Six Signs Your Church is Proudly Progressive

Recently, I’ve seen several articles that speak of progressive Christianity and use the word “progressive” as a derogatory term, suggesting that we progressive Christians have tossed out the Bible, given up any moral compass we may have possessed and just do whatever feels good.

Yeah, I call horse hockey on that.

Here is my list of six signs that you may be going to a progressive church.

Nobody is arguing about who does and doesn’t belong because everyone is welcome, and community is a core value. 

Radical hospitality is at the heart of the church, not because we reject Biblical principals, but because we embrace them and seek to live them out. You think it’s easy welcoming people who don’t look like you or act like you or think the same way you do?  You think we all just ease in to loving people we don’t even like? Nope. But we do it…because Jesus said to and because God did it and continues to do it for us. Christianity is hard, y’all.

The pastor does not have all the answers–about The Bible or anything else. 

The pastor will challenge you and teach you and tick you off and (on good days) inspire you, but s/he will not tell you what to do. S/he may give you two or three different interpretations of the same scripture and make you decide what you believe about it. S/he may tell you to go home and read even MORE scripture before you decide. S/he will charge you to live life as a follower of Christ and to become the person God created you to be.  S/he will step on your toes and often leave you with more questions than you came in with, but the answers–s/he doesn’t have them all.  And, yeah, your pastor might be a she.

The Bible is deeply revered and honored…and studied…and argued about…and disagreed over

No, we don’t believe that scripture is inerrant, but that doesn’t mean we don’t believe that it’s true. We believe that Bible is indeed the true story of God and God’s love for God’s people. We also believe the Bible was written down and translated by very fallible humans. We believe we must study and wrestle with its inconsistencies rather than dismiss the holiness of this scared text or blindly ignore the contradictions and pretend it makes sense.  We believe the Bible is a guide for our lives, particularly those red letter verses.  We do not use the Bible as a weapon, throwing out random verses as self-serving proof texts, but look at all verses in relation to the whole and particularly in the light of the words and witness of Jesus.

You will not be asked to adhere to a doctrine. 

We believe that people of strong intellect and good faith will, from time to time, disagree on matters of theology, ecclesiology, eschatology (all the -ologies, really). What binds us together is our faith and trust in Jesus.

We actually do acknowledge and talk about sin. 

In fact, we confess our sins together every week and ask for God’s forgiveness. We tend to focus more on sins that have to do with how we use our money (since the only thing Jesus talks about more than money is the Kingdom of God), how we treat the poor and powerless, how well we’re trusting in God and how we’re loving one another as God loves us.  We generally keep out of people’s bedrooms.

The Good News of the Gospel and Social Justice Go Hand in Hand 

Worship always includes the reading and the preaching of God’s word to us, but The Word must be more than read and understood, it must be lived out.  And you can’t live out the call of Christ to love your neighbor without fighting for the poor and marginalized. Our sure and certain hope in the resurrection and the life that is ours because of what God has done for us through Jesus Christ does not give us license to rest our our laurels.

Our goal in life is to live in grateful response to God’s grace, rather than trying to deserve God’s love or earn our way into heaven. Grace is a gift, not something that has to or even can be earned. Our goal is to live in grateful response to that gift.  And part of that response is to serve others as Jesus served.

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“Progressive” Christians are serious about being faithful followers of Christ in the world today.  We believe in a God who created us, a Christ who saves us and a Spirit who sustains us. We believe that being Christian is as much about the here-and-now as it is the hereafter.

What are the signs that your church is a proudly progressive one?

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