Survival Lesson #5: NO PLACE IS SAFE, ONLY SAFER.
(Learning to be Missional)
“Somnambulists [sleepwalkers] are the greatest threat to humanity, other than humanity itself” – Brooks (xii)
Although each zombie attack is different, one thing always remains constant; there is strength in numbers. The living survivors must band together and work in unison as never before. Social status and standing are gone; the old ways of a world have passed away. In the new economy, we must gather together, working in unison to facing the zombie hordes. Venturing out alone can often mean sudden death.
In the same sense, when it comes to the life of faith, we were created to be in community with others. Life should be lived together. Too long have institutional churches been known for doing church as opposed to being the church. We must become less about programming and more about sharing space. The original genius of Christ can be seen in the fact that he left the earth before he established the church. He knew that if he had stayed behind, the church would have never grown much beyond him. It started in the hands of a simple group of people because Jesus always meant for the church to be about community. That was then, and if we look at the focus of Western Church today, it looks much like this diagram (from McLaren‘s A Generous Orthodoxy p.117):
Here, church has become all about the individual. Once we lose the communal nature of church, it becomes a service driven institution. Only ‘service’ is not the same type of service we mentioned in the last section. Service in this context can be likened to that of a commodity. Church now produces a product for Christian consumers. In this paradigm, church exits to serve the Christian and has little impact on the world around it. Pastors are paid to keep congregants happy and hopefully attract new ones so the church can pay the bills. This may be a crude way to put it, but at its base level, this is the hard truth.
When we look at the Bible, a diagram (from McLaren’s A Generous Orthodoxy p.118) that closer resembles Christ’s original call (the Great Commission), shifts to look like this:
With this shift, the church exists to reach out to the world and the individual exists to serve the church. This is the paramount shift. “To be chosen, to be elect, therefore does not mean that the elect are the saved and the rest are the lost. To be the elect in Christ Jesus… means to be incorporated into his mission to the world, to be the bearer of God’s saving purpose for the whole world” (Newbigin The Gospel in a Pluralist Society 1336).
Too often, like the living dead, we have become like sleepwalkers, making our way through life without asking questions or challenging the way things are – even if those ways are wrong. For the church to shift from the first diagram to the second, it must take on the mantle of John the Baptist. In knowing Christ, John saw a new reality and stated, “He [Christ] must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30 TNIV). As the Church we are called to be a sign of the kingdom that, like John the Baptist, points towards the present reality of Christ. Either we believe that the Gospel exists for us (believers) or we believe that the Gospel exists for others. Whichever one you follow has great implications upon your walk as a Christian; both having profoundly different trajectories.
In Genesis, God called to Abraham and said, “I will surely bless you… and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed” (Genesis 22:17,18 TNIV). Abraham was promised blessings, and also that his descendants would be a blessing to the world. We are blessed and but also called to be a blessing to the world. As I journey forward, my missional heart will be at the core of who we are as a new church plant. We, as a church community, must overcome the “me” culture that has lead the West into a post-Christian state and focus it back to the “we” culture epitomized by the early church. The number one problem with the church today is not globalization or the shift in Christianity; we are the problem. As Christ followers, we have made the church about our own selfish desires and pursuits. If we are to be a church that is both transformative and missional at heart, we must understand that everything centers on Jesus, not ourselves. “Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ. No Christian community is more or less than this” (Bonhoeffer Life Together p.21). When walking towards planting this church, I feel this quote wonderfully focuses on what the heart of any church must be grounded on: Christ.
In the next section, we will outline a roadmap towards freedom. It will involve us rethinking the way we look at church and cultivate leadership. These will be the steps that guide us to being a church that is both missional and transformative…