Unique & United

Unique and United

I’ve been thinking a lot about the current increase in tension in the Middle East and snowflakes.  I know, I know…it’s hard to come up with two more unrelated things than snow and conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran.  Here’s how they meet in my brain.

From our vantage point, the whole conflict between Sunni Saudis and Shiite Iranians seems strange.  Sure, we can understand that there was some controversy 14 centuries ago over who would succeed Mohammad and I’m sure if I was a Muslim, I would have an opinion.  But why are they allowing it to distract from the overall point – they’re both Muslims!

If you think that’s an interesting question, try asking it of the Christian church in America.  We’re phenomenally good and dividing ourselves into little cliques, tribes and factions.  We waste a ton of time comparing, condemning and criticizing others who come from a different stream.  And we waste a lot of time making our little stream as comfortable as possible.  Whatever your persuasion, there’s a conference, blogger and pastor for you.  We do it over whether we sprinkle infants or dunk believers.  We do it over music, preaching styles and whether we can have a beer or not.  We take shots at each other on social media and then write blogs responding to the twitter controversy.

It’s all so silly.

And snowflakes would help us a lot.

You’ve probably heard this before but every snowflake is unique.  There are no two that are exactly alike.  It’s what makes them beautiful.  Yes, they have a lot in common since they’re all made of crystalized water.  But they’re distinct.  That’s they way it should be with churches.  If your church is a carbon copy of another, you’re following a formula not a Risen King.  Similar churches? Sure.  Identical? Nope.  We need to learn to be okay with that.  So, yes, I have opinions, convictions and beliefs about all the issues I mentioned above.  There’s a reason I’m a Baptist, not a Presbyterian.

But blizzards don’t come from single snowflakes.  Blizzards come when all the unique flakes are flying in the same direction, with the same purpose, driven by the same wind.  That’s when cities are blanketed with the glory of fresh snow.  Imagine the potential of our individual snowflakes uniting to blanket our cities with the glory of God.

We would criticize less.  Celebrate more.  Stop transferring people from church to church and start reaching those with no church.  We would stop trying to outdo each other with cooler events and start working for the good of our cities and those who won’t come to a church event, no matter how cool.

I love the local church.  Bill Hybels was right, “It is the hope of the world.” But that hope will shine brightest when we stop critiquing the other snowflakes and lean in towards a blizzard of redemption and restoration.

Sermon Recap: “A Unified Church In A Polarized America”

US-flag-Florida-BridgeAs life settles back to normal after the 4th of July, I still find myself thinking about yesterday’s sermon at Restoration City.  If you missed it, you can download the podcast here.  If you call Restoration City your church home, I would encourage you to listen to the message.

As America grows more polarized, there’s a temptation for local churches to become more specialized.  We end up with little churches all over the city designed to cater to the specific needs, preferences and desires of a narrow demographic.  Want a politically liberal, family friendly church with a lot programs and a great band?  We’ve got one!  Want a hipster focused, vegan church? Got one.  Looking for one that caters to the elderly?  We’ve got dozens!  Christians find their niche (we call it church shopping) and settle in for a long, comfortable, cozy little ride.

Not only do we end up looking just like America but we also betray the gospel of Christ in the process.  Jesus is building a church that spans racial, socio-economic, political and life stage lines.  He isn’t building churches for singles and churches for families and churches for retirees.  He’s building His church; a gloriously messy, integrated, diverse and unified family.  He’s weaving crying babies, confused teenagers, optimistic 20 somethings and seasoned 50 year olds together into something far greater than we could ever achieve in our own little demographic ruts.

Restoration City isn’t just a church for single, 26 year old young professionals with an affinity for North Carolina.  We’re aiming for something more God honoring than that.  God is calling us to be a church that unites difference communities, different sides of the aisle, different races and different life stages.  It’s going to take intentionality, patience, humility and love for one another to get there.  But I absolutely believe it’s where God is calling us.

The path to unity is paved by the gospel.  If we diminish the central truths of our faith in the name of unity, we’ll fail in our quest for unity in at least two different ways.  One, we’ll have nothing to unite around.  Unity for the sake of unity isn’t compelling.  Unity under the banner of Christ is.  Two, we’ll find ourselves incapable of the kind of love, humility and patience required to pursue unity.  The simple reality is we can’t get where we’re going apart from the power of God.  We need the grace of Christ and the power of the Spirit to get where God is calling us to live.

So, Restoration City, I pray that together we will grow deeper in the gospel.  I pray God will unite our hearts around His mission for our church.  I pray we will continue to live in community.  And I pray our doors will be perpetually open to those from different backgrounds, life stages and beliefs.  I pray we will display a shockingly counter cultural unity that captures the imagination of a polarized city that sits as the capital of a polarized nation.