by Trey Campbell, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sometimes, things can simply go one of two ways: good or bad. With that in mind, there are six words that can either tread in dangerous territory or be a declaration of fact when used by any given leadership or representative group that gathers as a congregated Body of Christ:
“We’re not that kind of church.”
This statement is not typically preceded with, “Are we handling snakes this week?” – to which these six words would be perfectly acceptable. But rather, whatever it is in response to, generally tends to be a defining statement. In fact, it’s outright bold! The ramifications of such a statement can go south in a hurry if it’s a blanket statement of pretext. People feel put-off or leave churches over this statement. Or, they are no longer in the dark regarding the particular position the church has taken. The meaning behind it can be one of definition or one that’s off-course. Let’s go devil’s advocate here (ironic but intentional choice of words) for the sake of debate and look at each.
A) As a definitive statement, these words designate a position or a qualified stance. The position may designate the beliefs of the particular church. Given the complexity and abundance of subjects that require the church to take a stance, there must be a line drawn somewhere (hopefully taken from the Bible…) . Most churches will put a greater emphasis on specific areas of influence in their chosen ministries, often playing to the strengths of the leadership and congregation, their resources, and the opportunities God provides.
When a position is taken, it should be born of sound Biblical principles rather than susceptible human logic. When in doubt, always ask these three questions:
1. What would Jesus do? (cliche, yes… but on point)
2. What does the Bible say about this?
3. Will this spread the Gospel/further the Kingdom?
In any situation, these three questions will ALWAYS give you your best answer. All bodies who meet in the name of Christ must have established, Biblical positions that can be shared through their core beliefs. If there is confusion or a careless haphazardness in regard to the position taken with any specific issue, the wrong message can be conveyed.
B) In the case of this statement being off-course, one thing it can do is pigeonhole* the question or subject that led to this answer – which means it puts aside the present with specific intention to ignore or forget indefinitely. This can be an easy cop-out or excuse to support a position that may be biased or not spiritually-based.
Keep in mind, however, there is always an underlying reason as to why those six words are uttered, for good or bad. Whether they are fundamentally off-course from God’s instructions is unfortunately and often incorrectly left to interpretation of either side as to the position taken. Rather, we should always take the position the Bible gives us. That’s where the above three questions above come in play once again.
My response when I hear these words: “Well, what kind of church are you?” This is not a question asked out of sarcasm or meant to be in any way disrespectful. It’s meant to hold those who say it accountable. We have to hold our spiritual leaders, our brothers and sisters in Christ, accountable for words they speak on behalf of the collective group they are leading.
There’s no denying the power these six words hold. As mentioned, they can define and be as much of a description of who we are as to who we are not as a church. They can engage or turn-off. They can be spoken in truth or ignorance. Words are powerful:
The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you.
– Matthew 12:37
Whether you agree or disagree with these words as an answer to an inquiry or a statement of declaration, it all depends on the intention and meaning behind them. Are they spoken with the Spirit in mind or with convenience or opinion in mind? We are charged to love and do right by others when we see the need and have the resources.
My recommendation would be to not use these six words lightly. The Bible doesn’t mince words. Nor does Jesus. Nor should we.
*See definition of “pigeonhole” when used as a verb. Source: dictionary.com