Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Ever Feel Like You're in Limbo?

For longer than I care to remember I've tried to establish in my own mind where I belong. Some may think I belong in a safe padded room. If that's you, you might be right! So far, though, I've avoided the "men in white coats."

No, I'm talking about where I fit in the Restoration Movement.

One reader suggested some time ago that I must oppose the whole mega church thing. That's just not true! In fact I admire those leaders who, without compromise, work with God to build great churches. Over the years I've visited a lot of mega churches both in the Restoration Movement and otherwise. I'm an advocate of the philosophy of the "Purpose Driven Church" model because, in my opinion, it is balanced and doesn't require any sacrifice of convictions. Outside the movement I've studied and visited Overlake Christian Church, Southeast Christian Church, Saddleback Church, Northcoast Community Church, Willowcreek Community Church, and served on the staff at Christ's Church of the Valley. Some of my closest friends are on the staffs of Southeast Christian Church, Southland Christian Church, First Church of Christ in Burlington, KY, as well as several others in the Ohio Valley region. I've had the opportunity to get to know some of the truly big men in the brotherhood and know them to be men of character possessing a sincere desire to reach the lost. I enjoy worship when part of a crowd of hundreds or thousands. It is exciting, stimulating, and encouraging!

Why then am I often so hard on some of the goings on in these churches (and others, too)? It is because I know that many look to these congregations for inspiration and methodology. That's always the way it is. Smaller churches look to larger influential churches simply because they are successful. It is also because I care about strong biblical teaching and get concerned about the drift of our churches into populism and pragmatism without regard for sound doctrine.

The latter concern throws me into another camp -- an ultraconservative camp. It is the camp of the absolutist, the legalist, and the traditionalist. Over the years I've fought two of the three without losing sight of the reality of absolute truth. I hate the brooding suspicion even though it sometimes overtakes me. That's why I complain about some who refuse to "tell it like it is," who think that by preaching a "self help" message they are communicating the Gospel, and are failing to let people know that Christianity is more than just solutions to every day problems. It is, after all, a belief system with tenets that must be believed and obeyed. At the same time, I'm just as uneasy with those who would pass judgment on others, withdraw from fellowship, or draw lines where Scripture never draws them.

So at times I feel like I am in limbo. I love the brotherhood! I have friends all across the spectrum of thought and theology in the Restoration Movement. I know these people. In many cases, I know their hearts and they want to please God. It is just that they -- and all of us -- are misguided and mistaken at times.