Recently I sent out an article suggesting that it might be time for City Road folks to focus on being M.A.D, with those initials standing for “making a difference.” It was a fun play on words, using M.A.D. in a different context. I confess, I’ve been watching the series “Mad Men” lately, and I could come up with all sorts of phrases using the abbreviation as a means of helping us to remember to make a difference.
Not long after we sent out that newsletter, I received the following message from Phil Sweeney, which I greatly appreciated:
For some reason I am just seeing ,or taking the chance to read my March 24 newsletter. I don’t know if your M.A.D. (Making a Difference) campaign is an ongoing theme but if it is can I suggest that the next campaign be G.L.A.D.( Grace, Love, Action, Discipleship) . I think there are enough; if not too many Christians that walk around looking like they are mad that they have chosen Christ instead of being the happiest people on earth we can accept Christ through grace. I truly believe that we need to make a difference but I also think we should be GLAD we are Christians not MAD. I know that I am taking your MAD in a totally different context than you proposed; and the exact opposite of your context. I am just afraid that some members at City Road who may judge; and who may be exclusive instead of inclusive may think they are “making a difference’ with this view (and I know there are very few of these at City Road) and it is okay to be a mad Christian.
Phil makes some very good points. In my attempt to be clever and creative it’s certainly possible that some people could easily interpret being “M.A.D.” as a justification for judgmentalism and exclusion, which is not at all what I believe is part of our calling in Madison. In fact, the latest report from the Pew Center (released this week and in the headlines) suggests that one of the factors driving folks from the church is the self-righteous anger that many Christians wear on their sleeves rather than an orientation toward love and grace. Perhaps our greatest challenge in helping introduce people to the life of faith is the sincere but often misguided attempts by church folks to “protect the faith,” and in doing so maintaining attitudes of anger. While I absolutely hope that we will be a people committed to making a difference in each other’s lives and in our community and the world, that is through embodying love, grace, and acceptance.
Phil’s suggestion for us to be G.L.A.D. Christians is a good one at well, for it lifts up the core of what it means to be Christians in the United Methodist (Wesleyan) tradition. We believe that God’s grace and love is at the center of all we do and who we are. We are a people committed to action, who understand that faith and works are synergistic, and that love of neighbor is part of God’s command for his people. We are a people committed to making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. True disciples are people who make a difference in the world, whether they are aware of what they are doing or not.
I’m still committed to helping others in our community understand that City Road is a place that wants to make a difference in Madison and the world. I believe (based on my research) that younger generations want to be a part of a place where there is a commitment to changing the world, and City Road has been a place infused with a similar desire.
But I also want everyone to know that City Road is a “G.L.A.D” place, rooted in grace and love, engaged in faith in action, and working to help all grow in Christ and share God’s love.
Thanks Phil for pushing me to think in a new way. May we all become G.L.A.D. Christians.