Petty-ness That Divides Us

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I like Tom Petty and his band the Heartbreakers. Trivia – they got their big break when they were the backup band for Dylan quite a few years ago. Dylan has a way of spotting talent – his intuition is rarely wrong – one of his many talents.

“Petty” is amazingly gifted and on top of all of that, from what I understand, the way he behaves is not “petty” (yes, the pun is intended!).

If I could pray for one thing this week for Jesus’ Church (that will not be overcome ultimately by the forces of darkness), then I would pray that she could see the remarkable smallness of what she sees to be a big deal so often that is in fact not only not a big deal, but is, in fact, a minuscule deal.

To prove my point, when we as believers try to explain various events in Church history to not-yet believers – distant or recent to not-yet believers – and why various groups divided over issues – sometimes taking one another’s lives – they simply look back with a wide-eyed stare as they wait for THE line that will explain what the conflict was over. (Of course, you’ve already explained it… “You see, group B wanted to baptize people by dunking, while group A wanted to sprinkle, so Group A drown many hundreds of the dunkers in Lake Geneva….”)

Please don’t roll your eyes with the “That was a long time ago and those guys were out of control” look.

This summer the largest denomination in the U.S. – many of my great friends are a part of this group – will have their annual week-long meeting.

I dread this meeting every year for two reasons:

1. Headlines will be made as they always are during this meeting in the host city because of the horrible tips (often stiffing waiting personnel) and the high level of rudeness shown all around to all they come in contact with. Of course, this is not true for all, but when close to the majority live out such inappropriate behavior, the reputation spreads – especially to news sources. Watch for it in mid-summer. It will be prevalent.

2. This summer, in particular, the gathering will be a whiz-bang. No drownings are apt to happen, but just short of that is likely to occur. Most onlookers agree that either three or four groups will emerge from this group instead of the one 35,000+ sized group now.

Group A – the “we stand for the truth” group – “stand for the truth” means just that – stand but don’t apply nor challenge people to change nor preach much beyond right-wing political stances and the “get saved” message week in and week out;

Group B – the social action group – popularized by recent converts to this group ex-president Clinton and ex-president Carter. Truth be told, this group is by no means liberal theologically all things being equal, but are cast as such by Group A, not surprisingly;

Group C – the Purpose Driven (or whatever they will be called) – highly evangelistic, “we want to relate to the culture” group – my guess is the highly gifted leaders will go with this group by and large (that is in the no-brainer category);

And finally, Group D is the much smaller set that will be no more than a few hundred emerging/experimental churches.

This particular group has been through thick and thin for many decades without a split as large as this one. This looks to be interesting – and perhaps in God’s timing change that is overdue.

Originally posted 2007-05-28 07:17:29.

Steve has spoken, mentored and modeled to churches and leaders around the world with the simple message that anyone – regardless of their gifting or experience – can be involved in bringing God’s loving kindness to others. His first book, Conspiracy of Kindness has been translated into several languages with more in the works. His first book has sold over 300,000 copies. Altogether his books have sold over 500,000 copies.