A few years ago our small group at church read Brian McLaren’s book “A Generous Orthodoxy.”
Our hope in reading the book was to understand different denominations and how Christian denominations have evolved over time. Our group would read a chapter, and then discuss it.
Each chapter of the book is broken down like this:
To those entrenched in the church, the books is divisive. But to many folks, the reading is simply a book for churchy people. I understand the different perceptions of the book.
Our small group is a mixed bag of my favorite people in the world. We have a pastor’s kid with degrees in ministry, we have folks that have attended church most of their lives, and we have folks that are newer to church.
A few chapters into the book our group started having a heated discussion over denomination X.
The pastor’s kid, who is well versed in theology and the history of the church, started a long explanation of how the denomination came to be. The explanation went on to say how one denomination started a fight with another denomination because they disagreed over church pews. That went into how two other denominations split off because they disagreed about music style. Then there were more splits, and more splits, and then another split…
After hearing the long explanation of denomination splits, the member that was newest to church said perhaps my favorite sentence I’ve ever heard in small group. He interrupted to say quite passionately, “Who gives a fuck? We’re all fighting over the dumbest shit. Aren’t we here for Jesus?”
The room shut down.
After a few moments of silence, laughter erupted for a simple truth had been uttered.
The church picks the strangest hills to die on. I’ve fallen victim to those battles, disagreeing with people over guitar solos and politics. But I always wonder why we are picking these battles?
If all we do is fight over how to get there, then I doubt we’re ever going to get there. I’ve brought this up before.
Matthew tells us, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
If that is the essence of a church, then perhaps all of our fighting is just over complicating what is incredibly simple. Fights tend to divide people, not unite them. How will we ever unite people around Christ if we’re fighting over church pews?
And what is worth fighting over within our Church?
Communion styles? Music styles? The seating? To have a screen or not have a screen?
I’m not saying we should not ask questions. The Bible is FULL of folks asking incredibly important questions.
Books are written by theologians far smarter than I will ever be. But sometimes I read these books and feel like they miss what only the newest folks are brave enough to utter: Aren’t we all here for Jesus?
Only in our unity can we win this battle. And when we fight amongst ourselves, we create unnecessary division. Some hills are worth dying on, but most are not.