Bounded and Centered

A few years ago while taking a class on evangelism I was introduced to the notion of “Bounded” and “Centered” groups. These were two very different ways of understanding salvation. The “Bounded” people were interested in knowing standards, rules and procedures for determining who is saved and who isn’t. Visually this way of thinking could be represented by a circle. Those on the inside are part of the kingdom of God and those on the outside are the non-Christians. There is a sense in which this desire to know the rules is what got humanity kicked out of the garden. You can read about this in Genesis 3.

The “Centered” folks are most concerned about the direction someone is facing or moving. For these people you are either moving toward or away from the center. This is the drama that plays out in Acts 10 where Peter comes to the realization that all people who seek Jesus, including the Gentiles, are included in the Kingdom of God.

I must admit that I have a strong affinity with the “Centered” approach. There are “risks” with the centered approach. The clearly defied rules for membership (salvation) blur. It may mean opening ourselves up to the possibility that God works in ways we don’t approve of. Taking this line of thought to an even more radical place, it may mean that God fully accepts and includes people we don’t approve of.

In 1 Corinthians 13:11 Paul challenges the reader to put an end to childish ways. We need to move past the mentality of Adam that caused him to listen to the serpent and attempt in vain to be like God, knowing the difference between good and evil. Quite frankly that didn’t work out so well for him and it hasn’t worked out well for the church.

Putting away childish things means finding the courage to move past old ways of operating. It means being open to the possibility that who the church excludes misses the heart of God. Declaring who is in and who is out is both immature (childish) and out of sync with the heart of God.



Filed under Christian, church, church rules, Evangelism, religion, religious system

6 responses to “Bounded and Centered

  1. Hi Glenn, I did a search for “Christian” and yours was one of the blogs that popped up 🙂
    Your caution about the possibility of us missing the heart of God is timely. Once, a speaker at my church in Singapore warned that as we press in for revival, we need to be prepared that things may get “messy” and planned schedules may be turned upside down. Let Father’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven! May He bless you and your family with abundant love, joy and peace!

    • Glenn

      First, I am always please when “Christian” is attached to anything I do!

      I had a friend who once said, “God is not bound by the boxes we put God in.” It is freeing when we allow God to be God!


  2. Glenn

    Getting your point overall, just confused by the categories. i’m overall resistant to dividing people up into psycho/social binaries, especially when the implication that one state is more mature/moral than the other.

    If I was going to accept the categories of bounded and centred as helpful/accurate i would suspect that you would be able to find that immaturity and maturity looks different for the different folk. In the context of 1 Cor. 13, that would include the realization that “now i see in a mirror dimly, then face to face” which frees people up to 1 Cor. 13 love.

    • Glenn

      Like you I dislike putting people into “boxes” or “camps,” but we live in a culture that insists on doing this. With this in mind I am hopeful that the boxes we insist on creating mature and become more inclusive of the heart of God.

  3. Rick

    In my similar Christian education I came to favor a ‘center set’ perspective as most appropriate for Christians to use in discerning how to relate to others. However, in my training ‘center’ meant connected to the essentials, not merely traveling toward them. I celebrate, along with God anyone who is on a journey toward God. My challenge is to seek to understand what are the essentials and what are the negotiables. Beyond that my responsibility is to let God be the judge regarding who is abiding in the center.

    • Glenn


      Where I struggle is with the changing definitions of the “essential.” There is a human tendency to expand or better define the essentials.

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