6a00d83453083969e20162fc34a9d1970d-200wiThis week, I’ll be doing a little de-brief on what stuck out to me about Rez Week. I’ll be giving a story and something that stood out as a major conversation point during the course of the week—the story is for encouragement, the point is something that I may write about in more detail later on. To join my prayer vigil against North Korea’s ‘nukes’ which are now aimed at Austin, email me at scott.tipton@campusrenewal.org.

A Tale of Two Seasons

In my second semester, I met a student studying RTF and we began to talk about the Lord. Soon we were spending most of every day together, and this continued for a period of two months or so—it’s a standard part of my discipleship to spend extensive amounts of time with any believer who is younger in his faith (as long as they are male). During this time, this student said that he was a Christian raised in a Catholic household, and was attending a Protestant church in Austin reaching out to the Mormon population in town.

Our time came and went and the student left to study abroad in Taiwan. During the third day of Rez Week, I was sitting in the conversation chairs (the ones with the signs that said ‘Wanna Talk? Need Prayer? Got Questions?’) when this student sat down next to me. His appearance had changed so much that I didn’t even recognize him. He told me that he’d become a true Christian a year ago on his study abroad program in Taiwan due to the work of some Taiwanese believers, and he’d come to thank me for sowing into him during those two months before he left a year and a half ago. His eyes teared up as he spoke.

The moral of this story is as follows: Take risks in evangelism. During the time that I spent sowing into this student, I had no idea why God had called us together. I didn’t know if it was a wise decision to pour so much of my life into him, especially because he knew all the right answers when I asked him questions about evangelism and the mechanics of salvation, and he claimed to be Christian. Why would God call me to spread the Gospel in the direct way that He certainly was to a man who was already Christian? And yet, the Lord in His grace allowed me to take a bet on this student, and I took a risk that two months of my ministry wouldn’t be wasted. And it wasn’t.

But the fact remains: most of the days that I spent with this student, I went at home and wondered whether or not I’d wasted my time. It’s okay to take bets like this, and it’s okay to doubt yourself. I don’t have a perfect record—I think I’ve spent too much time with people whom the Lord had no hand on before. But at least I can say I was bold in my decision-making when I look Christ in the eye after my death.

An ironic kick to close the story: The student told me after he heard the vision behind Crossroads, the ministry that I and a few friends have started on campus reaching out to Muslims, that he was paired in his dorm with two Saudi international students, and he studies the Bible with them throughout the week. Isn’t God funny?

Weak Medicine

This is a conversation topic that came up frequently during the week, and it’s something that has been rolling around my head ever since. The gist: How strong should believers be in teaching their beliefs with regards to predestination/God’s sovereignty/ free will?

I don’t have the answer to this question. But I think that every believer has an obligation to speak, at least, about what they believe. An attempt to brush an issue so large and pivotal to our Christian beliefs under the rug is equal to an attempt to halt Christian growth and healthy discussion—historically speaking, it must be noted that an aversion to difficult topics has been the deathbed of many good things in this world.

I have something that I would like the Church to become with regards to this issue: open. When I speak about my beliefs (personally, I am far towards God’s sovereignty, in adherence to reformed theology), it is not right when people consider me someone ‘making mountains out of molehills’, or subtly shame me as ‘causing division.’ I am not causing division. I’m trying to encourage, to engage with the Spirit in worship of His sovereignty and glory, and to give that same worship to my brothers. It gives me great joy to talk about God’s sovereignty over my life, and it gives me peace to know that His hands guide every motion of every leaf in every tree. Isn’t worship merely a spiritual acknowledgment of God’s greatness over us?

In the moments when I speak about my beliefs, I don’t mind if other people disagree with me—I think that’s something that God does intentionally, honestly. If I were to preach my brand of hard-line predestination to everyone that doesn’t know Him and to every new believer out there, I’d get a lot of unhappy people, and I bet that would interfere with a lot of people’s fruitfulness. There are certainly hard, hard truths that one has to accept in reformed theology. But those believers don’t have to put up with me, do they? God has other parts of the Body, who believe differently than me, who are fully capable of discipling and loving them through the Spirit—and praise God that He does.

Here is a hard truth: True Christian unity must be united on truth. We cannot unite under the banner of ‘Let’s not talk about it.’ Also, we will never unite under a unanimous banner of homogenous theological perspective—it just isn’t realistic. Everyone isn’t going to agree about this. But we also must learn how to speak constructively to those with whom we disagree, and how all the different parts of the Body can learn to accept all the other parts in full acknowledgment of their theological differences. Because the fact remains—the issue of predestination/free will has huge consequences for God’s nature in our hearts. It is absolutely worth talking about, and it is absolutely a disservice to ourselves if we allow this issue to continue being the red-headed stepchild of common theological discussion.

It’s time for the Body to grow out of squeamish insecurity and embrace its identity as the chosen people of God. The people of God must be free to speak openly, and to disagree openly. And one day, I believe that we will be.

Lord, thank You so much for Your love for all of us. Thank You for Your faithfulness over our friends and Your steadfastness in completing the works that You began in us, and thank You that Your love covers us regardless of theological perspective. I ask that You would make the Church bolder, God. Make us willing to embrace hard issues, rather than run from them. Give us the strength and courage to be a light in our community and give rise to open, clear, respectful, loving dialogue between Christian brothers and sisters. I pray that one day we might all know and understand why each member of the Body believes as it does, and I pray that our understanding will give rise to true unity. In Jesus’ Name,