A Revolutionary Vision of Church
As a fire is meant for burning, with a bright and warming flame, so the church is meant for mission, giving glory to God’s name. Not to preach our creeds or customs, but to build a bridge of care. We join hands across the nations, finding neighbors everywhere.
“As A Fire is Meant for Burning” pg. 2237 The Faith We Sing supplement to UM Hymnal
“Not to preach our creeds or customs, but to build a bridge of care.”
That’s a revolutionary vision of church, and isn’t that what people today are yearning for from us?
In this turbulent season within the Church, it’s important to remember that the ancient pagan world was converted to Christianity not by “our creeds or customs” or brilliant orthodoxy of official Councils, but by the transformed lives and loving action of ordinary women and men who were attempting to follow Jesus.
N.T. Wright gives this evidence of the transforming power that exists when “the church is meant for mission” is not just a hymn of the church but it’s prevailing ethos: “By the end of the second century, Roman officials were not particularly aware of the nuances of Christian teaching, but they sure knew what the word ‘bishop’ meant—it meant someone who kept agitating for the needs of the poor. . .A community had come into being that challenged the ancient world with the fresh vision of a society in which each worked for all and all for each.” [N. T. Wright, “Paul,” p. 427] But as Christianity became increasingly institutionalized, building and maintaining a “bridge of care” morphed into building and defending a system of belief.
Robin Myer in his book, “Saving Jesus From the Church”, points out the stark contrast in visions between Jesus and the Christian faith that developed. “Consider this remarkable fact: in the Sermon on the Mount [Matt. 5ff] there is not a single word about what to believe, only words about what to do and how to be. It is a behavioral manifesto, not a propositional one. By the time the Nicene Creed was written, and became the official oath of Christendom, there was not a single word in it about what to do, only words about what to believe!” (pg. 14)
Disciples who were once trained by following their teacher became true believers who confused certainty with faith. In our formation as Christ-followers, we would be better served rather than speaking of Jesus as “the Answer” to think about Jesus as “the Assignment.”
“And they’ll know we are Christians by our . . .” Orthodox beliefs? NO! “they’ll know we are Christians by our LOVE!