Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Uncomfortable Jesus

The premise behind Philip Yancey's The Jesus I Never Knew is that the Jesus we know is so familiar he's become routine. We know the stories. We know how it all ends. Nothing surprises us or makes us uncomfortable.

Michael Spencer approaches the third chapter of Mere Churchianity the same way. Imagine being a disciple of Jesus and having your world rocked with his unconventional take on the Jewish religion. Been praying all your life? Jesus will teach you how to really pray. Judgemental of that Samaritan woman? Jesus will go to her and strike up a conversation. It's no wonder some of Jesus' disciples responded to him saying, "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?" and later turned away and left him (John 6:60-66).

I admit I'm young and naive and maybe too idealistic for my own good. Regrettably, I've taken the destruction I've seen in my fellowship of churches and combined that with the media stereotype of the Evangelical Megachurch to paint a broad brush over all of American Christianity (TM). But I look at the Christian blogosphere and twitterverse and I see brothers and sisters doing it; making things happen in the name of Jesus to God's glory. And I realize I'm wrong. I need to "tear up my notes" as Michael puts it.

I'm wrong about my church, too. Last week I may have been overly harsh sharing a single anecdote in a sea of experiences. Not to say the criticism isn't fair, but there's more to the story. You see, there are some things my church gets right. Recognizing Jesus' teachings as uncomfortable is one of them. Growing up religious, when I opened up the Bible with brothers who cared about teaching me what it really says, not just what I've always heard, it blew my mind. It resonated in my heart because I knew this is what I was missing in my relationship with God. Jesus was uncomfortable and that made following him challenging and exciting.

Yesterday I wrote about the Transformational Loop. Each of the seven properties listed are uncomfortable.
  • Missionary mentality, where you see your community as a mission field and serve it that way? Uncomfortable!
  • Vibrant Leadership where it's not a cult of personality but of inspiring example? Uncomfortable!
  • Relational Intensity where you genuinely care about your brothers and sisters' spiritual and physical well-being and "make every effort" to deliberately be involved in one another's lives? Uncomfortable!
  • Prayerful dependence where going to God in prayer is natural and asking for help via prayer is common? Uncomfortable!
  • Worship that continues beyond Sunday mornings (Romans 12)? Raising your hands in praise? Uncomfortable!
  • Community that is intentionally built around the purpose and mission of the Church? Uncomfortable!
  • Mission, seeking and saving the lost, being a central part of your life, the focus of your conversations and relationships? Uncomfortable!
Of course, that's just one of many similar books. You could add tithing, serving inside and outside your church's walls, forgiving (ooh, that's a toughie), fasting, eschewing the world, calling out sin, confessing sin, and I could go on and on.

Squirming in your chair yet? Well there's nothing comfortable about being a disciple of Jesus. And you know what, I wouldn't have it any other way.

(I also encourage you to visit Bend the Page, Faith Fiction and Friends, and A Simple Country Girl for more discussion of this challenging book)


Michael Perkins said...

I nearly purchased this book about 3 weeks ago, but put it down for Sex God by Rob Bell.

I know from you and Glynn that I need to read this. Thanks for your heart brol

Glynn said...

At a church we attended for a long time, the first change toward "churchianity" was almost missed -- the existing prayer commission was dismantled, ostensibly because it would be "better done" as a ministry for everyone during the worship service. That lasted for a month. Then the changes began to grow and accelerate. It was as if removing "prayer cover" opened up the church totally to the culture -- once we got off our knees, we thought we knew how to stand by ourselves.

Good post, Fatha Frank.

Anonymous said...

I need to pick that book up because it sound excellent.

Thanks for the transparent look into the book and your ministry!

Fatha Frank said...

Michael and Jim, it's worth picking up. Softcover and easy to read. You'd have no problem catching up. I already have a list of people I'm recommending this to and I've only read the first 3 chapters! It's that relatable.

Glynn, the importance of communal prayer can't be emphasised enough. My fellowship has never had a "prayer meeting" or a prayer commission as you describe (danger in having commissions/committees for this and that). But it's something I've often thought about. I love your statement, "once we got off our knees, we thought we knew how to stand by ourselves."

Thanks, all, for your comments.