Here’s part 2 of the latest Commit interview with Tullian Tchividjian.
3. What are some of the dangers you’ve seen show up in Christian community when the gospel is not understood, believed, and applied together?
Segregation is the biggest danger that shows up inside the church when the gospel is not grasped. Since the gospel is the good news that God reconciles us not only to himself but also to one another, the church should be breaking down barriers, not erecting them. God intends the church to be demonstrating for the watching world what community looks like when the reconciling power of the gospel is at work. Sadly, however, segregation seems to be as fashionable inside the church as outside.
Most churches would agree that any segregation arising from racial or economic bigotry runs contrary to the nature of the gospel and should not be tolerated. But there’s another segregation, perhaps more subtle, that many churches today have embraced. Following the lead of the advertising world, many churches and worship services target specific age groups to the exclusion of others. They forget that, according to the Bible, the church is an all-age community, and instead they organize themselves around distinctives dividing the generations: Busters, Boomers, Millennials, generations X, Y, and Z.
I understand the good intentions behind these seemingly harmless efforts, but they evidence a fundamental failure to comprehend the heart of the gospel. We’re not only feeding toxic tribalism; we’re also saying the gospel can’t successfully bring different groups together. It’s a declaration of doubt about the unifying power of God’s gospel. Generational appeal in worship, for instance, is an unintentional admission that the gospel is powerless to join together what man has separated.
Building the church on stylistic preferences or age appeal (whether old or young) is just as contrary to the reconciling effect of the gospel as building it on class, race, or gender distinctions.
In The Four Loves, C. S. Lewis mentions two friends, Ronald and Charles. After one of them died, Lewis realized there was no consolation to be found in the possibility that he and the surviving friend might now actually “get” more of each other as a result. “Far from having more of Ronald, having him ‘to myself’ now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald.” He would never again, for example, observe Ronald’s unique reaction to one of Charles’s jokes. Lewis notes, “In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I need other lights than my own to show all his facets.”
The soul-shrinking byproduct of segregation is that it prevents us from knowing God deeply because the only way to know him deeply is to have many different types of Christian people in your life, since each person will help to reveal a part of God that you can’t see by yourself. This means the great tragedy of segregation isn’t so much that we see less of each other but that in separating from each other we see less of God. All of us need other lights than our own to see more of his facets.
4. Why have you given your life to pastor a local church?
I realized many years ago that God has only oath-bound his blessing to one institution—the church. And while the church is universal in nature, it’s local in expression. Therefore, if I wanted to be where the gospel-action is, I needed to give my life to the local church.
I really believe a central component to my calling is to help a new generation understand the beauty and necessity of the local church. A few years ago I was in Starbucks with our music director, Brandon. As we waited in line to get our afternoon caffeine kick, the young barista behind the counter overheard us talking about our church, which at that point was only a year old, and we started chatting. Brandon soon invited her to visit our church one Sunday. She responded in typical postmodern fashion, saying, “I’m into spirituality, but I’m not really into organized religion.” Brandon, who has a wonderfully quick wit, replied, “Don’t worry, we’re really not that organized.”
The barista’s statement illustrates what many people believe today, namely that they can have a meaningful relationship with God without being connected to a local church. But it’s just not possible to have Christ the head without Christ the body—his church (Ephesians 1:22–23; Colossians 1:18). The two are inseparable. Christians do not worship a decapitated Jesus. The Bible does not drive a wedge between Christ and his body. To neglect the body of Christ is to neglect Christ. Just as no one can survive without air, so Christians can’t survive without the church. Without the church, Christians suffocate.
The best place for me to help people understand this is in the role of local pastor.
I’m doing what I am. I can’t doing anything else–thank God!