Often in Evangelical circles, we have a tendency to use cliches as verbal and literary shorthand; not in order to communicate with the average person who stops in off of the street, but to other Christians. On our part, we make sure that our published literature, blog posts and websites include all of the necessary shorthand to let others know that we are part of ‘the tribe.’ At the same time, we dutifully check off the shorthand from other organizations and churches as a sort of evangelical buyer’s guide:
- Verbal-plenary inspiration? Check.
- Substitutionary atonement? Check.
- Textbook seminary formulation of the Tri-une nature of God? Check.
On the one hand, such shorthand can be helpful. The shorthand was forged during the debates, both public and private that have focused the church in the past 100 years. The definitions and core descriptions of our theological viewpoint have been highly negotiated and finely tuned. Each word in a given point of our doctrinal statement has often been debated, torn apart, attacked, reformulated and defended to the satisfaction of the theologians present at the discussions. For this reason, our shorthand is helpful. The words of our theological viewpoint have been so clearly defined that when we use these words, we know that, theologically speaking, we share the same viewpoint (or if not, we can clearly identify where we differ from the viewpoint being presented).
But the cold distance of a formal doctrinal statement is often far removed from the white hot flame of the forge. These statements have become statues; monuments to our former passion, now only referenced and checked off to determine orthodoxy. Having checked off these statements, we in turn, like the Athenians of Acts 17, fill the rest of our literature, blogs, websites and sermons with the latest trending lingo in the church. Thus, instead of being a member of a church, we become part of emerging missional communities having authentic conversations in which we holistically communicate the now-not yet dynamic of the mystery of the kingdom to the post-modern culture in which we live.
At Hebron Bible Church, we desire that the words we use on a regular basis would be more than a checklist of appropriate doctrines. Yes, doctrine is important. It is critical that we think and speak clearly about the truths that we read in God’s Word. It is my goal that we be passionate and intentional learners from God, about Him.
At the same time, just learning isn’t enough. God calls us not only to learn, but to put into practice what He says. We have been called to love God, and to love our neighbor. God tells us to serve him by serving others, intentionally, consistently and joyfully. My prayer is that God would make us this sort of church!