In essentials: unity
In non-essentials: liberty
In all things: love (or charity, if you enjoy antiquity)
I’ve seen this dictum attributed to any number of church figureheads, but most often to St. Augustine. I figure he is responsible for so much of the current state of things in the church (for good or ill) that why not credit him this little nugget of wisdom, too.
And it is these three lines—regardless of who penned them—that have been rattling around in my head since last week’s CBF General Assembly in Fort Worth. Upon further reflection I think how we come to interpret them and sort out what belongs in which pile, so to speak, will dictate where the CBF is to go in the coming years.
There is a lot being written these days about how the church, or churches, should be “sticky.” To be sticky means that people come to your church and stay there. To be a sticky church you need sticky people: people whom other people want to be around. I think there is a lot to this idea of stickiness, but in light of the maxim above I wonder if the greater challenge for the CBF moving forward is learning to be “stretchy.”
Or maybe “elastic.” Whichever word you prefer, the idea is that we need to be able to keep our essential shape as we encounter new and different challenges, inside and out. If we are to make it much further into the 21st century we will have to be more stretchy than rigid, more elastic than brittle.
This does not mean—and this is important—that we cannot be strong. There is great strength in stretchiness, but it is a different kind of strength than perhaps we are used to. It is the strength of well-trained muscles as opposed to aging bone.
In Ft. Worth there was a lot of talk about identity. This is a good thing. We need to be clear about who we are and why we are here before we can begin to think and pray about where we will go together. We will have to be clear on our essentials, and just as important, our non-essentials.
But essentials need not be fundamentals. We’re talking about essence, not foundation.
Fundamentals are strong like bone: unmoving and unyielding, they grow only to a point and then begin to decay. Essentials are strong like muscles: designed to stretch and move, but not so far that they lose their necessary shape. Unlike bone, muscles can always be strengthened, always be trained, always be pushed in new and different ways—ways we could not have thought possible when we first started using them. And if we work them hard but with care, muscles will become stronger with each exercise.
I left Ft. Worth genuinely excited about where CBF will go and what it will become. We are beginning to look forward more than we’re looking back; looking out the window to the world more than we’re checking ourselves in the mirror. We’re at a turning point, no doubt, and a good deal of wisdom, faith and Holy Spirit movement will be required.
But I’m excited to be a part of it. And I’m ready to hit the gym.