One of the amazing things about the body of Christ is the diversity found within the races, nations, and perspectives of theology. Within our nation, in particular, there is a vast array of representation in just about every different possible thought process imaginable when it comes to the broad banner of Christianity. Of course, there are many cults and sects that are not truly a part of the Body of Christ (ex. Mormons, Jehovah Witness etc) but that is a whole different subject than today.
One of the diversities that I feel needs some clarity is that of our geographical differences that are seen by some to create great divides of theology as pertains to evangelism and the role of holiness. There is no doubt that different regions of our country and even areas within those regions have need of specific and creative evangelistic tactics in order to reach those in that area. Paul took on the intellectual spirit of Athens in Acts 17 by coming before their committee of new ideas and proclaiming the Gospel with several references to writers and poets of that day. Let’s look briefly at the differences that qualify as being within the bounds of pursuing true holiness as well as the things that should remain the same no matter what region or place a minister should find themselves called.
In the “Bible Belt” there is a heavy spirit of religion. Everyone pretty much calls themselves saved and is either a part of a church or has relatives belonging to some place of worship. This makes for the unique challenge of getting people “lost” before they can truly be found by the love of God. In areas north of the Mason Dixon line, with large populations in particular, there is more of a godless spirit that defies the things of God and many times sadly denies His very existence. This sort of challenge must be met with a super simplistic form of communicating the Gospel and will many times be better received in an environment outside the traditional church walls. This is one example of many cultural and geographical differences that majorly effect the style and ministry thrust of those called to that area. All of us should be open to the operation of the Holy Spirit through others in a different fashion than we are accustomed to and sometimes even uncomfortable with for the sake of the lives being changed by differing styles of Gospel preached.
An illustration of this could be drawn by the variety of personal style that are expressed. Some dress trendy, others traditional, while others have no sense of style whatsoever and couldn’t care less. None of this is as important as the fact that each person dresses appropriately and modestly. It is not my job to tell people HOW to dress but WHY they should dress modestly and how to accomplish that with basic instruction. This example holds true with our topic today. The style of evangelism is not important at all in comparison with the fact that it be evangelism that lifts up Jesus and doesn’t compromise the message of the Gospel. When people throw out blanket statements to nullify the warning of holiness or wisdom of moderation by saying “that is just Bible belt theology” it is like a young woman in inappropriate attire telling an admonishing leader that they don’t get her style and because they are dressed appropriately they are not qualified to “judge” her. This is ridiculous! The call of holiness in example and lifestyle is the same any where in the world. What is holy in the “Bible Belt” is and should be considered holy in other regions of the nation (or world for that matter). Decency, moderation, integrity, example, and pure godliness without guile is a standard set by the Lord Jesus Christ and modeled throughout the Word of God. Paul said in 1 Cor. 12:4-6 There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.
Bottom line, we as leaders and believers must find the place of common ground in our pursuit of souls and the holiness we have all been called to in Christ. It is very easy to slip over into the 2 ditches lining the Highway of Holiness. We must look out for the ditch of legalism that would bind everyone to religious rules and traditions that have not be birthed out of passion for Christ and obedience to His Word. We also must be careful that we don’t overemphasize grace and being “relatable” as justification to push the envelope of personal sanctification. These are timeless issues that have been apart of the Church’s long-term struggle for discovery of God’s true heart and we must negotiate them with as much love and understanding as the Spirit would give.
1 Cor. 11:18 First, I hear that there are divisions among you when you meet as a church, and to some extent I believe it. But, of course, there must be divisions among you so that you who have God’s approval will be recognized!