I met Brian at the very first National Pastor’s Convention in San Diego. Evangelism formed the nexus of his “breakout” during the conference. I can still see the image of the bridge in Central America after a recent hurricane. The photo taken by a National Geographic photographer captured in a photo image what Brian suggested our evangelism efforts had become – a bridge that did not connect people with the Good News. Brian would go on to write More Ready Than You Realize, his description of a way forward with the Good News of Jesus and the Kingdom of God.
Patty and I attended an “Advance” with Len Sweet who invited Brian and Grace to be the special guests. We spent a couple of days on Orcas Island. Beautiful. Thought-provoking. I will not forget Grace wrestling with the profound implications of thinking afresh about what it means to follow Jesus. The emotion was palpable. She voiced what many around the room were both feeling and thinking.
Since that time we have had a number of encounters over the past years since that retreat – Emergent Conventions, Emergent Gatherings, phone calls and e-mails. Despite the baggage that goes with “Emergent” and the regular criticisms, the deep appreciation for Brian’s honest wrestling with how Jesus may be Good News today stirs me more deeply than the rampant misunderstanding and label mongering that follows.
This evening and tomorrow I am in Dallas for Brian’s Everything Must Change Book Tour at Cliff Temple Baptist Church. I read an advance copy. I met Shawn and Nathan this evening, a couple of fellows from Frisco, TX. We enjoyed several planned “conversations” thinking about a segment of the meeting. We talkd about things we agreed with and those we thought may be over-simplifications. After all, those who attend these things are not automatons who hang on every word. Instead we have continued to think long and hard about issues raised and how we might bring the Good News of Jesus to bear on the world and among those with whom we serve.
My friend Ed loves to use the phrase, “money quote.” Well, one of the money quotes that has implications much broader than the context in which the comment came was, “We need to stop sub-contracting our brains to political parties.” Surely you may see where this quote could also go. Too many have been told what to believe – outsourcing as it were their very convictions to those either considered smarter, older, or deader (if that is a word). Contextualization demands we engage today, it is the eternal moment we live in that needs redeeming from ruin and to be found as it is lost – lost in any number of ways.
We were challenged to think what it would take, what action we may consider that would result in personal change. The one thing I am mulling at this late hour is an abandon to the way of Jesus that leads with passion and gentleness and respect. Put another way, thinking about the implications of Philip Yancey’s, The Jesus I Never Knew, and what Paul told me is that same theme on steroids in Wright’s The Challenge of Jesus, it is time to help people see more than a caricature of Jesus. More than what one Damah Film submittal referred to as, “The White American Jesus.” Leading in this vein will not come without a personal commitment to an abandonment to the way of Jesus that transcends the cultural box, or sub-cultural box, in which Jesus often seems trapped.
For those concerned by this post, this is not the place where the slippery slope gets me. It is not the place to suggest an abandonment of orthodoxy. Rather, it is a re-affirmation that to maintain orthodoxy without right practice is a hollow game leading people away from the transformative work of the Triune God. A game I gave up long ago.