Have you even had days of doubt and disillusionment with yourself and others when you’ve wondered what it really means to be considered a Christian- a true Christian that is? Have you ever wondered how relevant the creed or articles of faith are in a post-modern world, and why a belief in unbelief seems to be taking root in our society? You maybe have looked around a bit more closely in church and though, “Lord, really is this it, is that what you have for me to do and be? “You are not alone and neither am I and I thank God for thinkers like Brian McLarenwho have the gift of opening the door on a better relationship with God. McLaren wrote; “The kind of people who would come to faith along the path I was trying to clear for them would not end up just like the people waiting for them in church. They would be like a bunch of wild-eyed artists and excitable children and rugby players walking into a room full of buttoned-down accountants and engineers…a great learning experience for all concerned but not the makings of a fun party.”
In his first book The Church on the other sideMcLaren wrote:
“You see, if we have a new world, we will need a new church. We won’t need a new religion per se, but a new framework for our theology. Not a new Spirit, but a new spirituality. Not a new Christ, but a new Cristian. Not a new denomination, but a new kind of church in every denomination…I began to doubt that any of us Christians are actually Christians.I relate this experience simply to illustrate the importance of our challenge:to reopen the question of what makes a good Christian…if need be, would we be willing to confess that we are hardly Christians at all and that we need to become as little children and start again?”
The faltering steps of a new child are always the most exciting yet full of risk and apprehension yet no fear. If you’re up for it so am I and let’s hold each other’s hand along the way.
The first volume of Brian McLaren’s trilogy A New Kind of Christian, recounts a lively and intimate conversation and spiritual journey between fictional characters- Pastor Dan Poole and his daughter’s science teacher Neo. They reflect together about faith and life as Dan has a crisis of leadership, faith and doubt. It is essential a tale of hope and spiritual renewal for those who thought they may have given up on God, faith or the church. Throughout the book the character of Neo challenges Dan and others in their thinking and in one part Neo asks his students about the practical advice they would give Martin Luther if they could go back in time and meet this sincere young medieval monk who wants his life to count for God. The class replied:
“Don’t put your confidence in the institution of the church; put your confidence in God. be open to new ideas and new interpretations of the faith. Don’t be too quick to criticize. Expect things to be messy. Don’t resist change, Go with it..Keep going back to the Bible, but not with the standard interpretations blinding you to new interpretations. try to sort out tradition from the real essentials of the gospel. Get with it, get out of the way, or get counselling!”
When challenged about the dangers of change and the prospect of heresy, the character of Neo responds with quiet determination; “I believe in the Holy Spirit. i believe Jesus meant it when he said the spirit of God would be with us, guiding us to the very end. So I believe that he will guide us through these winds and currents of change, no matter what storms come. In fact, I believe that he is the wind in our sails, leading us into the change, because that’s his way. he always moves ahead.He’s not about taking us back to the past..He has a purpose he is working toward, and I want to keep up with him. I suppose that’s my greatest fear, not that I’ll go too fast or too far but that I’ll lag behind.”
Visionary and inspiring stuff . It’s no wonder Neo is fictional when did you last get words like that from a church leader?
Another poem from my friend Christopher Payne:
Hold that word
That almost escaped,
Pursue the echo.
Hold that place
Where words have failed
On the tip of your tongue.
Hold that thought
Of almost inspiration.
Where emptiness intrudes.
Hold that poem
At the moment of waking,
Before the white-wash of day.
Hold that prayer
Suspended over the world,
And feel Him speak.
For more on Christopher’s poetry see http://www.christopherpaynepoetry.net/
I love how Brian McLaren explains what it means to be a Christian. See if you think this makes as much sense as I do: