When I explain my rather long-winded dissertation title that I’m currently working on, 9 times out of 10 I can see the eyes glazing over. It doesn’t sound particularly jazzy or sexy. Phrases like ‘critical discussion’, ‘contemporary monastic mission’, ‘societal engagement’, and ‘The Benedict Option’ don’t necessarily grab you.
But let me tell you what is at the heart of it. I’m passionate about missional discipleship – that is, seeing disciples who make disciples, who make disciples, and thus take very seriously the Great Commission. It is what seems to be at the heart of ‘your Kingdom come, your will be done.’ I’d like to see a generational legacy of the disciples that I help to make, going on to make disciples, who in turn each make disciples. This is the beginning of movement and multiplication. The by-product of transformed lives is a transformed church which can increase its capacity to do greater things.
I want to see a beautiful surge of Jesus-shaped lives impacting our nation and changing the world. Starting where I am.
I don’t want to be content to keep the church running, open or focussed on preserving the status quo until the wind changes and the world storm recedes. No! ‘I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell‘, said C T Studd, and that’s what my heart bleeds for. We are salt and light in the world, but only if the salt isn’t flavourless, the light isn’t dim, and it’s actually effective in touching the world.
The gentleman I’m arguing with (in the nicest possible academic tones) basically senses that the world is heading for Hell in a hand-cart, and so the church should simply withdraw into its 21st century Noah’s Ark and wait for the flood waters to reduce. We can then settle on some mountainside and run around like Julie Andrews and all will be well. The most surprising (or unsurprising) thing is that people seem quite taken with this gentlemen’s ideas, but it couldn’t really be further from the heart of Jesus and his intentions for his people in this time.
Inside the Ark, it is all about preservation of our purity; attention to our wants and needs; reassurance that we won’t have to wrestle with the world’s ideas; our prefferred ways of worship will be saved; our perspective on morality will go unchallenged; and we will cease from the hard, sleeves-rolled-up commitment to mission in a messy world.
No. These ideas, wherever they might be found, are fundamentally at odds with the mission and call of the church of Jesus. You don’t have to look much further than the life of Jesus himself – and that’s the key problem in Rod Dreher’s ‘The Benedict Option: for Dreher, Jesus is a moral authority to be worship and preserved like a relic in an ancient stone church, rather than a radical, missional-incarnational, transformational, Son-of-God, example to be followed and obeyed, in the cut and thrust of life.
The academic conversation is plenty fun. But it serves to fire the heart on the essentials of what and who we are as a people of God.
Does your church represent an Ark? Or, is it manning the lifeboats and heading out on purposeful rescue missions to our families, neighbourhoods, communities, nations and family of nations?
‘Go and make disciples of all nations…’ Jesus said. And we have to start just where we are.
Who are you discipling?