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Difference Can Make Us Mo’ Betta

There is only one vine—one source of truth, life and revelation—and His name is Jesus.

Another way of talking about such differences is to call them “distinctives.” These are the organizational beliefs and values that identify our ministry ethos; that uniquely “set us apart” from other groups. We have lists of them.

I have seen these distinctives – like all differences – open the door for groups, organizations, and churches to become quite prideful – though very subtly – about their “house” or “ministry” distinctives. Admittedly, at one level, distinctiveness is a normative fact of life – snowflakes, fingerprints and all. However, unless we can authentically welcome “otherness” and allow difference to become mutually enriching and complimentary, these distinctives always become, at some level, the foofy fertilizer of condescension, arrogance, separatism, and a kind of spiritual elitism; especially when a degree of success is attributed to the group’s unique ways.

That being said, we all have – or at least pretend to have – certain distinctives that identify the Father’s unique sense of mission, destiny, and calling behind what we are doing that shape our ministry values and activities. But, Jesus help us not think “our ways” are singularly the best way to accomplish the Father’s will among whom we minister to.

I find myself regularly challenged by other people’s visions. That is a problem for me because difference is meant to reflect back to me an aspect of the Father’s heart for the Kingdom that my vision is too narrow to see. Difference is meant to enlarge our ability to recognize the work of God in otherness; to reveal our need for the influences that other perspectives add to us. Without differing visions there can never be synergy and, the absence of synergy means we become culturally, socially and ethnically monotone.

Jesus help us not think ‘our ways’ are singularly the best way to accomplish the Father’s will among whom we minister to.

There is only one vine – one source of truth, life and revelation – and His name is Jesus. Most of us are just a collection of knobby and crooked branches. Only by the mercy of God and our connectedness to Christ, can we bear much fruit in the Kingdom and become a blessing to the nations.

We are constantly growing, maturing and consequently changing in our perceptions and conclusions. How do we avoid getting stuck in our conclusions? Or harder yet, when we have grown so accustomed to the perceived “normalcy” or “correctness” of our beliefs, how do we get unstuck when we realize what we believed is no longer as true and right as we once believed? How can we change without “losing face?” We must create paths to change for one another that are highlighted by honor, respect and the love of Christ.

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Category: Living the Faith, Spring 2005

About the Author: Richard L. Twiss, Tayoate Ob Najin “He Stands with his People” (1954-2013), D.Miss. (Asbury Theological Seminary), was a Lakota follower of the Jesus Way. In February 1997, Richard and his wife, Katherine, founded the non-profit ministry of Wiconi International. Through Wiconi, Richard and Katherine touched the lives of many thousands of people. Richard also co-founded NAIITS (North American Institute for Indigenous Theological Studies), he was chairman of the board for My People International, a member of the CCDA (Christian Community Development Association), and co-founder of Evangelicals4Justice. He was the author of One Church, Many Tribes: Following Jesus the Way God Made You (Chosen, 2000), which the Lord continues to use to reach many people with the message of an inculturated faith in Jesus. Rescuing the Gospel from the Cowboys: A Native American Expression of the Jesus Way (IVP) was published posthumously in June 2015. www.wiconi.com

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