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A Hyphenated Faith

Community is incredibly important, basically like breathing. As the Church, we need to commune together and be in harmony in Spirit and mind, or we’ll die. But if we forget what joins us together and lose our true purpose, we will be left with a façade—the appearance of community, with little depth.

While I’m typically drawn towards “emerging” ideas and conversations, I’ve noticed an alarming trend. There seems to be a form of community in which we’re drawn together not by a united Spirit and faith in Jesus but by a common desire to redefine Christianity, Christ and even God in any way we choose. We say things like “My God isn’t like that,” and, “My theology just doesn’t support this.” All the while we forget that God is a real person and cannot be defined by you or I. Our opinions of who we think He ought to be do not effect who He actually is.

In order to have authentic Christian community we need to understand what binds us together. Are we bound by an individualistic desire to worship in our own style, to speak in our own lingo, to hold to our own ideologies? Or do the truth, the Spirit and the salvation of the Messiah bind us? Are we bound together in unity with the larger, global body of Christ that may include those we disagree with? Are we willing to learn from others who God truly is? Or will we hold tightly only to who we want Him to be? This problem doesn’t seem to be different from the more traditional ideologies the Church has struggled with for years.

I hear myself complaining about churches that refuse to reach out to the poor and the downtrodden—churches full of people who are terrified to leave their comfortable homes in suburbia to go out and make disciples by loving the unlovable. I believe I’m right, and they’re wrong, and yet I refuse to give credence to the fact that they feel the very same way about me. I’m confused by the irony of those more “traditional” Christians who refuse to put down their out dated methodologies, but grip them firmly in a selfish desire to remain at ease. And yet, I find that many times, some of us who consider ourselves a part of the “emerging conversation” or a part of “missional communities” are essentially falling into that very same trap. We’ve caught ourselves on the barbs of vocabulary and syntax and are now trapped—unable to love the lovables. We’ve defined “church” as being closed-minded and legalistic, and “community” as love and communication. We’ve exchanged one set of stagnant vocabulary for another. Instead of leaving behind the struggle of method and moving towards our original calling, we tend to replace the Church and in doing so lose our identity as the united Body of Christ.

When we begin to answer these questions of community honestly the issues of method become less relevant and the questions of love, sharing and truth become top priority. When we begin to see Christian community not as many individual communities bound by common theologies, but as the body of Christ united and working together to be the Church, we will find that all sides will begin to bridge the gap in order to fulfill the intended purpose of the Church: making disciples (Matthew 28:18-20).

In order to move into this global community of faith, we must return to the ancient art of repentance. We must confess our negative attitudes, our enmeshed anger and our prideful self-indulgence and beg each other for forgiveness. We have to be united under the name of Christ and Him alone. We can no longer hyphenate our faith. We are not liberal-Christians, emerging-Christians, Christian-communities, evangelical-Christians or conservative-Christians—we are only Christian, followers of Jesus Christ. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 1:10-13 (ESV):

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I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, "I follow Paul," or "I follow Apollos," or "I follow Cephas," or "I follow Christ." Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

Only Christ was crucified for us, only Christ brings salvation, and it is in His name we are baptized and brought into community. So why is it that we are so tempted to divide ourselves by ideologies, philosophies and religious leaders? We may not often come out and admit our worldly allegiances, but our divisive actions speak volumes about whom we follow. When we take sides and isolate each other, we are essentially doing as the Corinthians. Saying, “I follow Brian Mclaren,” or “I follow James Dobson,” or “I’m emergent,” or “I’m evangelical.” When we finally begin to focus wholly on Christ and Him crucified, we will begin to be unified in genuine community.

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