I had an interesting encounter this week, all because of the sign pictured above.
While in my office preparing the service for next Sunday, I was approached by a member of the church. He had been outside doing some painting, and was approached by someone on the street who wanted to speak with the pastor. In my previous experience in a rural context, the idea of strangers just popping in to see me was pretty unusual, so I was very interested to know what was up.
The man who met me there was polite but direct. He wanted to know if I was the pastor of this church then wanted to know if I was aware of the words on the sign. I reassured him that I was aware of them, and told him that those words "Let's Get Naked!" were the topic of that Sunday's sermon, one which referenced a time in the Garden of Eden when the people there realized their vulnerability and nakedness.
He let me know that he was very familiar with the bible, but wondered if I thought that those words were appropriate words to be displayed on the sign in front of a church of God.
I did, and still do.
In our conversation I became aware that we come from very different theological backgrounds. Though he didn't name the church he belongs to, I learned that his theology is more conservative than mine. He views nakedness to be something that should only be discussed between married people, and his view of marriage was only that between a man and a woman. He also expressed concerns that this written suggestion of nakedness would encourage pornography to people passing by the sign.
I am very happy to report that though we both stood our ground and simply disagree, we were also both able to remain civil and polite. He was very clear that he thought we should remove the sign immediately. I was able to tell him that the sign would come down in a day or two, and would be replaced with the title of the next Sunday's sermon. I hope it is less offensive: "Let's Get Seedy!"
I have reflected on this encounter and am very happy that it happened. Some parts of the conversation were quite uncomfortable, though it remained polite. I know that the Holy Spirit works in truly amazing ways, and in this instance, the sign brought together two people with very diverse theological backgrounds. We discussed God, the bible, theology and the Holy Spirit. We shared our opinions on the place of the church in reaching out to the world around us. We each learned a little about each other. Thanks be to God for unexpected encounters!
Do you regularly engage with people who's theology differs greatly from yours? How do you keep the discussion healthy and uplifting?