The writer of this blog post is writing from a Methodist perspective as well as from a local viewpoint, but I think there are a lot of people who feel this way:
Generally speaking, there is a perception in Springfield that there are
only two options in choosing churches. The first I will call
“evangelical.” Congregations of this option are perceived as large
churches with relatively newer and fancier facilities. They are
perceived as younger, comprised of families with school age children.
The perception is that they are conservative, and focus exclusively on
one’s personal relationship with Jesus and getting into heaven when one
The second perceived option I will call “social justice.” It is
perceived as the alternative to “evangelical.” Congregations of this
option are perceived as smaller in size with older or more basic
buildings. The perception is that they are comprised of older people,
retirees and empty nesters. They are perceived as liberal, and focus
exclusively on helping people who need help and making the earth a
better place in this lifetime…
…A dynamic of these two prevailing models for congregations in
Springfield is that people who associate with one tend to view the other
in very generalized, stereotypical ways. The atmosphere in this
community is highly polarized; there seems to be a strong either/or
mentality in the Ozarks that predominates the public discourse. This
trickles into the church culture as well. While the truth is far more
nuanced, it seems that Christians in Springfield are labeled either an
evangelical or a social justice type…
I have witnessed a spiritual hunger in this community for
church-without-agenda. “Can’t anyone just be church?” is a question
posed in some form in multiple conversations I have had with people who
are not a part of a congregation. And a church “just being church” takes
only one agenda as their own – God’s agenda – for which another term
could be God’s mission, the mysterious and transcendent Missio Dei.
God’s mission is made known in Christ Jesus, who not only came to
announce the mission and undertake the mission, but to embody it. The
mysterious and transcendent made flesh and blood in Jesus of Nazareth.
Since I’m an out, gay pastor, there are folks who probably think I have an agenda. There are others who have an agenda and don’t like my perceived agenda.
But the reality is, I wish we could just be church. I wish those of us who call ourselves Christians would learn how to love each other, even when we disagree.
Of course, that would mean actually trying to follow Jesus, something that I think we fail to do, no matter which side we come down on.
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