A couple of weeks back I spent the day at the Youth Work Summit event in Manchester where we had a day of ‘TED’ style talks lasting 10-15 minutes each. The overall theme of the day was ‘Open Up' with sessions titled 'Open Up Your Soul’, 'Open Up Your Mind’, ‘Open Up Your Eyes’, ‘Open Up Your Heart' and 'Open Up Your Arms' with speakers such as Kenda Creasy-Dean, Shane Claidorne, and Andy Hawthorne amongst others sharing with us.
The introduction of the day encouraged us to be open minded and prepared to listen to a range of view on various topics.
Topics of the day aside it got me thinking about something I’ve been pondering for a while and that is: should Christians be open minded?
When I used to go to church in Great Yarmouth I remember the Minister on various occasions stating during his sermons that if we disagreed with anything he was more than happy to chat about it, explain his perspective, listen to other perspectives and potentially change his mind.
Compare this to another experience whereby having listened to one church leader preach a sermon which had several (fairly major) inaccuracies in it, I phoned him up to ask about them and was shot down before I could even finish a sentence on each one. The church leader offered no explanation of his view just told me point blank that he was right (my theology lecturer at uni said otherwise).
The point is that one of these ministers was approachable
and the other wasn’t.
One was open minded
The other wasn’t
To an extent this blog title should perhaps be ‘Christians should be open minded' because I struggle to see a side where we shouldn't be.
Surely if we think we have all the answers, a complete understanding of the bible and can explain everything then we no longer need to study it or listen to teaching and have reached a point whereby when it comes to understanding we are on par with God.
On several occasions in the New Testament Jesus challenges the ‘right’ interpretation of the bible that the religious leaders of the time think they have and their response is (more often than not) one that is fuelled with anger and closed-mindedness. They don’t have time for the idea that their thinking might not be what God intended.
It strikes me that if we’re not willing to be open minded, genuinely listen to other views (without our own agenda) and potentially change our minds then we become just like the Pharisees in the bible (or perhaps the Westboro Baptist Church…after all they think they’re right and refuse to listen to reason) - On a side note perhaps the WBC illustrate perfectly that the bible can bring many interpretations and expressions and isn’t simply black and white!
One of my biggest reflections on my faith journey is that my understanding of God has grown but only because I know I don’t have all the answers and the ones I think I do have might be wrong and I’m quite prepared to have those ideas challenged.
It’s not about taking any suggestion anyone says about God as gospel but about being willing to hear those ideas out, let them challenge our own views, reflect & pray on them and see what God says about it.
I think it’s very difficult for someone closed minded to be approachable.
Which brings me back to the minister from church in Great Yarmouth who used to say that with the views he preached he was more than happy to chat about them, explain his perspective, listen to other perspectives and potentially change his mind.
So in conclusion to this blog:
Are we willing to chat openly about our views?
Are we willing to explain our perspectives?
Are we willing to listen to the perspective of others?
Are we willing to potentially change our minds?
This blog is very much a series of thoughts that aren’t concluded (if they were concluded that would be somewhat ironic!) so I’d be interested to hear what you think!