Summer Christians, Winter Christians and the Narrative of Injury
Forget questions about worship style.
Lurking behind those questions is something much more fundamental: our congregations have a mixture of summer Christians and winter Christians.
Summer Christians believe — know! — that God is still doing great things. They have regular reports of what God is doing, what God has taught them, what God has “put on my heart.” They worry about the deistic tendencies they see of others who don’t share their perspective. Faith makes sense, the world works pretty much like they’d expect. They have stories of amazing ways God has healed, provided money, sent specific guidance, etc. They want an upbeat worship style that reflects the joyous news that God is already alive in the world.
Winter Christians believe that God is God. But they often walk in doubt and mystery. They feel like they’re not “in on” all the amazing stuff people say is happening to them. They don’t hear regularly from God. The problem of evil and suffering seems vexing. Their observation is that people with faith are healed at just about the exact same rate as those who have no faith. They read the dark journal of Mother Teresa, well up with tears, and nod. They prefer a worship style that affirms the gospel, the creed, the central beliefs, while recognizing the strong dose of “not yet” that we currently experience as we groan and wait.
Quite often these believers can hardly discuss the issue because they’re working from what James Davison Hunter calls a “narrative of injury.”
Summer Christians have been injured by their experience of being around people who are functionally “Word only.” While most have moved intellectually beyond that incredibly unbiblical concept (that God works only in and through scripture), some are still there functionally. Those who have been more open to God’s guidance have been injured — labelled as charismatics, told they must not care about scripture, shoved to the margins.
Winter Christians have been injured by their experience of feeling like you must believe in a miracle-a-minute to be a real — REAL! — believer. They recognize that there are people sniffing out the traces of deism everywhere, marking and warning that they don’t really believe in a living, active God. They get the feeling that people wish they just wouldn’t bother coming to the assembly if they aren’t joyful and confident that God is going to do something big. Big!
What would it mean for us to live together in peace? What if . . .
Winter Christians prayed for their summer brothers and sisters, willingly listened to their confidence in God, decided to assume the best about their spiritual journey, refused to label them, and entered into their expressions of worship (for the sake of the other)?
Summer Christians prayed for their winter brothers and sisters, willingly listened to their questions, decided to assume the best about their spiritual journey, refused to label them, and entered into their expressions of worship (for the sake of the other)?