belonging before believing, and Beyond Sectarianism
Many understand that evangelism and discipleship is more than getting someone to say/understand/know certain doctrines. As the saying goes, “belonging before believing,” the turn toward community. But many churches who embrace this have not really gone this to re-evaluate the rest of theology from a non-individualized, privatized perspective. So, when we reach that point of belonging and also believing, we are still rehearsing a doctrine of salvation which is individaulistic, a discipleship focused on person piety, and a lack of social concern. (i’m probably just preaching to the choir on this one, but the next part is better.)
even in those churches which share this perspective insufficient attention is given to the community (i.e. ecclesiology). Too often there is the being or doing dichotomy, with the “modern” church as only concerned with doing (program based) and the “emerging church” as being (relationally based). This distinction misses the point. Those who focus on just “being” end up doing nothing and scorning those who have “structures” (those evil things). We ARE through what we DO, and vise-versa. Rather we should inquire into what “practices” a church has. Only since the enlightenment have we been able to distiquish between “being” and “doing,” and this is because we have forgotten where we are going, we have no goal. The modern church forgot that the practices we engage in form us, even against our intentions. So, creating a program around needs created religious consumers, rather than disciples of Christ. Effectiveness, technique, and efficiency are values which may be against the gospel.
lastly, if we really believe in “belonging before believing,” we have to embrace a type of sectarianism (or rather, that which gets disparaged as sectarian by those preoccupied with “engagement”), we have to move through Anabaptist theology, a movement beyond relevance. We can’t really be “relevant” if someone has to join the community before you understand.