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    Entries in Jesus (20)


    Hauerwas Friday

    Christianity is not a philosophy that can be learned separate from those who embody it.  If the truth that is Christ were a truth that could be known "in principle" then we would not need apostles.  But the way the gospel is known is by one person being for another person the story of Christ.  Jesus summons the disciples to him, and, so summoned, they become for us the witnesses who make it possible for us to be messengers of the kingdom.  The disciples are not impressive people, but then, neither are we.  Their mission, as well as our own, is not to call attention to ourselves but to Jesus and the kingdom.

    -Stanley Hauerwas, Matthew (Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible)


    Rebooting to Jesus

    I've got a lot of friends who are interested in church renewal.  Here's something to think about:

    If it is not already clear, let us state it emphatically: We believe that Christology is the key to the renewal of the church in every age and in every possible situation it might find itself.  The church must always return to Jesus in order to renew itself.  When, for whatever reason, the church gets stuck or loses its way in the world, it needs to recover its primal identity in its founder.  It is not good enough to return to the founder of whatever denomination or organization we find ourselves in, although revitalization of that kind is not without merit.  For Salvationists to rediscover the fire and fight within William Booth or for Methodists to have a re-encounter with John Wesley's passion and theology is valuable.  But, when there is something fundamentally wrong in the basic equation of the faith, then it is time to recover a vital and active sense of Jesus: who he is, what he has done for us, the way of life he laid down for us to follow.  His passions and concerns must become ours.  In other words, as stated earlier, Christology must determine missiology (our purpose and function in this world), which in turn must determine our ecclesiology (the cultural forms and expressions of the church).
    -Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch, ReJesus: A Wild Messiah for a Missional Church



    Get Some New Friends

    Become wise by walking with the wise; 
       hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces.
    -Proverbs 13:20, The Message

    Joey Wilson and I were having a tough discussion last week over lunch.  Joey is the youth minister at Resurrection West, and I'm one of his volunteers.  He and I were talking about the difficulties faced by some of our students within their peer networks, and the fine balance which exists between equipping young people with the skills to be Jesus' followers among those who see the world differently, and between counseling young people that they might need to spend time with some people of higher character.

    Joey and I both agreed that the latter dominated our experience of youth ministry growing up more so than the former.  The message we remember hearing is that if your friends are leading lives contrary to the teachings of Jesus, you need to establish new friendships that can keep you accountable.  Oftentimes this sounded like a call to sacrifice one's current set of friendships for another, holier huddle.

    As we discussed this, our conversation led us to conclude that there is a very fine balance here--one that is difficult to strike.  We determined that we wanted to avoid extreme forms separatism--the error of the Essenes of old.  But we also do not want, as the Proverb above teaches us, to encourage our people to hang out with fools and be dragged down into a quagmire.  We want our students to continue to engage their friends, love them as Jesus' would, and model another way of living.  This will bring about challenges, we know, and perhaps even hardship or rejection.  But how do you equip people to do this?

    Do you know of any resources or ministries that are doing an excellent job instructing people how to engage their world in transformative, missional ways?  How do you teach people to remain true to their Christian commitments without turning their back on the world?  What kind of theology is required?  What biblical stories do you emphasize?

    I think one of the biggest keys to helping people (particularly teenagers) engage their existing friendship networks while remaining true to their Christian commitments is the creation of a vibrant, alternative community that models responsible, loving engagement in preaching, teaching, worship, discussion, conversation, and common life.

    I'm looking for help.  One of the central themes of my thought and reflection over the past four years has been the formation of Christian community.  I'd love to hear what others think.


    Jesus is the Center

    Jesus is the center of all, the object of all, whoever does not know him, knows nothing aright, either of the world or of himself.
    -Blaise Pascal 


    Getting Your Story Straight :: Begin With Jesus.

    On the way back from Texas I kept thinking about identity and narrative, or how we understand ourselves within the context of a story.  My identity has been shaped greatly by where I was raised--the pace of life, the geographical landscape, family history, strengths and weaknesses of my church and the community of Tyler, and passions, such as local sports teams or hunting.  My identity has been greatly influenced by a confluence of narratives, for good and for ill.

    From there I thought about church communities, specifically Christian movements.  I thought of how many great Christian leaders and those who followed after them had particular things to say about Jesus, and how their message centered largely around where Christ was taking the community.  This could be either to heaven, or to some state of holiness, or to a transformed character, or to a greater place of union with God.  Movements begin with a particular way of telling the story of Jesus, wherein a particular type of relationship is established with Jesus as a living, leading Lord who is sending his people in a particular direction.  You might say it looks like this:

    As important questions begin to be raised about the person, work, and commissioning of Jesus as Lord, certain beliefs about him begin to solidify among those following in his way.  You could say this looks like this:

    As the movement progresses, the understanding of Jesus, the doctrinal standards of a particular body of Christians begin to distinguish that group from other groups, and thus institutions are born that preserve doctrine and provide identity for Christians following Jesus in that particular way.

    Once doctrinal standards become established and certain points of belief gain greater emphasis, a sense of purpose develops that gives rise to certain causes or points of advocacy.  Jesus gives rise to doctrine which gives rise to mission, and mission is undergirded and, over time, eventually becomes driven by an institution.

    Finally, those causes are discerned within a culture, and as those causes are addressed, a dynamic interplay exists between the institution and culture, as well as doctrinal beliefs and culture, and all of the above with Jesus.  When all things are aligned with Jesus, where he is going, and how we are called to live as the church, you'd say we have a coherent, functional narrative that is distinctively Christian.

    In sum, our doctrine and our institutions help guide us in a way of following after Jesus, who then propels and sends us forth to tackle certain causes and to live life together as a new culture that then transforms the surrounding, pre-existing culture.

    The danger, of course, is that all of those things that are on the periphery should be rooted in where Jesus is leading, which requires constant attention to the person and work of Christ.  Jesus is a person who is constant in character--the Church trusts him to be all-wise and all-good.  Our culture can change, thus giving rise to new causes, some of which will be in line with Jesus, others which may not be.  Our institutions may remain static while our culture takes a new direction, and if we are not careful, we may be hindered in witnessing faithfully to our neighbors.  Our doctrine, as well, may need to be refined, changed, or deepened, depending on where Jesus may be leading us to go.  Doctrine should never be an end in itself, but should always point us toward Jesus himself.  Doctrine, institutions, causes, or culture can lead us off track.  (For those that would challenge me concerning doctrine, see this story.)  Here is what that might look like:

    The challenge for leaders is to make sure our narrative is centered and aligned with the right thing: Jesus.  

    Sometimes we talk about Jesus in a way that fits our preconceived notions of how he should serve our institutions, our doctrines, our causes, or our vision for the surrounding culture.  We should avoid this by surrounding ourselves with wise friends and fellow thinkers and by undertaking the practice that should undergird all Christian theology--prayer.  In other words, we should be in communion with Jesus himself, both as he is in our midst (Matt. 18:20), and as we see him present through the life and witness of our neighbor.

    Take a look at your doctrine, your causes, your institution, your culture.  Now take a look at Jesus.  Think about how those narratives align (or not).  Want to see something different?  Wherever Jesus is going, go there.  But be careful: you might end up a John Wesley or a George Fox.

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