Q & R: Proud with a megaphone?
Here's the Q:
I want to join the many who are thanking you for your books and leadership as God draws us into His future. I became a Christian after I had made shambles of my life. The love and grace given by Jesus still overwhelms me to this day. Before I became a follower of Jesus I could never understand how Christians could on the one hand say, “God is love” and then say that this “God” was going to torture and burn billions of people because they had the unfortunate luck of being born in the wrong place or like me came from a highly dysfunctional environment that affected them emotionally.
After I became a follower I then reconcile this dilemma by getting involved in the “missional church” and feeling that it was our “duty” to “convert” these poor souls so they would be “saved” and not burn in hell. But I found these people to be people. I struggled with the hate and prejudice that was being spewed by my own people. More and more I began to feel like a very big square peg being forced into a very small round hole. Then one day I read Rob Bell’s book “Love Wins.” It was like a wave of cool water flowing over the burning coals of my anxiety. Now I have discovered your books, “A New Kind of Christianity,” “Why did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha and Mohammed Cross the Road,” and “The Girl with the Dove Tattoo.”
The reason I am writing is now what do I do? How do I keep from falling into my own trap? I have this urge to pick up my megaphone, to rush up on the stage, to dominate my small group. But these individuals for the most part are not to a point in their journey there they are open to these ideas. I feel like I’m in the “being proud of how humble I am” trap. I want to get involved, I want be a contributor to the “Emergence Christianity” movement but I don’t know what to do. I would appreciate any advice or help you can give.
Here's the R:
Thanks for your question, and the energetic yet self-aware spirit you convey. You're wise to avoid picking up the megaphone. Here's what I'd recommend. Very gently, softly, when necessary, simply say, "I see that a little differently," or "I see that quite differently." People will generally ask, "What do you mean?" At that point, you'll be tempted to pick up the megaphone and convince them of your "better" way of seeing things. But then you say, "I don't need to go into it. I just wanted to let you know that I see it differently."
In so doing, you will be giving a wonderful gift to your group. You'll be saying, "I love you. I'm glad to be with you. My views don't have to predominate. I don't have to convince you to agree with me in order to accept you and enjoy you." There's really no other way to give this gift than to differ courageously yet graciously ... without demanding equal time for your view.
If people are sincerely interested in hearing your alternative view, you need to be very careful to share it without judgment, showing utmost respect for their views. Again, in so doing, you're modeling something tremendously important. It's often best to simply say, "If you want, I can explain it to anyone who is interested after the meeting. I don't want to take us on a tangent now."
Even with all this care to avoid throwing down gauntlets, differing in this way may get you into trouble. Some groups can't tolerate difference very well. If you need to leave a group, thank them for the blessing they've been. Affirm your love. Depart graciously. That will speak more poignantly than anything else. If this happens, find some trusted friends with whom you can process the pain of exclusion, because that pain is real and needs to be processed in prayer and friendship.
I hope that helps. BTW - in my next book, I hope to present some ways people can make a major contribution to "emergence Christianity." Thanks again for writing.