Tuesday, March 27, 2007


I’m more of a thinker than a writer – hence the paucity of posts recently. But I have been thinking about prayer and direction and the words of Jesus. That always makes me uncomfortable.

Sunday ... I spoke about the two tax collectors prominently highlighted in Scripture – Matthew (Levi) and Zacchaeus. One left everything and followed Jesus. The other gave away half of what he had and then promised to repay those he had defrauded - quadruple! One left everything to become a full time missionary and the other stayed where he was but simplified his lifestyle and reformed his business practices. Both were radical followers of Jesus. The message made me uncomfortable.

In the midst of my emerging church thinking, reading and occasional posts, I’ve come to a realization. My first exposure to what has become the emerging church was actually through ministry to the poor at Church on the Street and Yonge Street Mission. We were an emerging church (in the best sense of the word) in 1982, before anyone had coined the term. We had recognized some of the shortcomings of the traditional church model and were experimenting with what might work with the broken, non-literate culture of street-involved youth. We used art, images, candles, community meals, high levels of participation and ownership of the services to try to make Jesus make sense to street kids. And it really worked.

They loved Jesus. They struggled to hold on to Him in the midst of addictions and bad relationships and babies on the street. But they loved Him. Even when they were unable to stay sober or clean or married, they displayed a deep hunger for Jesus. However we failed in making them into our own image – good middle class Christians. It’s hard to make sense of middle class Christianity when you have nothing. That always made me feel uncomfortable.

To me the value of the emerging church phenomenon is all about being dissatisfied with the status quo and then doing something to change it. I heard Shane Claiborne speak on the weekend at the Evolving Church Conference. There is a good "live" commentary of the conference at Daryl Dash's blog. Jim Wallis (who also spoke at the conference) writes in the forward to a book by Shane Claiborne: “We were also young evangelicals who found that neither our churches nor our society were measuring up to the way of Jesus – not even close. Our battle then was against a private piety that limited religion to only personal matters, then compromised faith in a tragic capitulation to the economic, political and military powers that be. We desperately wanted to see our faith “go public” and offer a prophetic vision with the power to change both our personal lives and political directions … The Christianity of private piety, affluent conformity and only “God Bless America” has compromised the witness of the church while putting a new generation of Christians to sleep. Defining faith by the things you won’t do or question does not create a compelling style of life. And a new generation of young people is hungry for an agenda worthy of its commitment, its energy and its gifts.”

That certainly makes me uncomfortable. Who was it that said Jesus came to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable?

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