Where are we? How can we tell? How can we know where we are going if we are not sure where we are?
As we begin a new sermon series looking at our core beliefs week by week, I wanted to reflect a little on the front end about the sermon series graphic that I’ve put together.
Since coming here to FBC Manistique, I’ve been making sermon series graphics. First, I’m not a graphic artist by training or disposition. While not unartistic, it is not an area of my skills which I have developed with any rigor. In fact, if anyone is gifted in the realm of graphic art, I’d be more than happy to engage your valuable services in designing sermon series graphics which can serve as a pictorial guide to engaging the sermon series.
This post is a reflection of what I am thinking in choosing this particular picture for the graphic for a series on our core beliefs.
An inheritance to stand on
As you can see above, the picture is of a person sitting on a lichen-covered rock up in a foggy, mountainous area.
Core beliefs are the firm and settled rock on which we stand. Core beliefs have to do with what we are certain of; the truths we base our lives on; the realities which serve as our firm foundation. They are solid. They are a rock.
We did not make up these core beliefs. While they are in some ways distinct to the particular church tradition that First Baptist Church happens to be in, within our core beliefs dwell the core teachings of the followers of Jesus across the millennia. They serve to sketch out the field and how we stand in it. They are solid.
An uncertain surrounding
But the most arresting part of this image is what you can’t see. The blanket of fog obscures everything else. The man in the grey-hoodie is on a solid rock, but we can only guess where he is in relation to anything else. The rock is firm, but the world is mist.
One of the difficulties which followers of Jesus are facing, and will continue to face, is that our surroundings are increasingly misty. It is getting harder and harder to locate just how the solid rock of beliefs we stand on relates to the rest of the world around us. Knowing the firm foundation even creates a bunch of further difficulties and questions that evade easy answer.
We live in a time and place which, to use a helpful scheme developed by Aaron Renn, is a culture that is hostile to the existence and message of followers of Jesus. I don’t mean by that to imply we face anything like the hostilities in many other countries of the world where Christians struggle and are persecuted. But what I do mean to imply is that holding the beliefs and values of followers of Jesus is increasingly looked upon as odd, socially backwards, and perhaps even threatening to the well-being of people and society around us. And, as a result, we are less certain how our solid rock relates to the world around us. We are increasingly wrestling with uncomfortable realities as our core beliefs become an island in the fog.
In a lot of ways, Manistique is a shelter from these broad cultural trends…so far. Who knows what the future will bring? It is shadows and fog.
Where are we?
What do we do in this situation? If I had a definitive answer to that, I’d happily share it—not to mention embrace it definitively in my own life. But I don’t have a definitive answer. We’re certainly not the first followers of Jesus in history to face the rolling fog enfolding our rock. Many real difficulties are here and coming. Yet, also, many opportunities.
One thing I am certain of: we must become more familiar with the rock we stand on. We must become more familiar not just with what we say we believe, not just with a set of social values generally conservative in nature, not just with an association to certain political movements, but an actual living and vital connection to the truths which have been passed down about who God is, who Jesus is, and the way that God’s spirit is at work in this world.
Our core beliefs are a touch point. They’re certainly not an exhaustive description, nor do they include everything that we need to stand and live and flourish, but they establish a core. And it is a strong enough core to answer the question “where are we,” even if we are never quite sure how that relates to the rest of the world. But, in a world of swirling mists, maybe it’s less relevant for us to be able to answer who other people are, and more important that we can show and say who we are; that we can display the truths which we stand on, live through, and live for.