Monday, May 30, 2011

Maturing through our differences

Alright, put your game face on cuz this is gonna get a little heavy. In my mind the thoughts I'm about to share sound so "liberal". Eeek! It kinda scares me to think I came up with them by myself...or did I? I'm not so sure...never can really trust my own heart, sometimes it plays me for a fool. I expect your responses (whether I actually receive them or not) will come from all ends of the spectrum. That is kind of the point of this post.

So, Bobby, what in the world are you talking about? Convictions. Not the criminal kind but the not so distant cousin of opinions. Everybody's got 'em and those who don't need to get some because without them you are anybody's pawn. Our convictions shape who we are, what we do, what we say, and how we think. They reside near the core of our being, somewhere between our soul and spirit, connecting who we are with what we do.

There is no doubt about it: doctrine matters. Yet, we can all look at the same scripture and draw different conclusions. Is that okay? Can we all have different convictions and passions and still get along?  I think so.  Actually I think it is more than okay, it is healthy and necessary, especially in the church.  Disagreement doesn't necessarily lead to disunity. Contrarily, our disagreements when discussed in love and grace strengthen our bond with one another and display the strength of Christ alone to be what unites us.

Christ is enough. The man, the person, the being, the Lord is enough. Our individual ideas and concepts of who Jesus is are not enough. They fall short and are imperfect and skewed. Christ is much bigger than our doctrine of Christ. We display his sufficiency the most when we are united in Him even though we disagree.  We show that we trust in the ever present and soveriegn person and not just our man made conceptions of Him.

It is easy to say we are united in Christ when we have thoroughly "church shopped" and found a confessional statement we agree with and a preacher we can religiously sit under. We can pat ourselves on the back because the structure we have attatched ourselves to makes it seem like we are united in Christ. But all that flies out the window if someone disagrees with the confession or the sermon. It becomes evident that our unity is in Christ as long as you meet certain doctrinal qualifiers. There may be unity, there may be peace, and we may be able to get along very well with each other in that structure but we have also accomplished the systematic shutdown of one of God's ways to bring us to maturity as a body.

I'm all for confessions and doctrines. I'm all for convictions and passion. Like I said, these things define who we are and what we believe and stand for. But what they do not provide is a sufficient basis for unity. That is Christ's place. Therefore one confession should not assume to speak for an entire group of believers. A gathering should not be based on a confessional statement. It should be based on our love for Christ and our love for one another in Christ.

I'm beginning to believe that God wants there to be differences among us. That is why He has purposefully given us different convictions. He wants us to sharpen one another. He wants us to enjoy unity in diversity. He wants us to learn grace. And He wants us to do all this in spite of our differences in order for us to learn to love one another simply because we have Christ in common. Maturity is not defined by our knowledge and understanding of doctrine. It is defined by how well we stand under pressure and still hold fast to our faith when we are shaken.  Christian institutions have made it too easy to avoid our differences and thereby prohibited the growth of Christ's members. Therefore I have come to have the opinion that confessional statements actually hinder our unity and maturity in Christ by making things way too tidy. Of course I've seen both sides of this in action so my opinion is both based in experience and in scripture but as with all things in me it is still a work in progress.

What do you think?  Do confessional statements have any effect on our maturity?  Is it okay for us to have different convictions and passions?   


  1. I logged on this morning to say something, but you said it for me, so I'll just say Amen.

    ~John Bullock

  2. As someone who owns lots of books on the confessions and used to think that the 1689 LBC was the minimum I could accept for fellowship, it seems to me know that confessions mostly serve as a way to divide the Body and keep undesirables out.

  3. It's all in how you use the confessional statement. What do you hope to gain from it? It can be either divisive or a useful tool for study, self examination, and mutual edification.

    1. I believe maturity is not measured by what you know, it is shown by the practice of what you know.

    2. Confessional statements, catechisms and the like can help us to study doctrine and talk about why we believe what we believe.

    3. Therefore, how we use confessional statements matters. They should not be used as barriers between us. If maturity is measured by the practice of what you know, confessional statements can be much more than simply statements of what we believe and why; they can help us to focus our attention on specific doctrines and beliefs for the purpose of examining ourselves and for facilitating edifying discussions.

  4. John,

    thank you for the encouragement. In many ways these are incomplete thoughts. Perhaps you could help complete them and leave a link for us to find what you've said?

  5. Arthur,

    I have a lot of books like that as well. I find them great for study but very bad as a minimum for fellowship.

  6. Micah,

    I agree wholeheartedly with what you have said here. There are good uses and purposes for confessions.

    what effect do you think confessions have on a church that bases it's teaching, preaching and parameters for membership based on them?

  7. Bobby,

    That's a good question. While any good confessional statement is derived from Scripture, we cannot place as much confidence in them as we do the inerrant, inspired Scriptures. I believe confessions can be very helpful if used in the right way. But I don't think it is wise to start with a confessional statement as the basis for a local body of believers. Obviously it would be best for them to start with the Scriptures as the basis. If they then adopt a confessional statement or even write their own, they need to consider what are the purposes for their confession. If they take that into consideration, I am confident that they can determine any number of profitable uses for the confession. But, they still need to be wise and discerning to avoid certain pitfalls such as the confession being elevated above the Scriptures or the confession becoming a barrier between them and other believers.

  8. As per the above directive: God bless you, dear One. It's clear to see why satan tried so hard to ruin your life. You are precious to the LORD and greatly loved. May you continue to be guided by His Spirit and filled with His love, joy and forgiveness--received and given.
    Marie Bridges

  9. Micah,

    nicely put! Even so, I think that a body can elevate the scriptures too high (I almost cringe at the sound of that) above that of an inward and corporate expression of Christ. If we are gathered together to manifest these two expressions, where would the need for a confession come in?

  10. Marie,

    thank you so much for your kind words :)


As in a biblical church gathering, my word is not complete or final. Participation is allowed, encouraged and expected. Please, don't leave without adding something.