From the book Simple/House Church Revolution.
Shane Claiborne writes: “Being a Christian is about choosing Jesus and deciding to do something incredibly daring with your life.”
In my former life as a pastor, I was a dispenser of comfortable Christianity. I took on the job of creating a “conducive environment” for worship. What this really meant was making a worship event cushy enough that people would want to come and then come back: comfortable seats, coffee, pleasing worship music, and a sermon that holds attention. Unfortunately, regularly attending a comfortable worship event has become the primary marker of what it means to be a Christian today.
In fact, we often replace the miraculous adventure of following Jesus with religious activity. Did I go to church this week? Check it off the list. Did I read my Bible? Check it. Did I pray? Check it. Done! I have completed my Christian activities and am, therefore, a “good Christian.” Religion itself becomes an easy replacement for a daring life lived in partnership with Jesus.
Ironically, Jesus drew a startling line in the sand in response to someone who wanted to follow him: "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head (Matthew 18:20).” Jesus was not a dispenser of comfortable Christianity. Quite the opposite. He taught that followers would live a lifestyle of stepping outside of comfort zones in order to join him in the adventure of extending the life of the kingdom.
Reprinted from a post dated 3/9/06
Highlight: "In other words, just attempting to come out from under 'hierarchical, unbiblical church structures' does not get to the root of the issue. It's growing out of our unhealthy dependencies so that, as whole people, we can contribute generously to our spiritual communities and world from a place of authentic fullness in Christ while developing vibrant 'one another' relationships."
We westerners tend to think of ourselves as independent people who are learning to live fully our God-given life and potential. But Kirshenbaum (Finding The True Meaning Of The Events In Our Lives) challenges this:
I think people today have trouble being who they really are because as social creatures we live in a hierarchical world in which we're highly dependent on others.
She suggests that the reason we become dependent on the hierarchical systems we live in is because of our need for approval and our need to keep relationships intact. She says that we tend to feel that in order to survive and "to get what we need we sometimes have to become less like the people we authentically are."
I have not read this book, I was only provided with some quotes from a friend (John Gray).
However, it is worth looking at the way that hierarchy in our culture has shaped the way we are and has caused us to become comfortable (dependent?) on similar structures within our churches. Perhaps the problem is not just hierarchy within churches but our own inability to find our authentic identity in Christ. The result is that out of our neediness we fall into a dependency on external authorities to tell us how to live and act in order to be "approved by" or "okay" with others. In other words, at some level we are comfortable with hierarchical structures because they meet our need for external affirmation and approval.
As long as we need our approval and identity to be affirmed by externals, we will likely create hierarchical type systems to be part of--even in simple/house church models. As long as we need our approval and identity to be affirmed by others, we will probably relate wrongly to spiritual authority including genuine, servant, spiritual authority.
The answer, therefore, is not simply to reject forms of church that are hierarchical. Nor is the answer to reject community all together.
Somehow, we are going to come to the place where whole people, fully alive in God, are able to join with one another in healthy interdependence. We know that a healthly marriage relationship comes from two healthy people who are not emotionally dependent on each but healthy enough to support, give, love, and care for the other. Perhaps that is exactly what is necessary for healthy spiritual community: a group of people who are emotionally, authentically whole who are able to fully commit themselves to love, care for, and support others.
In other words, just attempting to come out from under "hierarchical, unbiblical church structures" does not get to the root of the issue. It's growing out of our unhealthy dependencies so that, as whole people, we can contribute generously to our spiritual communities and world from a place of authentic fullness in Christ while developing vibrant "one another" relationships.
(Re-posted from 11/27/07)
Highlight: "The Body of Christ needs nothing more than to become its fullest and most complete expression of every part. Good leadership facilitates and serves that end."
In our needed quest to re-define leadership from hierarchy to true servanthood, we have created a leadership vacuum. This is understandable. We are so afraid of anything that looks like status-grabbing, or personal-kingdom-building, or one-upmanship that we can fail to walk in our God-given functions to lift, bless, encourage, and speak into the lives of others.
I want to suggest that we do, indeed, need to re-think leadership, and also, not be afraid to exercise the real, true, biblical, God-given authority that God has given to us. To further this process, I want to offer the following simple thought on leadership…
“Leadership is the spiritual grace to be able to see another person’s divine destiny and impart something into their life that moves them forward toward that destiny.”
If you have the grace-gift to flow in just this way, then please, please do it. We need people who call out our destiny in our lives, and we need to be people who can do this for others! The Body of Christ needs nothing more than to become its fullest and most complete expression of every part. Good leadership facilitates and serves that end.
Jesus came and turned everything upside down. Especially for the religious people. If we have been a believer for over a year--we have likely become religious people and part of the religious system. It is like a gravitational pull. We must be turned upside down in order to release the work that Jesus came to do.
He was upside down.
They expected him to hang out with them. They were the important people. Instead he was with prostitutes and sinners.
They thought he would honor them for their religious lifestyle. Instead he told them that they don’t even know God.
They expected Him to come like a big man, a king. Instead he came as a poor baby. He turned everything upside down from what people expected.
The disciples thought he would rule. Instead he went to the cross and gave up his life.
Everything upside down.
He turned the religious church upside down in Luke 4 when he said he came for the broken and oppressed. He turned the religious church's finances upside down at the temple. He turned leadership positions upside down when he washed feet. He turned the mission upside down when he said just go and make disciples.
After paying the price for all sin and resurrecting, the disciples must have thought that now, at last, he would equip them. After all, his vision—his last statement—was that they were to go to ALL nations. He has commissioned them to the world. He has ascended. He is God. Surely He would give them some big tools to use.
We always think bigger is better. Big crusades, big crowds, big buildings, big events, and big to-dos.
So think about being a disciple-- given the big command to go to all the nations. Surely Jesus would fill their pockets with a million dollars. What about a sound system? How about some religious clothes so that people would listen to them?
No—he just taught them how to heal the sick, preach the Gospel, and lay their lives down.
The very things we often don't want to do.
The way of Jesus always has been and always will be the upside down way.
I am not one for Christian movies as they too often have two-dimensional characters and trite plot lines.
In several ways, War Room (top box office sales last weekend) is guilty of this. But rather than focus on its short comings I thought I would mention what I did like.
- The heart of the movie’s message is about a prayer-relationship with God. I give the movie a thumbs up for keeping the spiritual encounters out of the walls of the church and into the closet of a personal relationship with God.
- The acting was better than average… well… for a Christian movie. I hate to put it like that, but it is true.
- The movie focused on one-on-one mentoring and personal discipling as the primary element for personal growth to take place. The plot line did a decent job of exploring the relationship between the older woman-mentor and the younger wife in need of personal transformation. This emphasis helped me buy into the changes that took place albeit within a two hour movie-time slot. I appreciated that small groups and one-on-one relationships were seen as key catalyzers of spiritual growth.
- The need to pass the mentoring relationship on to others was an excellent side-note for the movie. Intentionally asking God for people to reach out to and disciple was shown to be vital, organic, relational, and reproducible. Impressive.
- (Spoiler alert!) Finally, I appreciated that the renewed husband, in re-focusing his life toward Christ, became involved in community outreach with an outward focus rather than simply becoming one more church attender.
All in all, The War Room, has its shortcomings for sure, but it also has enough credible inspiration that it is worth the look.
Note a CNN article on the movie's unexpected success.
Your comments if you have seen it?