Several years ago, I attended a church retreat during which I wrote and performed a skit that I now regret. It was basically a stand-up routine in which I played the part of a megachurch pastor, and to be fair, it wasn’t all bad.
Some of the skit was just gentle ribbing of big, seeker-sensitive churches. But there were other parts that included not-so-subtle backhanded insults and biting sarcasm. Those parts got the biggest laughs from my audience, and therefore, I considered the skit to be a big success.
After it was over, I talked about it with a couple of close friends, assuming they would laugh. They didn’t. They thought it gave off an air of superiority. But I made myself feel better by assuming they were being too sensitive. Looking back, however, I think they were onto something — I was in the wrong and I wasn’t willing to admit it, but I couldn’t afford to — I had too much pride invested.
Fast forward eight years, and some things have made me reconsider my cynicism about megachurches: Two of my oldest and dearest friends are pastors at a thriving megachurch, and I can’t help but celebrate the way they’ve drawn unlikely converts into life-giving relationships with Jesus. Moreover, I now go to a church that, in some ways, borrows from the megachurch model. And finally, as I’ve observed the impact that different ministries have on non-believers, I’ve come to believe that there’s actually something to be said for being sensitive to seekers — I mean, hopefully all churches want to be to some degree.
Even so, a lot of us won’t let ourselves cheer someone else’s imperfect efforts to reach non-believers — not if it’s different from our preferred way of doing things. And although I wish the megachurch debate were the only source of that kind of Christian brotherly nitpicking, I know it’s not.
Over the years, I’ve either said or heard Christians of all stripes dissect their siblings in Christ based on a myriad of disagreements: baptism, service times, worship styles, methods of discipleship, Bible translation, politics, church discipline, gender roles, wedding styles, too little feeling, too much of it — you name it and we’ve found a way to take reasonable disagreements and contort them into non-negotiable bases for disunity. How it must grieve the One who prayed:
“I have given them the glory You gave me, so they may be one as We are one. I am in them and You are in Me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that You sent Me and that You love them as much as You love Me.”
Yet so many of us don’t love each other that way at all. We feel we absolutely must make a point of marginalizing the approach of those who do things differently. Our pride can’t countenance the thought of those people being right — that might mean we got it wrong. So we continue to lob tomatoes over the fence and rejoice when we get a direct hit. Never mind the fact that Scripture says, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18). One would assume that includes our brothers and sisters in Christ.
This isn’t a call to abandon the pursuit of truth — it is a call to pursue Jesus, who is the Truth, and as we do so, to take every pain to avoid injuring other parts of His body. As the Word cautions, “[I]f you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another” (Galatians 5:15). If we truly believe the Gospel is the best news we can offer, surely we have better things to do than insult one other. Instead, we can spend more time caring for each other, less time targeting each other, and in doing so, giving the world a taste of God’s love.