For the past month or so I’ve been slowly reading Brick by Brick: How LEGO Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry. It’s a fascinating look at how LEGO nearly went under about a decade ago, but righted the ship when they returned to what made LEGO unique. It’s an engaging story and one that I believe has many lessons for the Church.
In the 1990’s LEGO responded to a rapidly changing toy market by pursuing innovation in a number of areas. In essence they got away from the brick (the thing that makes LEGO unique) and it almost killed them:
The company was trying to expand on so many fronts, it was in danger of losing its focus and discipline. If just a couple of those bets went bad, all of the LEGO Group might come crashing down. (Robertson, Location 918)
As I scan through my Feedly, and read hundreds of articles on all things Christian, I have to wonder if Christian blogging is causing the Church to spread itself too thin.
I’ve been blogging for awhile now and I think I understand the game fairly well. I know, for the most part, what type of article is likely to have a wide reach and which ones will sit on my site and collect dust. One that will gain traffic is the “Should Christians…” type of article.
One recent example—and I’m questioning my wisdom in making this specific—is this article by Owen Strachan. In that article Strachan asks whether or not Christians should step away from such a violent sport like football. The discussion was picked up on TGC and many other spots and for weeks we debated the question. SBTS even scheduled a discussion on the issue.
It’s not my intention to discuss the question of football. Instead I want to consider the positives and negatives of “Should Christians…” articles.
In one sense the fact that we are discussing such issues is a testament to health. It was almost 20 years ago that Mark Noll, in his Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, lamented the languishing intellectual landscape of evangelicalism. His fear was that even though evangelicalism grew from the soil of brilliant thinkers, an entrenched anti-intellectualism had left us unable to really speak with much intelligence into anything cultural.
While there is still an anti-intellectualism spread throughout our churches, I believe Noll would write a different book in our day. In one sense it is healthy that we are using our minds and giving a meaningful Christian voice to many of the cultural debates of our day. That’s a good thing.
Ideas have consequences. The tribe that I most closely align (The Gospel Coalition, YRR, T4G, etc.) seems to have made it their goal to be the voice for evangelicalism. If someone has a question about what evangelicals believe on a certain issue the TGC crowd wants to be the place where Christians would point their internet browser to find that answer. At least it appears to me that this is at least a goal.
That idea has a consequence. For one, if you want to be the voice on all things pertaining to evangelicalism that means that you also have to speak to difficult issues in your own ranks. Your critiques will ring hollow if they don’t also apply to those within your ranks.
Secondly, being the voice on a number of issues (often tertiary issues) will have a tendency to divide the body of Christ along lines that ought not be drawn. When you ask things like, “should Christians enjoy football” and you do so in the hopes of being the voice for evangelicals I can’t help but think that uniformity will result rather than unity.
I find these words by Richard Baxter helpful:
…ministers must smart when the Church is wounded, and be so far from being the leaders in divisions, that they should take it as a principal part of their work to prevent and heal them. Day and night should they bend their studies to find out means to close such breaches…They must, therefore, keep close to the ancient simplicity of the Christian faith, and the foundation and center of catholic unity. (Baxter, 123)
After reading Baxter’s words here I have to question the wisdom of writing “Should Christians…” type of articles on disputable matters. It creates needless division and causes us to be spread too thin.
To go back to the LEGO analogy, it could be argued that such an article isn’t pursuing innovation outside of the brick. These authors, it could be argued, are actually pursuing innovation inside the brick. In other words, they are asking questions that flow out of the gospel. Such as, “How does the gospel inform our watching of football?”
I understand the need of that. We need to be able to flesh out the implications of the gospel—otherwise we’ll end up needing another book like The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. But I fear that we spend too much effort and energy trying to achieve uniformity on areas that are implications of the gospel and not making every effort to pursue unity in the gospel.
I believe that our energy and effort ought to be spent on that which we have that is truly unique; namely, the gospel message and our union with Jesus Christ. Let’s spend our time helping weary saints grab hold of Jesus rather than trying to flesh out all the implications of that action.
Again, I think Baxter is wise:
…we must learn to see the true state of controversies, and reduce them to the very point where the difference lieth, and not make them seem greater than they are. Instead of quarreling with our brethren, we must combine against the common adversaries… (Baxter, 124)
Let’s not rend the bride of Christ trying to pursue uniformity on disputable matters. Instead let’s use our blogging platforms to build up the body of Christ and make every effort to maintain the unity that Jesus has already purchased for us. What if we used blogging to close breaches instead of create them?