Ecclesiology

Can’t We All Just Get Along? The Church of Us vs. Them: A Conversation with David Fitch

How many times have you read a Facebook/Blog post that insists, “If your pastor didn’t say anything about [most recent social injustice], you need to find a new church?” Maybe you have used this lede in an attempt to raise attention to the latest illustration of failed immigration policy, how racism has gone underground or the ways our current economic structures insist on an indentured debtor class. All of these issues and more are important. But is it possible calling out the lack of attention given in some churches gives fuel to existing antagonisms that further divide?

David Fitch’s recently published, The Church of Us vs Them: Freedom from a Faith That Feeds on Making Enemies, takes aim at the antagonisms that distract the church from its call to be God’s faithful presence. It is a reversal of the reversal. Rather than live out allegiance to Jesus is Lord, discerning the faithful responses to conflicts with wisdom and grace, the church has often been caught up in antagonisms that deepen division. Fitch remarks that when he wrote, The End of Evangelicalism, ten years ago, never would he have imagined we would be where we are today in need of disassembling the enemy-making machinery in the church.

If you are new to David Fitch, he is the,

B. R. Lindner Chair of Evangelical Theology at Northern Seminary Chicago, IL. He is also the founding pastor of Life on the Vine Christian Community, a missional church in the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago. He coaches a network of church plants in the C&MA linked to Life on the Vine. He writes on the issues the local church must face in Mission including cultural engagement, leadership and theology and has lectured and presented on these topics at many seminaries, graduate schools, denominational gatherings and conferences.

In The Church of Us vs Them, Fitch brings together ideas from at least two of his previous books, The End of Evangelicalism and Faithful Presence. The former is more academic analysis of Evangelicalism while the latter is more specifically an on mission ecclesiology. If there ever was a time for a work like this, it is now. We need someone to help us unwind the antagonisms that has left the church captive to ideologies of the Right and the Left as we deal with important issues that tend to bring out the worst in all of us.

Today on the podcast, David and I have a conversation about The Church of Us vs Them and more. I hope you will check out David’s other books. I think you will find an underlying trajectory that brings us to his current book. Check these out while you are ordering your copy of The Church of Us vs Them. For other of David’s books click here.

If you find the podcast helpful, share it with your friends. Share it with your pastor friends as well as folks you know involved in leadership that touches on the pastoral. Also, consider heading over to iTunes, login, search for patheological and give us a five-star rating and a kind review.

Entitlement and the Church

The week began with a rush of appointments. It looks to hold more of the same. My Dad’s last living brother died early Saturday. Related events and services may take precedence over a more well thought out reflection. But, I wanted to throw out an initial thought as I am thinking through the Gospel text for the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany from Luke 4.

It seems that what set those who at first marveled at Jesus against him was when he called into question their perceived privileged status? Is it possible there is something here for the church intent to preserve its place and status in a changing world? Appeals to a lost privilege may be the very attention getting piece that forces us to consider the way we have held and proclaimed the Good News of Jesus. Could it be it, maybe even we, fears the same as those who held power and authority like those in Jesus’ day who at first thought Jesus was on their side only to hear him say there is Good News for every classification of people except the religious?

Thoughts?

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The Church As Benevolent Slave Girl

Unwinding from our worship gathering at Snow Hill I am still thinking about the young Israelite slave girl in 2 Kings 5. I am thinking of her yet as a “type” for the modern church in the West and in particular the AmericaWest. We often jump right past her as we give attention to the politics that kept the King of Israel from perceiving the letter from the King of Syria as an occasion to point to the goodness of God. We are taken by the miracle of both flesh and faith with Naaman. We feel incensed at Elisha’s slave who accepted the gift under false pretense.

What if we viewed her deportment as the manner for life in a pluralistic culture? Evangelical culture warriors decry the diminishing Judeo-Christian ethos in America. Everyone is calling for a “take America back” sort of movement. The slave girl did not decry her re-location but lived faithfully in her less than desirable nation – that is, she surely would have preferred her own. Rather than hope that Naaman, and so Syria, “got theirs,” she was on the ready to do “good to everyone” even if that “everyone” held her as a slave. She wanted what was best for Naaman.

Too often it is easy to vilify those with a disposition that runs counter to our own Christian sensibilities. What would happen if in our living out life in this ordinary time we could bring ourselves to first think about how we could do good to everyone? Even toward those pre-disposed to think we experience faith as an opiate or a language game that can neither be falsified or verified. Read More

Pathological Divisiveness – Reflections from ABQ Pt 3

During my days in Seminary I readn an article editing the experience of church splits. The author actually spun church splits into a methodology for church growth – planting churches!

Years later I am want for a Christian denomination without the experience of division. But alas to begin one simply means sooner or later a divsion is inevitable. There are a number of reasons. Ask any pastor with experience beyond ten years what kind of inane reasons are submitted for both leaving and splitting churches.

Purists will claim the Roman Catholic Church has not had a split but that would be editing the Grand Schism. And while the Orthodox lays claim to a contiguous experience we must take into account the ethnic manifestations of this “one” church. Maybe you would suggest it something different, not a split. But, let’s see us all get together then.

After all if a Southern Baptist can tell anything, it is division. Long or short form, we know what it is. We divide theologically – and often on disputable matters. But if it is “your” matter then the split was “worth it.” We divide over pragmatics, methodologies and music. We know how to divide. It is not divide and conquer. It is divide and reveal how hard it is to get along.

When Phyllis Tickle described the benefit of the Great Reformation – the priesthood of all believers – she explained this blessing and this curse.

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