Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Open Conspiracy of the Forgotten Way

The open conspiracy of the forgotten way of discipleship lifts my life and haunts my steps. That open conspiracy is to be, as the ancients put it, "little Christs." Alan Hirsch writes: "This notion of the imitation of Christ is one of the undisputed central tenets of both Jesus's teaching and that of the Apostles." (Alan Hirsch,The Forgotten Ways, p. 113) Or, as Mother Teresa put it: "We must become holy not because we want to feel holy but because Christ must be able to live his life fully in us."

Such a notion lifts me because I am inspired and pulled forward to my better self through discipleship. Two recent experiences of worship come to mind. One at a small church and the other at a large church. In very different ways (and yet oddly similar) both worship services ushered me into the presence of the living Lord. It haunts me because I know how often and how far I can miss the presence of Christ in my life.

As I visit around the Conference I am increasingly convinced of the utter centrality of a transformational relationship with Christ in making disciples of Christ. I am also convicted that the most foundational place of such formation is in the local church. I am furthermore committed to the belief that the most important way the Central Texas Conference can aid this process is by energizing and equipping local churches.

Walter Russell Mead wrote in a March 14 blog “Sometimes mainline church leaders remind me of the Pope who showed St. Francis around the Vatican to see the many treasures of the church. “Peter can no longer say ’silver and gold have I none’,” chuckled the pontiff.

“Neither can he say ‘rise up and walk’,” snapped St. Francis.

I [writes Mead] can only imagine what Francis Asbury would say to a Methodist convention today.

The mainline churches do a lot of good, but the long inexorable decline both in numbers and in the influence of Christian ideas in modern American life show very plainly that something critical has gone wrong. In attempting to reconcile classic Christian ideas and standards with modernity, the mainline has somehow lost American Christianity’s characteristic and most vital strength: the ability to electrify generation after generation with the call to begin a transformational encounter with the person of Christ.

This ability can’t be regained by committee. There is no diocesan or denominational planning process that can knit the dry bones together.

But the mainline churches will dwindle and diminish if they don’t somehow reconnect with the enthusiasm and charisma that once made them great.” (http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2010/03/14/wanted-a-mainlinegelical-church)

Let me be like Christ and share Christ with others by word and deed!

1 comment:

  1. I urge other readers to seriously examine the "mainlinegelical" article. I firmly believe that if we don't do something the ship is going to sink. One can simply look at the Disciples of Christ to see where we’re heading if we don’t address this issue. They have sunk down to something like 700,000 members and might be forced to merge with the ultra-liberal UCC if they want to avoid becoming extinct.
    As most people know the Disciples of Christ formed from the “Restoration Movement” of the 19th century. The other two bodies that formed from that movement are theologically conservative and aren’t at all in the dire straits that the DC are in. (Namely, the independent churches of Christ and the independent Christian churches. Both are seeing moderate to high growth.)
    The only fault I have with the article is that author seems to lump all orthodox or theologically conservative Christians in the fundamentalist camp. I don’t think I’ve ever met a fundamentalist Methodist, but I’ve know plenty who are theologically conservative. This is equally true with other denominations. There are conservative Lutherans (Missouri Synod), conservative Presbyterians (PCA), and conservative Anglicans (Anglican Church of North America) but it would be absurd to classify them as fundamentalist.
    The reason the modernists derail is simple. They lose focus the whole point of Christianity and they make the fatal mistake of allowing secular culture to define their values. Once that happens, it is over. The UMC hasn’t gone over this cliff… Yet.