After my previous post, a friend from church privately emailed me asking for clarification about what I wrote. I found that my response back was even more clear than the original post, but unfortunately shared only by the two of us.
Since then, we've gone back and forth a few more times and each time I think I've better clarified my original point for this reader. Although I left our interaction anonymous, I asked this person if they would mind if I included it here, because I thought it would be helpful to expand, clarify, and chronicle my original thoughts (permission was granted). You will note as you read our interaction that this person responded specifically in relationship to the church we attend, because we attend a Reformed Presbyterian church (like the church discussed in the Bayly Brothers Blog that I referenced in my post). Please don't get the idea that we are picking on our church, we only used it as a frame of reference for our discussion.
In this email, my friend went on to talk about families that come to our church from other churches that may or may not be reformed in their thinking. This person went on to clarify their position as it relates to families and even more specifically fathers...
In responding to his question, I acknowledged no fundamental difference between live-birth and adoption-based families; they should all be raised for the glory of God! However, I continued with this in my answer:
"I think what I clung to in the Bayly boys blog is an attitude of theological elitism. What I'm getting at is that I see the reformed church (in very general terms) lacking in gospel ministry to the world and being more excited about the reformation of already-Christians instead of the salvation of yet-to-be Christians.
I also see the reformed church (again, in very general terms) more concerned in one era/style of worship and in general looking at those from the non-reformed community as coming from churches "that don't get it" or "haven't arrived yet." A gross generalization, but it's a recurring theme."
The majority of our emails contained specific dialogue about our specific local congregation, so I'll spare you the boring details. However, at another point, this exchange did allow me the opportunity to clarify even further what I felt was at the heart of both the Bayly Brother's blog and my first post. Here is how I responded:
"Any Church USA" falls short when they preach a gospel that is based on external items rather than the cross of Jesus Christ. I call it "lifestyle evangelism." When someone either notices you as an individual or...sees your family and inquires in a positive way about why you are "different" than other people of faith. Within a few sentences, we should be able to turn that conversation to the cross of Jesus Christ.
With "lifestyle evangelism" the discussion goes to what we've done (our marriage, our family, our homeschooling, our dress, our behavior, and the list goes on). I think we would both challenge any efforts to evangelize others to "look/act/dress/behave like me" rather than "look/act/dress/behave like Christ."
How about Jesus? I believe He entered every area of culture. He addressed sin. He gave people hope. He gave them Himself. He addressed the religious elite regularly and accused them with sharp words of adding to the gospel of grace. Jesus came to save individual believers. He came to take away their sins and reconcile them to God. He did not come to make better families or create stronger fathers...If someone different looking/acting walked into our conservative church (i.e. red hair/tattoos), I think Jesus would accept them where they were. He'd allow the HS to address their sin and He would offer them hope.
In one of my final email responses, I went on to further clarify what I was trying to say by writing this to my friend:
"I hope we can agree that we need to minister to all, learn to relate to all, accept others right where they are and share the gospel of salvation...dwell on the core and not the peripheral...show them love...pretend that all we have to give others is Jesus and then give them Jesus! I hope we can encourage folks to love Jesus, to serve Jesus and to honor Jesus! I know we can agree that it is all about Jesus."
Hopefully my responses in this email diaglogue will clarify what resonated with me in the Bayly Brother's blog. I found that taking part in this email correspondence was helpful and I wish it had worked itself out in the comments section for more of you to participate. Hopefully, you can join in on the discussion now that I have included them here.
Lastly, I hope by now that most loyal readers of theMangoTimes would know that when I say "it's all about Jesus" that I'm not negating doctrine, theology or obedience to God in His Word. I hope you would know that when I say "Give them Jesus," I mean that phrase to be synonymous with "Give them the Gospel (alone!)" and "Tell them about the mercy of God (alone!)" and "Tell others what Jesus has done for them (alone!)". Instead of first welcoming folks into a "graduate" level of church, let's welcome them into loving Jesus Christ and what He accomplished for them!
Quietly making noise,