Invariably when I find myself presenting to Christians an idea that challenges the status quo I find myself confronted with a response somewhere in the crowd that says ‘Ah yes, but don’t forget XYZ…’ where ‘XYZ ‘are our old ways of seeing things – the familiar and safe – and invariably I want to ask ‘why not?!’
Why should we be ‘careful’ not to negate an old way, or at very least question it, especially if its a flawed way, or an inefficient way, or even a theologically defective way?
I’ll tell you why we are told to be careful.
Because new ideas scare us. New ideas unsettle us and disturb the ground we walk on – and have walked on for years and decades. We like that ground. It makes us feel safe and sometimes we’d rather safety and error or safety and irrelevance, rather than the possibility of discovering a new and maybe even liberating truth.
New learning might end up calling a new response out of us and it could be beyond our capacity to respond because we have become so entrenched in a way of thinking and behaving.
I love evangelicalism’s commitment to biblical authority and the desire to live out of that, but it seems to be offset by unhealthy phobia that we might actually live contrary to scripture at some point and so we protect our inherited truth like a mother bear her cubs.
The simple fact is we are wrong about some things and we are committed to other things more from tradition from any biblical mandate.
And where it gets really tricky is when its ‘big’ things’ that we’re screwing up.
I’ll pick a safe example. The term ‘missional church’ is almost historic these days, but when it was first mooted that churches had lost their missional imperative, it was met with both heartfelt cheers from the frustrated missionaries, but also vicious resistance from those who saw that their forms of worhip may need to change. It was a bizarre response, but it seems that fear does that to people.
To use another example, those who have introduced contemplative worship practices into protestant churches have been viewed suspiciously and accused of bringing ‘Eastern religion’ into the church, (like Christianity isn’t that) when in fact they have been freeing people from an overly left brain, cerebral way of engaging in spirituality and helping people encounter God in fresh ways.
One of my great hopes is that we can create communities where we can reflect, learn and grow rather than simply protecting what we have or agreeing to compromise and keep people happy.
Of course there’s such an enormous cultural shift in that alone that I just might be shooting for the stars.