It’s written by a web friend of mine, but I did actually buy my own copy of today’s book. Although I now expect a significant kickback from Dave for being nice.
Dave Miller’s Brick Walls and Picket Fences was born out of a combination sermon and blog series he presented while pastoring a Southern Baptist church. The book expands on the ideas he developed about applying doctrine to church fellowship and interaction.
Miller’s work addresses how deeply we should build the separations between believers. The first level he presents, the Brick Wall, is clearly the most absolute of separation. This is suggested as the response to those whose doctrine makes cooperation simply impossible. Not only would cults, obviously, fall into this group, but so would those who view Scripture as errant or subscribe to extreme views on some issues like family life. These are people who may be believers but that it is impossible for others to work with them due to their beliefs.
From there, each of Miller’s levels get smaller. A picket fence separates those who can do some things together, but still cannot live together. This would be the separation between Southern Baptists and Orthodox Presbyterians, for example, who differ over baptism and ordinances but could together proclaim Christ crucified and risen. Dinner table divisions are those internal discussions, like whether or not Sunday night church is crucial. Personal space issues would involve those matters which ought not even divide a Sunday School class, like whether or not a Christian can attend a sporting event.
Throughout the work, Miller speaks with the compassionate voice of a pastor. That is, perhaps, what separates Brick Walls and Picket Fences from other treatments of theological divisions. Other works often approach the subject from a more calculated perspective without consideration of how doctrinal division looks up and down church row in our town. Miller’s work considers not only the need for right doctrine but the importance of relationships that look outside our boxes.
While Miller does, occasionally, lapse into the wordiness common to preachers, he stays on track well. I can easily recommend this as a starting point for a church studying how doctrine affects their relationships with other believers.