Philadelphia-based Pastor Paul Tripp said this week the “No. 1 issue” before Christian ministers today is the issue of “identity.”
Tripp discussed the topic on a recent episode of The Gospel Coalition podcast alongside North Carolina-based Pastor J.D. Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
“I think the further we get away from a biblical worldview, the further we get away from these wonderful categories that God has given us that help us make sense of who we are and who we are in relation to one another, who are are — gender, sex,” Tripp said. “You have this horrible loss of those categories and then people grabbing for categories.”
He encouraged pastors to “do better at talking about” tribalism and identity “in the way that really speaks to the lostness of people.”
Tripp went on to say ministers need to “quit assuming that people come into our churches with that in place,” referring to a biblical understanding of identity. He argued one could make that assumption half a century ago, but not today.
“People just don’t [know] anymore,” he said. “And there’s a way in which — say you’re preaching through a passage of Scripture — you have to have that in your background. That passage may assume things that you can’t assume of your congregation. You have to fill things in, in order to make this particular moment in preaching make sense, because of what the people you’re preaching to have brought into the room.”
Greear agreed with Tripp’s assessment.
The SBC leader also criticized the seeker-friendly movement, saying churches focused solely on appealing to non- or new Christians tend to “dumb down Christianity to practical life lessons.”
In the coming years, he said, the Church will need to “decide who they really are in terms of identity themselves.”
“Christians are Gospel people, and that means that there’s a lot of important things that have to give way to the most essential things,” Greear explained. “And I think … you’re just going to find churches that are going to group together around certain political advocacy, certain political things that, again, are good, but they’re just not the most essential Gospel thing.”
Greear’s comments came after he rebuked the SBC-affiliated Saddleback Church in Southern California for ordaining its first-ever female pastors.
“While I have long respected Saddleback’s ministry impact and heart for getting the Gospel to the nations,” he wrote, “I disagree with their decision to take this stop, and would even say I find it disappointing.”