Roll with me here. As the church becomes more militant and combative in our fight for truth, justice and the American way, the more our commitment to expanding the Kingdom will be compromised.
Come on. As pastors, is our highest calling to preach the gospel to all nations and reach the lost with the message of hope and grace and healing revealed in the life and words of Jesus or not? Are we called to follow in the footsteps of Jesus or not? Are we to do what he did…say the things he said…treat people the way he did…and live by giving value to the things he valued or not?
Some people may say that Jesus was an extremist. Maybe you do. I know I did when I was a young Jedi. Some say he polarized people and drew lines and caused his followers to choose sides. And in a way he did. But he also did something else.
He navigated the middle.
He rubbed elbows with everyone. He was as comfortable with the prostitute as he was with the aristocrat. He saw the good, or at least the potential for good, in all. He partied at the wedding feast and he taught in the temple. He loved the saint and the sinner. How about you?
He was a living bridge and not a wall. He was a window and not a barricade. He was always the safe middle ground where all were accepted. All were welcome. All were loved. Such a far cry from so many of his followers today.
How about you? Will you be safe? Will you be welcoming? Will you listen or are you licking your chops to tell people what you think they need to know?
Will you try to walk in the shoes of the other…to see what they see and feel what they feel and understand why they may think and act the way they do? Will you do that without judgment and rejection? Do you still have more to learn…even from people with whom you have differences of opinion or conviction?
Will you draw people in or will you push them away with your opinions and corner on the truth? Will you be known more for you love or for your rhetoric?
Junior, can I offer a suggestion? The more people are defined by right and left…liberal and conservative…pro this and con that…the greater the need for some pastors who can navigate from the middle. Followers of Christ and leaders in his church who can understand and articulate and sympathize with both sides of the fence. Any fence.
We desperately need a new generation of pastors who will not be bullied by anybody. Who will not be intimidated by new ideas or run scared by change. Who will not be frightened by people who are different…philosophies that are different…and even ideas that challenge our orthodox understandings of the church and doctrine.
The world we live in has changed. Technology has changed. The flow of information has changed. The rate of change has changed. But people still need to meet Jesus.
And if that’s going to happen in the world as we know it now, we need to have pastors (and people, in general) who can navigate the middle. The middle is where peace is forged, where compromise is found, where surprising friendships and new alliances are born. The middle is where people are drawn in, not alienated.
Will that be you? Will you be a pastor who navigates the middle? We’ve got more than enough of the others!