Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Change the World - Introduction and Chapter One

In the introduction of Change the World: Recovering the Message and Mission of Jesus. Rev. Mike Slaughter states clearly in the very first few pages what he understands the mission of Jesus was to be. That mission was to change the world by bringing the good news to the poor, the oppressed, the blind, and to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. (Luke 4:18-19). He then asserts that the "gospel is good news for the poor. If it is not working to benefit the poor and the oppressed, then it is not the gospel."

I am not buying it. Is not the gospel Jesus the Messiah himself has come to reconcile the world to its creator, the God of Israel? When this gospel transforms  the person, then it becomes the good news to the poor and the oppressed.

In chapter one which is titled "Missional vs Attractional" Slaughter says that what is wrong with the church is that it is overly concerned with attracting numbers, and less concerned with fulfilling mission. This is counter to what us United Methodist are hearing from the conference level. What we are hearing is that what is important is the number of people attending worship, the number of people professing faith, the number of people involved in small groups, the amount of money collected weekly, the amount of money spent on mission, the number of people involved in mission. I agree with Slaughter that we should be involved in mission.

At the end of chapter one lays out what Jesus is calling his mission in three "biblical mandates." First, is the The Great Requirement" from Micah 6:8: "He has shown all you people what is god. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God." Within this are three acts, justice, mercy, and humbleness. These are fundamental to the Christian life-style. 

The second biblical mandate is from John 15:12-13:  "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends." Yes, this is true, but I think the fuller statement of what Jesus intends as his mission is a life that lives the two great commandments that starts with “And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”” (Matthew 22:37–40, ESV). A church needs both legs on which to stand.

The third biblical mandate is from Matthew: “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”” (Matthew 28:18–20, ESV) I think this goes without saying key to what Jesus thought he was doing, and commissioning disciples to do.

The question is what does this look like in the church? And another question is everyone in the church a disciple, or more accurately and disciple-in-process? If not who has control over your faith community,the disciples or the other folks who are there for other reasons than discipleship? These questions lead to one of the propositions that Slaughter made in the beginning of the chapter: "We invite the uninitiated to become members of a movement that they don't even understand without clearly laying out the expectations of the movenment's revolutionary leader." I think this is a serous question for the United Methodist church for two reasons. In the small local churches with which I am familiar there is no intentional process for membership. Secular organisations have a more intentional process than the small local church. We are just happy to take anyone at face value.



Saturday, March 30, 2013

Merciful and everliving God, Creator of heaven and earth,
   the crucified body of your son was laid in the tomb
     an rested on this holy day.
Grant that we may await with him the dawning of the third day
   and rise in newness of life, through Jesus Christ Our Redeemer. Amen
(The Book of Common Prayer, U.S.A. 20th Cent.)

Friday, March 29, 2013

When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, "It is finished," and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit John 19:30

 Good Friday. I like very much the quote I saw on FB from Renovare USA. "By the cross we know the gravity of sin and the greatness of God's love toward us." John Chrysostom.

The early fathers of the church were wise men, and we could listen to them more often.