Source: Jean Vanier Community and Growth
Source: Jean Vanier Community and Growth
Source: Jean Vanier, Community and Growth
“When I am engaging with people of other religious faiths, I find myself unable to commit to their conclusions or agree with their assessments. Yet at the same time I come away encouraged by the spiritual truths found in their traditions, thrilled by new insights into my own faith, and more passionate than ever about being a disciple of Jesus. The truth is illuminated and elongated in my mind, and my presuppositions and myopic perspectives are challenged and corrected in the process. Anything less would not be a conversation and would imply that truth is a proposition and not Christ.”
— Leonard Sweet, Nudge, Awakening Each Other to the God Who’s Already There, p.28,
Last week I attended my yearly tribal (denominational) gathering. It culminated Thursday evening with the “reading of assignments” a wonderfully imbedded tradition where pastors and leaders are formally assigned or reassigned to their places of ministry here in the Pacific Northwest and around the world.
The gathering was distinctly different from previous years evidenced and confirmed by many of those in attendance. Something of a new wind blowing, almost bordering on a paradigm shift. The Spirit has been laying the ground work for what I would describe as something of a “missional thrust” among both conference presenters and participants.
Multiple stories were told of congregations initiating and implementing creative ministries relevant to serving their community and neighborhood needs, such graffiti cleanup, decorating neighborhood streets with flower baskets, feeding the homeless, and providing carnival events for children. One church in Bend, Oregon closes its service for a Sunday to provide service to the city in various cleaning and renovation projects. The exciting piece this is; the added stories that accompany these service projects.
The congregations involved in these types of ministry hold a strong “go to them” stance as they relate to their individual places of ministry. In the past too often its been a “come to us” mentality. This current stance is just one avenue of many, but one that definitely communicates a posture that embodies the Gospel of Jesus Christ in ways relevant to the postmodern culture.
Historically our tribe has held a strong missional stance, but in recent years it has displayed itself in more dormant nuancs. This particular season is one of intentional engagement with the culture and I’m encouraged!!!
Another factor that bodes well for the future of our tribe which seemed in jeopardy not long ago, is that a majority of the stories were told by leadership that is relatively young, those in their twenties and thirties. In the past, these voices were not regarded as legitimate – now they are and we are the richer for it. Personally I’m looking forward to hearing new stories currently being written.
O Almighty God,
the Father of all humanity,
turn, we pray, the hearts of all peoples and their rulers,
that by the power of your Holy Spirit
peace may be established among the nations
on the foundation of justice, righteousness and truth;
through him who was lifted up on the cross
to draw all people to himself,
your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
— William Temple (ENGLAND/1881-1944)
One of the books I am currently reading is When the Church Was a Family: Recapturing Jesus’ Vision for Authentic Christian Community by Joseph H. Hellerman. This is one of those books that holds the potential of being life transforming, so I will be posting a book review in the near future. I’m sharing an excerpt from a section titled, ” Transitioning to a Family-Orient Church Model.” Many are reflecting on what community is and what it might mean in our contemporary context. These words are worth some consideration and thought.
Much has been written in recent years about creating community in the local church. The good news is that we do not need to create community. Indeed, we could not do so even if we wanted to. God has already created His community by saving us into His eternal family. We already are, for better or worse, brothers and sisters in Christ.
Our problem is that we do not often enjoy the kind of community that we sense we should as people who are family in God’s eyes. To reframe the issue in theological terms, our relational reality falls far short of our positional reality, where the horizontal aspect of the Christian life is concerned. Indeed, given the present state of some of our churches, recapturing Jesus’ vision for authentic Christian community may seem like a nearly insurmountable challenge.
I find it immensely encouraging to remember that this is God’s project, not ours, and to remind myself that the Holy Spirit truly longs to knit us together in community as God intends it. God is more than ready to come alongside those who are willing to do the hard work of living life as the new covenant family of God. More often than not, we simply need to figure out how to get out of God’s way in order to let Him do His community-creating work in our lives.
Earlier this month Thomas Nelson released Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola. A good deal of fanfare, (Facebook, Twitter, Blogosphere, etc.) preceded and accompanied it’s release. When books come to us this way, I find that many are disappointing, but that is not the case with this book — quite the opposite.
The title serves as a clarion call to the Church to make a course correction that provides an alternative path that is neither left or right, but forward with Christ. From the introduction to conclusion, “Christ must be ‘the ‘North Star’ or ‘Southern Cross’ in our exploration to know Him. The point: the church is off course and nothing will bring her back on course, but “an inward revelation of Christ to our hearts by the Holy Spirit — “a progressive unveiling of the person who stands behind the sacred page and is the occupation of all things.” (p.19)
Throughout Sweet and Viola constantly and consistently make their call to course correction by providing their readers with fresh and needed correctives to our understanding of the person of Christ.
The serves as reminder that Christ is our chief occupation in both life and ministry. Too often the Church occupies itself with secondary issues and doctrines (evangelism, missional ministry, social justice, praise and worship), relegating Christ to a mere side issue, or sub-point. The reader is reminded in a fresh and culturally significant way that the route back is once again placing Christ as the end all and be all of all things. The corrective is always found in the person of Christ – first and foremost.
Here is some of what I highlighted reading through this book:
If you are one who is dissatisfied with the present anemic condition of the western church, whether you are conservative or liberal, armenian or calvinist, reformed or pentecostal, whatever your theological ilk; this book is latent with Christological insight that all should agree on. It serves as a timely corrective that will provide for the church a view and understanding of Christ that will aid it in an authentic embodiment of the Good News before the present postmodern world. Reading this book will engage many with a Christ they never knew and for others it will renew the “first love” they lost somewhere along the way.
If I were fashioning a curriculum for a “Christianity 101” class, this book would be at the top of my required reading list, it is extremely relevant, valuable, prophetic and timely.