I am reminded of my old friend George Bullard’s description of a healthy, wholistic church. George would describe a healthy church as having “good Gospel, good faith, good community, and good works.” I would even say such is true of a regional ministry or a denominational ministry. But in the brittle times we live in individuals and churches choose which one or two of the four sides of the prism they will choose to engage and live out. It is what I have begun to call the “cut and paste hermeneutic”. We accept from Christ’s life and instruction, what we find most comfortable to receive, and place aside that which does not or does meet our word view.
Some set aside Jesus words, “I am the way, the truth, and life, no one comes to the Father but by me.” All of Jesus’ “I AM” statements challenge us to proclamation, and faith. Some set aside, “I was hungry and you didn’t feed me, naked you didn’t cloth me, in prison you didn’t visit me, and a stranger and you didn’t welcome me in.” “What you have done for the least of these, you have done it to me.” And maybe we wrestle with Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom of God being near and that the Kingdom of God is upon us, because to welcome the reign of Christ calls us to a greater identity, joy, and accountability then we could ever create for ourselves in this world or the next.
In our fallen and limited humanity, we purposely choose to, or drift into a “cut and paste hermeneutic”. I wonder if we cut and paste Jesus, because to aspire to live fully as a citizen of Christ’s Kingdom, we must inevitably accept Christ’s authority in our lives and churches, when our nature and our culture, idolizes individual autonomy. We are tempted to search for the Christ who is compliant with our thoughts, preconceptions, and ideology, rather than kneel before Christ as Lord of all humanity and creation. We struggle to bring every thought captive but find it convenient to allow our thoughts to simmer in their own autonomous juices, eating the apple over and over again. As Leonard Sweet aptly points out in one of his older books, only Christ is the true North Star.
The challenge in an information saturated age, where media caters to its “customer base” is to answer the question, who and what is forming Christ’s church and the souls that compose this church? I propose the antidote is the timeless, classic journey of discipleship and spiritual formation. Can anyone in the institutional church, what some call the “visible church” really argue with that? From this journey, attempting to live out our imperfect best, the future is really about having no cause but Christ, and the welcoming of his transforming presence for individual, church, and culture.
As a Christian, I have come to believe that a foundational principle is to live for the sake of others, as Christ died and rose for me. There is the timely timeless Christian ethic of disadvantaging oneself for the sake of others. I am reminded of this when I see the sacrificial lives of pastors, spouses, and even families. When I read the histories of reformers and evangelists, missionaries and saints, Christian leaders of all walks, there is a common thread of having no cause but Christ. In Luke 10, when Jesus speaks about the Kingdom of God being near, he references both the blessing and the rejection of its nearness. There are people of peace who receive the Good News, the reign of Christ, and those who reject and send the 72 away. One of the challenges that face the American church is recognizing our selective rejections and acceptances. We are seduced into approaching Jesus like we do the Golden Corral.
Occasionally, I have been accused of being an ecclesiastical idealist, and maybe I am. I confess I lack patience with dawdling bureaucracy and institutional inertia, yet I believe any ministry can only be of “good gospel, good faith, good community and good works” by desiring, and knowing the fullness of Christ. Embracing this fullness, the widening of tunnel visions, the accepting all of who Jesus is, is the future’s pathway, as it has always been since the day He rose. I keep praying that Christ continues to form our historic association of churches. I trust Christ’s Spirit will make us passionate, compassionate, and faithful.
In Jesus name,
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