How is the Church prophetic?
By Rusty Bonham
It would be prophetic if we just really did that... ‘cause nobody does that.
(Names in parenthesis are names I associate with this realization.)
How are we different (prophetic)?
A conversation with a high schooler: “So we are supposed to be different than the non-Christians at school right? How? Is it that we don’t drink or smoke? Most of my friends are not Christians, yet they neither drink nor smoke. Furthermore, I know some Christian kids who do. No. if you wanna know what would make someone really different… it would be to say once in awhile: “Excuse me, but what I did/said yesterday was wrong. I am sorry, and I want you too forgive me.” That would make you truly different, ‘cause nobody does that.” (Neff)
The following is currently the loose stuff in a box. (Can you tell we just moved?) You always have a draw with this-and-that in it; it gets emptied into the box for the move, then gets poured into the “stuff” drawer. The box rattles.
What’s My Motivation?
It’s simple, but not easy. Love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength… and my neighbor as myself. Love God; love others… the Law and the Prophets summed up. The Great Commandment. Notice, the title is from Jesus. What is the other one called? You know, the one … “Go ye into all the world…” The Great Commission! Who called it that??? Not Jesus. Many mission-minded believers act as if this were the Greatest Commandment, and consequently they are driven by an “ought to” compulsion. This is a fear-driven motivation, from a directing God (maybe a task-master God). But if your motivation is the Greatest Commandment, then love is your motivation because you have been loved by the One who calls you worthy and you begin to see others as worthy, for they are in God’s image, and the “want to” is there because you have joined God in reconciling the world unto Himself. (Sawatzky)
The (Two) Basic Question(s)
The obvious first: Who is God? In other words, by nature I always want to be God and my life is a process of identifying and surrendering those actions. But the second question betrays my desire to keep the focus or emphasis between God and me: Who is my neighbor? The question is designed to limit my radius of responsibility to those of my choosing, no doubt I will choose only those I already love. Jesus’ answer (parable of the guy in the ditch) puts the lover in the position of desperate need and horror, and shows that everyone deserves love. How does that change my idea of what it means to let God be God? It means I love from the ‘weakness’ of realizing I am vulnerable, even love my enemy. To God, who while we were enemies of God, died for us… there are no enemies. Just beloved sinners.
Second Commandment, Third Pole
Love God / Love people… mirror images. Reflection- twin brother, view from the other side… Love God… and the second is like it… (this is what it looks like) love your neighbor as yourself (love your neighbor, for he is as you are.) Uni-polar spirituality is concerned with feeling peace. The Bi-polar spirituality acknowledges a God and responds to this God. A tri-polar spirituality does not comprehend a love for God that does not love neighbor… even my enemy… for he is as I am. (Augsberger)
The forth-telling of God’s message. To the church. The first message of the prophet must not be “Repent,” but “I repent.” And then, like Daniel, begin to feel the pain and fallenness of your own people and in tears pray confession for the forgiveness of the sins of your people… the Church. (Blakeman)
The barber writes, “Arlee sat there in my chair going off about how they oughta drop a bomb on the protesters and I wheeled him around and said to his face, “Love your enemies.” Arlee said, “Where’d you get that?” “Jesus.” “Oh.” And Arlee shut up. (But there was one problem- I did not love Arlee.)” (Augsberger)
How can you say you love God, whom you have not see, and not love the brother that you have seen??! (easy… isn’t it. I do it all the time… unless this means I do not truly love God.) When you did it to the least of these, you did it to me. “The way you encounter another person is the same way you encounter God, 100%.” (Pate)
We befriend people in order to get them saved. This is disengenuous, manipulative and coercive, using people, Amway missions; true friendship in and of itself IS whole and of the Kingdom of God. It is only love, when there is no ulterior motive. (Frost, Hirsch)
An Amishman was asked, “Are you a Christian?” He replied, “If you truly want to know whether or not I am a Christian, then you should ask my neighbor.” (Bontrager)
Love and Truth
“Missional” is the result of embracing the Love and Truth of God.
Love: (emotional health) that I am loved, worthy, special, unique, acceptable as I am.
Truth: (spiritual health) that I am lost, contaminated, wounded, guilty of wounding, goner
So I am loved and lost, a beloved/sinner.
To truly grasp this will transform me into a transformed transformer. An evangel-ed evangel-er. A reconciled reconciler. II Cor 5- He reconciled us to Him and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. I am an impacted impacter, a loved lover- a truthed truther… a salted salter.
John 20:21 As the Father has sent me, so I send you (be salted) (Love Others)
John 20:22 Receive the Holy Spirit and he breathed on them (be salty) (Love God)
Triangle or Tree?
I sometimes wonder if the triangle should equally be Worship, Mission and Community. I entertain the possibility that Community is the trunk of the tree between Worship and Mission. Currently the church has roots (Worship) and trunk (Community) but it’s as if the power company has clipped all the branches. So we are comfortable with a church of worship and community. What if we were only worsip and mission… would we not find a way to support and resource one another in our mission work? Would the stress of mission not create community?
