Americans today are divided along the lines of race, class, and culture as well as religion and politics. But Christians, too, are often at odds with one another over these very same things. This is the time, then, for Christ-centered peacemakers to step up and stand out so that Christians will no longer be seen as disturbing the peace but disrupting, in a positive sense, by diffusing division at every turn. To do so, we must tack to the wind.
As you might imagine, I am not a sailor. But I do know this: ocean sailing requires wind. “Granted, wind isn’t normally in short supply on the open ocean—until you hit the doldrums. For centuries mariners have feared this equatorial region [the doldrums] for its tendency toward sailor-stopping calms.” In other words, even the biggest and best of boats can stall for lack of wind.
More specific to (the) discussion is a maneuver in sailing known as tacking. Tacking is used when the winds have shifted and a ship is unable to make forward progress because the wind is blowing toward the bow, that is, when the boat is heading upwind.
“Tacking allows the boat to travel forward with a wind at right angles to the boat. The boat travels for a time at an angle toward its desired course, to the right for instance, then the captain swings the boom of the sail and tacks back across the desired course at an angle to the left in a zigzag fashion.” In this way, tacking allows a ship to make forward progress in spite of prevailing frontal winds.
Similarly, cultural winds have shifted in our lifetime, and for all intent and purposes, our boat, our collective witness, is dead in the water. Where Americans once embraced the church and Christian values, if not our message, a significant percentage of the country today rejects those values. Why? In large part because so many Christians in general, as well as pastors and churches alike, continue to think, talk, and act as if it is 1980 and not almost 2020. As with the analogy, our sails are fixed for past winds, hoping they will pick up again. But they won’t. Those days are gone. Indeed, we are no longer sailing with the wind, but against it. Thus, in order to advance the gospel, the church, and the kingdom of God in this day and age, we must swing the boom. We must learn to tack in prevailing winds.
For example, both in private conversations and on social media, far too many of us are quick to speak, slow to listen, and slow to advance peace, in direct violation of James 1:19. Far too many of us want to impose theocratic rule and ways on an otherwise constitutionally limited, representative democratic republic. Beyond that, we are far too easily “tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine” (Eph. 4:14), at times acting more like those without understanding, “in the futility of their mind,” with ignorance, callousness, or hardness of heart (4:17–19). We are often seen or portrayed as purveyors of fear, not faith. None of this is helpful for winning hearts and minds in what has been described as a post-Christian society.
The fact is, the apostle Paul expected much more of mature believers. In Ephesians 4:29 he wrote, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” Notice Paul did not say we should not speak about or act on what we believe. Rather, we should do so in a way that is winsome and that plays to more than our affective base. But this is not what most people do, particularly on social media. More typically, they speak or write as if to those who already believe as they do. By doing so, their posts will receive many likes, hearts, and shares, but only from those holding similar views, while people who do not agree are only further alienated by a strong statement or opinion.
We must learn then to speak to those beyond our affective base in language, tone, and tenor so as to be heard and received. We must learn to ask good questions, shape the narrative, and influence conversations that move people toward one another, toward the church, and ultimately toward Christ, not drive them further away. At any given moment, we must be more interested in winning people to the faith than we are in winning an argument.
In short, we should remember that the mission of the church is best fulfilled not through political reform but spiritual reform, not through legislation but transformation, not through coercion but through conversion in seeing others come to know Him as we do.
11 Mark Shrope, “The Doldrums: Sailing’s Dead Zone,” National Geographic (2001), www.nationalgeographic.com/volvooceanrace/geofiles/01/.
12 Stephen Portz, “How Does a Sailboat Move Upwind?” Physlink (2016), www.physlink.com/education/askexperts/ae438.cfm.
13 Mark DeYmaz, “Evangelicals and Politics: Championing Political Positions as if Written in Biblical Stone Hurting Church’s Purpose,” Christian Post (11 July 2014), www.christianpost.com/news/evangelicals-and-politics-championing-political-positions-as-if-written-in-biblical-stone-hurting-churchs-purpose-123162/#2cA6G0A4Y7SVhtzH.99.
Editor’s Note: The above (Tack To the Wind) is an excerpt (permission from Mark DeYmaz) from Disruption: Repurposing the Church to Redeem the Community by Mark DeYmaz (Thomas Nelson and Leadership Network; March 2017, pp. 167-170).
Learn more at www.mosaix.info/disruption.
A thought-leading author, pastor, and recognized champion of the Multiethnic Church Movement, Mark planted the Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas in 2001 where he continues to serve as Directional Leader. In 2004, he co-founded the Mosaix Global Network with Dr. George Yancey and today serves as its president, and convener of the triennial National Multi-ethnic Church Conference. In 2008, he launched Vine and Village and remains active on the board of this 501(c)(3) non-profit focused on the spiritual, social, and financial transformation of Little Rock’s University District and the 72204 ZIP Code.
Mark has written six books including his latest, Disruption: Repurposing the Church to Redeem the Community (Thomas Nelson, March 2017); and Multiethnic Conversations: an Eight Week Guide to Unity in Your Church (Wesleyan Publishing House, October 2016), the first daily devotional, small group curriculum on the subject for people in the pews. His book, Building a Healthy Multi-Ethnic Church (Jossey-Bass, 2007), was a finalist for a Christianity Today Book of the Year Award (2008) and for a Resource of the Year Award (2008) sponsored by Outreach magazine. His other books include, re:MIX: Transitioning Your Church to Living Color (Abingdon, June 2016); Leading a Healthy Multi-Ethnic Church (formerly Ethnic Blends; Zondervan, 2010, 2013), and the e-Book, Should Pastors Accept or Reject the Homogeneous Unit Principle? (Mosaix Global Network, 2011). In addition to books, he is a contributing editor for Outreach magazine where his column, “Mosaic” appears in each issue.
He and his wife, Linda, have been married for thirty years and reside in Little Rock, AR. Linda is the author of the certified best-seller, Mommy, Please Don’t Cry: There Are No Tears in Heaven (Multnomah, 1996), an anointed resource providing hope and comfort for those who grieve the loss of a child. Mark and Linda have four adult children and two grandchildren.
Mark is an Adjunct Professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and teaches D.Min. courses at seminaries across the country including TEDS, Western, and Phoenix, where he earned his own D.Min. in 2006. — Amazon, Author Pages