I have now been attending churches for over 40 years. And I have picked up a few things about church culture that I do not particularly appreciate. And most of the things that trouble me about church culture revolve around the subject of conformity to non-Biblical standards. As a child I picked up on these things through events that are etched in my mind. I remember my aunt, who is only a few years older than me, visiting church with us and being told by a man that her sun dress was more appropriate for Friday night than Sunday morning. She never came back. I remember that we never went out to eat after church at a particular restaurant because it was too close to the church and my mom didn’t want the church leaders to know that we had been out to eat on a Sunday.
So how does a church that takes holiness and Scripture seriously avoid this kind of judgmental conformity? My hope is that speaking clearly about freedom in Christ has some power to avoid this type of church culture. So this blog is my attempt to speak directly about the reality of Biblical diversity within ReCAST Church.
As a pastor who is currently homeschooling my children it would be easy for people to assume that we are a “home-schooling” church. As a church we do not have a standard for family education. All three of my children have attended public schools, all three have been home-schooled, and we have looked into private Christian schools and we would have probably utilized a local Christian school if we could afford it. My point is that our official stance on schooling for children is that each family has the freedom to choose for themselves and should have the right to choose within the body of Christ without feeling like their decision is judged by others. There is not a Christian standard for educational choices for families. Each family should choose what works best for them.
To most of the church it would appear that my wife stays at home. The truth is that my wife actually does work about 40 hours a year as an RN during flu season. But by perception we could be labeled as a church that has an expectation on wives to be stay-at-home moms. But, again, each family needs to make the choice for themselves based on their convictions and place in life. I can speak to greed. I can speak to the benefit of a mom that is highly engaged in the life of her children. I can tell you all how grateful I am for the work that Linda does for our family by staying home. But I will not stand for others judging wives who by conviction are working outside of the home. What Scripture does not prohibit the church should not prohibit.
I fear that we have assumed that the church has the right to enhance the rulebook. But I am convinced that we do not have the right to condemn behavior that Scripture does not. I come from a church tradition that prohibits the use and sale of alcohol. I cannot find any Scriptural basis for this prohibition. Scripture is clear that drunkenness is a sin, but enjoying a beer is not. So as a church we must permit freedom on this subject that’s left free in the Bible.
I hope that the three examples above can serve as a framework for people over a whole host of subjects. My desire for ReCAST church is that we can be a gathering of diverse people, from a variety of backgrounds, with the unifying factor being the cross of Jesus Christ. I do not want homeschooling, abstinence from alcohol, or even complimentarianism to be the rallying point of the church.
The rallying point is the foot of the cross. It is at the foot of the cross that we all come together as needy beggars at the feet of God. It is there that we recognize our sin cursed state. It is there that we find mercy. And it is in that place that, if we look around at the others gathered there, we find that we are really not better or worse than the others gathered there. We may be different but not better, because everyone gathered there was so bad that Jesus had to die for them. But we also are no worse than anyone else, because it is in that place that our worth was declared by the sacrificial death of our Lord and Savior.
So if you ever hear the phrase, “Real Christians don’t _______________________.” I would recommend looking for chapter and verse! But recognize that a church is full of people with a lot of personal convictions and strong opinions. So, we must be careful to discern what are opinions and what are genuine doctrines that matter.
At the bottom line, the Christian life is about a relationship with Jesus Christ. The New Testament is not merely a rulebook, but a relational guidebook to show us what restoration with God looks like. Conforming to the Word will produce some level of practical conformity within a church . . . like gossiping should go out the window. But there is still a ton of freedom within the Book to follow your own personal convictions without making those laws for others. I long for unity in Christ, brotherly love toward others, and gracious cross-centered living to be a hallmark of ReCAST Church. A year ago I went to a conference in Lansing called Sola and one of the speakers said the following, “unity with diversity is the body of Christ.” Can you think of other church culture issues that get legislated when they need to be left up to individuals to decide?