Two Approaches—One Christ
I have heard this issue show up in a couple of different forums recently and it felt like it was time to try to articulate it. The reason is very clear—not all of our churches approach the mission of Jesus Christ the same way.
I feel this is important to say so that we can move more toward an appreciation of each other in our different ministries.
This issue was most clearly communicated in a meeting where a church representative spoke of feeling that their church’s ministry was not in line with the broader presbytery. It was quickly noted that the comment revealed the difference between Matthew 25 churches and Matthew 28 churches.
I think what was implied was that some congregations see their essential identity as a “mission to the least of these” and others as bringing more people to Christ “baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” One congregation sees their primary call of doing the work of Christ in the community; another congregation sees their primary call to bring individual people to Christ.
But I have wondered why this issue is a cause for separation rather than celebration. I have wondered why we don’t see this as a sign that our presbytery is actually healthier for it rather than weaker for it.
Of course, I do know that I am just wondering out loud. But one of my experiences is that churches that focus on the evangelical approach of Matthew 28 seem to reach people who have a real need for the gift of the Christian narrative. People for whom the narrative gives them a different lens from which to view the world—whether it is the drug addict who needs to write a new story or the corporate executive who needs to rethink his or her definition of success or the perfectionist who hears for the first time the story of grace.
My experience of Matthew 25 churches is that they often seem to reach people who share similar value systems even if they don’t agree on the narrative. I can remember a number of individuals in churches where I served where participants weren’t members and, who often weren’t even Christians, but who committed to the church because of their shared values in serving the community, working for peace and justice, and enjoying close friendships.
Could it be that there is more than one way to minister in the community and still be faithful to Christ?
Could it be that some people’s salvation comes through Matthew 28 churches and others through Matthew 25 churches? Not all of us are wired the same.
Could it be that a presbytery that has both is a presbytery showing real signs of health and maturity?
And, maybe, just maybe our healthiest congregations live out both Matthew 25 and 28.
It just seems to me that our differences should be cause for celebration rather than separation.
By Rev. Brian Heron, Presbyter for Vision and Mission, Presbytery of the Cascades