Tuesday, September 10, 2019

What Are We Forming?

Any good organization is always in flux. Always moving, always changing, always growing, always becoming. And the organization I help lead, First Baptist Church of Bozeman, is no different. We’re in process. We’re in flux. We’re growing, changing, and becoming. We’re being formed into a new kind of community comprised of new kinds of people. There’s something happening there.

But there’s more than one way to be formed. And there’s more than one thing to be formed into.

As we seek to become a new kind of community, we could change forcefully and uniformly—like if you don’t agree with us, then maybe you’d be happier at another church. We could form a group where everyone looks the same, thinks the same, talks the same, and acts the same. We could form a church where there’s no room for questions, disagreement, or opposition—and everyone prefers the same style of worship. We could form a gathering of ease and comfort, where everyone gets along and no problems arise (and if they do, they get quickly squelched by the communal group-think).

Or we could become a community where, despite our biblical, theological, or political differences, we are still committed to God, scripture, each other, and the world. We could be formed into a group where everyone is equally devoted to the words and way of Jesus. We could be formed into a church where we can wrestle with hard issues, love one another in our disagreement, and show the world a new way to interact peacefully and graciously. We could be formed into a gathering that is never at ease or comfortable, but is always striving together for lives of greater faith, hope, and love in Jesus.

In short, we could form a cult or a culture.

And I most certainly prefer the latter. I’m proud to serve a church of difference and diversity—where we aren’t all mindlessly uniform. I’m proud to pastor a church where I get the occasional Monday morning email of concern or correction over something I’ve uttered from the pulpit. While I’m most-certainly interested in forming a new sort of culture around our church—a culture of discipleship, where each of us is passionate about following Jesus with every fiber of our being—I’m not interested in anyone losing their passions and personalities in this culture-making process.

So, here’s to the probably-problematic and potentially-painful process of forming a new culture at our church. May we remain committed to the good news of God, the beautiful way of Jesus, and to communally working out our salvation with fear and trembling. But may we not become disheartened by difference and disagreement, because we’re shooting for culture not cult.

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