I’ve always had a tear in my life depending on the environment that I am in and the people that I am around. On one side it consists of the academics. I love to read and learn and know the right things. I enjoy at times talking about theology and doctrines and buzz issues and listening to how other people view the circumstance. The other side of me is much more practical. I am excited to move into the crappy neighbourhood in Sarnia. I am excited to plant a church and help develop it into a community that is missional. I am excited to help people wherever I am. Those are two brief explanations but I think it makes my point.
The problem I have is when these two worlds collide. For instance, like this week. I’ve been working with Pernell here at the FRWY for the past few weeks, organizing Sundays, talking about church and the way its run and really just getting submerged in the entire church planting scene. Then I went to a few sessions of N.T. Wright with some of my more theologically inclined friends like Dom who is just beginning his pre-doctoral work and Nick who is a Reformer at heart. Both of them are much smarter than I am when it comes to systematic theology and much more apt to know what is right from wrong.
Here is where it gets hard. And I’ll give an example that I’ve observed before to help illustrate my point, this never happened to me, so I don’t want to argue about it.
Let’s say that in a newer church plant there is a communion table set up in a corner of a church where throughout the service at anytime people can walk over and take communion by themselves. Quickly looking at it, we would think nothing about it; we would say it was just a creative way to incorporate the Eucharist into the gathering. However, bring in the theologians and everything changes, especially if they are the hard-nosed ones who just like to tell you that you are wrong. They will say that really isn’t communion at all. That it is communion without Jesus. Unless everyone is taking it together it is unbiblical. Then of course if your church isn’t really taking communion well then it really isn’t a Christian church at all. And the ball keeps rolling.
In my practical mind, there are a lot fewer hoops to jump through to be included in the term church or to label a person a Christian. In my academic mind, the list is massive; in fact, I doubt I’m even on the list. I have an extremely hard time balancing out my academic answers with my practical practices. I’m sure there is some delicate balance that needs to be learned but I don’t think I’m there. What will confuse me all the more is that all my academic friends will say that my practices need to fit into my theology and that if it’s not in the bible or in the early church than it is wrong. My practical friends will just be going with flow being creative and unique and almost creating their theology around their practices and the relationships that form around them. Both in their own way seem valid, and both in their own way scare me and I don’t want to go that way.