A person whose family worshiped at our church for a few years came by this morning to inform us that the family has been attending a different church for awhile and that we won’t be seeing them anymore. It didn’t come as a total surprise, since they have been absent most of the fall and since two members of the family actually peeled off for that other church a year ago. And I respect the heck out of the move to come and tell us face-to-face, as well as the move toward church participation as a shared family experience and not one that is divided.
Something this person said about the difference between our church and the new one really hit me, though. After describing worship as “Christian Rock” and the sermons as “a little more literal,” she added, “Here it’s more of an intellectual experience. There you’re all in.”
I know exactly what she’s saying. Without resorting to broad generalities, the cultures of mainline Protestantism and Evangelicalism differ markedly in this respect: evangelicalism wants all your heart and some of your head; the mainline wants all your head and some of your heart.
The mainline wants you “all in” but in a different way. It wants you all in for the demands of living the gospel in the world today and engaging the cultural, political, and systemic injustices for which the gospel is the antibody. It wants you all in for critically engaging the Bible as a transformative resource for public and private life. It wants you all in for worship that is as mentally rigorous as it is emotionally appealing.
I’ve written here before that church needs to be the thing that backs down. But is backing down the opposite of being “all in?”