Let’s Fix Our Either-Or Thinking Problem for the Good of Evangelicalism
“If we would just preach the word and lean on the Holy Spirit, we wouldn’t have to worry about ‘growing’ our churches…”
“God has called pastors to be shepherds and prophets, not business leaders or strategists…”
“We’re not supposed to have church services for seekers; church is for the saved…”
“Don’t worry about attracting people to your church; just make disciples who will go and evangelize the world…”
See the theme? Either you think this way, or you’re wrong. And I believe this false either-or dichotomy is tearing churches, and the evangelical movement in America, apart. We’re creating division where none should really exist. (I admittedly may be a little more sensitive to it than some because I observe it daily running social media interference for a national ministry and spend too much time deleting comments and banning hecklers who claim to follow Jesus.)
Part of the problem is our proof-texting. One guy finds a verse about reaching the lost and another finds a verse about discipling believers and suddenly we have a false conflict. Someone quotes a verse about being at enmity with the world and another about becoming all things to all people and again, false conflict.
This my-model-is-more-biblical-than-yours kind of thinking is cutting into the body of Christ and severing us from one another. We don’t have to worry about the angry atheists or the humanistic secularists destroying us. We’re doing the damage ourselves. We’re turning on ourselves and eating our own.
Do we have some problems when it comes to false teaching? Of course! So did Paul, Polycarp, and Athanasius. There is definitely a need to teach a pure biblical gospel and expose philosophies that directly contradict it. But when it comes to the non-essentials, we’re struggling to grant liberty, much less show charity.
LIKE I SAID, THERE ARE EXCEPTIONS…
Here’s a new way of thinking we should perhaps consider in the name of unity: a both-and mentality, especially in our assessment of other ministries. For example…
- You can both preach the whole counsel of God and come up with clever series and sermon titles and cool graphics.
- You can both be a good shepherd to the hurting and have a strong business acumen for the good of the church.
- You can both attract unchurched people to attend Sunday’s service and send people out on mission all week long.
- You can both stand up for truth and stand with people in need of hearing it.
- You can focus on both spiritual growth and numerical growth with evangelistic zeal.
- You can have both quality and quantity.
See where I’m going with this? I think it’s time we start reserving judgment about other ministries we don’t really know.
I recently got to hear one of my heroes, Brian Houston, preach at Exponential in Orlando. He opened with a great thought. He said he’d rather be a chef than a food critic; an artist than an art critic; and he’d rather be a church builder than a church critic. Amen!
Let’s drop the either-or jukes against every ministry or leader who is a little different than we are and adopt a both-and celebration of the diversity of gifts and approaches we see.