Rather than church as Sunday, building, and Pastor, (which is attractional, dualistic and heirarchical), it should rather be incarnational, messianic, and apostolic. Seek an ecclesiology that flows from a missiology, which flows from a christology. Conventionally, we have first encountered Jesus, then form the church, and lastly try to be missional. We form churches and then try to get people to reach out. We’ve lost the realization that God is a missionary God, that God wanted the whole world to be blessed in Abraham, and that we are to follow Jesus (implies that he’s moving, doesn’t it?) cristology => missiology => ecclesiology (Frost, Hirsch)
Being IN Jesus
If I stop thinking of Jesus in me, which really appeals to my individualism, which is to say it appeals to my flesh, and start thinking of myself as being in Christ, then the paradigm stands on its head: now…
I exist for him,
… is Evangel-ing. It is Good News-ing. What is the verb of Good News? It is not to tell good news. It is not enough to simply be a changed person; it is to be Good News-ing. I was thinking, to be a part of a church that owned no building, and paid no staff, and had lots of money ‘cause people would earn well and not spend it on themselves but look for opportunities to bless people with it, and live simply so that there would be even more money to give… your neighbor has a kid in the hospital and you give him $200 for his expenses, missing work… nobody does that.
The Gospel should be Good News to the poor. (Luke 4) Gandhi said, “If you want to know who the Christians are, just ask the poor; they’ll tell you who the Christians are.”
What is the Gospel?
The Gospel must be simple to be replicable. (Cole) Memorable.
Being missional is being a part of what God is doing- God’s mission, the Missio Dei. It is not the Church’s effort to extend itself. It is what God is doing to draw all of Creation back to Himself. (Steigerwald)
This is the New Creation
Now that’s a very big claim - there should be a gasp when hearing such a mind-blowing concept. That the severed relationships between us, our God, ourselves and the Creation are being made new and whole as Shalom is restored: the Kingdom, His will on Earth as it is in Heaven. The Church is the hermeneutic of the Gospel.
The Cost of Non-discipleship
What does it mean to make disciples? Bringing belief and behavior together:
Do you have beliefs about Jesus? (opinions)
A disciple is a little-Christ, a “mini-me.” Follow Jesus, becoming like him as you go. (Augsberger) We were not told to plant churches, but to make disciples, and it is disciples who will make more disciples. (Cole)
The Roman conversion: believe, then belong
The Celtic conversion: belong, then believe. I like Clark’s description of “Why don’t you come stand be me and maybe you’ll see what we’re talking about.”
But might I propose a 3rd? Both the above examples exclude mission. Why not behave=> belong=> believe? This culture is ripe to expect seculars to join our (example) justice activities first, then get to know us, then believe.
People need Jesus, and they need a job. (Sider) If I love my neighbor as myself, then I want them to have a roof over their heads, food, a job, safety… all the things I want for me and my family, right? (Perkins)
Jesus is not the kind of friend your mom would have wanted you to hang with. Likewise, the Gospel is so counter-culture that we usually miss it- like we take it as spiritual, and thus has no real bearing on me or how I live, play, work, shop, etc. But the Gospel is so conflictually in the face of our culture- often the opposite of our self-saturated culture, that it should be sobering, scarey, and maybe should make one reluctant to enter into an arrangement with something so costly. It could mean being disowned by your people. The twelve Marks of the New Monasticism stand in contrast to our cultures values:
The twelve marks of a "New Monastic" Community are:
1. Relocation to the abandoned places of Empire.
2. Sharing economic resources with fellow community members and the needy among us.
3. Hospitality to the stranger
4. Lament for racial divisions within the church and our communities combined with the active pursuit of a just reconciliation.
5. Humble submission to Christ’s body, the church.
6. Intentional formation in the way of Christ and the rule of the community along the lines of the old novitiate.
7. Nurturing common life among members of intentional community.
8. Support for celibate singles alongside monogamous married couples and their children.
9. Geographical proximity to community members who share a common rule of life.
10. Care for the plot of God’s earth given to us along with support of our local economies.
11. Peacemaking in the midst of violence and conflict resolution within communities along the lines of Matthew 18.
12. Commitment to a disciplined contemplative life.
These marks were drafted in June of 2004 by a group of intentional communities, and represent contrasting Kingdom values and priorities in the place of our unconscious American-culture’s self-serving sinful powers and patterns. The book written to define such communities can be read at the following site: http://www.newmonasticism.org/book/chpt1.pdf
In their simplest topical form, they are:
What does it look like?
How then, shall we live? We are Jesus people, and Jesus’ people, and we seek congruity- a life whose faith is integrated- a life that is observably under the direction and management of Jesus. Someone does not become a person until s/he relinquishes the projected image they want you to see, and then enters into relationships that invite others to respond to that true self. (Pate) Is there a way in which this statement is true in my relationship not only to my Christian brother or sister, but also in my relationships to God and to the secular not-yet-believers I meet?
In order to live a Jesus life, I need others to keep me on track. I also need to be keeping others on track. So we enter into covenant with those whose vision, trajectory, or goal is the same, and we encourage and/or confront one another- speaking the Truth in Love. (Structure is cold and institutional-protecting. Commitment can be, too. But Covenant is relational, and has the other’s best interest at heart.) (Forsythe)
Practices in the Tri-polar Church
Covenant is valuable but may be subjective, so we covenant to practices that will nurture growth and deepen roots. (Deb Hirsch) The most basic unit in the Kingdom is the individual-in-community. (Augsberger) I can only pray for God to lead me into relationships with brothers and sisters whose heart beats for living in faithful, reconciled relationships that will hold me against the world, the arms of God, to encourage and confront me, to keep me on the path of obedience, God with skin, people committed to loving God and/by loving others, a people who soooo love the world, a community of people who live practices that are freely and refreshingly different from the world in a winsome way that will overhear others remark, “nobody does that.”