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Be|Undivided’s 5 Core Principles Part 2—No Agenda
In releasing our documentary film "UnDivided", a line from the film that seems to resonate most with audiences is: "The best way to convince someone that you don't have an agenda ... is to not have an agenda!"
Five years ago, when SouthLake Church first waded into its partnership with Roosevelt High School, the unspoken question among school staff was, "what is their agenda?” Or, "what is the REAL reason behind their service"? We consider these honest questions to be borne out of a perception of evangelical over-exuberance.
And for many in our culture, perception is reality. Sadly, the church is often perceived to have an "anti-“ agenda, becoming known more for promoting what it's AGAINST: Anti-gay, anti-abortion, anti-same sex marriage, anti-women's rights, anti- stem cell research, anti-gun control, anti- religious diversity, and on and on...
The fact that the church is still very much FOR people has escaped notice. Especially among a younger generation (ages 16-29) the church is seen with a growing skepticism. Research from The Barna Group* shows that "negative views are crystallizing and intensifying among young non-Christians." The study revealed that "only 3% of 16-29 year-old non-Christians express favorable views of Christianity."
"Elitist", "judgmental"," hypocritical", and "intolerant", are words most likely to be used by non-Christians in describing Christians today. Again, whether we are being justly or unjustly perceived, perception in this sense is reality. And the perception, according to the Barna study, is that Christianity in today's society "no longer looks like Jesus”.
For many believers, hungry to represent Jesus in a broken and skeptical world, it can be both liberating and empowering to hear the "no agenda" message acknowledged aloud.
But the question remains: is it really true that we don't have an agenda? The truth is, we really do. But our agenda is not one that school officials or first amendment lawyers would object to. Our "agenda" is to trust God’s love to transform kids and schools as we serve together.
To be sure, the power of this vision is in the corporate expression. When we serve together as a faith community (large church or small) people are clear about our motivation and are therefore drawn by the quiet demonstration. They are impacted by the sheer power of people loving them, like they want to believe in their hearts Jesus loves them ... love expressed through serving and meeting their real-life needs.
This, then, is Be|Undivided’s first Core Principle. It is a very intentional strategy to trust the power of God’s love expressed in community. What we're learning is that trusting love by serving without agenda, over time breaks down walls that divide us; walls of skepticism, hypocrisy, and fear. Indeed, we are continuing to learn that our "no-agenda” agenda is truly transforming. It not only transforms our kids, their schools, and communities. Perhaps just as importantly we're learning that no-agenda love ... also transforms us.
*Data taken from David Kinnaman, Gabe Lyons, unChristian:What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity...and Why It Matters (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2007)