Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Elitism: The Holes in the Search Party

There is a story of a toddler that wandered into a corn field. Small searching parties took shifts wandering through the large field for days in hopes of finding the little girl. On the third day, a neighbor approached the family with an idea: The entire searching community would stand side by side on one end of the field and walk through - that way no inch of the cropland would go unreached. This time, the search revealed the child - only she had died of exposure hours earlier. As he held the lifeless body of his daughter, the father repeatedly asked the same question: Why hadn't anyone thought of searching like this early enough to save her?

David B. Barrett, the head contributor to the World Christian Encyclopedia, spent the mass of his life to what he has termed "missiometrics", doggedly studying and counting all of the faiths and believers of those faiths throughout the world. 1 He has personally visited most of the countries of the entire globe collecting this information. According to his findings, within the Christian population there are 33,820 protestant denominations - 6,161 of those being in the United States. 2

Some of these splits and denominations are able to be charted back to the New Testament Church; many are somewhat lost within the tumble of the last century or so. But what can be even more eye opening is the fact that individual churches may operate under a certain denomination without adhering or agreeing with that denomination's set agenda or doctrines. With this in mind, the number of individual church denominations skyrocket. Even more so, within the walls of most churches lie the individuals - each holding his or her own trusted doctrine. 3 & 4

The danger does not lie within the idea of people grouping together with what they trust in worshiping Christ. The danger lies in the mostly useless and quietly impeding processes of elitism and superiority. After all, there's nothing wrong with all the cheerleaders and football players in a high school forming tight friendships. The problem comes with an endemic of popularity and personal hierarchies that seem to consume the student population of the school community.

While most people agree that this viewpoint is destructive, it is still deceptively enticing. Few even realize that they are even dabbling in it until someone gets hurt. This prideful view is also the main issue when one is faced with finding that a doctrine or understanding is in need of shifting. Once elitism sets in, the heart becomes involved more intimately with the faith itself, not the Author of our faith.

When speaking of his studies on Calvinism and Competitive Christianity, Ryan Murphy states:
"Way before Calvin pinned The Institutes, Luther banged a nail into a door, or Piper made mongerism popular, Jesus Christ was moving in the hearts of men to live authentically for HIM. They didn't need anything, BUT HIM!" 5
The crazy thing is: once people get over the fear and doggedness of doctrines and having every theocratic ideal down straight... once a person - or a group of people - lay aside having to have all the knowledge of the Bible, they quickly become empowered with the knowledge of having Jesus Christ as their Savior. For once more, the fervor for the doctrines becomes a fervor for the things of God. Suddenly the focus turns from being right into being righteous - a difference in terms that far too few Christians seem to understand.

The truth of the matter is that no people are going to be able to completely agree on everything about God this side of eternity - simply because we aren't able to be completely immersed in His glory. Ignorance and Understanding will always be a line of separation. What must be acknowledged, however, is that there is much to be done, and as a follower of Christ, we are indeed called into His work. Though we may not agree on the doctrines of speaking in tongues or the ever-so-deceptively-dividing subject of "once saved, always saved", we can all agree that 6
  • 286 million people have no access to the Bible.
  • 7,000 languages have no translation of the Bible.
  • 1,540 million Christians are considered 'inactive' in Christ's world mission (while only 690 million Christians today are active)
  • And that less than 10% of Christian outreach and evangelism targets non-Christians.

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