Are emerging church leaders sufficiently aware of the inherent dangers involved in encouraging people to deconstruct their faith? Is it possible that instead of eventually leading them to a more vibrant faith, they may actually be contributing to some people's apostasy?
Consider the words of Jesus:
"And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck." - Mark 9:42 (NIV)
The NIV fails to render the Greek, skandalon, correctly here. It more accurately conveys the idea of causing someone to fall away from their faith (cf. NRSV, NLT). And the consequence for causing someone's apostasy will be worse than death.
I suppose there are MANY ways by which we might "cause" someone to abandon their faith:
- abusing our Christian freedom in front of weaker brethren.
- being a leader who is spiritually abusive.
- forsaking the faith ourselves.
In light of all this, here's what I'm thinking: If we think we can challenge the tenants of our faith, and encourage others to do likewise -- and do all this without assuming any personal responsibility for its outcome in the lives of others, I fear we are treading on very dangerous ground. The culture at large seems to stress the individual nature of faith, rarely if ever emphasizing how our beliefs and practices have an impact on (or ar tied to) others. I for one certainly grew up viewing apostasy as purely the choice and action of the individual. If someone chose to reject Christ, that was entirely "their" responsibility. But Jesus' teaching in Mark 9 is now challenging me to think otherwise.
How long will we keep hanging on to the "I'm not my brother's keeper" mentality? What will it take for us to take on the sobering and frightening realization that our actions (even when part of our "freedom" in Christ) have the potential of shipwrecking someone else's faith, and pointin us out as the responsible party?