Friday, September 20, 2013

Confounding them like Jesus did

In Center Church pastor Tim Keller writes about missional churches that confound the traditional categories of "conservative" or "liberal", "fundamentalist" or "progressive" -- churches that are harder for outsiders to write off because they don't fit with some preconceived notion or bias. Keller describes one mark of this kind of church:

A missional church will be more deeply and practically committed to deeds of compassion and social justice than traditional fundamentalist churches and more deeply and practically committed to evangelism and conversion than traditional liberal churches.

 I thought of this in relation to the latest round of media coverage concerning Pope Francis' interview with America magazine. The coverage follows the pattern seen a few weeks ago in reaction to the Pope's off-the-cuff remarks on homosexuality, particularly his comment "Who am I to judge?". The pattern goes as follows. The Pope says something about hot-button issue x, y or z that sounds like he's changing church teaching. Media jumps to the conclusion that he's a liberal like them. Then other interpreters jump in to point out that he isn't saying anything different than what the church has always said, just saying it in a more winsome and effective way.

Writing at the First Things blog here's Matthew Schmitz arguing for the latter.

The Pope’s approach is one familiar to any reader of the gospels. Pharisees try to discredit the gospel by trapping its teacher; the teacher refuses the terms of their question and raises the spiritual stakes. The point here is not to compromise on or back away from truth, but rather to reject its caricature. This is good practical guidance. If it’s what he meant in his broader remarks, then those remarks offer wise advice well worth taking.

Perhaps Francis is an example of a church leader committed to busting up the traditional categories like Jesus did -- neither liberal or conservative but confronting dogmas of both the right and the left with the subversive claims of the gospel.  If so, he's an example that Evangelical Protestants would be wise to emulate.

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