Michael Goes to Minnesota
Recently, I and a friend attended a church conference for ministers, one unaffiliated with the churches of Christ. I'm pretty familiar with our own lectureships / seminars / conferences / summits / encampments / conventions / workshops / whatever-else-we-decide-to-call-them. I'm especially familiar with the tone and content. A critical difference between the conference I attended and our own wasn't the conviction of the preaching. We have preachers among us who are as talented in preaching convicting messages as any denomination. No, the difference was in what they were speaking out against.
I attend 4-6 of our lectureships, et al., a year and have for several years. The convicting preaching I hear often concerns problems in our fellowship. Women's role. Instrumental music. Whatever the hot-button "ism" of the day is, that's what gets attention. The pointed finger of our convicting preaching at these events seems aimed at the rest of the brotherhood, that is to say, to the people who are most likely not in attendance.
At the non-Campbellite ministerial gathering I recently attended, I heard plenty of convicting preaching aimed at the ministers who attended. It wasn't:
"Here's what's wrong with us as a denomination" or
"Here's what's wrong with American Christianity" or
"Here's what's wrong with the heretics who have walked away from our little group."
It was "Here's what's wrong with you. You, sitting before me. And I know this is what's wrong with you because this is/once was what's wrong with me."
I have to say; it was a refreshing change. I couldn't remember an event in recent memory where I had walked away more convicted of personal failures and my need to rely more on Jesus.
I'm not so asinine to suggest that no person or event among us has preached so. And if someone suggests this is the point of this article, I'll know you didn't read all the way to the end. I'm only saying I don't hear nearly as much of this as I believe is necessary.
What if the tone of our gatherings was more "Here's what's wrong with you and me" and less "Here's what's wrong with them"?