I don’t know how many of you have been to a Sonic restaurant, but my guess is that more of you have seen the Sonic commercials on television. I think these are some of the most clever and appealing commercials on television. I eagerly anticipate new Sonic commercials.
There are a few things that I think make them so appealing. First, the humor is somewhat indirect and perhaps “silly” – there is an askew cleverness there. Second, the production quality is intentionally low and casual. You get the sense that they were shot by a couple of teenagers who hid a camera in their uncle’s car. There is a “YouTube-like” quality there. Finally, they are very approachable. You don’t see “perfect people” setting forth some superficial ideal of what life would be like if one eats at Sonic. Viewers feel as if they could be the characters in these commercials. I catch myself wondering what pedestrian idiosyncrasies would come through if I were one of these characters.
1 Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. 2 One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. 4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
Inspired by the incredible recent commentaries offered by Dr. Greathouse, I have been leading my group through Romans for many weeks now. A recent message I offered at Thrive Church dealt with the passage above. The tenor of the message, given Paul’s overarching purpose of uniting the Romans around a mission to Spain, was how to enjoy healthy community. Three positions were offered: healthy community is the product of loving one another, healthy community is the product of trusting God, and healthy community is the product of open arms.
I don’t think many would argue with the need to reach people who do not yet count themselves a follower of Jesus. However, given the current debate over the efficacy and appropriateness of the so-called emergent church and its impact on church planting and church revisioning, there is a concern about how far is too far. How far do we take Paul’s example to be “all things” while also heeding his admonition to “be on your guard”?
As a church planter, responsible not only to represent God, but in my case to also represent the Church of the Nazarene, it is a difficult challenge to build an ecclesiology that is relevant yet historically faithful. Everything we do at Thrive is the result of careful thought and prayerful deliberation. Everything we do not do is also the result of careful thought and prayerful deliberation. The result is that while you can be confident that our teachings are as true to Wesleyan Holiness as this imperfect preacher is able, Thrive may not look like a Nazarene church in many ways. In fact, we appeal to a broad spectrum of Christian heritage and tradition, crossing denominational walls as if they did not exist.
This bridge is not built because we have watered down the Gospel – on the contrary, we preach Christ frankly and passionately. This bridge is not built because we watered down doctrine – the people of Thrive know the tradition from which we teach. But, I’ve reminded my people about the difference between dogma, doctrine, and positions. This bridge is built because we do not let positional beliefs become doctrine or dogma. We allow for a wide range of positions on things, and often call upon these differences in position to enlighten our own viewpoints.
Here is another quotation for you:
“In essentials, faithfulness; in non-essentials tolerance; in all things charity!” -Phineas Franklin Bresee
If we Nazarene church planters are going to build healthy communities, let us reach back to our denomination’s founder and exemplify his words. Remember the Sonic commercials? Approachability is the word to remember. Real people need a faith that is for real people. They need to look to pastors and laymen who are approachable. They need to be able to visualize themselves as being able to walk in our bend of the faith path. Too many of us are spending too much time dealing with positional beliefs that we don’t address the real-life issues that people are facing. The average person trying to live life is not worrying over infant baptism or tongues and gifts. They are trying to make sense of making life happen in an often screwed up world.
A graduate of a Nazarene learning institution, I appreciate scholarship and reason and the application of the Wesleyan quadrilateral to matters of faith. But, I hope I never forget that the purpose of all that education is to give a relevant voice to a timeless Gospel. Sometimes I feel that we are all “grown up” and forgot how to hear the bell. The Gospel is sweet music to our ears, that penetrates our being with a sense of God’s love. It is not a set of codifications into which we herd people.