The Virtues of Dialogue

If we want to unify the church, we don’t have to look further than Jesus. Jesus is our perfect model. He hung out with everybody: sinners and outcasts, disciples, even people with status.

Jesus hung out with the Pharisees! He had powerful disagreements with them, right? But He was okay with that. It didn’t keep Him from hanging out with them. “I’ll go to your house to have dinner,” He said. “I’ll challenge your reasoning and your beliefs.” He didn’t necessarily say nice things to them, but He had the dialogue. It’s not like He refused to talk to them.

Jesus debated everybody, fortunately. We wouldn’t even know His thoughts, if He had refused debate! He hung with people of all different persuasions, people who held all kinds of views different to His, and He found a way to dialogue with them. So He was our perfect model for engaging people and talking with them, whether we agree with them or not.

Just because Jesus talked with all different kinds of people, He did not give up moral ground. He wouldn’t do that. He would say, “No you’re wrong. And this is why.” And He would answer a question with another question, because He wanted people to think more deeply.

We’re not behaving much like Jesus right now! Right now we are in a situation where our leaders, and our leading thinkers, don’t even want to hang out with each other, much less debate! They’ll write each other off before the conversation can even begin. “Oh,” they’ll say, “So you’re from the Catholic Church.” Or they’ll say, “You’re from the Episcopal Church, you’re from the Presbyterian Church, you’re Southern Baptist.” So what? So talk! Talk to each other. Have a conversation. Dialogue.

I’ve found real wisdom in books written by leaders from denominations other than my own. And I love it. I don’t go to a Presbyterian Church, but for me, Timothy Keller is one of the brightest thinkers of our day right now. You should read The Reason for God and think about his views of God and the contemporary challenges to Christianity. Brennan Manning’s Ragamuffin Gospel is another very good book, and Manning is a Catholic priest.

We have to put aside the insistence that our denomination is the only one with the correct belief. We all begin with that belief, sure, but we can’t fear the changes that come from dialogue with other Christians. We shouldn’t be afraid to say, “My perspective is part of the right perspective, but it’s not the perspective.”

That’s really our issue. We can’t sit in dialogue, because we aren’t prepared to admit that our perspectives might only be partial. We always think that we have to have the perspective, and the other guy must be wrong. What if we all need to think together to have the perspective?

Don’t be afraid to dialogue and debate. Don’t be afraid to say, “Time out. That might not be the full perspective.” Don’t be afraid to add to your perspective. Be willing to change! I think it’s something that we’re going to have to be okay with. We have to. It’s the only way, if we’re going to unify the church!

See you Monday.

Unity Through Dialogue

As iron sharpens iron,
So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.
Proverbs 27:17

We need to take action. We need to unify the church. It’s key to the return of Jesus!

Let’s begin with an “iron sharpening iron” dialogue. Let’s come to an understanding. It’s going to be hard, but it’s not impossible. We’re all in this together, after all. We sing differently, we worship differently, and we handle our services differently, but we are all the church. Our differences should not stand in the way of seeking unity. We need a common understanding of who God is and how He works, so Christian thinkers need to come together and start sharpening each other.

By “sharpening,” I don’t mean “competing.” Dialogue is not a competition. It’s not about proving that your words are better than the other guy’s. Dialogue is not, “I know I’m right, and I know you’re wrong.” Don’t be afraid to be wrong. Be prepared to adjust your thought process when you find the other guy makes sense. Right now, I think we’re unwilling to do that. I think we’re afraid of conflict.

Generation Alive works with Spokane-area schools, but we’re also trying to unify the church. We’re working with the youth pastors to build unity. They are doing a terrific job, but it wasn’t like that at first. When we started out, they weren’t getting together very often. In fact, it felt like the churches were involved in a turf war! It felt like they were saying to each other, “Don’t get in our way.” It felt like everything turned into a competition! “When you put on an event,” they seemed to say, “we’re going to hold one at the same time.” Seriously! Unity felt like it was a long way out.

Things have changed now. The youth pastors are doing a great job, and I’m glad to see it. After all, they are the ones who are discipling our young leaders.

If you’re not willing to sit with thinkers and engage in a necessary and sharpening dialogue, you may never learn. Maybe some people are different from you. Maybe they have different lenses. But everyone’s focus is on the same God. Through dialogue, we try on each others’ lenses. And through dialogue, those different lenses could start to make sense. They could start to improve the way we see things. Look at God through the lens of another, and the way you see Him could improve. Let someone look at God through your lens, and the way they see Him could improve.

