As the Church, we all need to change the tone, the tenor, of our conversation.
From Duck Dynasty, Chik-Fil-A, supposed wars on Christmas and the like… we have to change the conversation.
We need to start having conversations. Start listening to each other — both inside and outside the church. Building authentic relationships. Stop shouting. Stop clinging to red and blue theology, bumper-sticker ethics and constantly being on the hunt for heresy.
I like what Pastor Carl Lenz, of Hillsong NYC, says in this article:
When Couric asked Lentz if his church has a position on issues like gay marriage, he said, “We have a stance on love, and everything else, we have conversations.”
Asked to explain what he meant, Lentz added, “Often people want you to make these big statements about things, and I don’t believe that’s fair. I don’t think a public forum is always the best place to talk about something that’s so sensitive and so important to so many, because … there’s no discussion there.
“I’d rather have a conversation … because if I make a statement publicly, there’s no discussion, there’s no explanation, there’s just this comment.”
There is a big, healthy and Biblically-sound church in Cambridge that has embraced this approach. They are having conversations. Hard ones. And some people don’t like it and are leaving, but the leadership is committed to doing things differently. A good friend attends the church and I am following their conversations from a distance. So refreshing, so healthy, so right, so Jesus.
This week I was hanging out with a friend who is the executive pastor of one of the most innovative, fastest growing, exciting churches in New England. Their growth is unbelievable… what God is doing in people’s lives is even more unbelievable.
We were talking about the church and homosexuality. He knows my story, I know where he stands on the issues. We are still friends, we have mutual respect for each other, and we are real enough to actually talk about it — but not make it the main thing either.
He was telling me this week about a number of people who attend their church from the LGBT community. Again, let’s be clear… this is a conservative, evangelical church. Their position on the issue is clear — both from the platform and the leadership generally. But LGBT folks go there in big numbers. Why? Because Jesus is more important to most of us than our sexuality… because it is a safe, welcoming and authentic place to struggle, walk, journey, and seek after God in the context of community.
And in that context, God is changing lives and bringing people from death to life — in big numbers.
It is not a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach — it is the opposite. It is a “I’ll ask and listen as you tell me your story… and I will tell you mine… and we will travel together in this crazy thing we call life… and trust God to do what He wants to do in our lives, in His time and His way.”
And it is so refreshing. So healthy. So good. So Jesus.
And so full of good fruit.
I have many friendships like that. Because of my background, history and story, I have many friends who are affirming to the LGBT community, and I have many friends who have serious reservations and convictions that don’t allow them to affirm things like marriage equality, etc. And I have even more friends who are wrestling with these issues as followers of Jesus, and for whom it is really hard and complex and they are trying to figure it out.
And what I so deeply appreciate about these folks is their willingness and commitment to relationships and conversations. Because ultimately that is what is going to change hearts — and more importantly, allows us to love each other even when we don’t agree on these issues. Being part of the Christian family — the Body of Christ — is about knowing and being known, loving and being loved, serving and being served, celebrating and being celebrated. And these things only happen when we get real and authentic and honest with each other… and tell our stories… and listen to each other’s stories… and work harder at being understanding than being understood… when we change the tone.
And when it happens, it is so refreshing. So healthy. So good. So Jesus.
Friends, we need to change the tone.