Most of you know I spend a great deal of time reading about “mission,” what with being a Mission Pastor & all. On Mondays, I try to get your thoughts going about stuff I read. Today’s thoughts come from
Incarnate: The Body of Christ in an Age of Disengagement, by Michael Frost.
Nobody made me do it. Intentionally, anyways.
See, I’d made some new friends who were walking me through the codes of conduct that were expected within the evangelical circles I was entering after a three-year hiatus from any and all church attendance. Even that church attendance in my youth was in a highly liturgical denomination that had a much more lax code of conduct but they still did it in their own unique way.
Let’s start with music. You have to remember that punk was in full swing in Alabama (which means it had been in full swing about 4 years before that, and MTV wasn’t a homogenizing American musical force yet) in my life…and punk was not really about the music. It was all-encompassing. The music was the reason. We had our styles of dress and other codes of conduct.
The message was clear but polite: You’ll need to engage in more conservative hair & dress, get away from the riff-raff you’re hanging out with, and listen to “Christian” music. How do you explain to someone who isn’t part of a culture how important that culture is to you?
Let’s move on to college. All the folks wanting me to walk with Christ prayed for my decision on where to go and what to major in. They gave me some degree of insight into areas where they thought I was strong/passionate or wear I was weak/disinterested and maybe even some insight into where I might “fit.” They certainly wanted me to get prepared for whatever job I might have. They hinted that I might be “good” at ministry.
The unspoken message one of silence: I was never told how that careers can be Kingdom work in and of itself. See, there was MINISTRY! and there were…well…okay, I guess…other jobs. But you can be in business and make a lot of money and give to missions. That would be good.
Let’s move on to other stuff like…
…Drink (don’t do it now for sure, and once you’re of legal drinking age, you can pray about maybe having wine with dinner with your spouse in the privacy of your own home so as not to cause others to stumble).
…art (you need to be hyper careful about what you put into your brain, because “garbage-in, garbage-out,” right? Best stick to Christian movies, books, television & music so as not to put all that pollution in your system).
…food (you need to be on guard against gluttony. You need to be thankful for the food that God so graciously provided and not overeat since that doesn’t make God happy. And don’t forget about world hunger).
…a good kiss (we all see that girl you’re dating is pretty, but you need to draw a line at holding hands until you get married. Be a good spiritual leader in your relationship because that’s what the Bible says to be).
…architecture (no one really spoke at all about this, but I wish they had because of the influence in our day to day lives).
…sports (work hard at your sports because you can get a scholarship and play in college and ideally this will give you a platform to tell others about Jesus. Maybe you could hook up with a mission agency and play ball all summer and after those sports camps maybe you could present the 4-Spiritual Laws).
…the spiritual life (be good here and follow the codes of conduct, and we want to help everybody get to heaven with us).
Now, don’t get me wrong. These people in my life cared a great deal about me. They really, truly did. They wanted me to live the spiritual life as they knew it. They had meaningful conversations with me about Jesus and being a disciple and were ultimately supremely influential in my journey. I cannot state with enough strength how unintentional their message was:
There is a separation between the sacred & the secular. That’s another way of saying there is your church life & your regular life. And Frost touches on this in a quote on page 34
Whether they’re prepared to admit it or not, many Christians behave as operational hyperdualists. And many preachers reinforce this worldview. They place far greater importance on the spiritual over the physical, and they promote the church’s mission as being chiefly concerned with readying soul for heaven and teaching the faithful to endure their human physical experience. In other words, they value so-called soul work so much over physical life that such physical activities are either demonized (sex, eating), sacralized by being put into service of the church (art, architecture, music) or completely ignored (exercise, work, play)…overall, most people lead profane lives, with occasional moments of the sacred or transcendent, while they await the day when their departing souls will be freed to the heavenly realms. This kind of thinking naturally leads to the defleshing of the Christian experience.
Now can you see how my thinking is changing? And I wonder how I would’ve responded if those that were teaching me said things like…
…those nights when you’re with your tribe & moshing & listening to music you like are a gift to be experienced and treasured.
…you career is how God has gifted you to bring Kingdom values to the forefront so people can learn to experience his Shalom.
…a lingering night over a table with good friends, great wine & great food is a Kingdom moment.
…a kiss can be an expression of love, and those are sometimes few & far between. Be in that moment, fully.
…the building you’re in sends a message just by how it’s designed. What is the message it’s telling you? Pay attention to it. (This is profound when traipsing through cathedrals in Europe, I’ve found, and the same for city design & such…and don’t even get me started on suburban planning).
…there is an inherent beauty in sport (and acting and dance) and their rhythms and execution and community they bring about. Don’t miss the moments.
…the eternal life starts now. It’ll take different forms in the future and it isn’t perfect, but it’s real and we’re rubbing shoulders every day with people that either aren’t even aware (the walking dead) or missing out on what it can/should be.
See, I’m becoming more & more convinced that our Tribe spends too much time trying to be “right” and, like I said in my last mission entry, we try to pump in information as if the right information will get people to “come to Jesus.”
I’m learning that it’s likely more effective to remove those distinctions and enflesh the Christian experience by fully embracing and living the fullness of the abundant life, we’ll draw more folks to this Kingdom lifestyle.
I’ve said before, love is the ultimate apologetic, and the Kingdom lifestyle (if it’s done right) of being aware of His presence in ALL the moments and thinking and living that out loud in front of a watching world, is the best way to show that watching world how beautiful He is.
Your thoughts, patrons?