Hey Congruent Culture readers, I’m Jenna. I was born and raised in a small town in eastern New Mexico where I met the guys behind this blog. I live in Alabama now and before moving here, spent four years at college in Texas, so it’s been awhile since I’ve been a full-time New Mexican. But talking with Jarin again via Twitter brought back those hometown memories: high school football games, county fairs, youth group retreats…
High school for a lot of us is stereotypically defined by cliques – skaters, nerds, cheerleaders, emo kids, athletes – and in some ways we experienced that. There was a place, however, where we could all come together despite our clothing choices, popularity status or afterschool activities.
The local church.
While no church in town was perfect (and none ever are), shifting our focus to Jesus had a tendency to erase the petty drama that divided us. Unfortunately, church also had the power to magnify it when the cliques began to form around which youth group was the coolest.
I wonder sometimes if this high school mentality is the same fuel that keeps the larger Body of Christ divided and at war with each other. Sure, theology and doctrine are important and worth discussing, but is it really differing views of God or ways of interpreting the Bible that keep us separate?
Or is it more teenage than that?
The People of the Second Chance came out with a campaign recently called Labels Lie, an attempt to end the damage caused by our tendency to categorize people as “other” or “them” or “those people.” To me, it was a powerful testimony that even though we are rightly told we are the most accepting, open, diverse and globally connected generation, we also have a long way to go. Our labels may look different than in previous generations, but they are still just as powerful for dividing us from our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Since leaving high school labels, I’ve discovered the labels the Church wears – evangelical, progressive, emergent, charismatic, traditional, liturgical, missional, Gospel-driven, Bible-believing, all these names that we use to say “we are the true believers” – can sometimes do more harm than good.
Instead of focusing on our (inevitable and real) disagreements, it might do us some good to learn from each other’s strengths (e.g. small churches can lead to intense community, megachurches can offer more specific ministries, Calvinist churches are great for learning about the sovereignty of God, Arminian churches are so good at teaching His love, charismatic churches are really knowledgeable about the Holy Spirit, liturgical churches can bring His holiness and timelessness into focus, etc.).
Like a high school student body at a Friday night football game, let’s unite as Christ’s body in our team colors, cheer for what brings us together and use our unique abilities for good. We will all look different, but we were never meant to be the same (1 Cor. 12:12-26). We were, however, always meant to be under one Leader, who loves the Church so much He calls us His Bride.
The world doesn’t care about our cliques or labels; they only see our fighting as reasons to never join us.
But if we can use our God-given differences, gifts and strengths for His Kingdom, then we can show the world what Love looks like.