Does not the gospel call into fellowship those whom a society divides? There, side by side, should we not see the rich and the poor, men and women, powerful and marginalized, boomer and nonboomer all united in the same Christ by whom they have all been bought? (David Wells, The Courage to be Protestant, p57).
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise (Gal 3.28-29).
The church is the glorious display of Christ’s power to do what no other person can do. Jesus unites folks in the church who otherwise have little to do with each other in the world. The world organizes us into categories. Middle class and low class. Blue collar, white collar, and no collar. Those on the fast track and those from the other side of the tracks. The well-to-do and the ne’er-do-wells. Homeschoolers and public schoolers. Democrat and Republican. Tell it your name the world has a category for you and how your category is to relate to the others.
In the church, though, the gospel so transforms how we understand (or love) each other that the dividing lines are erased. The PhD is comfortable singing God’s praises next to the GED student. The stay-at-home mom is as joyful to share the cup with the widow who had to go back to work. The burger-flipping, floppy-haired teenager feels right at home with the local bank president. The former Black Panther shares the same loaf with the former Skinhead. The homeschooling mom prays just as fervently for the single, working mom. Children enjoy the same Word as their parents (Eph 6.1-4; Col 3.18-21). Slaves stand shoulder-to-shoulder with their masters (Eph 6.5-9; Col 3.22-4.1).
We may run in different circles in the world but we all bow at the same cross in the church. We may have nothing in common while having Everything in common. We may look and live differently outwardly, but we all suffer the same guilt, earn the same wage for our sin and all desperately need the same grace to overcome it.
Paul had no category of a cowboy church, GenX church, children’s church, purpose-driven church, ancient-future church, or emergent church anymore than he did a Jewish church or Gentile church. In fact, it was precisely such distinctions he died to obliterate. There is one body (Eph 4.4). It is our responsibility to fit into that one body, not demand it fit into us.
4 thoughts on “Digging Wells”
Rats! No cowboy churches? Now I am going to have to pack my Wranglers and Stetson away!
Seriously … good word, brother BJ! I have often used the cowboy church as an insane example of how (perhaps with good intentions, though not always) we end up slicing and dicing God’s people into affinity groups that are more recognizable for their affinities than for actually being a church!
Keep your Wranglers and Stetson, but toss your Marlboros. Sorry, bro.
Wish I could send a copy of this post to so many people! I’ve been frustrated by the tendency of the church to strictly segregate its members by age (a product of our conditioning by the school system, in my opinion). While I understand the need for age and gender divisions for some classes, I am grieved that we tend to promote so many youth and children’s activities that we remove practically every opportunity for the children to know the adults and for the seniors to know and relate with the youth. Why have we lost the ability to live and grow together as a body? And “age” is only one of the many ways we so readily slice and dice the body of Christ…
Wish I could send your reply to those same people! God be praised for the Kendall legacy from which we now benefit at UBC.