504 Java Profile

504 Java Profile
Two of my favorite things

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

On Belonging, Believing, and Behaving

I had lunch with some new friends and church members on Sunday. My hosts served up wonderful food and great conversation. During the course of the dessert course (raspberry cheesecake, yum), we talked about the attitude of doing church, both generally and specifically at UBC.

The conversation repeated a word play that has been around since the early 2000s--

"Belong-Believe-Behave" is a mantra or a way of looking at doing church that contrasts with the allegedly mainstream paradigm of "Believe, Behave, Belong" or as perceived in some churches, "Behave, Believe, Belong." It was a challenging conversation for me that continued to marinate in my head as I drove back to New Orleans.

Belonging is crucial. Sinners clustered around Jesus. He defended the disenfranchised like women, children, and Samaritans. He insisted on inclusion, that He was not willing for a single lost person to perish.

Believing is crucial. Jesus was grieved when His disciples didn't get the real reason He had come. In His last extended conversation with them, He said the words which have been used to help us understand that Christianity is through Christ alone: "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life--no one comes to the Father except by Me."

Behaving is crucial. Jesus offered a man eternal life, but saw that the young adult was to enamored with himself and his possessions to embark on a life as a disciple where the cross would be taken up daily.

As individuals and as churches, we are guilty of 1) emphasizing one over the other two, or 2) getting two out of three, or 3) putting them in the wrong order (perhaps permanently putting them in any order). AGREED!!!

I rather think that church is more like a three-legged stool: we need all three legs for the stool to be used as it was designed, and we constantly have to evaluate the "wobble" (putting the folded up paper under a leg so it will even out is a temporary solution). :)

If we overemphasize belonging, then theologically anything goes and sin is not discussed.
If we overemphasize believing, we tend to camp on peripheral theological issues and argue endlessly.
If we overemphasize behaving, we become legalistic and Pharisaical and allow guests to feel judged members to become hypocrites.

We won't solve it. But we do church as a community of faith, on a journey and in a dialog about what it means to be a disciple. The Bible has survived more human challenges than we can imagine, and yet it endures. I don't understand it all, but when I do wrestle with an interpretation or a passage and come out with a sense of "thus says the Lord," then I have a choice to make.

I must lay my pride aside and admit that I sometimes don't radiate "belong" and that I struggle with "believe" when my faith wavers and I often don't "behave" like I should in areas of words, charity and evangelism.

We are on a journey. We have problems to work out. We have sins to confess and Scripture to learn and conversations to have about the truths we are learning. I am thankful to the people of University Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana for walking together with me on it.

1 comment:

  1. Good post my friend. But . .. I know you well and say you struggle more personally with behaving more than the other two. ;-)

    Look forward to seeing you on Monday.