Why Plant a Church? Why Diversity of Thought?
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Are you looking for a church in the Twin Cities, Robbinsdale, Brooklyn Park, Brooklyn Center area? How do people usually look for a church? It seems to me that the modus operandi is to compare the list of all the things we believe and compare them to all the posted doctrines of the considered church. Sometimes we can cut a lot of this out by simply choosing the denomination we’ve already selected. Then, all we have to do is find a church where we like the music and the pastor and we’re good to go. Right?
Well, not for me.
What follows is a bit of an outline for how I went about the beginning phases of planting a church in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. One of the concepts I was challenged with came from my internship coordinator at Bethel Seminary. He simply asked me why I felt I should start a new church rather than join an existing one. I didn’t fully have my thoughts together in a coherent manner but they had nothing to do with being hurt, disgruntled, or rebellious and un-submissive. I had an idea that was different. It wasn’t too radical to be labeled something other than evangelical, but it was different. In fact, as I began to share my idea I had more than a few tell me things like “I’ve never heard of that before,” “that’s risky,” or even “I don’t think that can work.”
My first attempt at articulating my idea didn’t go so well. Fresh off of my epistemology class with Kyle Roberts I began to speak of my vision as “the church of I don’t know.” Fortunately, I quickly modified that to be “the church of I could be wrong.” Soon I began to clean it up by claiming to promote a church with “humble confidence,” but that didn’t flow so well. Finally, I settled on the theme of Diversity of Thought.
All along, what I really wanted was a church where people could go and be comfortable with all those grey areas in theology. I wanted a place where people didn’t immediately have to go looking for a new church the minute they discovered they had a different theology than the church leaders. This isn’t to say that anything goes. We challenge people’s theology so that theology without solid scriptural reason is hopefully discarded. So, we have boundaries. The picture we paint is like a target. The bulls-eye doctrines are the non-negotiable theologies such as the divinity of Christ and the resurrection. As we travel to the outer circles our confidence gets less and less sure. We’re surer of the incarnation and resurrection than we are of millennial theology, for example.
There are a few ways at arriving at a diversity of thought. One way I have observed is not so desirable. I was once part of a church that probably thought they had a very solid unity of thought. They were a denominational church with a long history of consistent doctrine. However, they may have operated by avoiding certain controversial issues as a way of maintaining their perceived unity. Unfortunately, when the day came that they were forced to deal with the issue I noticed that they were extremely divided. They had people all over the board on the issue and it felt like that was surprising and undesired by leadership. Maybe they just wanted to go back to being a nice little community that got along and smiled again. Since they had little experience in dealing with conflicts like this there was a lot of fragmentation and eventually many pockets of people relocated churches, including some in leadership. Of course, there is no way to avoid this altogether and forever, but a church with more experience in a diversity of thought may be better able to withstand tough times like these and be a beacon to others.
To put all these, and many other ideas together, I decided to have an unconventional church organizational structure. My goal is to have 3 or 5 main teaching and preaching leaders who have authority to make decisions. These leaders ideally would have very diverse theologies when it comes to the outer circle issues while being united on the central issues. After all, we are a Christian church. Our hope is to have free-will and predestination, cessationist and continuationist, and infant and adult baptism theologians on the same staff. Our goal is to demonstrate ecumenicism by having what Kathryn Tanner called communities of conflict. However, the conflict she and we mean is a respectful conflict.
Our hope is that our theme of a diversity of thought would naturally lead to all other kinds of diversity including socio-economic, gender, age, racial, and cultural diversity. To promote our theme, we started two projects. One is our blog which will soon have a number of contributors with different theologies who remain in community with one another. The main thing we did, however, was start our discussion groups. We get together to talk about theology and other church related topics. We’re free to share our opinions, we’re challenged to back up our thoughts with solid reasons, and we work hard to live in community with one another. We hope some day you’ll join us online or in person.
P.S. For information on participating in our dialogue group, click on the “Become A Participant” tab and tell us if you’d like to join us in person or via the web. We’d love to be in community with you!