Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Following Jesus in the real world

Apologies for the lengthy delay between posts here at unChurch, unInc. One unchurch writer has been in Romania, showing the kingdom of God to assorted friends.

Me? I have no excuse, other than the busy-ness of life, and a lack of writing inspiration.

Time to get back on the writing track. We'll start simple, by stealing something from someone else: My good friend Kevin recently posted a great link on Facebook that I thought was worth sharing.

Can We Follow Jesus Without Being Dramatically Countercultural?

This article caught my attention because the writer talks about college students who get fired up about Jesus in campus ministry (specifically, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, which is the group I was a part of in college), but then graduate and go on to adulthood "church stasis."
    "...all these students who'd get fired up about Jesus in an InterVarsity group, but then, after graduating, would see their faith fizzle in some respects. They'd go to churches that, in short order, they'd complain about. They wouldn't overtly leave Jesus behind, by any means. Nor, in many cases, would they leave the church they complained so bitterly about. They'd just stay in this stasis for a long, long time--no longer excited about faith, no longer about anything particularly helpful for God's kingdom, just sort of frozen."
Hmm. Are you talking to me?

The decision process used by many new graduates follows this general pattern:
  • Find a job, which determines a general location in which to live
  • Find an apartment near enough to the job
  • Find a solid church near to where you live
  • Get involved in one aspect of the church you begin to attend
  • Make new friends, if possible, in your new small group or ministry team.
The article/book talks about a radically different pattern that some Christians are taking when they graduate, and it's almost the reverse:
  • They chose ministry partners, with whom they shared kingdom values and a common vision for life.
  • They chose a ministry field and a church that supported and helped them advance ministry in their field.
  • They found an apartment in a convenient location that facilitated their ministry and relationships in their church.
  • They found jobs that supported them while involved in ministry and the life of their church."
I thought this would, in particular, appeal to people like Craig, who did a pretty close version of that.

So is this possible? If so, is it something that's only for the "young and unattached"? Why do so many of us follow the first pattern, and not the second?


Craig said...

Interesting post, Scott. And interesting article. The bit about the 'standard life path' is very insightful.

Consider the thought-process in the two 'models' - one that starts with economics and fits the Christian life into it, and another which starts with the Christian life and 'fits in' the necessary economics. . . Instead of, 'first I need to get a job, and then I'll see what kind of Christian life I can pull off', what if we say, 'first, I need to live a Christian life; so what kind of job/house/town/etc will let me do that?'

I'm flattered by your holding up our Christian community as an example; we do aim for something a lot like what the article describes. But the second post from last year (the one immediately newer than the linked one) really does complete the picture. . .

But yeah, 'counter-cultural' is the right idea; if we live just like the world around us, how are we to be a 'Sign of Contradiction'? "My ways are not your ways, and My thoughts are not your thoughts". . .

Joe B said...

Let me say it: If we are not counter cultural, we are corrupt.

Not just any "counterculturality" will do. But if we follow Jesus in the Way of Life, we are necessarily profoundly countercultural. The difference is LOVE.

I LOVE this article's "2 patterns" of living, because they really tackle the practics of priorities.

Craig said...

I apologize if I'm repeating myself here, but this is a very 'chewy' article, and I can't let it go just yet. . .

This really does get to the question of what kind of creatures we humans are, and what we're made for. Long before we are homo economicus, we are bearers of the imago dei. . .

matt said...

"So, is [the second pattenr] possible?"

Easy question; yes.

"If so, is it something that's only for the 'young and unattached'?"

Of course not.

"Why do so many of us follow the first pattern, and not the second?"

That is the real question.

Maybe b/c it's not easy. Duh! Didn't Jesus say something to the reality of living in the Kingdom and living a life on mission in the Kingdom is not easy.

My otherwise short answer to a complicated question is based on one of your previous posts about community or not. The inconveniences of community and the convenient ability to live alone in our culture is too enticing.

It's far too easy in our American culture to get comfortable, have convenience, and find security in temporary places.

Any "ministry out of the Kingdom" or true discipleship in our culture has to deal with the ever increasing draw from the culture to "go independant" on everything. Be accountable to no one. Be responsible for yourself.

And what's the point of a "church" if you can get all that is offered from it at home; good teaching online, community on facebook, electronic giving, good worship music on the ipod... sometimes that is all people get or expect to get from church anyways. So... why bother with the "called out people" (ekklesia)?

Joe B said...

You're right Matt, but it raises this wierd qustion...if people are so independent, how come they're always marching in lock-step? What is the tune they're stepping to, and who is the invisible piper? Hmmmmm...enigmas galore.

Matt said...

It's money they have and peace they lack. Sell anything that makes them feel temporay relief from the effects of the curse and as long as they can they will pay for it.

The machine keeps us temporarily paying fr what never fills us.

My father got the following email from a young man he used to shepherd:

Reading a book about the Anglican Mission we are part of here in Raleigh.  Reading about our split from the Episcipal Church.

African Archbishop tells US Bishop about Romans 5:1-5.  African says Americans skip verses 3 and 4 and it separates us from the rest of the faith.

Most Americans live pressured lives, full of anxiety and stress.  They want relief at church and most preachers know that.  So to grow their churches they provide services and programs that are not too demanding or serious but making sure peoples needs are met.  If US preachers
don't compromise Gospel, people find churches that will give relief.

African says we are cheating our people by not preaching verses 3 and 4 about suffering.

Matt said...

Ok it's late but I had too many cokes while watching the colts game and lying in bed this thought came to me. And it's not something big or anything. Just a thought.

I don't know what the stats are but I would guess that many if not well over half of college grads easily have tens of thousands of dollars in school loans. Mist people have a debt of mortgage. Nobody questions debt to buy house. It has always been assumed you could sell it or eventually at least get your money out of it. Now I bet there are plenty of 30 year mortgages people know they will never get the value out if their house for (like Detroit homes).

Debt enslaves us. There is not even any hesitation by churches to take debt to buy a building. A 10,20, or 30 year loan with a lower payment is naturally more "wise" then rent at the same price.

The very foundation of the church model is debt. Borrow to build. A life (in a house that suits our needs and we grossly overestimate our needs not based on needs but how mug we can afford to buy or get), a church, a ministry needs stuff to operate and terefore debt is normal.

It really is the foundation of how we live our lives. And it binds us.

Scott said...

Indeed. Debt is the reason we go to work each morning at our 8-5 jobs that many of us don't like. It's ingrained to us from a young age, because as you said that's how most go through college. Then you buy a house, a car, and first thing in "adulthood," you've got huge monthly bills you have to pay regularly. So you are immediately drowning in the system. (Or we might call it "The Man.") And that is what keeps us marching in lock-step, as Joe mentioned. Most of the same ideas hold true for our church buildings.

It's definitely a flawed model!

Joe B said...

Anyone ever see "The Stepford Wives"? I mean the good made-for-TV version, not the stupid Nicole Kidman remake.