame. I’ve been surprised to run into representatives from other groups, who just like us, thought that they were the only ones going to heaven. It seems that even in our exclusive outlook we have been exclusive. Not only did we think we were the only ones going to heaven, but we also thought that we were the only ones who thought that we were the only ones going to heaven.
Still, it seems we have developed a reputation above all the others for being exclusive. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because we were bolder or because our arguments were tighter or because we had more persuasive preachers and writers. For a group that preached nondenominational autonomy as a mark of “The Lord’s Church,” we did a pretty good job of getting our message “out there” in a uniform way. For a season or two, the “Church of Christ” brand name had some value. It was a privilege to be a part of “The Lord’s Church.”
Now things have changed. A new era has dawned, with different assumptions. It turns out that objectivity was a myth. Most common sense readings of the Bible make no sense at all. Call it the postmodern turn, call it the emerging culture, call it French philosophical hogwash if you like. The one thing you can’t do is call it back. A change has come upon us and now a (non)denomination birthed in the modern era is beginning to ask a few questions and struggle with some initial answers.
As I watch this happen, and as I participate in it to one degree or another, I have a question or two of my own. Most pressing on my mind is whether or not a church with so many modern assumptions embedded in our DNA can effectively engage a culture that left our assumptions behind long ago. As I see it, the barrier is more linguistic in nature than temporal. It’s not so much that we’re behind the times; the problem is that we’re not even speaking the right language!
On some days I’m hopeful about our attempted transition. On other days, I have my doubts. I intend for this post to be the first of a number of posts in which I’m going to reflect on the good, the bad, and the ugly of what I see happening as those of us in Churches of Christ try to appropriately sync up with our surrounding culture. More to come shortly. . .