A friend of mine recently wrote what I believe to be an honest critique, confessing his own embarrassment as well as concern for history in many of the churches, a burden for untaught and sadly at times, un-lived out examples of discipleship in Christ. It’s worth a read indeed. And yes, I happen to agree with 99 percent of his comments. Link below.
One line immediately got my attention. The root word is “movement”. When one feels, thinks, actually participates and therefore is part of a movement there is activity involved. The core term is action.
I often state the Book of Acts was/is not merely a book of concepts, ideas and theory, rather it is a record of the early church on earth after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. Did those early disciples always get it right?! Of course they did not anymore than any of us including myself! Yet they were part of a movement that again and again brings several things to light.
-Love was a matter of thought, shared community and action.
-Carrying the Good News of Jesus to the poor, widows and orphans, early on, the gentiles (“nations”, people of other cultures, values, languages, etc.) and NOT domination over those people was core.
-In essence, it was -as the Jesus Movement of the late 1960’s and to mid-’70’s or so, a move of Jesus, of God the Holy Spirit.
-Excesses? Yes. Mistakes? Of course. Temptations and sin among leaders and all others involved? Certainly. Luke wrote Acts including naming names and specific issues including deep arguments between leaders. One reason I love and believe the Bible is there is no pretending a fully “sanitized” church exists.
Here’s a core matter: defending a movement of people isn’t always focused on Father/Son/Spirit, those in need of salvation, widows and orphans, the poor. It can rather be defending one’s self and participation with a community of people. I’m not saying this or that tribe isn’t rightly loved, cared for or defended and shouldn’t be! I -am- saying it was never a movement of people that actually saved me -only Jesus Christ could, did and does that!!
If a movement never fails you you’re not paying attention. Imago dei doesn’t exclude sin nature, excess and foolishness in any of us!
How easy to self-defend a movement that cannot not in itself be salvific but indeed one we call home, feel comfortable in, a tribal sense of acceptance, value and worth and so must be defended “at all costs”.
I’ve seen such in -every- kind, style, community, house, evangelical, liturgical, mainline, fundamentalist, fill-in-the-blank fellowship right through history to this moment.
One element I believe is genuine reality in the many splits and “circling the wagons” among plenty of professing Christians is “us versus them” to the extent we cannot or will not confess our own sins, mistakes, slack education, information and any sense of respect and authentic loving concern for those who take a different view than we do, that is, among our chosen tribe. This is not to say we can always nor should always produce what others demand we produce for them. If Christ is Lord alone, people are not including the dude writing this.
Tribalism (often a good thing, working on a future post re. this) can be not only a defense of self but a damning of all who we see as enemies as they are not part of -our- community or cause. Please read that again.
As much as I am indebted to the Jesus Movement leaders and people in general who helped shape my own discipleship in Him, I never thought of that or any movement as somehow sacrosanct, flawless or that a group of humans had the ability to do in my life what only the living God could -my salvation and ultimately discipleship. No formula or template for discipleship I have experienced or studied can do what God accomplishes in us. I’m not saying various approaches to growing as a disciple of Jesus are not beneficial as many indeed are! I’m saying they’re not sufficient to change one’s heart and life without our loving obedience to God the Holy Spirit according to His Own Word. That, dear readers, is a matter of a movement of the Lord Himself, not merely or only a movement of people, even people in any sort church or other Christian gathering.
Looking for the perfect community, local or larger church (including you-name-it) or gathering of believers is going to eventually mature us in realization that on earth no PERFECT, FLAWLESS group of humans exist. Or it will drive us crazy and right out of fellowship with said movement. The problem is “wherever you go, there you are”. You may find comfort but not un-flawed people!
Movements come and go right through Christian history. I find goods and bads, edifying and horrifying stuff in most all Christian sects, communities and gatherings prior to our time and now.
“I can RELATE!! I’m HOME now!!” does not somehow automate nor equal relationship with Jesus Christ and never did.
In the end defending a movement is best done by out-loving those we may see as “the opposition”, and as such we are loving others rather than merely defending ourselves and our preferences.
The article I mentioned above: https://www.phoenixpreacher.com/embarrassment-duane-w-h-arnold/
Perhaps these are matters worth our consideration? As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn