From the Elephant Room website:
What responsibilities do we have to local pastors who exist outside our theological boundaries, but within the body of Christ? How do you confront a brother in error while showing fidelity to truth, and to the truth about biblical relationship? Given the freedom to preach your conscience, is there anywhere you wouldn’t preach? Does a pastor’s association really communicate endorsement, or is that just a carryover from fundamentalism? How can pastors practically encourage/challenge those who are different than they are? How do the benefits of broader community weigh against the dangers of confusing people about your own convictions?
Session 7 - We Can Work It Out
Furtick, MacDonald, Driscoll
This is a summary of your motivation of your intent and heart for the entire event. What we’re really talking about are Christian association, friendships, and conversations.
Think of it as national and state borders. If it’s not your nation, you won’t work with them. If you see evangelicals as states within a nation, you can work with them with some secondary disagreements.
Our theology is a home, not a prison. The questions is, How big is your world? Is your state your nation? Where do we draw the lines? What kind of relationship should you have with people beyond state and national borders? Is a friendship tacit approval?
It’s often an issue of association, which is what Jesus was accused of.
Your description of borders is very helpful. The problem is when you say, my state is Texas and we’re the biggest, best state. When you’re so proud of your state that you doubt that anybody else is American, you have a problem. I was that guy.
It took me 25 years to see the trappings of the negativity of fundamentalisms. I don’t want to punish people who see things differently.
I’d like to tell the story of the Elephant Room.
And the beating you’ve taken. You’re like a piñata at Cinco de Mayo lately. (laughter)
It all started with Bill Hybels. He was down the street from me but a guy in Chicago rallied a number of us pastors together. Hybels called me up and said pick me up, one time stuck in a 4 hour snow storm.
I love Bill. We have differences, but he’s sincere and has served the church for 30 some years. Meeting him changed not my convictions or my methodology but my tone.
I was in California playing golf with an influential minister (to Mark) not a big fan of yours. This was before I knew Mark. This pastor couldn’t stop complaining about Mark. I said, I don’t even know him. I got done with that round and called Jack Graham. I said get me Mark’s number. I want to talk to him.
Now Mark and I are very close friends, we talked, he came to Chicago. Then I called him and said, “We’re going to Haiti.”
He said come to Chicago and I’ll get you a ticket and I'll get you your shots.
I’ve had two experiences with someone I saw and doubted or was told to doubt, and in both instances it was wrong. I thought maybe we should get more people together.
I want to confess that my disposition of someone like Furtick was to doubt because of my fundamentalism. I poked fun at Stephen while I was planning a sermon series about Pharoah and Moses and the finger of God by tweeting a sermon title, When God gives Moses the Finger, or something like that. He got back to me and said that’s a great title!
He came up to spend a day with me, driving around, asking questions. I thought it happened again. And that led to the Elephant Room. We have to get in a room and ask questions.
If we’re spending eternity together—and that’s my starting assumption—we’re going to talk. That is the conviction behind this event.
The sad thing is it’s so rare to share our affection for one another in this line of work. I appreciate the conversation about national and state border, but I feel the great calling on my life is to affirm the center.
I don’t mean that no one needs to draw boundaries, but I’ve heard this before, “The Reformed community is not a big fan of you, Steven.” Define what that sounds like Loritts said. Are they another nation that we’re at war with or working together to something God is calling us to.
I’m talking about interfaith. We can’t worship with Muslims.
When you called me, I had heard Walk in the Word. I remember thinking wow! It’s really cool that he would take the time to call me. When you talked to me I was surprised about how nice you were. I heard that James MacDonald was one of the most fun guys you can meet. And that wasn't what I would have thought about him. The same thing I couldn’t stomach was going on my heart as well.
Putting the fun back in fundamentalism (laughter).
I remember when I was getting ready to come see you (James), I didn’t want to dress a certain way because I didn’t want this guy to think I was one of those guys.
My point is we could stand to encourage one more as we see the day approaching. I think we could show love a little more. I think we could honor one another a little more.
I have my own hypocrisy in this area. We always think people are judgmental against us, but we betray we are too.
I’ve seen some real boldness today that make me want to be bolder. It seems like boldness is what we say about the people who throw the most red meat to their own tribe.
Real boldness is that I’m going to stand with a brother even if it cost me something. You weren’t just inviting to an event but you were my friend even if it cost you something.
As someone who was older, accepted me, put your arm around me, and took some shots for it. Thank you.
How do we get this charitable spirit into our internal system so that we don’t have to get to know everyone personally before we assume they are a good brother in Christ?
Friendly until proven foe.
Hopefully people are getting some experiential positive things from the event.
My point is if you call the pastor down the street and meet with people who read the same book and love the same Jesus—I grew up in a situation where it wasn’t just anyone out of a Baptist church wasn’t saved but the same type of Baptist church was saved. I’m ashamed how long it took me to come out of that.
We have to work together.
I had a friend tell me, You know if you ever start preaching false doctrine, I’d have to disown you. I said, Did you hear something? He said, No, but you associate with a lot of people. I said, If you ever sleep with my wife, I’ll cut your head off. Why are we talking about this, things that would never happen?
They say they’re just defending the gospel when they’re really just crappy friends.
We try to side with groups to feel bigger than we are. The closer we are to the Cross, the closer we are together too.
1 Corinthians 13 is in the book. The legacy of the fundamentalist/liberal controversy has tainted all of evangelicalism. Unfortunately, we have a legacy of fighting and defining ourselves by who we are against.
All truth is seen in the center of Biblical tension. If there is no tension, you’re probably not close to the truth.
We need to lead with love and with my eyes wide open before we make conclusions about people.
I come from a background, I’m strong with truth speaking and exposition, I tend to be top down in my presentation of truth. The downside is the whole truth is Ephesians 4, I need to be kind and contend for unity. Please lead with vertical and relational truth.
This is all about making connections. The greatest joy I have is connecting people. For the sake of unity, we need connectors.
For me, this conversation is kind of fascination, because my world has its own problems but they’re much different than these. I come from worlds where fellowship is taken for granted. The things you do easily we struggle to do and the things we do easily you struggle to do.
Why is unity easier for you?
Minorities don’t have the luxury of bickering about little things like that. We wouldn’t survive. It’s not that we don’t have the opinion or the intellect. We had to come together or be totally destroyed.
We believe that reflecting Jesus' love is loving what Jesus loved, which is people. We can work on principals with people, but we have to love them first.
Breaking a pathology that strength is taking a stance for what you're against will change all that you influence.
Let us not refuse and confuse anointing and substitute it with anger. Sometimes in the absence of God’s presence the only thing we can show our people is anger. Let us go back to our knees and ask for a fresh anointing from God.
Is there a Christian you wouldn’t invite to the Elephant Room?
A Christian? No.
BTW, authority in preaching is not anger. I’ve worked hard at bringing down my sense of anger in my preaching and having authority.
I don’t know if we'll do another one of these, I’d defend the right to have a Muslim here, or a political kind.
The subject of civility and our need to talk to other people is important. Would anyone say we’re good at that?
I was talking to Andy Stanley and he said always ask, Do I want to make a point or a difference? In the age of technology where it’s constant, instant, and permanent, you can garner a tribe of critics. You never have to meet anyone to make a point, or even make an effort to understand their context.
To make a difference you have to meet someone and build a relationship. Sometimes this means making a point privately, not to hurt you but to help you.
I want you first to know that I love you, so that when I don’t agree with you, it’s to help.
Usually we say nothing privately because we don’t have the guts and then lob grenades publicly. I’ve asked you to lay it out always privately but as long as I’m serving Jesus to support me publicly.
What has this event cost you?
It cost me some relationships. Craig Groeshel said, Just because someone doesn’t want you in their circle any longer doesn’t mean they can’t be in yours. I hope to have an ability to have grace on both sides of this thing.
Nobody is in the center. I don’t presume I’m standing in it. I hope we can meet there and I don’t want to treat those on either side poorly.
The preceeding were summary notes from the Elephant Room. These are not direct quotes but rather a play by play intended to give an overview of each conversation at this year's event. I encourage you to watch this year's conversations once available for fullest context. - Jake