It’s hard to read a Christian book or blog post or to hear a sermon without hearing some overt or implied criticism of some part of the evangelical Church as a whole. That’s not even counting the Twitter feeds of Christians.
I’m reading a terrific book right on the centrality of the gospel by one of my favorite author/preacher/bloggers. It’s a book that is both challenging me and inspiring me. But even this favorite author can’t resist the easy stereotype of “most churches” or “most Christians” or “The Church is . . . .” It seems nearly impossible for us to build up our ministries without having to use another expression of Christian ministry as a foil.
I know this because I do this myself. In my forthcoming book, I spend a considerable time pushing back against the pressure to be perfect among 2nd Generation kids. I felt (and still feel) it was a legitimate criticism. And yet I wonder at our motives. Are we genuinely concerned about the perceived blind spot in this generation’s evangelical movement or are we simply trying to provoke so as to build our own tribes? Are we being truly prophetic or are we trying to position ourselves as more pure than our ministry brothers?
These are questions worth asking ourselves, I think. Now please understand that this is not a plea for squishy, doctrine-free tolerance. I loathe the progressive movements that advocate tolerance for everyone except those whose beliefs they despise. Doctrine is important. Warning our flock about the dangers of aberrant theology is vital for their spiritual lives.
But we could all do better at examining our motives and check our facts. Scoring cheap points in a message or blog post or book based on broad stereotypes of the Body of Christ is both intellectually lazy and an insult to the Bride Christ loves.
I want to be faithful in shepherding my flock, which includes speaking the truth about what’s false. But I don’t want to build my ministry on the foundation of someone else’s failures (perceived or real). Let’s build our ministries on the unchanging Word of God as our source, on the radical nature of the gospel message. And let’s remember that we ourselves are fallible, flawed messengers easily prone to our own errors of judgment.
Daniel Darling is the Vice President for Communications for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention (ERLC). Dan is the author of several books, including Teen People of the Bible, Crash Course, iFaith, Real, Activist Faith, and his latest, The Original Jesus. Dan holds a bachelor’s degree in pastoral ministry from Dayspring Bible College and has studied at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife Angela have four children and reside in the Nashville area. They attend Green Hill Church in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, where Dan serves as Pastor of Teaching and Discipleship.