by Frank Viola
[Editor’s Note: As you might know Mark and I come from different sides of the political spectrum and yet we are best of friends and learn from each other every time we are together. He hasn’t persuaded me towards the left and I’ve not succeeded in making him a bit more conservative. More importantly, we have met monthly ever since we heard the Lord tell us to work more closely together at the last Lifeline conference. We enjoy each other’s company and Mark is a treasure chest of gold nuggets from Scripture and experience. I’m a better man because of Mark McGrath. When we allow the world to define who we are and who we should “build” with, we’ll miss out on so much of what the Lord has. We offer this post in that spirit. What do you think? You can see the entire post here.]
“The desperate need today is not for a great number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.”~ Richard Foster
In this post, I want to provide a platform for the sentiments of those who have moved “beyond evangelical” and are part of “the deeper journey.”
Countless Christians I’ve met have uttered these statements in face-to-face conversations, over emails, over coffee at conferences, and on this blog. I’ve compiled them all, editing them slightly for consistency.
Together, they form a collective confession of sorts reflecting the thoughts and feelings of those of us who are on “the deeper journey.”
*We have grown tired of the media routinely characterizing “evangelicals” as if we were all part of “the Christian Right.”
*We have become weary of Christian progressives deeming themselves to be the “new evangelicals” in reaction to “the Religious Right.”
*We are turned off by the left vs. right posturing and the left vs. right political/theological debates.
*We’ve looked to the right and do not wish to venture there. We’ve looked to the left and do not wish to venture there either. The direction we feel pulling our hearts is above and forward.
*We believe that both the Religious Right and the Religious Left have vital truths to contribute. We also believe that they are both missing vital truths. We believe their focus is mainly “issues” rather than Jesus Christ.
*We want to see the Christian Right and the Christian Left learn from one another as well as learn from those of us who are not part of either stream. We feel that all Christians should be open to learn from one another, for we are all parts of the Body of Christ. None of us has the lock on all truth. Each member of the Body has a portion of the riches of Christ.
*We are sickened that so many evangelical Christians are either legalists or libertines. We want Christ’s lordship and we want His liberty as well. We wish to follow Jesus without being legalistic or libertine.
*We hold to the orthodox teachings of Scripture regarding the Person of Christ, His work on the cross, the inspiration and truth of the Bible, the Triune nature of God (the Godhead), but we are weary of Christians dividing over peripheral doctrines and their own private interpretations of Scripture on non-essentials. We passionately agree with Augustine’s sentiment: “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.”
*We’ve grown weary of the way that Christians routinely mistreat their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, being quick to judge their motives, thinking the worst of them, condemning them, slandering them, gossiping about them, etc. We believe that being a Christian means treating others the same way you want to be treated (Matt. 7:12)—the forgotten words of Jesus. With deep remorse, we empathize with the words of Gandhi: “If it weren’t for the Christians, I’d be a Christian.”
*We’ve grown tired of the shallowness that marks so much of evangelical Christianity today. The same sermons, the same principles, the same teachings, etc. We are looking for depth in the Christian life. We know there’s more to Jesus Christ, more to His church, and more to the spiritual life than what’s been promoted in establishment Christianity. There is a cry in our hearts that says, “There’s got to be more than this.”
*We are saddened that the doers, feelers, and thinkers of the body of Christ have separated and isolated themselves from one another instead of learning from each other.
*We’ve grown sick of the entertainment-driven, duty-driven, guilt-driven message that’s laced in most Christian sermons and books today. Human-induced guilt and the conviction of the Holy Spirit are two very different things.
*We are tired of the tendency of some Christians to elevate certain sins that others commit while minimizing or justifying their own sins.
*We’ve grown tired of Christian leaders attacking and competing with one another, instead of networking together and supporting one another.
*We’re weary of the “good ole’ boy system” that’s present in much of establishment Christianity today because it ends up elevating and protecting the status quo and silencing the voices of the prophets.
* We’ve grown sick of Christians saying nasty things about their fellow brethren (whom they don’t know personally) on social media networks. And then justifying it in the name of God.
*We are saddened that so many Christians will believe what they hear about other believers second or third-hand, instead of going to those believers themselves and simply asking them questions in good faith.
*We’ve grown weary of some Christians falsely branding their fellow sisters and brothers in Christ with the words “heretic” and “apostate” when those same believers actually uphold the orthodox creeds of the faith.
*We’ve grown tired of Christians trying to rope us into the liberal vs. conservative battles of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
*We abhor elitism and sectarianism. We are open to all Christians of all stripes, receiving all whom Christ has received (Rom. 15:7).
* We stand for the unity of the Body of Christ. At the same time, we fiercely and passionately stand firm on our convictions regarding the absolute and unvarnished supremacy of Jesus, His indwelling life, God’s timeless purpose, and the church as a Christ-centered community.
*We want the Lord. We want spiritual depth and reality. We want HIM in all of His fullness. Everything else is secondary to us, and often, we find them to be largely a distraction.
If you resonate with any of the above sentiments, then be encouraged: You are not alone.
Well, what do you think? Seemed like a good post to stir some good conversation.
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