Survival Lesson #4: KEEP MOVING, KEEP LOW, KEEP QUIET, KEEP ALERT!
(Learning to be Transformational)
“Do not investigate any strange noises or lights in the distance. Just get out. Every side trip, every pause in the journey, increases the odds of being found and devoured.” – Brooks (p. 95)
Striving to remain alive in the face of a zombie outbreak is difficult, but it also brings with it clarity and a glorious simplicity to your everyday existence. Faced with a struggle to live a prioritized life in a way where survival is paramount. There is no tomorrow unless you live well today. You learn to become truly alive and cherish every moment when death is possibly around the corner. It brings about an incredible amount of focus to your world.
In our times as well, this new reality is bringing about a wave of clarity to our existence as Christians living in the shadow of an empire. It is in this place of simplicity that transformation is possible. “The Christian movement must be the living, breathing promise to society that it is possible to live out the values of Christ – that is, to be a radical, troubling alternative to the power imbalances in the empire” (Frost Exiles p. 15). Armed with only the power of the Gospel, we are called to engage in the work of the incarnational way of Christ.
Transformation becomes possible when we let go of our past assumptions of church. Old symbols of power, like big buildings or elaborate services belong in the past age. New movements involve community and helping the marginalized in society. Demonstrations of money or power no longer impress this new culture. Power comes through influence, and influences are only brokered through acts of redemption. “Redemption is the beginning of our participation in God’s work of restoration in our lives and the world. Understanding that one idea literally changes everything” (Lyons The New Christians p.53).
Taking a page from our brothers and sisters in the south, we are seeking to embody a faith that is “marked by a culture of poverty, an oral liturgy, narrative preaching, uninhibited emotionalism, maximum participation in prayer and worship, dreams and visions, faith healing, and an intense search for community and belonging” (Escobar The New Global Mission p.15). We are called to exude imagination as a church that tells new stories and reveals new narratives. Our faith is grounded in the past, but it is also unfolding in the present. In our new faith community, it is our call “for Christians to exhibit confidence in the lordship of Yahweh as the truth of our existence and in particular of our community” (Newbigin Community of Character p.86). Living like this, driven by faith, changes the lives of those with whom you journey with. The Gospel begins to pour out on to the community as we journey together as the hands and feet of Christ. This is a walk of meekness and compassion. It is one of downward mobility that seeks to serve rather than be served. It is through this existence that leadership is redefined into the mold of Christ. It is also through living in this way that we become more awake to God’s presence in our community. This is the starting point of being transformational.
Where does it go from here? That is not for me to say. Our church will follow the Lord and begin with service. He will guide us to the rest. “To suffer joyfully for the gospel, and to forgive and serve those who inflict that suffering, is to be taught by Christ to walk the way of the cross. It is only such a church, radical in its obedience, that makes known the beauty, truth and power of the Christian message to the world“ (Ramachandra Faiths in Conflict? p.171).
Making the decision to plant a church has become one of the hardest decisions I have ever made. I have wrestled with doubt and fear. I have also felt a deep call within my heart to passionately take a leap of faith. While reading the book A Tale of Three Kings, by Gene Edwards, one line struck me. “Beginning empty-handed and alone frightens the best of men. It also speaks volumes of just how sure they are that God is with them” (Edwards p.69). Transformation can only take place in the presence of God. I believe that as a pastor and leader, I could never expect my faith community to do anything I was not willing to do myself. As my family is preparing to pack up and move across the country to plant a church, I’m beginning to learn that transformation only happens when we step out and take a risk. We take the step of faith the Lord uses the process to transform us. To be a church that is transformational, we must be dreamers and people of great faith. We must also be willing to pray earnestly and take great risks. The new way of live flows easily into our next solution for the church in the 21st century: learning to be missional…