I’ve been an avid reader of Alan Hirsch’s stuff over the last couple of years. Firstly, there is the excellent ‘The Forgotten Ways‘ , truly on of the best books on activating a missional form of church and I’d even go as far as to say its one of the best books on mission I’ve read. Then there is the tool to applying that book, ‘The Forgotten Ways Handbook‘ which I’m desperate to work through wth a group of people. Its teeming with practical stuff for applying the teaching in the previous book. In these two books, Alan expounds ‘apostolic genuis’ – what he sees to be the essential elements of all highly effective and authentic missonal churches (using the early church and the underground Chinese church as example of exponential growth). I’ve blogged a bit about apostolic genuis over at ArmyRenewal (my previous blog) and you can do a search of that stuff there.
And so to the blog title, Shema Spirituality. This is expounded in Alan’s books ‘Untamed – reactivating a missional form of discipleship‘ as well as in ‘ReJesus – a wild Messiah for a missional church’. This is a phrase that Alan has coined to encalsulate the importance of monotheism at the centre of Christianty and, indeed, understanding God through the person of Jesus Christ, the unique and full physical manifestation and revelation of God the Father. The Shema, in case you didn’t know, is a central prayer of Judaism taken from Deuteronomy 6:4 onwards (pictured left – ‘shema’ is the first Hebrew word in the verse meaning ‘Hear’), reiterated and expanded by Jesus in Mark 12:28-31 (and in the other two synoptic gospels)
28One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
29“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.[a] 30Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’[b] 31The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[c]There is no commandment greater than these.”
This is the central creed of Judaism, recited daily and nailed to the door posts, but Jesus also confirms it as central to Christian understanding and faith.
Anyway, whats so key about this? Essentially, its about having a right view of God. Alan points out that the shema:
- contains the revelation that God is one
- that God wants to have our whole devotion in every aspect of our lives….no false dualism, sacred/secular divide including sexuality, work, play, home, politics, ecomomics….all become aspects of worshipping God.
- expanded by Jesus to explicitly include love for people to stop all the pious ones getting the impression its some purely vertical navel-gazing devotion to God. By adding ‘love your neighbour’ Jesus is claiming that loving God is only complete when it is also being expressed and flowing out of our relationship with him.
The central creed of the Christian faith – ‘Jesus is Lord’ – articulates the shema for the Christian. Alan suggests this is central to every Jesus movement.
Basically, authentic discipleship comes into play when shema spirituality is fully realised. A combination of ‘Right Thinking’, ‘Right Acting’ and ‘Right Feeling’ (basically, a combination of orthodoxy, orthopraxy and orthopathy).
How does this look practically? Its about realigning our lives under the Lordship of Jesus…making him central to everything, having him as Lord over everything, refusing to lock him out of anywhere. More than that, its about making sure that nothing supercedes Jesus in our lives….neither church, family, mission, work, ministry, or anything else takes his place. Bigger than that, its about our idols, its about Jesus having our full loyalty. So, what does that look like in all the aspects of our lives?
I doubt I’m doing the idea justice, you’d have to read more, but there is something so incredibly important about our lives being fully under the Lordship of Jesus. It reminds me that God has his claim upon me in Tesco as much as he does when I’m gathered with the church or at my dinner table at home. Its the act of continually presenting our whole selves back to God, all the time. For me, its about integration of life, spirituality, mission and lifestyle under the one who claims my life.
A helpful examen tool borrowed from St Ignatius of Loyola: Where did I work with Jesus today? Where did I work against Jesus today? Journal about it for a few weeks….see how your life is aligned. Or maybe even take a leaf out of the Jew’s book…put it on the door posts of your home, in your car, or your desk at work….everywhere you need the reminder.