A few days after predicting that many in the mainstream church will react to the emerging church with either denial or attack, I have seen a couple examples of the latter. It is really very sad when the only way someone has to support their viewpoint is to attack someone else’s. I guess many people need to believe the world is flat in order to sleep at night. It’s just amazing that some of the most unloving people are those that claim to be Christians.
I have not tried to convert any “believers” to my understanding of the church and its mission. I respect their viewpoint, even if I don’t agree with it and don’t see a positive impact that it is having on reaching our culture for Christ. I have no desire to take people out of the local church. We want to reach those who aren’t pre-programmed with institutional Christianity. Nonetheless, many people that we know feel threatened just because we are not participating in the traditional life of the church as they are. They believe we must be “backslidden” or out of the will of God… that we are in need of prayer, witnessing, or a good kick in the pants.
I’ve come to understand that even many Protestants rest their salvation and favor with God in their connection to the life of the local church. They view their participation in the church services and programs as their service to the Lord. Personally, my standing with God rests upon the finished work of Christ on the cross and the empty tomb. I believe the church is vital in the life of a follower of Christ for encouragement, fellowship, and worship, but our real service is done outside of four walls of the church showing the love of Christ to others. I think that also is another major distinctive: persuading people to right-believing versus demonstrating the love of Christ.
Being able to give all the right answers in Bible trivia is not a sign of spiritual maturity. Being able to show the love of Christ to those who are difficult to love is the sign of a true follower of Christ. That is the pattern that Jesus set for us in His life and death. He did not impact the world by winning them over to His viewpoint. He altered the course of human history by a sacrificial act of love that was so powerful that it compelled millions to meet this man from Nazareth for themselves. So we should not be surprised when we face ridicule, for He warned us such is the fate of all who dare to pick up their cross and follow Him in the pursuit to know their Father and love their neighbor.