We assume so much about one another. I think because we lack the empathy and time it takes to really get to know one another’s hearts, we look for quick markers by which we can bracket each other. One tweet or one post, and voila, I know all I need to know about you. I’ll assign you a Dewey decimal number and file you under an assigned category. (Yes, I know I just dated myself.)
In ministry, I’m constantly building networks, scouting resources, partnering at various levels, learning – whatever I can do to help equip and mobilize people into the great big mission of God. I’ve been blessed to learn from and serve shoulder-to-shoulder with some incredible people, only a few of which would have any name recognition whatsoever. I thank God for the imprint of many diverse men and women of faith who have had a hand in shaping my character, spiritual growth, missiology, and passion for Jesus.
I wish having so many friends wasn’t so dangerous.
There are factions of thought and practice that don’t always get along, and I’ve learned from and become friends with people who don’t always wish to network with one another. I can sometimes feel the suspicion in the sideways glance: So where do you stand on X issue, Jared? Clarity – especially clarity around gospel issues – is fantastically important. But sometimes suspicious questioning is simply bracketing. Whose camp do you belong in? Whose flag do you waive? There’s a difference.
I’m here in the middle, not waving any flag, wondering if I have to belong to either camp. Can’t I just learn from both?
Herein lies the tension. There are some things you’d do well to learn from me. (I don’t mean this pridefully.) Other things you’d be better off learning from someone else with more experience, practice, thought, or learning. That’s OK. You don’t have to align 100% with me or anyone else to learn something. Keep what’s valuable and set aside what isn’t.
Does this just boil down to spiritual pragmatism then? No. Let’s continue to call one another to love and good deeds and faithfulness to the Word we claim to hold so high. Ministry partnership is not a free-for-all; there are hard lines and guardrails around essential theology. That being said, I’m going to keep learning from and working with people from various tribes of thought and practice so long as the gospel is not compromised.
If this causes confusion about where I stand on issues really important to you, I hope you’ll sit down with me instead of filing me away with Dewey. I will do the same with you.