If we don’t engage in dialogue, we may never know. And if we’re not willing to sit with other Christians in community, we may never be unified.

See you Monday.

Kingdom Dialogue

Kingdom theology invites us to think about what it’s like to be in the family of the King of Kings. So let’s think about it. When the king — your Dad — says, “I need you to go out and do something for me,” you go out and do it!

I want to go out there. I want to leave the Kingdom walls. I want to bring the aroma of Christ to everybody. If God asks me to go out and provide clean water for people, I want to go! I want to go so that I can bring clean water. I want to love my neighbor as myself. Love connects, and I want to connect with people. I want to talk with them. I want dialogue.

I want to say, “Look, I see you need water. I want to give it to you.” That starts the conversation. That opens the door to dialogue. And when they ask me why I’m helping them, I’ll get to say, “Because I love you.” They’ll ask me,”Why do you love me? You don’t even know me!” And that’s when I’ll get to say, “I love you because of God. The one I call my Dad. He loves you! He loves everybody! He loves humanity. So here I am. I’m here for you, and I’m going to love on you.”

When I see people who can’t eat, I’m going to help provide food. They might ask me, ”How are you going to feed us?” And that’s when I’ll get to say, ”I’m going to ask God, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. He commands everything, and He will help me get food to you. He will give me the right food program. He will help me involve people — hundreds of people — in making packages of food for you. They love you too! And even if He doesn’t give me a program, He will still help me feed you. He’s going to allow me to take two loaves and a fish and feed all of you with it. He does all of this because He loves you, and I love you because He loves you.

“And when you’ve eaten, and your children are healthy because their water doesn’t make them sick, then I’m going to tell you why He loves you. When you can trust my voice, I’m going to tell you what it means that He loves you. And I’m going to invite you to come and be a part of His family, in His Kingdom.”

When I get sent out from the Kingdom of Heaven, to enter the world in order to serve, and to heal, and to dialogue, that’s joy, man. That’s joy, even though it’s not always easy. More on this next time. See you Monday.

No Boundaries to Fellowship

If we want to unify the church, we don’t have to look further than Jesus. Jesus is our perfect model. He hung out with everybody. Obviously He hung out with sinners. And think about who the disciples were. They were the outcasts. They were the ones that were cast out by the rabbis. They were the ones that didn’t make the cut, so to speak. The B team. And they were Jesus’ companions.

But in addition to sinners and outcasts, Jesus hung out with the people who had status. He must have had enough pull that He could stand up in the Temple and preach, and people would listen to Him. He even hung out with the Pharisees, and He clearly had powerful disagreements with them! He didn’t necessarily say nice things to them, but He had dinner with them. He was okay with hanging out, and with talking. “I’ll go to your house to have dinner,” He said. “I’ll challenge your reasoning and your beliefs.”

He debated everybody! We wouldn’t even know what Jesus thought if He hadn’t debated everybody. I mean, He hung with people of all different persuasions, who held all kinds of views different to His, and I’m sure he even found a way to dialogue with the great philosophical thinkers of his day. Those stories aren’t in the Bible, but I think it happened. And when it did, He out-thought them. He could, obviously, since He is the source of all thoughts.

So He was it, man, our perfect model for engaging with people and talking to them, whether we agree with them or not. He was everything that we need to be. He did everything essential for us to do. And just because He talked with all different kinds of people, He did not give on moral ground. He wouldn’t give. Instead He would say, “No you’re wrong. And this is why.” And he always answered a question with another question, because He wanted people to think more deeply.

Now we have a situation where even the leaders and the thinkers don’t want to hang out and debate! They’ll write each other off before the conversation can even begin. “Oh,” they’ll say, “So you’re from the Catholic Church.” Or they’ll say, “You’re from the Episcopal Church, you’re from the Presbyterian Church, you’re Southern Baptist.” So what? So talk! Talk to each other. Have a conversation. Dialogue.

I’ve found real wisdom in books written by leaders from denominations other than my own. And I love it. I don’t go to a Presbyterian Church, but for me, Timothy Keller is one of the brightest thinkers of our day right now. You should read The Reason for God and think about his views of God and the contemporary challenges to Christianity. Brennan Manning’s Ragamuffin Gospel is another very good book, and Manning is a Catholic priest.

We just have to put aside our insistence that only our denomination has the correct belief. That’s where we all begin initially. But we can’t fear the changes that come from dialogue with other Christians. Don’t be afraid to challenge someone. Don’t be afraid to say, “Time out. That might not be the right perspective.” And don’t be afraid to say, “My perspective is part of the right perspective, but it’s not the perspective.”

