Do we ‘live’ grace?

I recently led a seminar at the Evangelists’ Conference on ‘communities of grace’. The talk I think will be available online. In the meantime I’ll blog some of the content. Here’s how I introduced the topic.

According to 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 God chooses the poor, the broken, the messy, the marginalised. And he does so to demonstrate that salvation is all of his grace. No-one in heaven will be able to say, ‘God saved me because of my intellect or my wealth or my nobility.’

The problem is that this is not a description of conservative evangelicals in the UK. We are predominantly middle-class. The leaders of our churches are predominantly middle-class graduates. The leaders of our movement are predominantly ex-public school. We are the strong, the wise, the noble.

So what’s gone wrong? Could it be that we’ve not truly understand the grace of God or that we don’t truly live the grace of God?

Someone wrote an email to me last week. The email said that in evangelical churches people struggling with depression are regarded as lesser Christians; they are stigmatized. It was written by someone who is a staff member at a prominent evangelical church. In other words, this is our sort of church.

Will a person suffering with depression feel like they belong in your church? I think it will depend on your view of grace.


2 thoughts on “Do we ‘live’ grace?

  1. Tim – thanks for this and the whole series. I’m a pastor in Maryland, in the US and I would say the situation is much the same here and I think most of our churches don’t know how to welcome the depressed.

    But could I raise another issue that I would love to hear your response for? Here in the US, the therapeutic culture defines and narrates the story of depression. The psychologists, psychiatrists and other therapists are the great high priests on these issues, high priests to whose wisdom we ill-informed pastors must bow.

    I do know and understand that, by and large, the church and many of us pastors are given to flippant and pious platitiudes in response to depression. On the other hand, since the therapeutic culture gets to narrate the story of depression, when we pastors seek to frame a biblical story of depression we are usually ruled out of line and hurtful. For the most part, depressed people in my congregation, or others who are under the influence of any kind of counselor simply will not listen to me. They will tell me what their counselor says about how I am to help them and it is my job to receive instruction from them and to never contradict the authority of the counselor.

    And frankly I think it is often hard for the depressed and “psychologized” person to avail themselves of what a true community of grace might offer. The story they are told by their therapists is that their sufferings are unique and they are fragile and the church community will very likely be harmful to them since the church community probably can’t offer them what they need nor understand them. Because of that they often can’t come in as participants in the community of grace – they often have to stay at arms length because of the harm that may come to them from others.

    Sorry for the long comment – I deeply long for the kind of community you are describing, but have been terribly frustrated at the fact that many expect the community and it’s leaders to submit to the conventional wisdoms of the therapeutic culture.

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