A while back a good friend questioned whether or not the Thingy is a church. He called us a “guerilla movement”…which I gotta admit made me smile.
I recognize that his intention was to make me think; and he succeeded. Since then I have given that question a lot of thought. I’ve probed it biblically and historically. I’ve looked at it from as many sides as I could; and I’ve come to the definitive conclusion that, yes, we are most certainly a church.
Today I want to push that a step farther.
You see kids, I’m a southern Baptist born and bred. I grew up in Baptist churches. I went to a Baptist university and seminary. The denomination runs in my blood.
Let me be clear, some of the things my people have done make me incredibly sad. Many of my father’s friend and my friends have left. They were crushed, pushed out, stomped on, or driven away by my denomination. I love these people and have deep respect for them. They have asked me why I stay. All I can answer is that for some reason God is holding me here. I can’t escape my roots. To paraphrase the group Alabama, “Southern Baptist born. Southern Baptist bred.”
So instead of moving onto safer pastures, I shall now, with eight simple points, show you how the Thingy is more Baptist than most of the traditional/contemporary/attractional churches I grew up in and have worked at.
Here we go…
Believe it or not, Baptist distinctives (what makes a Baptist a Baptist) are highly debated; but there are eight that are fairly well accepted. I shall now take them one at a time.
1. THE BIBLE – Baptists believe that the Bible is the authoritative Word of God. It stands above all traditions and should be the source for all conversations of faith and practice.
Alright, this one is easy. All the churches I have worked at, and the vast majority I have watched, have gone through some sort of redesign of their practices. This usually occurs when they are challenged by something someone else is doing in the country. They then take the existing practices and tweak them to be more effective. It is assumed that these practices are Biblically centered…but are they?
This is not what we did with the Thingy. We took the Gospels and work through them together. Everything we do…EV-ERY-TH-ING…comes directly out of conversations in Scripture. Sure, it is contextually interpreted (I’m a good Newbigin student)…but I can show you exactly where we got it and explain why we do it. (I can also tell you why we don’t do things other churches do and explain why.)
For those Baptists out there right now taking pause, think through your practices. Is your stuff (your building, the use of your money, your weekly activities) grounded in Scripture?
The Thingy – 1 / Normal Church – 0
2. The Priesthood of the Believer – Baptists believe followers of Jesus can go directly to God; no human mediator is needed for an individual to encounter Christ.
Now I shall offend some people. Buckle up. The truth hurts baby!
The propagation of the celebrity, CEO, all-dominate, visionary pastor model diminishes (and even threatens to destroy) the priesthood of the believer. Our current consumer church culture has led us (the people) to become dependent on these celebrity teachers for our relationship with God.
“No?” you say. “This is ridiculous,” you say.
How many times have you heard a church member say the phrase, “I need ___________ (insert any of the following: good teaching, more time in the worship service, time to sit and listen, time to be fed by the pastor, etc…) in this season of my life.”
NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!
We do not need a human mediator to encounter Christ. When Baptists need to be fed we open the Word! We pray! We go out and share the Gospel! We don’t listen to teachers. We don’t sit in comfortable chairs and feed off the devotional life of another. NO!
Now don’t get me wrong. I like a good teacher as much as the next guy; but the strength of my faith, the health of my relationship with God will never be dependent on listening to another person.
We are Baptists people. The frontiersmen of the faith. The MacGyvers of Christianity. All we need to survive in the wild is a pocket knife and a paper clip.
This is how the Thingy rolls. Each one of us is a priest. We understand that we are all Holy Spirit empowered love/hope warriors for Christ who only need to stay in communion with the Holy Spirit and one another. Our life with Christ grows from our times in the Word, our times of community, and our love mission in the field. We don’t need no stinking celebrity pastor, author, teacher, or speaker. Sure, they are nice to listen to on occasion; but they are the gravy – not the meat and potatoes.
The Thingy – 2 / Normal Church – 0
To be continued…
Up next – Sole Competency and The Lordship of Christ