Tell me if this situation sounds familiar…
You hear it through the grapevine that a friend of yours, lets call him Johnny, said something you don’t quite agree with. Wether he was talking about politics, theology, or sports it doesn’t really matter. From Johnny’s point of view, he didn’t do anything wrong. He was acting in accord with his convictions and had the best intentions in mind. In fact, we can assume that most people would actually have agree with what he said.
In your point of view, however, he was wrong. Now, rather than going to the source and asking Johnny about it, you “discuss” Johnny’s statement with a few other friends who just happen to share your point of view. Before you know it, you’ve built out this elaborate explanation of what Johnny’s convictions are, why he would say what he did, the implications of his actions, the darkness of his heart and mind, and so on.
Fast forward to the next time you guys are in a room together. You’ve got a few options here:
- Leave the Room – This is classic avoidance at its best. Instead of dealing with the tension surrounding your disagreement, you’d rather remove yourself from the situation. This is certainly the most comfortable thing to do, but can we really spend our entire lives avoiding confrontation?
- Keep Your Peace – Now we’re talking about suppression. You’re seething on the inside, but rather than start a ruckus, you bury your anger/frustration. This will keep things mellow, but don’t be surprised when all of these suppressed emotions start to color the way you talk to and interact with Johnny.
- Rip Johnny a New One – If you’re the opinionated and confrontational type, this one’s going to feel great. You can take all of the assumptions that you’ve built up about Johnny and really let him have it. Just don’t plan on having much of a relationship after that.
So here you are, sitting in a room with Johnny looking at 3 pretty terrible options. You’re stuck. You don’t know what to do. There’s an elephant in the room.
Church leaders are not immune to this kind of misunderstanding.
Last year, a senior pastor in North Carolina decided to have the church’s worship team play AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” at their Easter service. In his mind, he was using culture to convey a powerful Gospel message. In the minds of many other church leaders, he profaned the worship service, watered down the Gospel, and used culture in a way that culture should not be used.
Standing on a faithful view of Scripture, both sides find plenty of justification for their judgement. All of a sudden, two camps form around the issue and you’ve got churches, even denominations, set against one another. Everybody’s mad at everybody. Nobody seems to understand the other side, nor do they want to try.
Again, it seems as though there are 3 options: Avoid, Suppress, or Fight
Aren’t we missing an option, though? Can’t they just talk about it?
Yes they can. Yes they should. Enter the Elephant Room.
The Elephant Room is more than an event. It is the outgrowth of an idea. The idea that the best way forward for the followers of Jesus lies not in crouching behind walls of disagreement but in conversation among all kinds of leaders about what the scriptures actually teach. We must insist on the biblical Gospel, right doctrine and practice but not isolate ourselves from relationship even with those who believe much differently.
These are conversations about the most Christ honoring ways of building a church. Our goal is unity, however a true unity cannot be fashioned in pretense or denial of truth nor can it be won among those who prefer sectarianism to the unity Jesus prayed for. To advance Christ’s call to unity we must do what men have always done, we must push and prod and challenge and sharpen each other’s beliefs and methods. Fidelity and fruitfulness, both matter. No one has a corner on the truth and methods must do more than ‘work.’
I watched last year’s videos and was encouraged, inspired, and enlightened. If you want a bit of a taste of what its all about, check out these videos from last year. (One of them features the Highway to Hell discussion.)
The Elephant Room 2. January 25th. You should go.
For my friends in Nashville, the simulcast will be aired at Cross Point Nashville on January 25th. If you’d like to attend, click this link to register. Enter this code: ER10DOJAN12 and receive $10 off your ticket.
For everyone outside of Nashville, you can find additional locations here.