I have a new friend whom we will call Sue. Sue is an amazing woman of faith from the Southern Baptist Tradition. I love Sue’s heart for hurting people. I love her commitment to her faith and her dedication to prayer. Sue and I share the same mission in life “To bring hope to a hurting world”. However, Sue and I disagree on one thing; the role that the bible should play in our ministry to the poor. Sue’s journey to faith was steeped in years of bible study and Sue could never have come to her strong place of faith without a strong biblical grounding. I on the other hand, grew up outside the church. I was drawn into the church by people who simply loved me, just the way I was. I have studied the scriptures and in them found confirmation of the truths that I have experienced but my journey was one of experiential growth. I am a “show me don’t tell me” kind of person and that is the means God used to speak into my life. If I want to share hope with people, I will tend to tell them how God has worked in my life, while Sue is more likely to share scripture.
For Sue, ultimate authority lies in scripture and while I share her reverence for the written Word, I have found that many people have been so abused by the church or what they think of as the church, that the immediate use of scriptural references can cause some people to reject the message of hope we are trying to share. This does not mean that I am proposing a ministry that is not biblical or that is not based on biblical principles, but that I am proposing that we use our own life, our own experiences of God to write our own epistle. I know this is tricky and I know this can be dangerous. This is how we have ended up with so many false teachings, so I would not suggest that anyone other than those like my friend Sue who have a firm grasp of scripture are capable of doing this in a healthy way.
I believe the true mark of a disciple is not the amount of scripture that he/she can quote, but the volume of scripture that one has lived. Christianity is an incarnational faith, and my friend Sue lives her faith beautifully. She is a walking bible. All she needs is to trust that the Holy Spirit will use her life to guide people in their own discovery of truth and hope the same way the bible guided her.
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35