I once drove from Grand Forks to St. Cloud in the middle of the night in a blizzard without any headlights. Not smart, but true. When I pulled in my driveway at 4:00 a.m., it took me several seconds to pry my hands off the steering wheel. I literally experienced “white-knuckle” driving on that foolish night.

“White knuckles” happen when you grip something very hard. There are certain truths that Calvary holds with white-knuckles. Ironically, you have ten knuckles and Calvary has 10 such truths in our Statement of Faith. If you can’t remember all 10, they can be aptly summarized in four.

  1. The Bible is God’s Word; inspired, protected in transmission, infallible.
  2. Jesus Christ is God, not sorta-God, not a God, but Immanuel – God with us.
  3. Salvation is a free gift received through unconditional trust in Jesus – you can’t earn a gift.
  4. Spiritual growth is fueled by the Spirit of God, not by mere human effort.

Unlike what happened in my driveway, Calvary’s hands cannot be peeled away from our grip on these bedrock truths. John Chrysotom, a 2nd Century church leader, stated it this way; “In the essentials, unity.” These truths have been the essentials for 2,000 years. And on these truths we stand together with white knuckle grip.

But we also have open hands as a church family and as individuals in the church family. Open hands mean that in other areas many Christians and churches fight over, we have determined ahead of time to be a church family that agrees to disagree in an agreeable way. In Calvary’s Statement of Faith, you won’t find many of the doctrines other churches hold with “white knuckles.” Frankly, on most of these  other doctrines, the Bible is not clear. God and godly people throughout the centuries have sought out God’s intention for us in these areas  and have come up with different conclusions. Again, John Chrysotom had something to say about these less-than-bedrock issues: “In the non-essentials, charity.”  While essentials should be held on to with “white knuckle” grip, non-essentials should be held in a loving, respectful, open hand.  In other words, have your convictions, but hold them humbly and loosely and don’t be a jerk about them.

Churches get messed up when we mix up what should be held with “white knuckle” grip, and what should be held in an open, even trembling hand. If you read our Statement of Faith which can be found on our church website www.calvaryefc.org, note not only what it states, but also what it does not state. What it states are our “white-knuckle” essential truths. What is does not state are our open-hand non-essentials which we will not allow ourselves to divide us as we take our own individual positions on them.

It is no accident that the Evangelical Free Church of America, the denomination we joyfully partner with, has as its motto, John Chrysotom’s motto:

“In the essentials, unity. In the non-essentials, charity. And in all things, Jesus Christ.”

Calvary aspires to live out that motto. I welcome your insights and suggestions on how Calvary can be more effective in holding our grip on the essentials, showing charity on the non-essentials, and keeping Jesus the center of our gaze and the object of our affection at all times.

Imagine as you sit down in your seat for worship, Pastor Kevin comes over to you with a bag of marbles. “I’d like you to shake these until I tell you to stop. Would you do that for me?” You think his request is odd, but agree and start shaking. Kevin hands a second bag full of juicy green grapes to the person beside you and says, “Would you shake these until I tell you to stop?” They, too, agree to Kevin’s bizarre request. And you both start shaking. And shake. And shake. To your surprise, Kevin keeps looking your way smiling, and nodding his head up and down as to clearly say, “Keep shaking.” You keep shaking until worship is over, and Kevin has finished teaching, and the blessing given. Then Kevin walks over and asks for the two bags.

He gets back one bag of marbles, and one bag of mush. One bag made noise but remains unchanged. The other bag changed quietly and the contents will never be the same. Churches are either bags of marbles or grapes. The difference is authentic community. Marble churches rattle with activities. Grape churches ooze with relationships – friendships that flourish when we get real
and let the juices of our lives flow through authentic sharing and caring.

Calvary is a large bag. Whether grapes or marbles, there are nearly 1000 of us in here when we come together on Sunday mornings. The temptation would be to conclude that large churches can’t mush. But is this true? In Acts 2, the church in Jerusalem was at least 3,000 and could have been over 5,000, and yet, here is how the people in this congregation were described: “And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship (sharing life in common) and to the breaking of bread (meals together) and to prayer…they were continuing with one mind…and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart” (Acts 2:42, 46). That’s mush.

For those who would say, ‘That’s A.D. 35. Times of changed,” I would point you to another mushy moment in our future. Here’s how 1
Corinthians describes Heaven: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully
just as I also have been fully known”(13:12). Face to face, fully known. That’s mushy mush.

Calvary aspires to be lower rattle and higher mush. It’s not accidental that our logo is the cross and the cluster of grapes. Jesus’ sacrifice made it possible for us to be the family of God and to flow together as brothers and sisters. I welcome your insights and suggestions on how Calvary can be more effective helping the skins to come off and the juices of caring and sharing and deep friendships to grow.

Five ways to Mush

  1. Linger in Coffee Connection or the lobby with a few friends
  2. Attend a mini-congregation faithfully
  3. Join one of our dozens of ministry teams
  4. Join one of our many small groups
  5. Invite several people to join you for coffee or dessert at a restaurant or your home
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