My great friend Jim Gardner posted this on his blog a few days ago. Its very Bonhoefferesque. It reminds of the call of our Savior to follow him when he’s purposefully walking the path to Jerusalem and his horrible death. Deny yourself. Pick up your cross. Get in line behind me and follow me. It’s from a lecture given by Timothy Dolan, the recently appointed archbishop of New York.
“Maybe the greatest threat to the Church is not heresy, not dissent, not secularism, not even moral relativism, but this sanitized, feel-good, boutique, therapeutic spirituality that makes no demands, calls for no sacrifice, asks for no conversion, entails not battle against sin, but only soothes and affirms.” (“Church News,” Times-Dispatch, Richmond, VA, 2-25-09, A-10)
I wonder sometimes about the call of our Christ and whether or not that call is reflected by the practice in and of our churches. I worry sometimes that we’re not really calling our people to much more than showing up regularly for a spiritually-uplifting worship service, guaranteed to contain all the elements they enjoy in just the right order they expect.
Are we, like Christ and the Apostles, calling our people to grow? To change? To be continually converted? Are we calling our people to sacrifice? To give everything up for the sake of others? For the cross? Are we calling our people to faithfully eradicate sin? In our own lives? In our neighborhoods? To wipe out the sin in our churches?
Are we guilty of allowing a culture to develop in our churches in which, if things don’t go our way, we complain to the proper persons until we’re promised “I’ll look into that” or “Let me take care of that.”? Have we created, or at least fostered, a church culture that insists on our “rights,” within the congregational family and the broader community?
Our Lord calls us to die. To give away our lives for his sake. To be last.
Jesus bends over backward to make very clear he’s calling us OUT of our comfort zones, not to them.
I’m re-reading a great little work on the Lord’s Supper by Markus Barth, Rediscovering the Lord’s Supper. And right in the middle of this book he tackles this difficult call. Barth claims — my paraphrase — the Church of Christ ought to reflect the Christ of the Church.
“…Christ became weak, poor, despised, a scandal, and a foolishness to human reason, experience, and social standards, in order to come to those who are weak, poor, despised, who are considered scandalous or foolish, and who are treated as social outcasts. He came to them to be with them and to redeem them….As foolish, scandalous, and outcast as Christ is in relation to the world, so should Christ’s congregation be within the city.”
What changed? When and how did fitting in and looking good and being seen as successful in the eyes of the community become so important?
Wait. I’m on a new topic. Sorry.
The call to die. That’s the thought. Now, how do we do that as a church? Within our congregations and in our communities, how do we follow our Savior and die?
Sacrificial giving on Missions Sunday might be a good place to start!
thanks for your comment and love brother.
we’re all working toward the same goal,
and i appreciate the example that you are for me.
let’s get together soon.
You might call people to change, but unless it’s a dire emergency, people are not going to. We’ll complain until we get things changed or get what we want which includes escalating the issue (“May I speak with your Supervisor/Manager/Principal/Elder…”).
You ask someone to change – are you willing to call them out if they backslide? How will you hold them accountable?
Ah, that’s the deal. Holding each other accountable.
It’s not holding THEM accountable. That would never work.
I suppose a preacher or an elder or two could be the ones to constantly hammer away and call people on it when they act in ways that do not reflect Christ. I guess I could be the one to object every time someone says, “Don’t mind him, that’s just the way he is,” or when we make decisions as a congregation that reflect misplaced priorities. Maybe I could be the one to stand up and say, “That’s not how Jesus did it!” Every time.
But that’s the kind of thing that got the prophets killed and gets preachers fired.
The whole church has to buy into it. We all have to be humble enough to realize we don’t know everything and that we have tons and tons of room to grow. We all have to be completely convinced that serving Christ and serving others is more important than serving ourselves. And then we all hold each other accountable.
Like a family.
Until then, as you say, forget it.
The only way we can hold each other accountable is to live as a family. To know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. To be open to discipline and open to give discipline.
If only there were a time when, say, 12-14 of us could share a meal and share our struggles and victories. If only there were a place where we could look into each other’s eyes, rather than the back of each other’s heads.
Maybe if we each learn to hold ourselves accountable and not worry about the other guy. Maybe listen to the words as they apply to ME, not THEM.
Webster defines accountable as answerable or responsible. We are responsible to ourselves yet I can lie to myself or I can grant myself an exception. We learn to be accountable when someone takes us through the process and makes me show my work.
You want people ready to die for God, hardcore Christians changing their lives to reflect Jesus in every way? I think we must use the solution Jesus used: discipleship. According to church history, all of those 11 guys were passionately like him, most even to execution. Now somehow we’ve lost discipleship and traded it in for feel-good worship services and bible classes. If you want people sold-out for God, then discipleship is the way to go, and I don’t mean a mentor who says “call me if you need anything” but rather an intense personal relationship with someone more mature in the faith than you. Unfortunately, relationships like that take alot of time and commitment which most people don’t feel they have the time for.
Great post. I’m teaching a series of lessons from Isaiah 40-49 and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the captivity of the church. The list of captors is long and varied but the reasons for remaining in captivity seem to be two, fear and doubt. We fear the discomfort and loss associated with deliverance and we doubt God’s willingness and ability to protect and sustain the church as we move from captivity to freedom. As a result, we seek ways that we (underline we)can rescue, renew and re-create our congregations instead of crying out to God to rescue, renew and re-create our own lives.
That’s a good word brother! Catch up with me on Facebook – LOVE