Do you know the saying ‘Think globally and act locally‘? It came from the early days of the environmental movement. It is a good catch phrase that connects broader thinking to individual actions. I think this phrase also carries a tone for how we can see ourselves as World Class Christians. Being World Class means we are willing to think and have discussion from a larger perspective than just my personal group. For a Christian, it means there is an understanding that theologies and practices don’t have to line-up with one’s own personal conviction or practice in order for them to have worth.
So here is an abbreviated list of positions that I think can help us to think and act as a World Class Christian:
You recognize that your faith, your belief, your practices are a part of history. You work toward understanding how your faith today fits into church history. Though you may have come to faith at a certain time, you realize that faith is connected to a 2000 year history and you try to connect your faith into that.
You recognize that any theological position you have has been around for hundreds of years in one form or another. Again, your theology is connected to history. It is not something fresh or new that has only been around since you discovered it. You also recognize that whatever theological view you may hold, there are others of equal passion, faith, and love for the Lord who have a theological position that differs from yours and have come to different conclusions on what a verse may be saying. Your attitude is one of respect though you hold a different view. You recognize truth as truth but the differences come through interpretation of what is being said Biblically. Many great theologians who have much to teach us differ from one another in their understanding of different theologies. Each has some elements of truth. No one but Jesus Christ possesses truth perfectly.
You recognize that the various practices of Christianity through denominations or through differing cultures are just that – differences. The Bible and Church history have allowed a wide range of practices that are considered orthodox or acceptable. One group may hold to liturgy, another group may not, but you understand the conviction of faith in Jesus is the same.
You recognize that your view of the Bible is shaped by your culture. Other cultures may interpret the Scripture or the practice in the Scripture differently. For example, we in America are clearly the most materialistic culture in the world. Conspicuous consumption is a hallmark of being American. That in turn shapes how we see our faith. Outsiders see that cultural bias more clearly than we do and thus have different views on material wealth. Which leads to my next point:
You recognize that your movement or church does not have the best practices or best theologies and you are willing to critique where you may be weak in an area. I recently read a book where the author leaned more toward a liberal, liturgical view. I have never read a person such as this one who was as humble and willing to address shortcomings within her movement and how to make corrections. I believe being world class calls for us in more conservative circles to challenge our own shortcomings and narrow-mindedness.
Appreciative and Respectful
You recognize there are many differences to the practice of Christianity and you are respectful toward those who hold differing views. You don’t dismiss others just because they are different in practice or theology. While you may hold clearly and strongly to your own faith practice you do not see it as the standard by which all others must conform.
One of the real dangers in any system of belief is parochialism. By that, I mean believing only those who believe as you do can be correct. All others are wrong. This is where we can slip into justification for attitudes and actions that are dismissive and disrespectful of others. This is the position that makes God conform to our own line of thinking, which makes him a very small god.