Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Missional Church, part I

For a few months or so I've been wondering and reading (hopefully with God) about the little group that meets in my home. Specifically I've been wondering if there is any appropriate way to focus our individual and shared lives to help us all progress in the goals God has for us over the long haul. Our group is very informal, and we know that we're a church, but that's about the extent of the 'focus' week to week. Would a greater degree of focus be helpful? If so, what should it be?

As I thought about these questions, the first place my brain stopped with any degree of confidence was with Jesus himself. Conceptually, this isn't hard to accept--a (Christian) church focuses on Jesus. Learning his priorities and view of things is foundational; it's what makes us "Christian." But I wondered some more, "Is that enough?" Not whether Jesus is enough--he absolutely is. But, as many have noted, we humans have a penchant for being sloppy, highly selective and even partisan in our perception of Jesus. Our ideas about Jesus vary widely. As Gordon Cosby has said, "My Jesus may be your Jesus' worst enemy." Different aspects of Jesus' life and teachings get explained away or ignored in bulk by different parts of the church: Some avoid his supernatural commands and practices that he passed on to the church, others avoid his teachings about tangible mercy, others avoid his teachings regarding the cost of following him, others, the bits about loving and giving to those who wrong us, still others ignore his contemplative (or celebrative) practices, and we almost all avoid his warnings about money. So naming Jesus as our focus should be done with recognition of the widespread practice--within Christianity--of reshaping Jesus as we see fit. Relatedly, the goal God has for us isn't just to learn about Jesus and his teachings--though that is necessary. The goal is to physically embody Jesus and his teachings. I believe it was Kierrkegard that said Jesus has many more admirers than followers. We want to be people whose admiration is such that following is the only logical course of action.

I then wondered if there's any topic worthy enough to be placed immediately after 'Jesus.' And further, what does it mean, practically speaking, to follow Jesus today? Does adding anything at all to 'Jesus' immediately misdirect us to lesser goals? That's my next post.

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