I know, I know—you really don’t like the term “culture war.” The mission of the church is not to “reclaim” America. The growth of the church does not rely on political victories or societal approval. And we don’t want the people we are trying to reach to think we are at war with them. I understand the phrase sounds more aggressive, confrontational, and militaristic than we like.
It is, of course, a long-established commonplace of theological reflection that the separation of the study of theology from the life of the church which was solidified at the Enlightenment and epitomized in modern education was a significant and unfortunate move. Often this is seen in terms of its impact upon theology. Detached from an ecclesiastical context, this ceases to have an ecclesiastical agenda and becomes merely an arm of secular scholarship. That is certainly a valid observation. What is less often noted, however, is that this move does not only affect theology; it also affects the theologians who do the theologizing.
When people visit, the music could be above par. The preaching Biblical. The bulletins slick and catchy. The offering plates shined and the lights on queue.
But if you don’t catch people when they hit the parking lot, you may have made an irreversible impression. If they’re not made to feel welcomed when they enter the front doors, you’re stacking the deck against yourself. Focusing on details is great…just don’t miss the forest for the trees.
C. Michael Patton:
Where God has left the puzzle pieces out, so should we. He knows what he is doing. Let’s just thank him for the pieces we do have and worship in the, for now, white mysterious area. Hand firmly over mouth is a good theological posture sometimes.