by Alexei Laushkin
It is a hard task to cultivate ears and eyes and especially hearts that are open to different expressions of Christianity.
Most of the cultural momentum in the Christian church worldwide flows in the opposite direction. Why are we Calvinist, why are we Roman Catholic, what makes us Greek Orthodox, these questions while important don’t explore the opposite question, what of Christ can we see in each? What might we learn from centuries of being apart? What might we enter into that we might recognize is the same or if it’s not the same what might we learn anyways.
Often times difference gets handled without discernment. Somehow difference can descend into all views are valid, but if we believe in a triune God who will reconcile us back to himself, than surely we might make better prudential judgement even on difference.
Now this is not some exercise in appreciation. If we wanted to appreciate each other it would be a nice thing to do and might improve relations, but ultimately keep our communities apart. We want to find things we can do together and among those of use who can seek greater unity for any number of reasons lay some groundwork, find some new language, some clearer theology that accounts for difference, but brings us into a sharper and fuller unity. A unity we already share in Christ Jesus, but a unity for which our hearts and our minds are not well prepared for.
Earlier this year Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill met in Cuba (click here to read more). On the top of their agenda, as it should be on the top of ours, was Christian persecution. A very close second and maybe just as important was a real pastoral concern from both about being Christians in the present age. Each of them and many evangelicals around the world share a deep unease about what it means to be Christian today.
Pew did a fascinating study of the Lausanne movement (click here for the study), founded by Billy Graham and John Stott, which was initially founded to: “unite all evangelicals in the common task of the total evangelization of the world.”
When the leaders gathered in 2011 Pew asked what was their top concerns in ministry. Secularism (which in a previous post I talked about) and consumerism topped the list.
Christians are entering into a robust conversation about what it means to be Christian in today’s world. It’s as though we feel deeply challenged that our Christian identity is not deeply suited for today’s pace and temptations and challenges, and, yet, what if we turned our gaze on our rich heritage and looked for ways we could be Christian but in a new way. Christianity not as innovation, but as deep security, as life to a world that is increasingly calling out for life in the midst of decay.
Alexei Laushkin is the Chair of the Board of the Kingdom Mission Society and Vice-President of the Evangelical Environmental Network. His views are his own.