Thursday, March 10, 2011

Christian Labels

One of our favorite Christian pastimes today is trying to peg pastors, other Christians, and churches into categories. It makes them easier to hate or criticize. Personally, I refuse to choose a category to identify myself with and resist the notion of being labeled by others.

For instance, what do these words or phrases have in common: Charismatic, Neocharismatic, Continuationist, Cessationist, Restorationist, Calvinism, Arminianism, Missional, Attractional, Reformed, Reformissionary, Monothesim, Polythesim, God-centered theology, Man-centered theology, denomination, denominationalism, non-denominational, Egalitarian, Complentarian, and Hierarchical?

NONE of them are IN THE BIBLE?

Of course, there are hundreds of other labels not included in the list above that are used to categorize Christians today. Christians are more known for which camp they belong to, either by choice or by being labeled by others, rather than their simple identification with Christ! No wonder there is so much division; everyone is polarized!

I figured it out about fifteen years ago; I don’t have to belong to any of those groups. All I really need is the Bible for guidance... and all I have to be is a Christian.

Pretty simple, isn’t it?

As I have grown in maturity I have come to like and appreciate the many different styles of ministry within Christianity. I like Baptist preachers such as Charles Stanley and David Jeremiah, as well as many local Baptist preachers. I also like the fire of Charismatic and Pentecostal preachers; they offer some of the most inspirational preaching available today. I like listening to black preachers too. I have lots of books written by Reformed preachers, many of whom I thoroughly enjoy. I like Matt Chandler, who is Reformed in theology, is a great teacher, and is leading a great church in Texas. Then there are the non-denominational guys like Bill Hybles and Andy Stanley who are leadership geniuses and prolific communicators.

Myself, I have preached in Pentecostal Churches, Assembly of God Churches, Baptist Churches, a Catholic Church, an African American church, and even in ecumenical meetings. I was an ordained minister with the A/G and attended a Baptist seminary.

Can you say mixed breed?

I’m glad that I have been exposed to this level of diversity in the Body of Christ because it has helped me to fly at the 20,000 foot level, far above the pettiness of theological minutia. My view of Christianity is inclusive and embraces diversity. I’m not as opinionated as I used to be about those who are different than me, and God has blessed me and this ministry for it.

I hope that when you read my blog you are thoroughly confused as to what theological camp I belong to. I also hope that my transparent emphasis upon the scriptures alone (Sola scriptura) is what bleeds through my ministry more than anything else. I teach the Bible itself, not what Dr. so-and-so says.

Since people have a hard time figuring me out and what camp I belong to, I have been an easy target and have been called a lot of things; seeker sensitive, felt-needs oriented, shallow, middle of the road, Continuationist, Cessationist, Arminian, Egalitarian, man-centered, too liberal, too strict, too mean, watered down, too literal, too Bible-oriented, and a bunch of other stuff, that makes it very easy for some people to demonize me and PCC. It’s just childish name calling under the guise of spiritual superiority.

But let me ask you. Do you really think that “contending earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3) really means that God wants us to draw a line in the sand and wage war over an issue like methods of ministry? Or the timing of the Rapture? Or women in the ministry? Or a musical style? I think not.

Although my view of Christianity embraces diversity, I do have certain boundaries that I feel very strongly about. For instance, if you mess around with the doctrine of the cross (or some other essential doctrine) I’ll argue with you all night long, and I’ll win. I’m good that way. If you start telling students in this church that certain parts of the Bible are myths, I’ll do my best to expose you as a heretic because you have jacked with Scripture. You don’t get to do that, and we are not on the same team if you discredit the Bible. And one more thing. If you try to undermine the leadership of PCC that makes you my enemy, and I’ll ask you to leave the church. You are free to have a difference of opinion and believe differently than me, but you are not free to hurt this church or mislead the flock that God has charged me to protect. There are some things worth fighting for.

In the end, I’m just thankful that God’s kingdom is wide enough to accommodate all sorts of people with all sorts of styles, methods, and interpretations of non-essential matters. I think part of the reason that PCC is so healthy and such a fun place to be is because we have thrown off the man-made labels as best we can. We are simply “Christians” whose mantra is “This is what the Bible says." I hope it shows up in our services, in our church government, in my preaching, in our worship, and in our doctrine.

I hope we keep you guessing.
I hope our style is what you are looking for. We are a family, not a fratenity.
And I hope we never trade it in for man-made labels.


Trier said...

This is awesome. My favorite blog, by far, that I have read and the reason learning His word at PCC each week is so beneficial.

Ron said...

Thanks Trier! Good to hear from you.