That’s really our issue. We can’t sit in dialogue, because we aren’t prepared to admit that our perspectives might only be partial. We always think that we have to have the perspective, and the other guy must be wrong. What if we all need to think together to have the perspective? I think that’s something you’re going to have to be okay with. You have to. It’s the only way, if we’re going to unify the church. See you Wednesday.

In Defense of Catholics

I enjoy worshiping at my church. I enjoy singing before our Holy God. I’m like David, who “danced before the Lord with all his might,” half-naked in the streets. Obviously I don’t dance naked in church! But I really enjoy going to church, being happy and singing about God and to God. I find so much joy in that.

I like the excitement and the freedom to worship that I find at my church. In other churches, there’s not always as much freedom to worship. You can’t raise your hands, or you stand only at prescribed times. Worship at my church is less restricted, more unbound. But other people enjoy a more structured way of worshiping. It gives them a greater feeling of intimacy with God.

I played with Mike Sweeney in Kansas City and he’s a good friend. He’s also a devout Catholic. He invited me to go to church with him, so my wife and I went. Continue reading

Forging Unity in the Fire of Dialogue

We need to take action, and unify the church. If you read the Bible, you’ll know there’s got to be unity. It’s key to Jesus’ return. We need to begin an “iron sharpening iron” dialogue. Let’s come to an understanding. It might be hard, but it’s not impossible. We are all in this together. We are all the church. We sing differently, we worship differently, we handle our services differently, but those differences should not stand in the way of seeking unity in our ideas of who God is and how He works. We’re missing that, and Christian thinkers need to come together and start sharpening each other. Continue reading

Argue with Me!

As iron sharpens iron,
so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

Sometimes I miss just hanging out and talking with people that want to challenge me. I like a good, tough discussion about different ways of thinking. I like having my moral code challenged, or being asked to explain a piece of reasoning or why I hold a certain opinion. Even in baseball, where guys are really competitive, I’m seeing the level of discussion drop off. Now a guy will just as soon say, “Well, that’s cool,” and that’s it. That’s the end of the conversation.

“That’s cool”? That’s the state of dialogue? What about saying, “I hear you, but what about this perspective?” What happened to getting into strange, fun discussions about different viewpoints? Most people don’t seem to want to deal with that. They just want to say, “That’s cool. I don’t agree, but that’s cool.”

Well if you disagree, then obviously it’s not cool. So why do you say it is? I think there’s an idea growing out there that truth is relative. People have decided, “Well, you know, you can believe that. That’s your own belief. You believe your way, and I’ll believe my way.” There’s just no “iron sharpening iron” going on.

If you think I’m wrong, I have no problem with you challenging me. I wish you would! Don’t say, “That’s cool. To each their own.” No, no. If we did that with everybody, we’d have chaos. And anyway we don’t do that. When some guy kills some other guy on the street, we don’t say, “I probably wouldn’t have done that, but, whatever, it’s cool.” It’s not cool! When that happens, we’re challenging it. We’re going to put that guy before a court. We’re going to tell him why we think he’s wrong. And we’re going to have to put him somewhere where he can’t do it again!

That’s an extreme example, but in normal everyday discourse, most people don’t want to be argumentative. And that’s part of why justice is not always being served in this world. There are literally people out there that see injustice and say, “Hey, not my problem. Whatever. I mean, you gotta do what you gotta do.” Well, no, you don’t!

But we’re afraid of conflict. The people that stand up to injustice, right now, should be considered heroes. The staff of Not For Sale are heroic in their endeavors. So is the International Justice Mission. There are a lot of different agencies and organizations that are trying to stop slavery. They may or may not be afraid, but they stand up.

The problem is, they comprise a small group compared to the numbers of people that are now finding out about human trafficking and still go to bed at night saying, “That’s cool, good for them for fighting,” and then move on. It’s going to take a whole society to finish slavery once and for all. Back in the day when there was a social movement, for abolition or civil rights or women’s right to vote, that movement succeeded when a whole society revolted. We didn’t get better as a country because people said, “Well, to each their own, that’s cool, you do your thing, good luck with that.” We got better because we said no to injustice.

We’re losing that. Most people now are afraid of controversy, and I think that’s unhealthy. In the spiritual world and in the common sense world, I think that you have to be okay with conflict. There has to be an iron-sharpening-iron effect.

See you Saturday.