An interview with Code for the Kingdom organizers, Nicholas Skytland and Ali Llewellyn – along with a rundown of Jesus’ radical politics. Co-hosted with Ben Triplett
Survival Lesson #8: ORGANIZE BEFORE THEY RISE!
“Unlike its human counterparts, an army of zombies is completely independent of support. It will not require food, ammunition, or medical attention. It will not suffer from low morale, battle fatigue, or poor leadership… Like the virus that gave it life, this undead force will continue to grow, spreading across the body of this planet until there is nothing left to devour.”– Brooks (p.155)
Never underestimate the power of a well thought out plan in the post-apocalyptic world. You may be smarter than a zombie, but they will always outnumber you. This truth must never be overlooked. Just like you can never over live your life; you can never over plan for a situation. No matter how simple it may seem; always be well organized.
The second key change the church must be made is oriented around how we choose to organize ourselves. Our hierarchy for leadership and structure speaks volumes towards the heart of a church without saying a word. “Christian social ethics should not begin with attempts to develop strategies designed to make the world more “just,” but with the formation of a society shaped and informed by the truthful character of the God we find revealed in the stories of Israel and Jesus” (Newbigin A Community of Character p. 92).
Traditionally, church has operated under a top down model for leadership and power. If we look at the Gospels, that is never the case. Christ sends out his disciples, two by two. The church in Acts was driven and expanded as it advanced one relationship at a time. Moreover, in a post-Christian culture, there is a pronounced distrust of church and church leadership which is why I am suggesting the adoption of a polycentric, flat model of leadership where ”leaders interrelate and incarnate the various purposes of Christ in such a way that the entire body is activated to service and matures in love” (Woodward Creating a Missional Culture p.60). Leadership in this structure, cultivates, empowers and equips the congregation to be Christ in the community. It unleashes the church to do the work of the church. Church in this way is poised for action that takes place in the streets, the workplace and the living room. It is interactive, relational and missional. For the church to survive in the 21st century, those who follow Christ must become the catalyst and cultivators of Christianity. This is the only way…
Christ’s call of the Gospel isn’t a proposition for a different way to live or a certain set of rules. It’s a dare. A dare to not fall in love with the person of Jesus. Nothing more, nothing less.
So often we package the Gospel as a offer. Jesus will forgive your sins if… I think the scandal of Christ is something so much richer and deeper than a sales pitch. Once we boil it down to an accept/reject decision – the beauty of the gospel is lost. It’s something much, much more than that. God is calling you to enter into a life with him. This life involves discovery, growth, grace and peace.
Listen to Hang with Me by Robyn.
She begins with:
Will you tell me once again
How we’re gonna be just friends?
If you’re for real and not pretend
Then I guess you can hang with me
Often times we end up asking God this question. We’re always looking for what’s in it for us, but we’ve got it all wrong. It’s the other way around. Christ is the one asking us, “are you looking for a friend or a savior?” Are we looking for something real and life-changing? Or just a buddy Jesus?
I love the chorus in this song. It’s simply a dare:
Just don’t fall
Recklessly, headlessly in love with me
Cause it’s gonna be
Blissfully painful and insanity
If we agree you can hang with me
I think that in the Gospels, Christ is daring us not to follow him. Look at his interactions with the disciples. He’s never begging them to stay. Something deeper stirs them. Jesus never goes around begging people to follow Him. His way, his essence, His Kingdom, were all far too compelling and transcendent to be boiled down into a proposition. It also wasn’t merely about forgiveness or sin. This was God in the flesh dwelling with mankind. It was something more profound, absolutely moving and completely undeniable that went way beyond words. It was an offer to have your world turned upside down.
Try adequately to describe a beautiful sunset or the majesty of snow covered mountains on a clear day. Words are not adequate. There are some things that are beyond explanation. Do we speak of the Gospel like it’s a dare and something beyond words? Or do we describe it in terms that are rigid, technical and/or harsh?
How we articulate the Gospel is key. How we live it is essential. Do we speak imaginatively with the passionate words of poets? Do we live lives that echo the the beauty, humility and majesty of the Christ’s life?
Let’s begin to remember that the Gospel was never about us. It’s all about Christ.
What do you think? Do we dare to live that way?
Survival Lesson #3: BLADES DON’T NEED RELOADING.
(The Reality of Globalization)
“During the Qin Dynasty, all books not relating to practical concerns such as agriculture or construction were ordered burned by the emperor to guard against “dangerous thought.” Whether accounts of zombie attacks perished in the flames will never be known.” – Brooks (p.168)
When living in an undead world with its devastated landscape and limited supplies, you must adopt new rules for survival. For instance, when thinking of weapons for defense, conventional items like guns are no longer your best choice. In a pinch they do the job, but typically they are too loud and attract other zombies. They are also in a constant need of ammunition. Think about axes or machetes. They don’t need to be reloaded. In this new existence, old conventions must be rethought in order to succeed in this new reality.
