OK, guys. Gather round close. Let me have a word in your ear. I have a message from God. Ready? God wants to know: “Are you in or are you out?” “What kind of a question is that?” you say. “I go to church, I love God...What do you mean, ‘Am I in or am I out?’”
Well, some of you do go to church; but some of you don’t (and maybe for good reason). Some of us are involved in the faith world up to our eyeballs whereas some of us are more comfortable standing around the periphery, looking on. Regardless of where you are, I’d really like to include everyone in the conversation. But, no worries; listen in for a while and follow along...I’d like to explain where I’m coming from. There’s likely a good reason why your personal spiritual life feels as if it’s dying on the vine, and also why the church you attend is quite possibly slipping, steadily, into irrelevancy. It’s happening because too much of late twentieth-century denominational Christianity took its eye off the ball, put its feet up, and settled into a comfortable complacency (with, I might add, the full cooperation of its members). Churchgoers have become so conformed to the status quo (a modus operandi that’s killing the churches they love) that any other way of doing business—even if it involves being faithful—feels like breaking faith.
What’s happening is this: Dynamic faith in Jesus Christ has largely given way to a new orthodoxy in the form of faith in a cultural norm (type, standard, custom, model, convention). This new orthodoxy has been described as “Christianity” for so long we’ve all but lost the ability to tell the difference. Consequently, the “religion” many of us espouse and practice has become too insipid and lackluster to inspire much of a relationship with the church we say we’re committed to. Instead, our relationship rarely goes beyond semi-regular attendance, family membership (not unlike that gym you seldom visit) and a one-stop-shop for significant rites of passage.
To put it more bluntly: Jesus came to rock the establishment. Now we, his followers, are the establishment—or we think we are (which may be worse!). Instead of defining ourselves as “Followers of The Way,” we have masterminded a detour that has long-since ceased to challenge our refined, middle-class sensibilities.
There is hope, however, because God is unerringly faithful, God is constantly creating and recreating, and God has defined the future—that would be my future, and yours—in terms of promise.
When Jesus offered the possibility that his followers could experience life in all of its prolific, bounteous, lavish and generous abundance, the Son of Man was not fooling around. Listen to the scripture from John 10:7-10. Read it aloud and take note...
“Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
The thief really has been stealing and destroying. And, in looking around, it’s fairly obvious that what’s missing from our churches and our Christianity is the abundant life.
- Authentic life replicates itself naturally.
- Life attracts.
- Life is irrepressible and relentless.
- Life is supposed to be part and parcel of our ongoing relationship with God.
What happens when life is not there? Well, the organism dies.
The ten words in my book all come loaded with dynamic life. They represent promise and possibility for men who seriously want to build on a deliberate decision to live as disciples. These words are not a formula so much as an invitation. They challenge us to embrace the kind of abundance Jesus was talking about when he invited those first disciples to follow him. Jesus may not want us to drop our nets, or our small business, or our regular lives. But Jesus is inviting us to throw out the same old same old of religious dissatisfaction and spiritual disquiet. The fact is, God wants us to drop the religion and embrace abundant life—a life lived to capacity and guided by Jesus, excellence, passion, scripture, holiness, clarity, prayer, authenticity, and community. It’s the life of Jesus.