If you have been a Christian for any length of time, you have undoubtedly encountered other Christians who have very different views and beliefs on various issues. When it comes to things that the Bible doesn’t spell out in black and white, much room is left for personal interpretation and subsequent debate. Whether it’s the timing of the rapture, the role of women in the church, speaking in tongues, or any other debatable issue, one is bound to find many different viewpoints and sometimes quite a bit of contention among those whose opinions differ.
Unfortunately, some pastors and church leaders default to a “my way or the highway” mentality when confronted with these gray-area issues. As such, many believers are left with questions and uncertainty, and aren’t quite sure why they believe what they believe. We sadly then end up with Christians who shy away from even healthy discussions about important issues, because they are uninformed and afraid to ask questions in order to learn and grow.
Earlier this year, Pastor James MacDonald hosted the first ever Elephant Room event and created a public forum where those healthy discussions can take place. The Elephant Room is a live, unscripted discussion between seven influential pastors from different denominations and church networks, usually who have very different approaches to Life . With MacDonald as the moderator, two pastors at a time sit across a table from one another and hash out controversial issues in front of a live audience. As the event website states, ‘these are “the conversations you never thought you’d hear.”‘
The first Elephant Room event took place on March 31, 2011, and featured some big names in modern Life including Mark Driscoll, Senior Pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, and Steven Furtick, Senior Pastor of Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. Driscoll is one of the most talked-about and quoted pastors in the nation, while Furtick is the pastor of the fastest-growing church in America. Some of the hot-button issues discussed at the event included God’s stance on alcohol, evangelism and the elect and the errors found in orthodoxy and evangelicalism.
One particularly heated debate on “Culture in the Church vs. Church in the Culture” focused on Pastor Perry Noble’s use of the AC/DC song Highway to Hell during his Easter service a couple of years ago. Noble pointed out how God used that service, and specifically the use of that song, to bring a man to salvation. MacDonald, on the other hand, strongly disagreed with Noble’s use of the song, stating that the pulpit is to be used solely for lifting up the name of Jesus. Driscoll, Noble and MacDonald had a healty discussion on the issue, and, although the three essentially agreed to disagree at the end, some excellent points were made, and all three pastors were clearly both challenged and sharpened in the process.
Although the opposing viewpoints in the Elephant Room can be strong, love is tantamount to truth, and the camaraderie among the pastors shows. In addition, MacDonald is very careful to communicate that there is no contention whatsoever on the non-negotiable aspects of the faith. In a discussion entitled “National vs. State Borders,” all seven pastors corroborated to drive home the importance of believers agreeing on the principles that are clearly spelled out in black-and-white in the pages of God’s Word. When it comes to the divinity of Jesus, salvation by grace through faith and the inerrancy of scripture, all agreed that there is no place for argument; only for unwavering adherence to the word of God.
The second Elephant Room event has been given the appropriate battle-themed name “Round 2”, and promises to be just as electric as the first. The pastors scheduled to appear include: James MacDonald, Mark Driscoll, T.D. Jakes, Jack Graham, Steven Furtick, Crawford Loritts and Wayne Cordeiro. Some of the topics up for discussion include: Is there a future for denominations. How can we break down the walls of racial segregation within the church, and what to do when a pastor or leader falls. As shared on the event webpage, “If the conversation can be helpful, clarifying, insistent or illuminating, or if we hope it will be . . . you will find it in the Elephant Room.”
“Round 2” will take place on January 25, 2012. Just as with the first event, the actual live session will take place at Pastor James’ MacDonald’s studio outside of Chicago. However, the event will also be simulcast live at 53 locations around the United States. There will be three simulcast locations here in South Florida: Harvest Bible Chapel in Jupiter, Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, and Calvary Chapel Kendall. The cost to attend a simulcast is $99. To find out more information, visit: www.theelephantroom.com.
What are some of the grey areas in the Bible you have been caught in debates over? Email us at: [email protected] to discuss further.