I frequent a lot of blogs and one of them is a blog called The Friendly Atheist by Hemant Mehta. The blog is an excellent resource for me as he challenge my thinking and belief system on a number of different fronts. He is also, as the title suggestions, cordial in his approach and less militant than other atheist blogs I have encountered. On one particular post he was disgruntled about coaches praying or participating with their players and said it was flat-out wrong. I replied in the comment section whether it was wrong for a coach to lead a prayer or participate in an athlete led prayer. His response essentially was, “both.” Yet at the end of his reply he said something that made me think. He said: “It is a form of coercion.”
Look, my beef is not with him on this issue and frankly coercion might be too strong of a word but I can’t help but wonder how many instances of our churches seem to be a sort of coercion process of instilling the gospel to people.
Hang with me…
Many churches have a core set of beliefs and systems for interpreting scripture. Sermons and classes are filled with these “fail-proof” systems and even colleges are set up to train people in these types of systems. Don’t disagree with the system otherwise you will be branded and ostracized for not toting the conservative line. “Brother,” you are told. “You are on a slippery slope.”
Call it what you will but this seems to me to resemble coercion. Dictionary.com defines coercion as “force or intimidation to obtain compliance.”
Many a minister, seminary professor and administrator have lost jobs because they refused the gospel of coercion.
How about an alternative?
The gospel of invitation. Inviting people to participate in a walk with Jesus that involves changing their lives, helping others to do the same thing. Yet, also helping Christians to think for themselves giving them some principles while also admitting there are some things we just do not know.
Things yet revealed.
A Christianity that is humble enough to dissuade church polity for the sake of the kingdom and serve one another.
A Christianity bold enough to reevaluate its hermeneutical construct in a way to read the text and read it well.
A Christianity strong enough to withstand cultural pressures handling them with grace and dignity.
A Christianity wise enough to discern which battles deserve our struggle and which ones do not.
A Christianity fearless enough to change not because it is the hip thing to do but because it is the RIGHT THING TO DO!
A Christianity relevant enough to meet the real issues of our world like sex trafficking, hunger, clothing and disease while also teaching people about the man named Jesus and his effort to free them from physical and spiritual hunger.
A Christianity patient enough to work with both the angry old establishment and the wayward disenchanted.
A Christianity self-aware enough to realize that any particular section of the kingdom does not have a corner on the heavenly market.
So friends let us not be like Henry Ford that produces cookie-cutter Christians hot off the assembly line. Rather, to use another analogy, let us teach them principles and walk with them and hand them a canvas, paint brush and some paint and say: “Draw your story.”