If you’ve read the other 5 posts in this blog series, you’ll know that it’s a series that’s been born out of a deep distress with how a lot of church (fundamentally) functions today compared with how we see the Church (fundamentally) functioning in the Bible. It is also a blog series that’s been born out of a deep love for the church and a longing for her to be all that she is meant to be.
Before I write the final post in the series next week, I wanted to flag up a uniquely distressing aspect of the ‘schmorgers board’ of church life that I referred to in one of the earlier posts a few weeks ago.
You’ll doubtless be aware of the impasse that exists between parts of the body of Christ over the issue of marriage: some quarters of the Church believe that it was good to redefine marriage in the UK at the end of March 2014 and for the legal meaning of that sacred union to change. Other parts of the body of Christ are deeply disturbed by the flagrant disregard for the sanctity and God-given meaning of marriage and the lack of understanding as to what marriage actually is and what it actually means – the very ignorant pre-cursor leading to its redefinition in the first place.
In short, there are those who celebrate and those who mourn the historical redefinition of marriage.
But both can’t be right.
Rather than writing more fully here about why I am so distressed by the redefinition of marriage and the division within the Church as a result (I have already done this here) I want to stay on theme with this Into the Pray series by referring to this apex issue within the difficulty of finding a church to belong to.
When the Silence Falls
I think what saddens me as much as anything else within this specific issue of marriage is the inability of a significant part of the Church to skilfully and prophetically address the swirling sociological issues of our time. This is of particular concern because our cornerstone of marriage, now having been changed, (in human terms), will now give rise to a multiplicity of other issues relating to sexuality, culture, identity, mental health and the family. (Watch what happens in our society over the next 10 years around these issues, strides towards polygamy and the continuing downward spiral).
As an example of the uselessness of common church communication: a church we visited recently wanted to address the issue of homosexuality because of their passion for biblical truth but who did so in such a grossly insensitive and negligent way that my heart broke for anyone listening who was actually attracted to others of the same sex and was hoping for some wisdom and help. The upshot of the church’s best attempts to speak into this complex and sensitive area was to sing a final hymn, Trust and Obey – an old-school hymn that perfectly summed up the best the church could offer to bring teaching into the area of same sex attraction.
That was it? Trust and obey and everything will be OK?
Mairi and I left church that day as angered by the inability of the church to lovingly and truthfully pastor their people through this maze of identity crisis as much as we would have done if the Pastor had stood up and pronounced blessing on same-sex marriage. No. In fact, we were probably more angry.
It seems to us that churches generally either ‘communicate’ like this (slam down biblical teaching which, while true in essence, is not true pastorally), or…
…they say nothing.
When Nothing is Said
The common and popular response to the major issues of our time relating to marriage, sexuality, identity and the family seems to be to say nothing. Church Leaders whose only public response to the millions of unspoken questions relating to what’s right and what’s not, what the Bible says and what it doesn’t, what we should think and not think, what God thinks and what He does not think, what He loves and does not love – their only public response – is non-committal silence.
How can any church Leader or Pastor remain silent on these life-impacting issues of our time?
For fear of offending people?
For fear of being perceived as unloving?
For fear of flouting their digital strategy?
For fear of being wrong?
For fear of not knowing?
For God’s Sake
If our churches are going to be split down the middle (either for or against the redefinition of marriage) can we at least have clarity on which side you are on? Can we at least know what you think? Can we at least know how you teach the Bible?
Can we at least know the God you proclaim?
How can you actually belong to any church if you do not know what your Leader or Pastor thinks about this issue? How can you truly belong to a church that you don’t know well enough to know if it’s either a church who are biblically orthodox or biblically liberal and progressive?
We think this matters. We think this makes a profound difference to our discipleship.
And we think this makes a profound difference to yours.