The advance of the church throughout the world has suffered somewhat, not only from decline in numbers attending, particularly in Western countries, but also in a lack of confidence in the propriety of leading others to Christ throughout the world. Many Christians are struggling with an identity crises. Are we really meant to go out and make disciples of all nations?
- Joe M. Kapolyo (intro to Bible and Mission:Christian Witness in a Postmodern World, by Richard Bauckham)
In a world where we claw to find significance through who we know or what we achieve, we are invited to discover our truest identity as the blessed and beloved children of God.
- Mark Scandrette, Practicing the Way of Jesus
There is a big difference between being beyond inclusion and unconditional or universal inclusion! In many discussions and/0r debates about hospitality, inclusion and exclusion, people miss this difference.
Being beyond inclusion
The message of Jesus was that NOBODY was beyond inclusion. The dominant world view in his day was that certain people could never be included through no fault of their own. There was a dividing wall that forever kept some people out. What Jesus did, in knocking down the dividing wall, was make it possible for “those people” to actually come in.
But their “coming in” was not without condition.
In order to enter in, they had to submit their lives to the rule and reign of Jesus – i.e. they had to enter in to the kingdom of God. That does not imply that they have to live under Jesus’ reign and rule perfectly, but there was (and is) an expectation of surrender to the way of Jesus, by the power of the Spirit. There was also an expectation of continued surrender to the way of Jesus, through which transformation by the Spirit is accomplished.
What many are calling for today is not breaking down the dividing walls. They are calling for unconditional inclusion. This means that people are included period. There is no expectation of surrender to the way of Jesus. There is no expectation of transformation into the image of Jesus by the Spirit. Unconditional inclusion is all the grace, none of the following. It’s an appealing idea – I’m ok, you’re ok, we’re all loved by Jesus equally, and so on – but it eventually collapses on itself.
The only way for unconditional inclusion to work is for there to be no distinctions at all. Without any distinctions at all, there is no difference between the church and the world. Ultimately, there is no distinction between good and evil, God and the devil.
Exclusion is the opposite of inclusion. Both camps agree that exclusion is not the way of Jesus. However, unconditional inclusion is not the solution that Jesus holds forth. The solution Jesus holds out is the view that nobody is ever beyond inclusion.
This is the only space possible where we can both hold forth the teaching of Jesus as a rule of faith for the church while at the same time welcoming any and all people who would come, imperfect as they are.
In my understanding, it is impossible to enter into the kingdom of God without complete surrender. That doesn’t mean complete perfection. It does mean being completely willing to allow the Spirit to transform you which will also look more and more like Jesus over time.
What is your take?
What is the curse of “something else”? The curse of “something else” is the belief that who you are and what you do is not enough.
How do you know if you have it? You are miserable. You never feel “good enough”. You seek after the “something else” that can fix it.
The curse of something else can afflict any area of our lives. In this article, I’m interested in how it afflicts our evangelism. I think that our evangelism suffers under the curse of “something else”.
This is my definition of evangelism. Evangelism is bearing witness to the good news of the Kingdom of God and inviting others to enter in. It flows naturally out of a transformed life. It is an act of service whereby you offer your life experience to others for their edification.
I bet when you think about evangelism, you believe that who you are and what you do is not enough. I bet you think you should be doing something else, something more, something different. I also bet when you think of evangelism, you feel miserable. It’s not something you want to do. Or, it is something you think you should do and are searching after a new method that fits you (i.e. something else). These are sure symptoms of the curse of “something else”.
Programs like “Evangelism Explosion” and handing out gospel tracts introduced us to this misery. I know many people have come to saving faith in Jesus through these and other methods. Yet I believe that the unintended consequence of these programs is less evangelism, not more.
We need to consider the unintended lesson taught through these methods . The unintended message is that sharing Jesus requires “something else”. It requires knocking on a stranger’s door. It requires asking people questions like “If you died today do you know where you would spend eternity?”. It requires leading people through the 4 Spiritual Laws. It requires “closing the deal” through the “sinner’s prayer”. [I was taught to ask, “Is there any reason why you don’t want to become a Christian right now?” Incidentally, it was the same question I was taught to ask when I sold cars.]
When those methods came to define evangelism, those who were uncomfortable with those methods (and others like them) decided evangelism wasn’t for them. The lesson learned is that evangelism doesn’t flow naturally out of a life of faith lived well in public. Rather, evangelism is a set of methods quite disconnected from that which you normally and naturally do.
Next week, I’ll explore a different approach to bearing witness based on a way of being. It is not a new technique. Rather, it is a call to come out of hiding and an invitation to offer your life for the good of others.
[Note: this article first appeared in the April 7 edition of The Weekly, the weekly newsletter of Metamora Mennonite Church]
When you decide I will suffer for you, it is abuse. When I decide I will suffer for you it is love.
- Michael Danner (me)
Agree or disagree?
The prophet Isaiah pulls on two images in talking about the Messiah: the divine warrior and the suffering servant. Christians believe that Jesus is the Messiah. Therefore, it is good to explore how Jesus filled up and appropriated those images in his life and death. In what way was Jesus a divine warrior? In what way was Jesus a suffering servant?
In Jesus’ day the people were looking for a divine warrior who would serve the people, Israel, by using violence to overthrow Roman rule and set the people free. The idea that the Messiah would suffer and die was inconceivable, even though Jesus said it over and over again.
In our day, people grab onto the suffering servant image and declare that Jesus won the battle over sin and death on the cross in order to set us free and give us eternal life. It is inconceivable to many in the West that Jesus would have anything at all to do with overthrowing oppressive powers in order to emancipate the oppressed.
Both then and now, there is an uneasy tension between being a divine warrior and a suffering servant at the same time. This tension causes people to grab a hold of one image and neglect the other.
So how does Jesus hold both images together as Messiah?
This is where Jesus is utterly unique. John Howard Yoder points out that in Jesus what you have is a non-violent divine warrior and a non-passive suffering servant. Think about that for a while and let it sink in.
Jesus battled the powers and principalities without violence. At the same time, Jesus suffered at the hand of those same powers and principalities without being a passive victim. In laying his life down freely, and refusing to use violence to advance a cause, he defeated death once and for all on behalf of all people.
His resurrection was, and is, His vindication by God through the power of the Spirit. It is God’s ultimate stamp of approval on the non-violent divine warrior and non-passive suffering servant, Jesus the Messiah.
Until we fully understand that, yield to it, and walk in the way of Jesus, we will continue to walk blind and confused through a dark world where suffering is for the weak and power comes through violence.
When we submit to the way of Jesus, we enter into God’s kingdom and live under God’s reign such that a light shines in the darkness and we can see that another world is possible. Indeed, another world is coming!
The only question left is will we yield and enter in?
Jesus’s resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven.
- NT Wright