Yesterday I wrote a blog to say that I am tired of being lumped in with groups that often reflect human failings more than they do the pure and satisfying love of Christ.
Several people left well thought through and well reasoned comments to that post. I’m glad they did… it has kept the whole topic on my mind and in my prayers.
The blessing of these meditations has been the remembrance that Jesus is our leader. It is not pastors or the heads of the National Evangelical Association that are our kings or lords. These men (myself included) can help carry out Christ’s work, but it is always as servants and in humility.
There is a fascinating story where two of Jesus’ disciples get carried away with their own importance and Jesus responds: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.” Matthew 20:24-26
Our job as Christian leaders is to come up under others to serve, care for and empower. Our goal is to point them toward Christ. Our own leadership has value only insofar as it takes others to Jesus. Paul himself only called others to follow him as he followed Christ. In other words, “I’m going the direction that you need to go so feel free to walk with me a while and benefit from my knowledge and experience.” The goal, however, is always to follow after and pursue Christ and not the person.
This brings me back to my decision of yesterday… not to refer to myself as an Evangelical anymore (I say that loosely and realize that there might be times when circumstances make it easier to use that language than avoid it.) The whole point is this: If Jesus is the shepherd, lord, boss, friend, savior and king then why would I want to wear the insignia of something lesser?
We take names like “Calvinist,” “Protestant” or “Evangelical” because it makes life easier and we have a propensity for taking sides. But when you come to the conviction that taking sides isn’t always best and that names like “Evangelical” now carry more negative baggage than positive, then why would we continue to use them? I don’t know anyone who uses “ass” to refer to a donkey anymore or “gay” to refer to happy. In the same vein, I feel like some Christian labels need to be dropped so that we can move forward and not be caught in a conflict of meanings.
The verse that convicts me about only taking the label “Christian” or “Follower of Jesus” is this:
“What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?” 1 Corinthians 1:12-13
I don’t have all the answers, but I feel like I know a little of why Jesus preferred the shores of the Sea of Galilee to the mad marketplace and combating clans and “denominations” of Jerusalem. He preferred open minds (which he called “new wineskins”) and an organic group of followers who weren’t caught up with labels, politics and position. Unlike those in Jerusalem, they were more committed than self-conscious.
So in the end, may we leave behind the “teams” and the organizational pride in order to earnestly and humbly seek and save the lost. May we leave the comforts of “the majority” in order to venture out into the solitary thickets, valleys and deserts where hurting people need help and where teams and pride are often counterproductive. And may we realize that there is only one true “Pastor” over the church… Jesus Christ.