Blind Spots: Becoming a Courageous, Compassionate, and Commissioned Church
by Collin Hansen
Blind spots. We all have them, whether in our families, among friends, or at work. Collin Hansen, former associate editor at Christianity Today and now editorial director for the webzine The Gospel Coalition, tells us that we have them in our churches also –blind spots that separate the body of Christ along the lines of courage, compassion, and commissioning, and which cause accusations to erupt and word wars to ensue between believers. Divisiveness among Christians is undermining our witness to the world, says Hansen, especially when disagreements spread like wildfire on social media. What can be done about this situation? Hansen’s hope is that as churches we can work together to transfigure our blind spots from disabling weaknesses to shared strengths.
It is not news that in the Western world the church has been displaced from the position of a playmaker in the culture to one of a bystander, observer, and commentator. During my lifetime, the Church has not only lost its position as a leader in society, but also as a place where one could find help and answers for life’s dilemmas. I believe it lost much of its credibility as a problem solver when the moral failures of church leaders were exposed to public scrutiny on TV and social media. The loss of the Church’s credibility with the public at large is not surprising after numerous Church scandals were made known. But the finger pointing and back-biting among Christians regarding these same problems is less understandable, and perhaps just as damaging to the credibility of the Church as the scandals themselves.
In Blind Spots, Hansen suggests that if the Church wants to be seen once again as a legitimate source for answers to problems of human needs, we must stop the family squabbles. “The church of Jesus is the only institution equipped in this age of skepticism to enjoy unity in diversity through profligate, never-ending truth in love.” Hansen says that the Church needs to start showing that in Christ we have an alternate life style that offers what this culture longs for and looks for — true community. Is there any chance for true community to exist in our Church today? Only through Jesus, says Hansen: “With Jesus we’re never beyond hope. So that we don’t squander our hope, you and I need a new narrative to understand our debates in the church and engagement with the world.”
Hansen’s “new narrative” is guided by an understanding of the three main types of responses of today’s Christians to our world. Here are the three groups as Hansen sees them:
The Courageous: These are Christians “who honor authorities and traditions because they believe they safeguard the ways of wisdom.” These believers want to live out their faith with the freedom to observe the tried and true ways of the past, and will speak up when they see the ways of wisdom ignored. They view the problems of the church as related to a lack of courage to speak up when the church strays from “well worn paths.”
The Compassionate: Those believers who are among the compassionate Christians are often those who have suffered abuse from leaders in churches, schools, and homes. They see the greatest call of the church to be one that offers healing, protection, and opportunity to those in need. They view the biggest downfall of the church to be an attitude that lacks compassion for those who have been injured in any way.
Commissioned: The Christians in this group are most often natives of the technological world. They believe the best possible way for the Church to follow Christ is to learn the language of the culture, and to engage the culture in ways they can understand in order to bring them to Christ. The biggest failing that this group of Christians sees in the church today is the hindrance to evangelism that occurs when churches insist on using outmoded methods of spreading the gospel.
None of these views is completely incorrect, says Hansen:
“[You] and I tend to reason from the personal to the universal and judge each other for our different experiences and perspectives. For every illness you see in the world you write the same prescription. And I do likewise, only with my preferred cure-all solution. Then you and I turn against each other in the church when we don’t get our way. The problem is, we tend to separate what God has joined together. And he put you and me in the same church to build up one another according to our different gifts (1 Cor 12:7). He (God) wants to illumine our blind spots so we can see our differences as opportunity.”
Can we put our differences as believers aside and accomplish true community in the Church? Not if we continue comparing ourselves to one another, says Hanson. Our gold standard for living should not be our own Christian life, but Jesus Christ. “[The] best way to respond faithfully and effectively [to the challenge of developing true community] is to lock arms with someone who sees the problem from a different perspective, who meets the challenge with a different skill set while staying faithful to Jesus above all. Unless we shine light on to our blind spots and measure ourselves against Jesus we will be tempted to apply our standards inconsistently.”
In Blind Spots, Hansen takes us through scenarios to help us see the strengths and weaknesses of courageous, compassionate, and commissioned Christians. You will probably find yourself somewhere in those descriptions; I certainly found myself. Hansen promises in the introduction to his book that his words about each group’s weaknesses will sting — and they do. But it is very beneficial to see that God has a purpose for our differences, and that is to unify us in our diversity in order to demonstrate his power in our lives and communities, that we may bring glory to him. Hansen writes that when God gets the glory for bringing unity from a diversity of gifts, then we as Christians will “get the joy of a gospel community that appeals to the world.” Hansen says this is the true community that the world looks for, and longs for. But, Hansen warns, “You don’t achieve this kind of ministry fullness…by aiming for fullness. You achieve this biblical fullness when you aim for Jesus.”
Wise words from Collin Hansen who has presented a thoughtful challenge to today’s Church in Blind Spots.
Blind Spots would work well as a choice for a church book club since it addresses a problem that can only be dealt with from inside the church. If you have a book club that has members from various churches in your community, this might be a great book with which to begin a dialogue about the issues named in the book.