Articles

Learning to Operate in the Margins

I’m convinced that I had ADD growing up.  My 5th grade teacher said she could never set me by a window because I would mentally go on vacation.  My notebooks through middle school and high school were in various stages of disarray.  My bedroom was an adventure in unfinished art projects, unfinished books, and disorganized stacks of magazines, baseball cards and comic books. And I was always being chastised by teachers for “doodling” in my notebooks.  Until I met Mrs. Lyle.

Mrs. Lyle was my freshman history teacher.  She allowed me to doodle in my notebooks as long as I kept it in the margins.  Needless to say my World History notebook became a veritable sketchbook.  Next to notes on Rameses II there would be sketches of the Sphinx and Great Pyramid.  Napoleon was standing on tiptoes in order to see my scribblings about Waterloo.  A crude map of Middle Earth accompanied my notes on the Battle of Britain (hey, not everything was related!)  As long as I was able to keep up with my notes and my sketches stayed in the margins, I was allowed to doodle in class.

History quickly became my favorite subject (other than Art of course!)

In addition, I was able to remember more.  Somehow my mind could associate what I drew with what I learned.  Studying became easier.   Tests weren’t nearly as taxing.   And I began to excel in a class that had a notoriously hard instructor.

In our culture the Church is being pushed more and more into the margins.  Many American Christians are lamenting this move into the fringe.  Nostalgia abounds as church-goers long for the “good-ole-days” that are displayed in black-and-white photos of Sunday School classrooms that are overflowing with horned-rimmed glasses and saddle shoes.  And many, far too many in my opinion, are pushing back against the cultural tide with cries of “Its my right!”, “This is a Christian nation!” and “You can’t silence me!”

random_doodle_scrap_by_quiliny-d3heonqCan I propose something?  Maybe the Church operates better in the margins.  For the first 300+ years of her existence that is exactly what she did, and we read of her explosive growth in the New Testament and early church fathers.  In countries like China, India and throughout Eastern Europe the Church is growing exponentially as it operates from the fringes of society.  What if instead of proudly defending our rights and pointing backwards to days of yore, we spoke with humility and developed strategies to live in the margins?  What if, like my doodling, there are unintended, positive consequences of living in the margins?  Consequences like intentional discipleship, deeper commitment and loving our enemies effectively can all come from being a church in the edges of culture.  What if it is God’s will for His people to be pushed to the marginal areas so that their faith, hope, and love shine even brighter?

Culture is shifting.  We need to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” as we adapt to the culture.  But our message must never change,  In fact, our message must be clarified, as we preach the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  After all, we serve a God who likes to hide in marginal towns like Nazareth, work through fringe people like tax collectors and fishermen, and change the world radically with His message of love for all, even those in the margins.

Now if you will pardon me, I have the urge to doodle something!

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