People-Based vs. Issue-Based Religion

I write and share because I care deeply about the future of the church. I write and share to start a conversation and that’s just what happened after yesterday’s post.

I had several people who asked whether I universally support same-sex marriage. I responded that I won’t comment universally on same-sex marriage as I won’t comment universally on heterosexual marriage. The reason I won’t comment is because at the very core of my beliefs is a people-based religion, not an issue-based religion.

An issue-based religion doesn’t allow a church to support or guide a female who grew up in the church, served on mission trips, wrote Vacation Bible School curriculum, and attended Bible study every Sunday night who expresses a call to preach. An issue-based religion doesn’t allow parents room to accept their son or daughter who comes out as gay or lesbian or bisexual or queer, but instead leads those parents to send their son or daughter to counseling that urges them to change. An issue-based religion leaves the single mother of three who is recently divorced scared and lost and guilty. An issue-based religion serves as the reasoning for a young white male to walk into a church of people who are different than him and open fire after sitting beside them for an hour.

A people-based religion welcomes the person as he or she is. A people-based religion begins a relationship with the person and gets to know the person. A people-based religion doesn’t define a person completely by his or her sexuality, but instead recognizes that every person is multi-faceted. A people-based religion seeks after wholeness and a safe, sacred place to continue to become who God has created us to be.

When we start with issues rather than people, we make statements and claims that demean the divine breath that resides in each human being and doesn’t allow for variables. We reduce people to labels easily classified and organized for our convenience. Issue-based religion is binary. Issue-based religion makes programming and preaching easy because it’s a matter of matching the label to right program.

People-based religion is difficult and messy because it means opening ourselves as pastor and minister to be mothers, husbands, wives, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters, sons, cousins, and friends. People-based religion means dropping our labels and titles and being human together as we journey towards what God has called us to. People-based religion is multi-faceted, recognizing that no individual is exactly the same. People-based religion means being vulnerable, real, and authentic.

If I had a choice, I’d choose issue-based religion, but I can’t.

I have been called to people-based religion, which is revealing, dangerous, demands all I have to offer, and then more. I know this is what I was created to do.

Join me.