Grabbing the paint and canvas…
So where do you start when trying to re imagine what church / Christianity could look like?
I’m going to jump in deep and start with leadership, There’s a powerful scene in the movie Braveheart where two armies are on the battle field, more importantly two leaders stand in opposition. On one side Longshanks (representing Empire) on the other side William Wallace (representing Kingdom) Wallace is in the center of the battleground, ready to bleed, die for the cause. Longshanks stands back at a very safe distance, not prepared to to get dirty in the fight about to happen but more than willing to sacrifice his army for his end goal – that is of protecting his empire, his own rule and dominion at any cost other than his own life.
But William Wallace stands on the front line, not intimidated, possibly afraid, willing to go to war, willing to shed his own blood but not for his glory, but for a greater vision, the vision of freedom. He rallies the troops, not follow me but follow freedom – freedom is the vision.
Leadership has to point beyond itself, leaders modeling leadership by example are like sign posts pointing towards the Lord…we’re are called to follow Jesus, to incarnate the message of Christ in and through our lives but ultimately to point to the Kingdom, we are not calling people to come follow me, what a tragedy that that would be! Instead we are calling people to come follow Jesus, and Jesus says take up your cross, he bid’s us come and die to self. The problem we have is that we are consumed with personality and self importance and celebrity, our churches are consumed with it, Rome was consumed with it. Leadership that follows Jesus must reject it.
So little is taught these days about Jesus’ call to come and die in the manner in which he did, die to self, live for Christ, for the bigger vision – The Kingdom, The Kingdom of God of selfless Love.
Often we get caught up in the belief that we are somehow the solution, that we will solve the problem, that “our church” has the answers, but there is only one solution and that is Christ, every time.
Pete Grieg wrote a book a few years ago titled the Vision and the Vow in it he says “the vision is Jesus” and for us this is true, we should be like Jesus, live like Jesus and learn to die like Jesus, self sacrificing.
Wherever leaders desire to be powerful we have a problem, whenever leaders claim authority over others we have a problem, whenever leaders get so consumed with their own reputation we have a problem, whenever leaders fail to recognise that they are in a privileged position for the benefit of those they serve, we have a problem, whenever leaders “tell” others how to live rather than demonstrate it we have a problem, When that leader won’t let you go beyond them we have a problem, leadership is there to point to Jesus, his kingdom and his righteousness.
Jesus bids us come and die, death to ego, self, pride, reputation, image, control and power – I’ve met a few leaders in my life that have modeled these things, but sadly just a few (not that there are only a few of them) but they’re hard to find because they are not the kind of people that shout the loudest or make themselves known. They get on with the business of the Kingdom without drawing attention to themselves. Often unseen, quiet, hidden.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that opportunities, platforms, influence are bad, but they are if you seek them when you should be seeking Christ, Jesus says seek first the kingdom and it’s a matter of honesty the heart.
Over the years I’ve taught scores of people how to play guitar, I try to teach people “how” to play not “what” to play…. that way they develop their own style, their own tastes, their own interpretation, and that’s how I want to model my faith. I don’t want to make clones or to limit people at my level, I want them to go beyond me, they have to go beyond me. *just found this quote from N.T. Wright, when speaking about St Paul’s mission which carries the same train of thought “give someone a hand-me-down ethical maxim and, provided they bow to it’s authority, they will steer a straight course on that subject alone. Teach someone to think through, from first principles, what it means to live in a new age inaugerated by the death and resurrection of Jesus and in the power of the Spirit, and you equip them not only for that particular topic but for every other question they meet”
It should be the same in our churches and communities, living differently rejecting the spirit of the world and teach others how to play not what to play, firstly by demonstration then by encouragement, and I think it’s dangerous when we try to fit everyone into our theological boxes, just yesterday I had a conversation with a friend who when speaking about Mother Theresa told me a story of an Evangelical Christian who questioned whether or not she was “saved” because her theology was not “correct” yet she demonstrated sacrificial selfless love every day of her life, surely that’s Christlike leadership?
*updated 15th July 09