A youth pastor from Illinois warns that Christians and churches drawing lines between those who have different opinions about social issues can "create a maze" that could make finding Jesus impossible for others. His view is published in a recent edition of the Christian publication, Relevant Magazine.
Fighting over certain behaviors such as smoking and drinking, the necessity of church attendance, having possessions and the salvation of a Christian who commits suicide has caused divisions among Christians and churches, writes Pastor Caleb Trimble, student pastor at Westbrook Christian Church in Lisle, Ill., in the article.
When it comes to theology and worldview, Christians tend to see things as black and white only, and thus alienate those who believe differently, explains Trimble, a 2010 graduate of Johnson University in Knoxville, Tenn.
"I do believe some things are black and white. One cannot read the Bible and not come to that conclusion. However, there are also things that aren't so clearly laid out in the Bible," he argues.
Theological differences are reflected in the growing number of denominations, Trimble adds. In 2008, there were an estimated 39,000 Christian denominations globally. By 2025, the number is expected to increase to 55,000. A new Christian denomination is formed every 12 hours, according to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, he points out.
"The lines that we draw create a maze that makes finding Jesus impossible," the pastor says. "We have Jesus at the center, but we haven't put Him at the beginning. Instead of teaching people to walk with Jesus through difficult texts, beliefs and theologies, we teach them to go searching for the answers to all the side issues on their own in hopes of finding Jesus somewhere down the road."
The central truth of Christianity that all should agree upon is that Jesus is the Son of the Living God and through His life, death, burial and resurrection, God is reconciling the world to Himself, Trimble says. For any issue that falls outside of this central truth, it is possible to find a resolution, he adds.
Trimble suggests that Christians should seek conversation rather than debates. "If there is anything we can learn from the Ken Ham and Bill Nye debate, it is that debates really solve nothing. Each side walks away more convinced about why they are right and why the other side is wrong."
Praying the prayer found in John 17: "I in them and You in Me, may they be brought to complete unity" will also help, he adds. It's a reminder that above all else, we need to seek unity in everything we do, he writes.
There's also a need to operate from humility, not from expertise, Trimble tells readers. After all, no one is an expert when it comes to God, he says. "So it is best to operate from humility; from a stance of 'I could be wrong…'"
Discussion is not wrong in itself, but it's more important to honor God, the pastor says.
"So if you find yourself arguing in an unhealthy way with a Christian brother or sister who believes differently than you do-someone who smokes, is divorced, supports gay marriage, is a democrat, speaks in tongues or whatever else-maybe you should just say 'You still believe in the Christ? Let's talk about the other things.'"