Well, this isn’t really about a battle between Gungor and the upcoming movie, “A Matter of Faith.” Rather, its about the tension that we experience within our community of faith.
Let me set the stage.
I’m part of a small circle of people who work to bring big name Christian concerts to our little town of Bemidji, MN. Past artists
have included Newsboys, Superchick, Stellar Kart, Tenth Avenue North, Chris Tomlin, Jeremy Camp, Skillet, and others. Several months ago, we booked our next concert to be November 9, 2014 with Switchfoot & Gungor. Our student ministries team is excited about this concert, is promoting it, and has purchased a large block of tickets.
However, many people in our Christian community caught wind of Michael Gungor’s views of the stories of Genesis. Namely, he isn’t a literalist. Some claim that he isn’t in line with “Orthodox Evangelicalism.” A number of churches and families have decided to not attend the concert in objection. Ticket sales are strong never-the-less.
“A Matter of Faith”
Our local network of evangelical pastors has also worked to get the movie “A Matter of Faith” into our local theater. I didn’t see the screening of it. Only the trailer. It appears as though this movie is advocating for a literal reading of the scriptures and biblical creationism (particularly young-earth creationism … I’m guessing). In order for our theater to show it here, this group must pre-sell 1,000 tickets to assure it’s costs will be covered. They did it. It’s showing this weekend.
Pretty good timing, huh? Two lighting rod events two weeks apart.
None of our church’s staff nor any of it’s ministry teams participated in the efforts to get the movie here. I, and our student ministries team, are working to get Gungor here. So, to some it kinda looks like we don’t support biblical creationism or have a soft view of the bible. I am very much in support of biblical creationism, but I’m not a Young-Earth Creationist. And, I have a very high view of the Scriptures.
But here’s the reality.
- We are fully supportive of biblical creationism. However, our church embraces the wider dialogue between Young-Earth Creationists and Old-Earth Creationists. We recognize that there are many rational and scholarly followers of Christ who affirm the centrality of Scriptures that land on both sides of that conversation.
- “Orthodox Evangelicalism” does not include the necessity of affirming Young-Earth Creationism nor the historicity of the events described in Genesis. Rather, Evangelicalism, as outlined in the Statement of Faith for the National Association of Evangelicals established in 1942, believes that the Bible is “the inspired, only infallible, authoritative Word of God.” Infallible means “The characteristic of being incapable of failing to accomplish a predetermined purpose. In Protestant theology infallibility is usually associated with Scripture. The Bible will not fail in its ultimate purpose of revealing God and the way of salvation to humans.”* This word is used in place of the word “inerrancy” which is “The idea that Scripture is completely free from error. … [or even] completely accurate in whatever it teaches about other subjects, such as science and history.”* One of NAE’s defining points of Evangelicalism is “Biblicism: a high regard for and obedience to the Bible as the ultimate authority.” Again, this doesn’t require a literal reading of the bible, nor any particular interpretation of it. Rather, that the Scriptures and the richness of its depth are inspired by God and central to the life of the Christian.
In other words, you don’t have to be a 6-Day Creationist to be evangelical let alone Christian. That would be more of a feature of Fundamentalism.
- We have many initiatives and ministry priorities in our church that have been on our plates for much longer than our awareness of this movie. For myself and the student ministries team, one of them happens to be this concert that was on our calendar long before this movie came up. Our pastors, staff, and ministry teams are not obligated to support the passions and interests of other groups outside our church, especially when they don’t align with any of our previously set priorities.
- We have a pathway for external groups to gain access to our church’s promotional venues without obligating staff and other people to do the work of promoting it. They can submit an application to our Leadership Team to form what we call an “Unleashing Team.” You can read about our team structure here.
As pastors, we constantly live on the growing edge of issues like this. We’re constantly feeling the tension between two sides of various perspectives. If I could offer my thoughts on managing this tension, it would be these.
- While you should remain open to external possibilities, you never have to feel obligated to champion another person’s passions. Lean into your own calling, your church’s own identity, and your ministry’s own priorities.
- Make sure you and your team/congregation adopt systems and protocols to handle these kinds of issues. Then make sure you follow them.
- Be compassionate and gracious as you engage in conversation with people on either side of any dialogue. Your presence should be a non-anxious, differentiated presence that is respectable, calming, and edifying as you disciple your people in the midst of these tensions.
* Grenz, S., Guretzki, D., & Nordling, C. F. (1999). Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms (66). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.