Sunday, May 29, 2011

How Broad is Your Agenda?

Everyone has a particular worldview.  These are the preconceptions, ideas, and perspectives that help us to understand the world in which we live.  A worldview is not necessarily right or wrong.  In fact, it may not even be based on facts, but our worldview determines how we function and the nature of our agenda in life.

By agenda, I mean those things that are important to us, the things to which we will give our attention.  These are the things that give focus to our efforts and determine our priorities.  As we look at our work as Christians, our agenda is usually to build something.  We want to create something that is enduring and redemptive.  It seems to me that we as Christians tend to focus on one of the following agendas.

First, an agenda to build the local church.  This may take many forms and most of these are praiseworthy in themselves—reach people for Christ, develop them as disciples, stand with them in their personal struggles.  The danger here is that the church tends to become too inwardly focused, helping and serving those within the body without regard for the world in which believers dwell daily.

Second, an agenda to build a denomination.  The American faith community excelled at this task in the mid twentieth century.  Denominational agencies provided abundant resources, a strong identity, and aggressive ministries.  The downside was that every denomination, even those that professed to practice “local congregation autonomy“began to exercise some control over the churches.  If you wanted to be a “real (fill in the blank) church,” your congregation had to adopt certain programs within the congregation and support specific ministries (without question) beyond the congregation.

Third, an agenda to build the Kingdom of God.  As Christians have become dissatisfied with narrow sectarianism and denominational bureaucracy, they have started to notice that there are good things happening among other believers beyond their own congregations and denominational “tribes.”  Some of these things are being done by other churches and denominations but these ministries may be conducted by ecumenical, parachurch, or even secular organizations (see Tom’s shoes or Bread for the World as examples).  This agenda is especially attractive to young adults who are more oriented toward ministry than theology (that discussion is a matter for another day) and more concerned about putting their faith into action that discussing the reasons why they should.

Is it possible to embrace all three agendas at one time?  Not likely.  Once we perceive that “the kingdom of God is in your midst” (Luke 17:21), we cannot help but make it our only agenda.

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