I have been writing on this blog for almost 4 years and I have been doing vocational student ministry for almost 20 years. I live, eat, and breathe student ministry. And as our culture uncoils itself from its Judeo-Christian worldview, values, and traditions, there is a growing anxiety among those who still hold firmly to Christendom. While this anxiety is well deserved, as Christians, specifically as pastors, and even more specifically as missionaries we have to do some self work and navigate our own issues, convictions, and anxieties.
As culture changes do we embrace change or retreat?
If we are not willing to wrestle with and come to terms with the new world we find ourselves doing ministry, then we will simply transition into a remnant community. I think there is plenty of need and benefit to being part of a remnant community, and they are a unique voice in their unique communities. Consider Quaker or Amish communities. They are awesome! They hold to their traditions and stories and because of that, they have a unique voice in their contexts. But these remnant communities are just that, remnant. Very few new people join from the outside, and slowly they lose ground as second and third generation remnants want less and less to do with them.
But the Evangelical community is not like that. Our tradition is to take the gospel to all people everywhere! And somewhere along the way we have given up our mandate to share the good news of Jesus Christ to all people and have become our own remnant community.
For better or worse, here is how I have come to terms with my high calling as an Evangelical while staying true to my remnant theology, and it is this: I have found that I am theologically conservative so that I can then be pastorally generous.
I know on first pass many of my posts, sermons, or talks come off as anything but conservative. But if you listen closely, I am probably the most conservative person I know. I have an incredibly high view of scripture, a high call to be holy and have faith and actions reflect one another and by actions I am still talking about personal sanctification. What the Bible says is true and right and the final authority on all matters of faith and practice. I am black and white.
Because of my rigid theological worldview I think that all of us fall short all the time. I think that sin has corrupted everything in my life, every system in which I encounter, and everything in the world that I live. Total Depravity has worked itself out completely in this world.
And for as much as I embrace the total broken condition of the human experience, I do think that those who are respond to the call of Jesus and call themselves as followers, they are to actually pick up their cross and follow Jesus. Follow him into a life of humility, service, and sacrifice. We are to be slaves to our weaker brothers, to die to our flesh, and embrace the identity of a servant and gladly sit in the seat of least honor.
Separating Cultural Conservatism from Theological Conservatism:
But for as theologically conservative as I am, I recognize that our cultural context informs much of what we consider as sin and as inappropriate. Consider how we think about modesty. Yanamamo villagers who are basically naked, to midwesterners in the 50's to those who live in San Diego all have a different paradigm in which they answer the question of what is modest or should that even be a value.
Just like the issue of modesty, we have allowed a lot of cultural trappings inform our theological conversation and as culture is changing we are loosing a grip on our theology.
What would happen if we could actually separate some of our cultural trappings, view our ministry to students through the lens of cross cultural missionaries and figure out where the gospel actually is good news and keep the main things the main things?
Being Pastorally Generous:
What prevents me from simply retreating into a remnant theologically conservative community is that I LOVE STUDENTS!! And I don't just generically love students, but I love Ethan, Noah, Cameron, Santiago, Leo, Luna, and Conor, to name a few. Because I love them, I am willing to do whatever it takes, to work like crazy to crack the nut, so that I can present the good news of Jesus to these students and their friends. I believe that the best way to reach this current group of students is by being pastorally generous.
Jesus came in truth and grace. It seems that most youth ministries are interested on either laying down the TRUTH or giving up and letting everything be acceptable because we are all about GRACE. But I think there has to be another way. What if we try to live in the tension of being all Truth and all Grace?
By being pastorally conservative we can be bold in our prophetic voice. We can proclaim Jesus and the high calling he invites us into. We can call sin, sin, and we can actually help our students understand the world in which they live and navigate a course towards life and healing. Jesus offers real forgiveness and real hope. He is light in a dark world and we must be bold in our proclamation of it.
But we must do it the way Jesus did it. Jesus never gave up his convictions or his holiness. Yet he leveraged his integrity so that those furthest from the religious center of his world would have an opportunity to know the love and grace of God.
PLANT YOUR ANCHOR SO YOU CAN THEN BE FREE
When you firmly plant your anchor in orthodox Christianity then you can be free to engage culture in a fresh and new way. Your anchor is what keeps your grounded. And when your remnant community understands where you are coming from, there will be less anxiety when you are pastorally generous.
Let us not retreat because of our uncertainty about this cultural change, rather let us take our love for Jesus and anchor our faith and life in the Word of God so that we can be free to be as pastorally generous as possible, so that by grace, some may come to know the love and grace of Jesus Christ.
#toowordlyforthechristians #toochristianfortheworld :)