OUR GREATEST RESOURCE IS JESUS

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An old blog post I thought deserved a restatement

There has been a lot of talking about missional church folk presenting a different Jesus. Well I want to make a confession, as someone deeply committed to the missional church movement I do indeed present a different Jesus and will continue to do so. I present and try and follow a different Jesus from the one that the evangelical church in Christendom Europe (and I suspect America) shaped by modernism proclaimed. That Jesus was a Saviour but in practice little else. I affirm wholly and completely that Jesus is the Saviour of the world and outside Him there is no salvation. The problem is that the Christendom church presented Jesus as a Saviour but in practice ignored Him as an example and as a teacher. They wanted to be saved by Jesus but not shaped by Him. He was a Jesus who offered a heavenly reward devoid of real earthly change or challenge.

One of the things that attracted me to the missional movement was its emphasis on Jesus. There was an emphasis on Jesus as Saviour but also as teacher and example, in other words a commitment to being saved AND shaped by Christ. Stuart Murray in a book called POST-CHRISTENDOM puts the issue like this:

Our greatest resource in post-Christendom is Jesus. … Our priority must be to rediscover how to tell the story of Jesus and present His life, teaching, death and resurrection – recognising past attempts have seriously missed the mark. We cannot continue to present Jesus only as the Saviour from guilt few feel in post-Christendom. Nor can we invite people to follow a Jesus who merely guarantees life after death to those who are otherwise comfortable or a Jesus whose Lordship affects only a limited range of personal moral decisions. We can no longer present a safe establishment Jesus who represents order and stability rather than justice, who appeals to the powerful and privileged for all the wrong reasons. Nor can we reduce Jesus to dogmatic statements in simplistic evangelistic courses or perpetuate the overemphasis on his divinity at the expense of his humanity that Christendom required.
Instead, we must present Jesus as (amongst much else) friend of sinners, good news for the poor, defender of the powerless, reconciler of communities, pioneer of a new age, freedom fighter, breaker of chains, liberator and peacemaker, the one who unmasks systems of oppression, identifies with the vulnerable and brings hope.
But if we would present Jesus in such ways to others we must encounter Jesus afresh ourselves” p316

For years I wondered how “evangelical” Christians could be involved in the Klan in the States, protestant para-militaries in Ulster and in the security forces of apartheid South Africa. I wondered how saved people’s underlying values reflected Western consumer culture so clearly. Then it struck me they had been present by Jesus whom they had been told had to save them but they had never heard about a Jesus whose shaping was equally necessary. This idea that we can be saved and remain unchanged should get an allergic reaction from those of us who are part of the Wesleyan Holiness movement who have always believed that salvation necessitated real progress in sanctification. The problem was that we defined holiness in legalistic terms, in terms of what we didn’t do instead of positively in terms of listening to and follow Jesus.

Surely the God given definition and demonstration of Holiness is Jesus? In Jesus teaching on the Sermon on the Mount we hear holiness defined and in His actions in the Gospels, embracing the least, the lonely and left out we see holiness demonstrated. This Jesus establishes the Kingdom of God by his passion and resurrection but calls on us to serve it in the here and now as well as wait for its consummation. His teaching and his actions show us what it means to live and serve that Kingdom. Yet all too often we have been content to be saved by Jesus but have resisted being shaped by Him. I call a that a different Jesus, a Jesus different from the one who I encounter in the Gospel who embraces his cross to save me but calls on me to embrace the cross to serve Him.

So I am committed to another Jesus, the Jesus who saves me but also has the right to shape me. This is the Jesus I want to proclaim and follow in word and deed. This is the Jesus I want to unleash in my life, in my church and in this world. This is the Jesus that the missional church movement has helped me rediscover if someone considers that heretical I wonder what Jesus they follow? (I would highly recommend Alan Hirsch’s RE-Jesus: A Wild Messiah for a Missional Church, on this subject)

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