Why Christians Need to Learn from Those Outside Their Tribe

annoying-christians

A review of Blind Spots: Becoming a Courageous, Compassionate, and Commissioned Church (Cultural Renewal), by Collin Hansen

Confronted with the stubborn fact of church disunity, every new generation of Christians asks the same question: “Why can’t we all just get along?” And every old generation has the same set of answers at the ready. “We already tried to get along before you got here,” say some. “All the things that divide us are nonnegotiable,” say others.

In any generation, the friction among Christian “tribes” is palpable. Collin Hansen, the editorial director for the Gospel Coalition, approaches this subject not as an impartial observer but as a committed member of a particular tribe: the “young, restless, Reformed” believers whose emergence he profiled in a classic 2006 CT cover story and a 2008 book by the same name. Yet his latest work, Blind Spots: Becoming a Courageous, Compassionate, and Commissioned Church (Crossway), suggests a strategy for “church unity and an effective gospel witness in the world.”

This is a matter of no small urgency, Hansen argues, because a divided witness won’t suffice to gain a hearing for the gospel in the current cultural climate. In the foreword, NYC pastor Tim Keller describes the book as “an extended essay on how Christians in Western societies today . . . need to respond to a culture quickly growing post-Christian.”

To this end, Hansen proposes that Christians learn from believers who make them uncomfortable, because the ones who annoy us are likely the ones we need most. Instead of trying to be well-rounded, we should settle for being well-surrounded. If we can’t embody all the strengths of every Christian tribe, we can at least associate with brothers and sisters who have what we lack (and lack what we have).

Two-Thirds Blind

There are three types of Christians in Hansen’s telling. There are the courageous, who love to take a stand against clear opposition and relish a clarifying doctrinal dispute; the compassionate, who sympathize, listen with all their hearts, and seek to heal whatever pain they find; and the commissioned, who keep their focus on evangelism and outreach to unbelievers, devising new forms of communicating the gospel as the need arises. Each type habitually partners with like-minded believers. As Hansen writes, “We tend to cluster around Christians with similar personalities, who reinforce our strengths but turn a blind eye to our weaknesses.”

And we all have weaknesses. Within each of the three groups, Hansen says, we are “conditioned by our various cultures and experiences to hear certain aspects of the gospel more clearly than others.” Or, to use the metaphor of the book’s title, we can end up “at least two-thirds blind” if we look only with our own eyes.

Even as Hansen celebrates each of the three types, he remains keenly aware of their blind spots. The courageous, for example, are often so certain of their convictions that they have trouble heeding legitimate criticism, and suspect other Christians of being theologically naive. The compassionate are so motivated to comfort their wounded neighbors that they neglect to speak uncomfortable truths at all, and blame other Christians for doing most of the wounding. And the commissioned are so eager to reach their culture that they uncritically adopt everything the culture has to offer, having no patience for theology or mercy ministry that lacks an immediate evangelistic payout.

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SOURCE: Fred Sanders
Christianity Today

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