In a similar shift, globalization is taking over our world with an unprecedented fury. “The shift in global Christianity has already occurred. The shift in American evangelicalism is well under way” (Rah The Next Evangelicalism p.191). Not only do we find ourselves living in a post-Christian nation, but globalization is also impacting the face of culture and, vicariously, Christianity. The face of Christianity is experiencing a movement towards the global south. This means that the Western influence of Christianity is waning in the wake of the rise of the Global South (Latin America, Africa, Asia and Oceania). The world is changing and the way we engage ministry must change with it. We are no longer the Western Church; we are now the Global Church.
“Globalization and the emergence of the worldwide theater has torn down geographical boundaries” (Lyons The Next Christians p. 20). Missionaries are now coming from around the world to evangelize the lost in the United States. There are no longer foreign missions; the world itself is now a mission field. You no longer need to travel far distances to experience foreign peoples; they are now living in our neighborhoods. “The majority of the world’s non-Christians will not be geographically distant people but culturally distant peoples who often reside together in the shadows of urban spires in the metro areas of every continent” (Bakke Theology as Big as the City p.18). Missions now happen as we reach out to our neighbors in and around our cities.
With the growing impact of globalization, many things change, but our desire and need for relationships remain and, even quite possibly, escalate in this new globalized world. Relational intimacy is quickly becoming the new world equity. Institutions no longer hold the power and if we hope to make change and spread the gospel, it will happen one relationship at a time. This is the core of influence now; it is no longer about wealth or power. In the West, we must learn to listen more to others from around the globe because of this is a paradigm shift. We no longer have all of the answers, and our old ways are no longer working. There is a learning posture that we must take up as evangelicals because “the Gospel speaks to people of every culture and is translatable to every culture” (Escobar The New Global Mission p.12). This learning posture will lead us to engaging in cross culture ministry reaching out to people in our own context. We must approach others with open hands. Philip Jenkins spoke of the churches from the Global South as being characterized as, “churches [that] preach deep personal faith and communal orthodoxy, mysticism and puritanism, all founded on scriptural authority” (Jenkins The Next Christendom 3696). To Western churches their approaches may seem simplistic, but there is a power to a faith that travels light. This new face of Christian spirituality centers around a God that of the present and meets the needs of today as opposed to a God is only focused on eternity.
Diversity is not a word I would use to describe any of my experiences in ministry, much less put the word global in front of it. I have worked for predominantly white churches and ministries. They have been focused domestically where most of the informed practices we followed were from older traditions that were shaped over time in a small community. Entering into the MAGL program, I was ecstatic to have the honor of being classmates and friends with varied pastors and missionaries from around the world. Seeing ministry and theology from their perspectives has changed and enriched mine. This new globalized Christianity makes more sense to my heart than the institutionalized version I had grown weary of.
Globalization has broken down the walls and doors of the mission field. It not only changes where we do ministry, but how we do ministry. This past summer I was sitting down with Joel Sengoga, a Rwandan pastor, speaking to him about my journey with church planting. I had become overwhelmed with all that needed to be accomplished and he quickly stopped me, saying, “Stuart, you Americans over think everything. It’s not always about planning. Faith is simply taking the next step God has in front of you.” Joel’s way of looking at ministry was so simple, yet profound and deeply biblical. I had become caught up in organizational minutiae and lost God in the process. The truth of the Gospel exists in its profound simplicity. I was reminded that we must be a part of the “rediscovery of the original genius of the teaching of Jesus and the missional practice of the earliest Christians all lived out boldly on the soil of a post-Christian empire” (Frost Exiles p.26).
So we are caught in a world that is both globalized and post-Christian. This may seem like a problem for many, but these two new realities are creating resurgence towards the raw power of the Gospel – people moving in faith by the power of the Holy Spirit. As it was said before, people do not fear change, they fear loss. Loss is happening, but it is nothing compared to the exponential gains that are waiting for us. The power lies in what happens after we come to grips with this loss. Things are not what they used to be, but there is hope that tomorrow is vastly better than yesterday. These new realities bring with them new possibilities. It is because of this, that I am excited about my endeavor into church planting. I’m beginning to see the sheer simplicity and power of the Gospel in new ways. I am learning to now be awake to God’s presence and the possibilities that are springing up around me as I take that next step of faith. It has brought about a new sense of clarity.
With these new realities in our world today, how does the church thrive in the face of a post-Christian and globalized world? The church must learn to become transformational and missional, not to merely survive, but to thrive. The days of striving are gone. There is hope for what is around the corner, and there is great excitement as we begin to look at the solutions…