A friend and colleague of mine, Patrick Marshall, who I studied with at Columbia Theological Seminary, recently joined the blogosphere that I encourage you to check out. Although Patrick, a full-time solo pastor of a Presbyterian congregation in Nebraska, devoted husband and father of two, doesn’t write on a daily or weekly basis (just a few posts since August) his blog (Wr)ekklesia: Reckless Love For A Wrecked Churchis worth bookmarking. Patrick asks a lot of important questions that many of us Christians need to be asking of the churches we serve and worship in as well as the Church Universal in which our faith and understanding of God in Christ finds shape and meaning. In his writings and ministry, he challenges us to re-examine the ways in which we’ve turned the experience of Church into a set of comfortable and mundane rituals and motions, and envision a new way of being Church that is radical and life-transforming–the way God intends for it to be.
And he is not shy (as the blog title says) to point out that for the Church to be transformative or world changing, it has to recognize that it is made up of flawed, wrecked and imperfect human beings who are in need of God’s recklessly loving kingdom. Only by embracing God’s kingdom, the Church can help establish justice, love and grace for the poor, the blind, the prisoner, the sick and the oppressed.
In a post he wrote Friday, Patrick recommends Peter Rollins’ book Insurrection along with an excerpt that he describes as “(Rollin’s) hauntingly brilliant analysis of the Church in North America.” Rollins’ analysis is striking. In addition to making me want to purchase his book to see what else he has to say about the Church in North America, it also reminded me of quotes from two other authors whom I’ve referenced in sermons in 2010:
“Jesus was a dangerous man—dangerous to the power structure, dangerous to the church, dangerous to the crowds of people who followed Him. Shouldn’t the followers of Christ also be dangerous? Shouldn’t everyone be awed and dazzled by Christians? Shouldn’t Christians be known by the fire in their souls, the wild-eyed gratitude in their faces, the twinkle in their eyes, a holy mischief in their demeanors? Shouldn’t Christianity be considered dangerous—unpredictable, threatening to the status quo, living outside the lines, uncontrollable, fearless, wild, beyond categorization or definition? Shouldn’t those who call themselves Christians be filled with awe, astonishment, and amazement?
–Michael Yaconelli, Dangerous Wonder: The Adventure of Childlike Faith, 1998
“Conservatives stand up and thank God that they are not like the homosexuals, the Muslims, the liberals. The Liberals stand up and thank God that they are not like the war makers, the yuppies, the conservatives. It is a similar self-righteousness, just with different definitions of evildoing. It can paralyze us in judgment and guilt and rob us of life.”
–Shane Claiborne, The Irresistible Revolution, 2006
“Many congregations are in love with their mission and vision, and rip one another apart in committee meetings trying to attain it. And many social activists tear each other up and burn themselves out fighting for a better world while forgetting that the seeds of that world are right next to them…Alluding to the Old Testament story where God speaks through a donkey, Rich Mullins used to say, ‘God spoke to Balaam through his ass, and God’s been speaking through asses ever since.’ So if God should choose to use us, we shouldn’t think to highly of ourselves. And we should never assume that God cannot use someone, no matter how ornery or awkward they appear to be.”
–Shane Claiborne, Becoming The Answer To Our Prayer, 2008
Several voices continue to reiterate the same mantra over and over again–the Church can’t remain stagnant and self-focused if it is to be Christ’s hands, feet, heart, mind and body in the world and for those in need of a body of people to love and care for them. When will the Church (in all places) embrace and live out what God calls it to be?