Yesterday I grabbed lunch with a guy that seems more interested in what's going with me than anyone else I know, except my wife. (I actually have some online friends that call me and pray for me too.) We had a long discussion about what's important in church. Of course we have different experiences and opinions about that.
What I found interesting as I distilled our conversation, and many others that I have had over the past few years, down, was this. I am now seeing two sides of the church, and it is almost as polarized as politics. Have you noticed? If you haven't, I suggest that you survey every Christian that you know, and you will discover two extremes which folks are passionate about: relationship or anointing.
One group is comprised of long-time church members that have had friends for a number of years-- folks that they get together with in small-groups and possibly other places. I will call them the relational and friendly type.
The other group are the anointing junkies; extreme lovers of His presence and sold out for the supernatural. They are the ones with the amazing testimonies-- and the ones whose character is sometimes suspect. They are often found in para-church ministries, and outside of church.
Sure there is a third group, which is religious, and would probably be categorized as "nominal Christians." This group is neither relational, or expecting God to act supernaturally. And they are ineffective in the Christian debate.
So what is the great divide? Folks that attend Sunday service week-in-and-week-out are often relational. In many ways they are the more stable ones, and respond best to pastoral care. They are often the ones that become "pillars" of the church; set in place to be the backbone of the local church. These folks are essential.
The folks that attend very anointed conferences and churches where there are a lot of supernatural displays of power, healing and the like, tend to be absorbed in what the Spirit is doing, and not so much what people are doing. They are essential too.
Most folks fall into one camp or the other, that is where the divide is. The relational folks think that the "swing from the chandeliers" folks are shallow and operate in the flesh. And the supernatural junkies think that the others "low voltage" folks are a little un-spiritual, not very passionate about Jesus, and they to operate in the flesh. Just like liberals and conservatives.
The truth is both are essential in the church, and both are operating in the flesh from time-to-time. How do I know, they are judging each other, that's how.
Can't we just coexist? No! Coexisting is to relationship, what cohabitation is to marriage. We must learn to love one another, and be grateful for the gifting that is in our midst. How can we judge powerful manifestations of the Spirit, while we quietly call out to God for healing for a friend or loved one? Some things don't fit in a nice neat little God box! Have I stepped on your toes? Well ask yourself this, do you think the disciples were a just a little freaked out with screaming demons, and the use of mud and spit to heal a blind man? Then how is it that spiritual pride gets in our way when we watch a televangelist, whom we think is of bad character, ask for money? Have you considered this? If you had found a place for him in your church, he wouldn't be there asking for money-- and he may have had a chance to grow up in your congregation - well, if you had loved and nurtured him, trained him and taught him -- oh and recognized his gifting.
For those that prefer low voltage, predictable Christianity that is more related to others, then it it is to God, you need to ask yourself this. What is your relationship with God like? Have you quenched the Holy Spirit? If you can say that you haven't, then you need to find a way for others that are not created like you, to be in relationship. The type of fellowship and relationship that God wants. There is never a place for us to judge, just to encourage, to love and to prefer one another.
Have you heard the saying, so heavenly minded one is no earthly good, and so earthly minded one is no heavenly good? On the surface that seems to be the problem, but it is much deep in that we must be led by the Lord. This requires an intimate relationship with Jesus.
The purpose of the cross is to reconcile us to God, so that we can be in relationship with Him, and those around us.
As Christians, it is essential to close the gulf between these opposing views of Christianity, and become unified. We don't need to be like each other, or be concerned about style, and paradigms. Unity simply says that others exist, just like you do, for the purpose of the kingdom. When we recognize the kingdom values in others, we will not be concerned about what, or how God does things, just that He is there and doing it.
When it comes to relationship, we are called to love. To love like Jesus did with the Gospel; one with power. Because a gospel without power is only a philosophy. Relationally we are not called to be nice to one another, but to lay down our lives. To goal of local church relationship is to get us to a place where we can wash each others feet, confess our sins one to another so that we can healed, made whole and of become of good character. Together, as a body, we get to do what Jesus did-- all of it, not just the part we like.