Having everyone's worship services broadcast across the web and through social media is certainly a double edged sword. It's awesome because we get to participate in other churches' experiences. For us it's been good because we can hear from friends of ours and especially my in-laws. The multiplicity of services, messages, and songs are truly a glimpse of glory. But with that comes the inevitable: someone is going to do or say something that doesn't jive with us.
It's an unfortunate but apparent reality that Christian Twitter hasn't lost its outrage edge. Whether it's churches hosting drive in services, at-home Communion, drive-by baptisms, or deciding to not even have anything broadcast until the local church re-gathers, there's no shortage of opinions and hot fire takes.
I'm not saying the way we do church doesn't matter. It does. Our doctrine of the church informs our worship, our fellowship, our practices, our values, our expectations, and our gathered hope. Our doctrine of the church gives us distinct denominational identities shaped and formed by our biblical convictions over secondary matters. Those aren't unimportant. They're part of who we are. But they're not primary issues.
Take your neighborhood, or more particularly your neighbor's house and compare it to your house. Tertiary matters are the interior design. We decorate our homes how we want and how we like it, and it's for those within. Secondary issues are the exterior and landscaping. Sure it's obnoxious to have an eyesore next door, but it's not your house. Primary issues are those that pose a risk to you, your house, or the neighborhood.
What does this have to do with churches doing drive by offerings? A lot. When we criticize, poke at, or otherwise lambast churches whose practices on secondary issues are different than ours, we're like the neighbor who comes over and tells us he doesn't like the color we chose for our shutters or how we've trimmed the hedges.
I think we have to ask ourselves four questions that probe less at the action and more at the heart. The heart of the person/church doing, but more so our own hearts.
1) What are they attempting to do with this? - A lot of these actions are done out of a genuine and sincere desire to maintain some sense of normalcy during an unprecedented trial. They're not trying to act crazy (for the most part), and they're not trying to unseat the meaning of Hebrews 10:24-25. They're trying to live faithfully and obediently according to their conscience and conviction. It may not be what you would do, but it's what they have determined they can do.
2) Is it worth interjecting myself? - Normally my answer to this is a solid no. It's not. In most cases, interjecting yourself into someone else's business means you're meddling. With that said, relational proximity does have a certain margin in this. If you put a lawn decoration in your yard that would make Clark Griswold jealous, and your neighbor who you barely know says something to you, you'll respond differently than if it's the neighbor you have over every Sunday to watch Red Zone. Relational proximity matters. If it's a big enough deal (and there may be times it is), and you've got enough relational proximity, you might be able to ask questions. If not, don't tweet.
3) Am I being humble and gracious? - This was the point Jesus was getting at in Matthew 7. It wasn't that we should never make judgments, but that we do so with balanced scales and a mirror. The balanced scales to be fair, and the mirror so we can look into ourselves. Humility is a virtue missing from most of our social media interaction, even among Christians. Graciousness is its partner. Where you have one, you typically have the other. When we're hot taking churches who do things different than us, are we being humble and gracious?
4) What's the harm? - All of these questions are interconnected. If we give benefit of the doubt to those who practice differently than us, we also have to think about the harm the practice is doing (or more than likely not doing). For example, one prominent church (Capitol Hill Baptist in DC) has decided not to do broadcasted worship services but to show previously recorded sermons. Not how we're doing it, but no harm. They've been extremely kind in how they've taken their position. We saw a drive-by baptism done the other day pop up on our Facebook thread. Again, not how I'd do it, but there's no harm in publicly recognizing the work of Christ in someone's life. Or the at-home Communion services, whether a recipe is provided or people partake using whatever they have at home. Again, not how I'd do it. But there's no harm being done, and the fabric of the Church isn't unraveled (unless you're a transubstantiationist, but that's another story).
No two churches are going to do things the same way. That's true in normal circumstances, but it's magnified in a global crisis like this. We're welcome to disagree with what we see. That's ok. Your way and my way don't have to be the same. But I'd hope at the very least we'd begin to ask these four questions before we start firing off hot takes.
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.