Why We Wrote a Book: Our Heart behind "Truth Over Tribe"
Tribalism isn’t only a problem outside the church. It’s the problem threatening to divide the church. Every pastor has stories to tell. Here are a few of mine:
After COVID shut down our city, we had to figure out how to resume in-person worship, despite the fact that people vehemently disagreed on the best way to do this. One person stopped coming to The Crossing because we followed the county guidelines regarding masking and social distancing. Others sent a string of emails arguing that we shouldn’t be worshiping on Sundays even though we were following the county health department recommendations. In both cases, they were sincere. But they were sincerely parroting their tribe’s position.
A different story: the Sunday after a police officer murdered George Floyd, some church members sent messages demanding that we mourn Floyd’s death, or they would leave the church. We’d already planned on mourning the loss of life—but out of devotion to the Lamb, not the Donkey. Jesus, after all, taught us “Blessed are those who mourn.” Paul commanded, “Mourn with those who mourn.” After the service, the other tribe sent emails asking us if we believe that all police officers are racist. Of course not! Again, their concerns were sincere. But they were mostly animated by tribalism, not deep scriptural reflection.
Thankfully, these voices represent the fringe at The Crossing, not the majority. But the tribalism hasn’t subsided. The issues change. The tribal demands remain the same.
The growing intensity of tribalism forced us to ask: why is this happening?
The answer is complex, but there is at least one aspect of it with enormous explanatory power. We’ve become like Jews and Samaritans in the time of Jesus.
In first-century Israel, Jews and Samaritans didn’t mix. They disdained one another—so much so that two of Jesus’s disciples felt comfortable asking the Prince of Peace if he wanted them to Napalm an entire village inhabited by people created in the image of God (Luke 9:54). They felt comfortable doing this because they didn’t know any Samaritans personally. Instead, they knew a lot about them.
It’s easy to judge people you don’t know. It’s easy to hate people you only hear bad things about.
That’s what’s happened to us.
We increasingly find ourselves in geographical bubbles where we live around people who vote like us. Social media algorithms push us into ideological echo chambers where partisan news sources spew the worst possible takes on “them.” We don’t know each other, so it’s easy to judge. It’s easy to hate. It’s easy to believe narratives that explain why “they” are bad people who must be defeated.
But Jesus didn’t take up the disciples’ offer to torch the Samaritan village. Instead, he rebuked them. He later explained that he didn’t come to defeat his enemies but to die for them.
That’s great news when you realize that you’re an enemy of God because of sin. But the news doesn’t sound as great when you realize what comes next: if Jesus loved you while you were his enemy, then he expects you to do likewise.
Yes, Jesus wants you to love your political, cultural, and ideological enemies.
The Fracturing of America Threatens the Mission of The Crossing
Since The Crossing began in 2000, we’ve expected those who attend to reflect our community. We’ve consistently asked God to bring people to the church who we could help point to Jesus. In those prayer meetings, it never crossed our mind that the church would be anything other than politically, racially, and economically diverse. Jesus’s church is made up of people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. Christians are a natural band of enemies brought together by the love of Jesus.
But that vision of the church is exactly what tribalism endangers. When Christians allow our differences to become more important than what we share in common, we tarnish our witness before a watching world.
Over the course of several months, the leaders at The Crossing were discussing how to respond to the polarization threatening our mission to help more people believe Jesus is more. Plenty of churches caved to tribalism by picking a side and misrepresenting Jesus as a mascot for one political party. Others simply tried to avoid and ignore tough topics—but ignoring what’s there doesn’t work any better in the church than it does in marriage.
We knew we had to do something, but what?
One afternoon, Patrick Miller and I were continuing that conversation in the office we share when we stumbled on a phrase: Truth Over Tribe.
What if the answer is that simple?
What if Christians allowed Jesus to define truth, rather than following their tribe’s definition?
What if our loyalty to Jesus superseded our loyalty to every other cause?
What if we pledged allegiance to the Lamb, not the Donkey or the Elephant?
That conversation gave birth to the book released on October 4. It explains why tribalism makes us miserable, how we became so tribal, and how Jesus can lead us out of this mess. This book allowed us to share the story of how you, the members of The Crossing, are resisting the natural urge to splinter over political and cultural issues and instead choose unity in Jesus.
We Shared Your Story
We’ve been through a lot together in the past few years. We’ve been learning how to see the world through the eyes of fellow Christians who are also minorities. We were canceled by the True/False film festival and had to learn how to respond with love and grace. We sought to love the neediest in our community by raising $450,000 to pay off medical debt and $475,000 to pay off utility debt. We sought unity across racial lines by befriending local Black pastors and raising $250,000 to help start a multi-ethnic church in Ferguson, MO.
At The Crossing, we’ve been determined to show people what we’re for, not only what we’re against. We’ve rallied around Jesus’s call to let our love show that we are his followers.
Truth Over Tribe: Pledging Allegiance to the Lamb, Not the Donkey or the Elephant allows us to share how you’ve resisted the pull of tribalism and shown each other and our whole community the love and grace of Jesus. Jesus said not to hide a light under a basket. We did our best not to hide your light. That’s why we dedicated the book to you.
That’s also why every dollar (no exceptions) from the book goes straight back to The Crossing for ministry. Neither Patrick nor I will see a dollar of it. Now don’t get too excited. Books like ours don’t make tons of money. We received a $30,000 advance for the book and will only receive royalties if it sells well. But you can recommend it with the confidence that the money is going to further Jesus’s mission not pad a person’s pockets.
Tribalism may be the greatest threat to the modern American church. We feel blessed to be pastors at a church that has, time and again, chosen truth over tribe.
I hope you’ll join us in praying that God uses your story to inspire other churches to do likewise. If we look back on this time in 20 years and see that it led more people to give their highest allegiance to Jesus—well, it will make all the love, all the giving, all the hours, all the tough conversations, and all the sacrifice worth it.