November 26, 2002, 11:14 am
Filed under: uncategorized

When the term ‘pluralism’ gets used within the context of a church, it’s usually in a negative sort of way. People get fired up about the whole deal of “all roads lead to heaven” and they get easily bent out of shape. Pluralism is seen by some as one of the evils of postmodernism. While I’m no big proponent for postmodernity (even though I’ll take it over the alternative), I’m inclined to view pluralism in more neutral terms. I think there’s some good stuff to be mined out of a pluralistic mindset. Once we’ve released ourselves from the binding structures of the past, we can embrace new forms and blend them with the things we’ve found helpful about where we’ve come from.

One of the outworkings of this in my little circle of experience has to do with a weekly gathering of pastors in my area for prayer. I’ve blogged about this group before. All of the pastors in the group belong to what some would call institutional churches – pretty typical kinds of worship formats, structures, interpretations of what the church is and/or should be. We’re from a wide variety of of backgrounds – Baptists, Assemblies of God, Foursquare, non-denominational, full-blown Pentecostals. Despite my critical mindset toward the way churches tend to work, I see these guys working toward a genuine move of God in their own lives, as well as in the churches they pastor – even if that takes them into a radically different stream of thought than they have come from.

In one case, a pastor is being led to significantly change the leadership structure in his church. Another pastor is only a few years into a new church plant and is assembling a leadership structure for the very first time. Another pastor is being moved from a Baptist theological understanding to a more charismatic approach. And then there’s me, a guy who is wrestling with God’s leading into church planting and what form that may take. Even though we’re all in traditional modern contexts of church, we’re being more fluid with what God is doing within us, and I see a willingness to embrace things outside of our normal trains of thought. When we gather to pray and share with one another it isn’t to compare notes and be competetive, it’s to love one another, learn from one another, and support one another. We celebrate the things in others’ churches that would never take place within our own congregations.

The funny thing for me is that I don’t think I would want to be a member of any of their churches (including my own). I love these guys and how God is at work in them, but I guess they just aren’t my cup of tea in terms of church. I’m trying to understand why, but at some level I don’t really care why.

I embrace this outworking of pluralism. I can participate in community with my “peers” even though I think in very different ways than they do, and will work out my calling in very different ways. I think that those of us who fancy ourselves as progressives too easily look down our noses at “moderns” and smugly blow them off as unenlightened. But I’m guessing that there are a lot more of them that are beginning to catch on than we realize. These people – the ones who are open to change – need a lot of help, because they will still process change within their pre-structured modes of thought, but there is definitely hope for them. Let’s cut them some slack and extend our hand to them. We’ll learn from them and more importantly show our real love for them as brothers and sisters in the kingdom family.


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