Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Church: A Barbarian Revolt or a Passing on of the Faith Story?

December 27. Today is our anniversary. Imagine, Dee putting up with me for 28 years! Our partnership, our friendship, our commitment and abandoned passion has given us quite a ride.

Every anniversary it happens to me: I get this "What's the new, next, around-the-bend reality and calling that needs a fresh look?" feeling. I pull out books I had meant to read, revisit journal entries, fire up my (some would say hyper-) critical facilities, and attempt to align my mind and soul and heart with what God is up to.

So I read a book by a well-known Christian influencer this morning. It disturbed me, mostly due to the abundance of sweeping, unsubstantiated generalizations and unending use of stories to prove points the author has already asserted (and now wants to drive home with a family anecdote). Filled with over-statement, accusation, and condescension, the book is less about what it means to be a devoted follower of Christ than it is a shot across the bow, okay, a shot between the eyes, toward those who the author believes have allowed themselves to be complacent, "civilized" Christians. One example of how whole congregations are cast:

“Civility focuses our energy on all the wrong places. We spend our lives emphasizing our personal development and spiritual well-being. We build churches that become nothing more than hiding places for the faithful while pretending that our actions are for the good of the world.”

Yet, at the same time, I'm glad I read it, for there is a basic message flowing from these pages that need to be heard. It can be summarized in these two statements:

“Domesticated Christians are far too willing to abdicate the battle for the soul of the world… The driving purpose of this barbarian revolt is to liberate every person who longs to find freedom in God.”

I want to think more about this. Without resorting to an almost offensive assault on those whose faith expressions look different than mine, or who do value education and piety and reflection, I am struck by the simple and abandoned core reminder that, especially in today's world, those who publicly use Christ's name can easily be seen as having little passion for or commitment to the radical message of the Gospel.

I will thank this author when I see him. I will also ponder and then take these thoughts into my Fuller class starting January 5, Youth Outreach. For you who are taking the class, get ready for a ride.

Happy anniversary, Dee. Thanks for the gift of life together. May we always stay the course, and run and free after the prize for which Jesus has taken hold of us.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008