I don’t know who he stole it from, but James Hinkle likes to say that “labels are usually libels.”
It has been popular to label congregations as “conservative” or “liberal” for quite some time. For a group of people who try to call Bible things by Bible names, I’ve always though it’s interesting that we picked labels that were foreign to scripture—but that’s a point for another bulletin article.
I’m grateful that Burns doesn’t try to label itself and has little interest in labeling others. There is a blessing in minding your own business that is sometimes under-appreciated.
Flavil Yeakley wrote a book called Why They Left: Listening to those who have left churches of Christ. His study began as he was commissioned by the presidents of our universities who asked why so many young people leave the faith during their college years.
He set out to interview as many former members as possible. Along the way, he used over one hundred congregations’ reports on their young people to try to come up with as much data as possible. It’s not perfect by any stretch, but it’s definitely interesting.
One of the things he found was this chart:
|Congregational “Label”||Retention Rate of High School Seniors|
|Middle of the Road||62%|
Did you notice the top and bottom rows? The further the congregation deviated from what was identified as the middle of the road or mainstream, the less likely it was that their young people would remain faithful.
Now I’m certainly not advocating that we decide how to behave based on a survey. Rather, I think that the survey highlights a Biblical truth: it’s important that we not take off in a direction—left or right—away from a reasonable reading of scripture. Let’s not idolize and demonize labels—let’s try to be Bible people.
I don’t know that Moses had the same idea of “left” and “right” that we do, but the advice is solid regardless: “So be careful to do what the LORD your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left” (Deuteronomy 5:32).