36 After some time Paul said to Barnabas, “Let’s go back and visit each city where we previously preached the word of the Lord, to see how the new believers are doing.” 37 Barnabas agreed and wanted to take along John Mark. 38 But Paul disagreed strongly, since John Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in their work. 39 Their disagreement was so sharp that they separated. Barnabas took John Mark with him and sailed for Cyprus. 40 Paul chose Silas…Acts chapter 15, verses 36 thru 40; from the New Living Translation (NLT)
As you’ve noticed, I haven’t been writing lately. It’s not for lack of material–but I’ve had what we call here “the crud”. Tests revealed I did NOT have Flu A, Flu B, Covid, Sinus Infection, nor Pneumonia. So it must be “The Crud”! All I’ve been able to do lately is preach and teach and a few other things. But writing wasn’t one of those “other” things. Well, after much prayer and medicine, this morning I am feeling a lot better. The Crud is losing, and I am gaining. And so I am back doing one of the things I love and enjoy doing: Writing! And for those who watched Tuesday night’s Facebook Live Bible Study, you’ve heard most of what I am writing about today.
Today’s passage is what has been come to be known as a Paul and Barnabas Moment. Paul wants to revisit all the churches they planted to see how they were doing—AND to make sure that what happened in Antioch wasn’t happening there. Paul wants to make sure that the Message of Grace hasn’t been polluted by adding things to Grace. Barnabas agreed AND he wants to bring John Mark with them. But Paul insists that he isn’t allowed to come—and thus the disagreement. Paul is stubborn on this issue. But so is Barnabas.
There comes a moment—a decision has to be made. The decision made was different than the first decision. The first decision was about taking or leaving John Mark. Since that decision doesn’t seem to be an option—another decision has to be made: What Now? Both men seem to be immovable on their positions. So the Holy Spirit moves with another option. They Part Ways. Barnabas goes in one direction with John Mark. Paul goes in another direction with Silas. And what about the United Methodist Church?
This moment in the early Koinonia should have been put into play at least 22 years ago—maybe longer. Sadly it wasn’t. While both, I said BOTH sides continue their rhetoric and reasons why we should stay together or why we should part ways, we have been missing our purpose and our mission. Here are the obvious reasons why it’s time to end our debating and move on, in separate directions.
We are in a Paul And Barnabas moment. In fact, we’ve been here for a long time and no one wanted to talk about the elephant in the room. The Paul and Barnabas Moment continues to be present, and it will never go away; until we reach the only conclusion that will work and resolve this crisis.
Not talking about this elephant in the room in the past didn’t make the elephant disappear. Ignoring anything rarely, if ever, makes it go away. And ignoring it, or choosing not to know anything about it, has made the problem worse, a lot worse.
Sometimes there are principles and truths that demand that Paul And Barnabas Moment. Some ideas, or call them beliefs, cannot co-exist together. The idea being pushed by some bishops and others that the United Methodist Church can be a “Big Tent” where there is room for our different views is flawed. The issues we are facing are so opposite that they cannot co-exist together. We need to learn the lesson from electricity. You have a positive current and a negative current. And those currents cannot exist together. See what happens when you take a live electric line with 2 wires and touch them together. Unlike magnets, theological opposites do not attract and stay together. They repel one another. That just the way it is. It’s time to admit it. And it’s time to stop blaming one side or the other.
The failure to recognize, accept, and move forward in this Paul And Barnabas moment the way they did—is doing nothing but creating tension and even more division—and it resolves nothing. Folks, the Big Tent, if it even existed, has collapsed a long time ago. UNITED METHODISTS ON BOTH SIDE, WE’RE DOING NOTHING BUT SPINNING IN THE MUD; AND IT’S ONLY DRAGGING US DEEPER AND DEEPER INTO A HOLE! And we are hurting the Witness of The Koinonia by trying to co-exist.
Everyone is making a decision on which side they are standing with. Even churches who don’t want to make a decision, have chosen which side they are standing on. Remember the lesson about positive and negative electrical wires. And while that electrical wire has a neutral wire, there is no neutral position to take here in the United Methodist. Why? It’s the nature of The Kingdom of God; and it’s the nature of our relationship with God. We are either in or out. No middle ground has ever existed when it comes to walking with Jesus!
We have reached critical mass in reality, not theory. In the realm of nuclear bombs, critical mass is a chain-reaction that results in more neutrons being generated by fissions per second within that mass than escape per second to the outside world. In other words, a deadly explosion is about to happen. And the explosion about to happen within the United Methodist Church—if it remains under that non-existent Big Tent—will leave about as many survivors as the detonation of a nuclear bomb. United Methodists, I ask each of you: Are you really willing to push that button and destroy the Wesleyan Movement? I hope not. I pray not! Say it isn’t so!!!
It is better to have that Gamaliel Solution rather than to self-destruct. Remember early in the formation of the Koinonia when all of the disciples had been brought up on charges before the Sanhedrin? They were trying to figure out the best way to deal with them. Some wanted to kill them. But Gamaliel had a different idea. We read in Acts chapter 8, verses 38 and 39: “So my advice is, leave these men alone. Let them go. If they are planning and doing these things merely on their own, it will soon be overthrown. But if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God! I make this plea to our Bishops to implement the Gamaliel Solution, sooner than later. By doing this we can stop pointing fingers and laying blame at each other’s feet. Tell the Judicial Council to go to Antarctica, and let us depart in peace. Then we can go to either Cyprus or to Syria and Cilicia.
This is where we are, folks. It is what it is and all this caterwauling isn’t solving or resolving anything. Failure to part ways is hurtful. Please Bishops, Please! The Gamaliel Solution sounded good back then. And it sounds even better today. Let’s leave the results to God on who’s right and who’s wrong! Failure to do so is just wrong. . .just plain wrong!