Misusing the Gray Areas of Faith
Seth Godin recently asked these simple questions:
“Which part do you disagree with?
The steps in the proof?
Or the conclusion?”
I couldn’t help but flashback to years of discussions and debates both in person and online. Worship style, church budgets, outreach programs, and even points of polity and doctrine.
Of course, certain discussions and debates in the church world are complicated by the fact that some of the steps in the proof may be matters of interpretation. Church is more than data.
They are also complicated by the fact that the conclusions we are attempting to draw center around how we, as finite and fallible creatures, are to respond to and participate in the Kingdom of God. Church is more than strategy.
And we are faced with trying to hear and follow the direction of God in a world and culture full of noise and distraction (yet one that God loves very much and sends us into with a mission). Church is more than “Christianizing” cultural elements that gain popularity.
Godin completes his thought-provoking post with this challenge, “If you agree with every step of the argument, but the conclusion leaves you angry or uncomfortable, it might be time to reconsider your worldview, not reject the argument.”
In the world of marketing and business where Godin operates, it is still a challenging question but one that seems a little more cut and dry. If all the data points in a direction you dislike, you have little cover for justifying what you want. Ministries, however, can excel at using the gray areas and uncertainty inherent in the life and practice of faith to justify disconnections between steps in a proof and conclusions. Sometimes it is nefariously intentional, but many times it is an unintentional defense mechanism. I am no doubt guilty of this myself at times.
The challenge for us as preachers, teachers, communicators, and ultimately leaders is to be clear. When possible and appropriate, we must be willing and able to acknowledge areas of uncertainty and how they have been considered and addressed. However, we have a responsibility as stewards of our ministries to guard against manufactured or misused gray areas that hold us back from where God is calling.