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The Third Way

I really don’t want to blog.

It takes me too long to write, and I always regret something when I do. Controversy makes me anxious, but I am endlessly drawn to provocative subjects, where I always seem to be the most controversial guy around. And aren’t there already enough people who blog? Am I the only one tired of trendy thought-stylists who want to be cool, authentic, important, and relevant? I hardly even read blogs. And honestly, even Idon’t take myself that seriously. Why should anyone else?

The answer: because I’m not satisfied with myself or with or my world.

Start with me. My life is filled with what we now-know-to-call “growth areas.” My prayer life runs hot, then cold. I’m fairly disciplined, except for when it comes to how much I eat. I am not a very patient man, and I get irritable easily. I live life largely deep in my head, but I want to have a big love for others: the two don’t mix well, and I often end up mediocre at both. I expect perfection of everyone. But I’m the least perfect guy I know. I hate selfishness, but I am myself a selfish man. Wanting to be a saint, I am the best proof I have of the power of sin.

So, in part I’m blogging because I want to “join the conversation” about how to follow Jesus. I really want to be like Him (except for, to be honest, the many times that I don’t). In spite of my failures, however, I do know that the day will come when He will finally conquer the bundle of discrepancies that I call me. Maybe blogging will help hasten that day. And if it doesn’t, at least others can join me in the pangs of childbirth … “until Christ be formed in me,” as the Holy Apostle fretted.

But there’s more. I’m not satisfied with the state of the Christian church in America, and I need to say something about it.

There are many reasons to rejoice for what Christ is doing among His people. I enjoy many of these in my own congregation of North Boulevard. I have the best church and the best job in the world.

But I see so many threats to the people of God that I have to fight the impulse to focus exclusively on these. Many denominations are in deep decline, and 3,000 churches go out of business every year in America (that’s one church foreclosing every two and a half hours). In my own fellowship of the American churches of Christ, we lose 200 members and a congregation every single week. I believe that much of this decline is due to a stifling traditionalism in churches that refuse to shift the focus from petite matters of doctrine and maintenance to the real power and Spirit of the Gospel. The traditionalism in many of our churches constitutes a betrayal of our mission and a death sentence on our children.

At the same time, theological liberalism threatens every mainline Protestant denomination in America, and the temptation towards so-called “progressivism” lures many evangelicals as well. Many Christian colleges are filled with faculty and administrators who appear unserious about the Gospel’s call for holiness and discipleship. Secular theories of social justice with ever-expanding pools of grievances rule among the elite. Real calls to holiness and faithfulness to the Gospel, however, are hard to find on the Left. A number of influential pastors and preachers write and speak about the Christ as though He were just a great man–another MLK or Ghandi, and their Gospel seems only to be a saintlier version of Rodney King’s: “Can’t we just all get along?” And the view of the Holy Scriptures on the Left is deeply flawed. Progressives may use the Scriptures, but only in the same way that they use Hallmark Greeting cards: with just enough sincerity to get them through the holidays.

I’m not okay with these trends–either in my life or in the life of the Christian world in the West. I am not okay with either the traditionalism I see in many churches or the real theological liberalism that has entranced many Christians formerly orthodox.

So, I start this blog to invite others to join me in a third way: a way that is neither shackled by traditionalism nor distracted by the idolatry of progressivism. There is a third way.

The third way takes Christ and Christ alone as the fullness of the Gospel–over every social theory as well as over every worn-out tradition. It is nothing more or nothing less than “Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, and Christ in me” (to quote St. Patrick). It is neither deceived, on the one hand, by pagan theories of justice, secular views of Scripture, or unholy compromises with a hedonistic world. But on the other hand, it does not confuse the power and beauty of the Gospel with little traditions and exhausted denominational boundaries. The third way knows the truth about Jesus, the power of the Gospel, the faithfulness of the Scriptures, and the work of the Holy Spirit.

In this blog I hope to explore matters that relate to what I am calling the third way: following Jesus, the mission of the church, the power of the Gospel, the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit, the faithfulness of the Scriptures, the problem of traditionalism, the challenge of theological liberalism, the decline of Christianity, the characteristics of spiritual leadership, the intersection of faith and culture, the need for a spiritual revolution, and a whole lot more.

Here’s my invitation to return often. If you are unhappy with the status quo of either traditionalism or progressivism, let’s do something old: let’s go back to the spirit and power of the first Jesus movement. Let’s start a third way.

If nothing else, at least we will sharpen ourselves. And who knows? Maybe even we saints will surrender fully to Christ in the process.


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