Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Jesus at the heart

Ivan Illich was once asked what is the most revolutionary way to change society. “Is it violent revolution, or is it gradual reform?” He gave a careful answer. “Neither. If you want to change society, you need to provide an alternative story”, he concluded. it's a great line and a great truth. I'm really looking forward to reading the new offering from Frost and Hirsch - 'Re'Jesus' - not yet out in the UK and I'm trying to not order it from the States as I have a pile of books to read already and - yes, it'll be cheaper when it arrives here. Their point, I imagine, is we need to re-calibrate the Christian movement around the founder. 

Before we set out to change society it’s always a strand in the debate concerning how much we need to change ourselves. From my perspective we need to see a load more change in the vast majority of our Churches & denominational structures, before we’re very equipped to change our communities. Surely, we of all people, don’t need an alternative story – or do we? I just wonder whether this is actually saying something to us in the Church after all. Frequently, it seems to me, our problem seems to be our assumptions. We assume we’re living out of the Christ-story, but a closer examination of the life of our Church reveals we’re more likely living out of routine and past glories. For example, as a Baptist, I passionately believe that Jesus should be at the heart of all we’re about. ‘Jesus is Lord’ is that great affirmation of faith from the New Testament, but also something at the heart of our Baptist origins: that is, Jesus is our King, not any other. Unfortunately, we have the theory, but not always the practice. As an association, we’re now looking at what we say to groups we’re working with who might be wiling to plant something new – I wont pretend we’ve developed very far, but the fact that Jesus needs to be at the heart of all we do has to be of our essence. It’s easily said, what we need to see more of is a radical willingness to live out the implications. Do we need more of the same? Hardly. That’s not to say all of our Churches are off the mark – actually far from it in many places. The increasing problem is that the slice of the population these appeal to is getting smaller and smaller. However, the really challenging place is when we stand in the spotlight ourselves of what claim and promote for others. This is why we've put 'Jesus at the heart' of our core convictions, which we're going to try and keep to as a regional team - we felt we needed a framework to help shape how we engage with churches and how we work ourselves. This one sounds like one of those no-brainers, but my hunch is we assume too much - I've certainly seen my share of non-Christian behaviour and motivation in the church.

1 comment:

Johnny said...

Hi Nigel

I managed to pick up a copy in the US over Christmas, and it's really excellent.

Hope you are well