Sunday, May 06, 2007

Known By What You're NOT

In Grand Rapids Michigan is a great church called Calvary Un-denominational Church. We called it something different when we would drive through. We called it the "turtle church" because the bow of the roof-ridge and the shape of the bottom edge looked like a huge turtle shell. I had a good friend there on the pastoral staff. It does great ministry, especially in the arena of missions.
But I could not get over the name: UN-denominational, not non-denominational, not ecumenical, not community church, but specifically UN-denominational. I'm guessing there is a pretty good story in that church's history about a very negative role a denomination played in the lives of its founding members. There was probably a meeting early in its beginnings where someone said something like "I don't care what we call it, but it better not have any denominational connection!"
The definition of this church is basically negative, defined by what it is not. And there are times we need to define ourselves by what we are not. It can happen when we come out of toxic or abusive backgrounds: alcoholics no longer touch liquor and gamblers stay out of casinos. But there comes a time when being negatively defined is less-than-satisfying. I remember visiting an old woman in Minnesota, wrestling with dimensia. Her husband, now deceased, was a prominent pastor. When we got to talking about him one day, she said, "I'll say this for him, he never raised his hand against me!" and with that she nodded to me in triumph! What? He did not hit her? What kind of definition is that for a spouse? I hope Martha's primary description of me to others is more that that of a good husband who never hit her!
Why this line of thought? Because of a number of conversations with struggling Christians who are defining themselves spiritually as the opposite of those who they disagree with. Their self-definition is always tinged with hints of an argument, a fight, a rebellion. Sometimes it's children bound and determined to not be like their parent(s). Sometimes it is a position that is in polar oppostion to some over-bearing pastor, teacher, or leader. Sometimes it's a wholesale rebellion against an ethnic heritage or cultural set of values that is actually spiritually neutral.
In our staff meeting last week Diana quoted a Covenant pastor who said "Tell me your "yes's" and the "no's" will take care of themselves." That is a positive self-definition. Is your yes to Jesus' lordship stronger than your no to toxic people? Is your yes to God's love stronger than your no to human biggotry and hate? Is your yes to God's word stronger than your no to media garbage?


At 9:22 AM , Blogger Maria Dodson said...

Hi. I read your blog frequently but i've never commented before. Just wanted to say I love this post. Very well put! Keep up the good work.

At 1:55 PM , Blogger Rock in the Grass said...

I seem to remember something about Christians being known by our Love. What a pity we so often slip into defining ourselves by the negatives - the things we do not do! I prefer the old adage "Love God and do what you like".


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