Jethani starts by inviting the conference attendees to sing Amazing Grace together. “Was blind but now I see…” Is this just poetic, a metaphor, or could it be more literal?
What was distinct about Mother Teresa? It wasn’t just was she did in the world, but how she saw the world. She saw things differently.
We are the most well-resourced Christians in the history of the world… and yet stats show that we are losing ground. How can this be explained? Its not about a lack resource, its about a lack of imagination. If we don’t see the world differently than the people around us then we will never change the world.
Parables designed to illuminate a different was to see the world. We have resources but we don’t have “eyes to see”.
1. How do we see the world?
Judas betrayal in the garden… Jesus and Peter… same experience, different responses. Violence, non-violence.
Peter sees the world as a dangerous place to be responded to with force. Driven by fear, he seeks control. This is a conventional view that informs the way we lead as church leaders. So we seek to mitigate fear and are fueled by that instead of love, compassion, and generosity. And so the fruit of our ministries looks the same as the fruit of the world. He cited that there is no statistical difference between evangelical Christians and non-believers in areas of divorce, racism, and immorality. [A claim that is debatable at best, dubious at worst. But let’s not get into that now…]
The problem is we don’t see the world differently so we use the same tools and reap the same fruits. Jesus rebukes Peter for this. Live by sword, die by sword. We live in a different way. Jesus is full of faith rather than fear.
“If we don’t see this as a God–with-us world we cannot be Christian leaders…” When we see the world this way, we are released from fear. We cannot lead like Jesus if we see the world through conventional eyes?
So, what fear is driving you?
2. How do we see the church?
In 1965 Walt Disney bought 43 square miles of swampland with a vision to build a city on it. They thought he was crazy. Then he died. Eventually it was built and opened, but it wasn’t what Disney envisioned. They built a theme park instead.
[You could see the Jesus/church analogy coming from a long way off…]
It’s a parallel to the church, which began with an innovative and imaginative leader, Jesus… who says, “You can do the things that I have done…” The Holy Spirit comes and this happens… then… something else started to happen… expansion. Subsequent generations of Christians didn’t have Jesus’s vision, so they went back to what they did best and used conventional means. The wild imagination of Jesus gets diluted and they go back to conventional thinking.
The church began as a fellowship, then became a philosophy (Greece), then an institution (Rome), then a culture (Europe), then, in America, an enterprise.
We use the structures and methodologies of consumerism and force them onto Christianity. The church becomes a corporation, an event, entertainment, religious goods and services. We do this in order to reach a consumer society. We sell comfort, but nobody grows spiritually by being comfortable. We only grow through suffering via either discipline or trial. So if our goal as churches is comfort, we’ll never have spiritual growth.
How much time and resources do we put into our worship services? What if we took 10% of that and taught people to pray? Worship services have their place but their glory always fades. Do you see the church as an institution or as the people of God? [false dichotomy alert – can't we see it as both?]
Are our churches rooted in the conventionality of our culture or in the imagination of Christ? Vision… imagination… how do we see the world? Are we driven by love or fear? How do we get the mind of Christ? By God’s amazing grace.
We don’t need more money, strategies, methodologies… but more Jesus Christ. Ask God to pour out his spirit and fill us with the mind of Christ.
Jethani is a compelling speaker. He speaks with confidence and doesn’t rely on notes except for lengthy quotes. He issued a good, strong challenge to us as church leaders.
He displayed something that I expect to be a common thread here over the course of the conference: cynicism about worship services and “church-as-it-is”. Granted, one of the reasons we’re all here is a sense of dissatisfaction with “church-as-it-is”, but the last Church Planting Congress (Calgary 2009) was saturated with this type of cynicism so I’m hoping this ones steers more clear of that.
That’s it for tonight. More tomorrow.