I'm always nervous about what new controversy will present itself as Christmas rolls around. In Texas, there remains a controversy over the placing of a nativity scene on the courthouse lawn. In South Jersey, a controversy brews over a sign that reads, "Keep Christ in Christmas." Then comes the raging national debate over whether we should say "Happy Holidays" or "Merry Christmas" as we greet one another during this season. As Christians, we have made this our fight, and who dares to stand in our way for the freedom to say "Merry Christmas?"
In the Western corner of Washington State, just a stone’s throw from the Canadian border, is the small town of Lynden. Lynden is a good old American town of hard-working, honest people, predominantly of Dutch decent, who place great value on family and community. But there is something else about Lynden that makes it worth considering. At one time, Lynden held the world’s record for the most churches per capita and per square mile. Within city limits there are dozens of churches. This is a remarkable phenomenon when considering that the population is only around fifteen thousand people. As a pastor in Lynden, I have often thought that Lynden provides a unique study in American suburban Christianity. What happens in a church environment where dozens of churches merely blocks from each church are each searching for identity? What becomes of the message and witness of the church in this environment? And what dangers occur among the churches?
If you were to survey the church landscape in Lynden, certain kinds of religious extremism have occurred. In this post, I want to outline the particular problem of legalism. I have been spent considerable time reflecting on the problems of the mega-church model (see links above), but I also recognize that there is a problem in the opposite direction with Reformed churches who are failing to properly minister the gospel.
THE GORDIAN KNOT
n. 1. An exceedingly complicated problem or deadlock. 2. An intricate knot tied by King Gordius of Phrygia and cut by Alexander the Great with his sword after hearing an oracle promise that whoever could undo it would be the next ruler of Asia.
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