Have you ever heard the words, “You don’t know me?”
I remember hearing Britney Spears say them when she felt that she was being unjustly judged by Evangelical Christians.
I remember my college roommate saying those words when he felt that I, a caucasion American from the suburbs of Chicago couldn’t possibly understand what it was like to grow up African American in the suburbs of Washington D.C.
I remember a student saying those words when I tried to counsel him before knowing all of the facts.
Last night I spent time at the Twin Cities Emergent Cohort Group. The conversation was fascinating. Tony Jones spoke about what it means to be Christian in the pluralistic society in which we now live. Tony’s analysis of our pluralistic world was correct. You can read brief synopsis of what Tony taught about on his blog: http://theoblogy.blogspot.com. His blogs on What is Practical Theology? An Interdisciplinary Intermezzo, Parts I, II, and III are the ones you’ll want to pay attention to.
As I sat at the group, and for the most part kept my mouth shut, I was reminded again of the fact that we shouldn’t make assumptions about people before we get to know them. It was almost presented that a person who is conservative, and comes from a traditionally conservative background, cannot minister effectively in our postmodern culture.
I am a youth pastor, ministering in a postmodern world, to an emerging people group, who make up an emerging church. Our ministry is growing. God is constantly drawing new people to Himself. Our ministry is engaging culture. We do not view culture as a foe, but as a friend. We are constantly looking for opportunities to get to know people and understand their spiritual experience. And the more people I get to know, the more excited I become about what they teach me. I serve as a Police Chaplain in the town in which I live, teach regularly in public schools and have friends who are on all sides of the political spectrum. Our student ministry includes straight students, gay students, black students, white students, Asian students, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, etc.
And, here’s the shock for my Twin Cities Emergent Cohort Group Friends. I am also a graduate of Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University and Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. Which during the group was pointed out more than once as being a place for narrow minded biggots, who have no idea how to work with other people in culture, and a place that brainwashes its students. Attending Liberty didn’t brainwash me any more than attending Princeton has brainwashed Tony. I can appreciate the fact that Jerry Falwell, has said some pretty stupid things in his life. But, haven’t we all? Tony mentioned in his presentation that Christians, living in a Liberal Democracy need to work together with culture to impact the lives of those that we are called to minister to. Amen. But, let’s not beat other Christians up in the process.
I have served three congregations, from four different denominations (Evangelical Presbyterian, Evangelical Free, Baptist General Conference, and Conservative Congregational Christian Conference), sat under the ministries of a broad range of pastors (Bill Hybels, John MacArthur, Jerry Falwell, Graham Smith, and Leith Anderson), and made friends across Denominational and Religous lines. I think my friends at Twin Cities Emergent have a lot more in common with the Falwells and MacArthurs than they know. Maybe some day that dialogue will be open. Until then, don’t label me. Because, you don’t really know me. And whether we are on the right, the left, or somewhere in between, the church is emerging. Let’s emerge together, as brothers and sisters, and not as adversaries. Then maybe we’ll learn the lesson that the Church at Corinth struggled with:
Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized intothe name of Paul? I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized into my name. (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel–not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”