I was walking by Caribou one Sunday morning when I overheard a young woman say to her friends, “It seems like churches are all saying the same thing.” I wanted to stop and tell her, “That’s great, that is a sign that you are going to the right churches.”
In our culture of “newness” we always seem to be hunting out a new perspective and a new answer to life’s challenges. We want teaching and preaching that is fresh, but often mistake freshness for different.
Truth be told, if you listen to my preaching you will notice the connection with many other pastors, theologians and references from a Biblical foundation. You may hear connections with Jim Kallam at Church At Charlotte, and it seems we both read Tim Keller from New York, who frequently draws from CS Lewis, Luther, and Augustine…all of whom prioritize Scripture as the source of understanding.
In the academy, scholars are required to uncover new concepts and new thoughts. To get yourself noticed, you have to be different and original. It always drove me crazy at Princeton that we were expected to critique Barth, Calvin, Augustine, and even scripture itself in some self-promoting fashion. To survive in the academy you are forced to undercut any argument, to bicker for the sake of bickering.
How different is that form of education from discipling, in which a student builds upon a firm foundation. A disciple-maker understands that if you look at the state of humanity, our problems and abuses are no different than they were 100 years ago, or 1000, or 6000 years ago. While technological advances my expedite and exacerbate the problem…it has always and will always be the same.
So I would encourage church shoppers to be weary of teaching that is new and envogue. Don’t fall into a hubris of modernity that we are somehow “smarter”–yes there were abuses and misunderstandings from the past, just as there are in modernity but that does not mean they were not in touch with the basic human condition. Instead recognize that if you are hearing the same message at different communities of faith, God may be trying to tell you something.
Part of adolescence is rebelling against authority to discover yourself; Part of adulthood is recognizing the truth embedded in the authorities and foundational principles of our lives. Not only is this true in our biological existence but also our spiritual lives.
To me, it is no wonder that Paul-a wise, war battered, mentor-writes to Timothy-a young, dumb and full of himself-student that “The time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” 2 Timothy 4:3. Paul recognized the life cycle of believers, and is challenging them to move past rebellious adolescence into a vibrant adulthood.
Are people telling you what you want to hear? Are you looking for validation or transformation? You can watch validation on the TV, or you can be transformed through participation in a Gospel-Centered, Biblically-rooted community of faith.