I grew up in a church that frequently went to battle over theological issues. Sometimes the battles were worth fighting. A lot of times we were fighting churches that differed in some minor issues. For instance, we parted with a conservative church that switched to the New King James Version. It might have been better to leave that debate alone.
As I moved into adulthood, I longed for a church that wasn’t so combative. I’ve found it easy to slip to the other extreme. I looked for churches that weren’t always going to battle against others.
It’s easy to see the attraction of being in a church that isn’t attacking others over theological beliefs. But is this really the answer? I don’t think so.
I love being part of circles of Christians that are bigger than mine. I spent my sabbatical in an Anglican church last year and loved it. I’m part of a denomination that is evangelical but otherwise fairly broad. I have lunch with a group of pastors that’s also pretty diverse. I’m a Calvinist, but I don’t want to hang out only with people who are restless and Reformed. (My grip on the young part of “young, restless, and Reformed” is tenuous at best.) We can maintain our distinctives, but we can’t always be taking shots at each other.
At the same time, there is a time to warn others. Justin Buzzard has pointed to this quote by Ben Patterson: “I always told people what to believe. My great mistake is that I never clearly taught my people what NOT to believe.” You can’t read the pastoral epistles without seeing that we have to correct false teaching and guard the good deposit that’s been entrusted to us (2 Timothy 1:14).
Churches needs a good immune system. If the immune system is weak, all kinds of diseases will infect the body and it will become unhealthy, and possibly die. If the immune system is overacts, it will suffer from autoimmune disease. It will turn against itself and destroy what’s meant to be healthy.
It’s too easy to have an underdeveloped or overdeveloped immune system. May God give us the wisdom to develop a healthy immune system that protects the body and guards against infection, but doesn’t turn in against itself. Let’s pray and work together to develop a healthy immune system for the sake of the church, and for God’s glory.