Thursday, May 26, 2005

Teenage Rebellion & The Jesus Revolution

When did the church start being viewed as "safe"? When did Christianity become so nice and palatable? It seems to me that Jesus and His followers were thought of as neither "safe" or "palatable" by the powers that be and the culture at large. Is it possible that one of the reasons that Jesus (and the idea of following Him) seems so uninteresting to most teenagers is that we have presented Him as something He wasn't (safe, bland, neutered, etc.)?
Rebellion is simply a fact of adolescence. It will be exhibited in some way, large or small. Is it possible to harness that rebellion for the Kingdom of God? I believe with all my heart that it is. However, it will require that we stop remaking Jesus in our own image and instead remake ourselves into His. It will require that we reveal to our teens the subversive and radical nature of the Kingdom. We will have to show them the Jesus that bucked pretty much all the systems. We must show them the Jesus who stubbornly swam upstream against the currents of power, greed, control, selfishness, and pride, by the power of love. We have to let them hear the voice of Jesus calling them to follow his rebellious path that fights injustice, reaches out to the downtrodden, refuses to stay in the safety of our little church buildings, and challenges the assumptions and power structures of the world. Oh, and one more thing: we have to be the rebels who model the Way for them, not the sellouts who paint a picture of Jesus that makes us feel comfortable and safe.
What if teens rebelled TO the church instead of away from it? What if that was the plan all along?

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Changing My Mind About Something

I used to think that action followed belief. The more years I spent in the church, the less I bought into that idea. For the last couple of years, I've even made a big point of saying (and writing) publicly that "action does not necessarily follow belief." Recently I've been reading Dallas Willard's book "The Divine Conspiracy", and he has really challenged me on this. Get ready...I'm about to recant an idea that I have promoted with gusto.
Action DOES follow belief. The sad fact is that most Christians don't believe what they know. I was equating "believing" with "knowing", hence my confusion. There is a huge difference. "Knowing" involves holding the right information in your head, and maybe even cognitively agreeing with it. Believing involves ordering your life around the idea as if it were so. Most Christians take the first option, erroneously thinking it to be the second. Therefore life change does not occur. We struggle with the same struggles. We attempt to force ourselves to be "good". We do mental gymnastics to try to justify how Jesus could describe a life for his followers that none would ever actually live (and not be lying). The fact is that we know what Jesus said and we know that He believed it. We know these things, but we don't believe them. We live as if there is going to be a standardized test at the end of our lives to determine our eternity (as if that were even the point). We hold the right "answers" in our heads (or so we think) and live our actual lives by the conflicting ideas that we actually believe. What do our churches and ministries need to do to move people from being Christians who "know" to Christians who actually "believe"? The world is waiting...

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Improvising The Rest

You and I are a part of a grand story that spans the entirety of time and beyond. Our part begins when God (for reasons unimaginable to me) decided to create the world and everything in it, including people. It was a good set up (as the first two chapters of Genesis repeatedly state) And, to top it all off, God walked around with people and talked to them. Then, believe it or not, people screwed it up, and the relationship was damaged (not just with God, but with everything). The language about God's proximity to people changes after that. I'm not actually sure if it reflects God's actual proximity or just people's perception of it (thought I lean toward the latter), but the Bible starts speaking of God as if He's distant and just comes down to check things out.
On one of these visits (having to do with seeing if a city called Sodom was as evil as he had heard it was) God goes to see a guy named Abram. God basically makes a deal with Abram that he and his descendants will be blessed so that they may be a blessing to the rest of the world. The story continues with Abram's descendants being much more interested in the first part of the deal (being blessed) than the second part (being a blessing) and God being perpetually frustrated with them, but never giving up on His dream. Then, one day, after a guy named Moses has led these people out of a time of captivity, God does something that no one expected. Moses goes up on a mountain and receives the 10 commandments, which usually steals the spotlight in our tellings of the story, but God promises something else that was astounding. They were to build a special tent (called a tabernacle) that God was going to "live in". For the first time since the Garden, God was going to be in their midst again. When the people settle in one place, the tabernacle becomes a temple and God is there.
Then, after a while, God does something that no one would have dared to ask for. God became a man...or actually God became a baby that grew and developed into a man. For the first time since Eden, God was walking around with people again. The relationship was restored, but God wasn't done yet. He reached out to the poor and oppressed with good news about the eternal abundant life NOW that was available to them. Then one night, as He was eating with his 12 closest friends, He shocks them by telling them that He's leaving and they can't go with them. They are stunned. Then He shocks them more by telling them that it will actually be better for them once He was gone. He said that "another" was coming. God wasn't done yet. He was going to do something that no one would have ever dared to dream. Now, instead of walking beside them, God was going to live inside them...they were going to be saturated with Him.
Later, guards come and take Him and nail Him to a couple of pieces of wood. After hours of agony, He dies. His followers are reeling. How could this have happened? How could they go on? But that's when it gets really weird. A couple of days later, He's walking around again...alive. He hangs out for a while (long enough for about 500 people to see Him). Before He literally flies away, He basically tells them that He took their place on the Cross so that they could take His place in the world. The story goes on from there and tells about how those followers set up the church and attempted to fulfill the mission given to them. We even get some cryptic information about how it ends (with God saying "I am making all things new"...kind of an odd ending) but that leaves you and I in an odd, unwritten section in the middle. Our role as followers of Jesus, is to take His place in our figure out who Jesus would be if He lives our lives, (had our jobs, went to our schools, had our relationships, etc.) and improvise the rest.