What Do Most Pastors Hope To Do?
I assume you (as a Christian, pastor, etc.) want to do a few things:
- Help overpopulate heaven,
- Reach the unreached,
- Grow disciples, and
- Embrace and teach theological clarity on cultural topics.
Let’s talk more about number four. Because from what I’ve seen and experienced, number four is where we tend to lose all of our influence to accomplish numbers one through three.
From what I can tell, I suspect the problem is pride. This is going to set some of you off, but hang with me for a few minutes before you slam me, your phone, or your laptop.
When it comes to Scripture, we tend to believe that our interpretation is THE interpretation.
This makes sense. After all, if you grew up in a church, you grew up under some version of interpretation. Interpretations created denominations, church splits, and the like. Your faith upbringing is littered with interpretation. Your Christian and non-Christian experiences have added to your interpretation. And every new topic or cultural issue you encounter is faced with your presuppositions.
If you grew up outside of a faith community, you, too, have perspectives and theological interpretations.
Everyone, and I mean everyone, has a position on every topic. Some are more culturally informed, and some are more biblically interpreted.
What’s scary is how easily we assume our interpretation is the correct interpretation.
This term sounds painful, and that’s on purpose.
It is arrogant to believe that, for some reason, your position is the only accurate position. But who informed you that your position is correct? Predominantly, other people with your now same position! Who else reinforces your positions? Other people in your denomination or circle. Who causes you to double down on your interpretation? Other people who see things differently than you.
When we bump into someone with a different interpretation, it automatically creates a mental theological crisis.
When we bow up and claim our way is the only way, we’re experiencing a crisis, and the fastest path out of the crisis is to double down on our current position.
Circles and Lines
So, when we in church leadership or Christiandom engage in certainty, we may create a context that keeps us from growing in our theological understanding.
Worse, we may accidentally lose influence with those whom God is working to reach.
Drawing a theological line makes a point. However, allowing for a theological conversation opens a circle.
Drawing a theological line makes a point. However, allowing for a theological conversation opens a circle. Circles allow us to gain influence for future conversations and conflict, but lines before circles are a recipe for rejection.
This is what Jesus consistently did. This is what Paul did in Athens (and everywhere else).
Sure, there are things we should have complete clarity on. The irreducible minimums of faith, for example. Yet I know that even in this category, we’ll all define it differently. So what should we do? How should we lead and pastor and engage with Christians and the non-Christian community?
Seeking to Understand
What should we do? I’d suggest we all embrace more curiosity and conversations.
Rather than shooting arrows, what if we asked more questions? What if we engaged in productive conversations?
And here’s a wild idea: What if we could disagree and commit? Commit to each other. Commit to seeking the lost. Commit to prioritizing what Jesus prioritized.
What if Christians stopped fighting about our differences and began working together from our hope for the world?
I have brothers in Christ who believe all sorts of things that I don’t. But they’re still brothers. I love them. Yes, I discuss things with them, but we don’t allow our differences to separate us.
If you are a pastor, I challenge you to prayerfully ask God to open your heart and mind to those who see our common faith through a different lens. Pray for God to help us all step closer to the messy middle. Pray that we collectively make more of a difference than a point.
Pride does come before the fall. In this case, the “fall” may be the permanent disengagement of the lost.