Radical Change in Our Christian Practice – Introduction
In discussing the need for a 21st Century Reformation, which is particularly vital to the mission of the church in the West, I picture three areas which need to be radically changed. These three areas can be compared to the “stories” of a house.
The foundation or the basement level concerns the corporate life of the church and how we together live out our mission or purpose. This area is commonly called ecclesiology. A radical change needs to come about in the 21st century with respect to the Christians understadning of the the church and the believer's identification of his story as lived in the context of church life. All our endeavors as Christians and our life in the church must stand upon a common understanding of our mission to make-disciples of every nation and to become “the city” whose architect and builder is God. Some Christian thinkers see the role of the church to be quite limited. I see it otherwise. The church is the place where we live out our primary purpose of being a community which is a shining example of the heavenly quality of life. The radical change in our practice will flower when a new vision of corporate life becomes our new vision of the church. Currently, the church is by no means seen as living counter-culturally, yet the lifestyle of the early church and of Jesus Himself was so very revolutionary. At this foundational level, our practice and ultimately our understanding of the church must change for the church to fulfill its mission to display the moral attributes of God through our life together.
The second story of the house is the life of our discipleship relationships. This second level will be the primary emphasis of this next series of blog entries. As we embrace a new understadning of the role of church in our daily life and in our life purposes, we need a method to learn the life of the kingdom. The learning of this new life happens in the context of mentoring relationships. In the same way that our corporate life and the definition of the life of the church must become counter-culture and must radically change, so too, our understanding of the role of the pastor or elder and the methods by which we teach must completely change.
In the next few posts, I will attempt to describe and articulate the necessary changes in the way we learn to live the Christian life. Neither the current academic model of dispensing information nor the priesthood model of dispensing grace are effective in actually teaching the believer how to live. Our discipleship and learning philosophy must be an imitation of the methods of Jesus. In jesus' methodology, the object of study is not primarily the ideas of the teacher but the object of study is the life of the teacher himself (or herself). The method of learning must be based first and foremost on observation and imitation and only secondarily on articulation and codification. Our method of learning must be changed from building a house of ideas to learning the ways of the cross and the ways of compassion and love through a method of imitation, observation and dialogue. Therefore, our educational method or the story of our discipleship and mentoring life must be revolutionized. The practice of discipleship must be deconstructed and then rebuilt according to the example of the discipleship methods of Jesus.
The third layer or story of the house is the layer of personal sanctification. The church lacks a teachable method for the transformation of our character. Christian’s are often forced to go outside the church to learn to become a new person. Our leaders do not even often have faith that the Christian is called to walk the Morally Beautiful Life. We have little experience with living in the abiding presence of the Spirit and are fundamentally unable to describe the experience to those we are trying to assist in life.
In the last two months, I have covered a daily cycle of prayer and worship, living “The Mediated Life”, and the need for times of reflection. If we learn the way of prayer, the mediated life, and regular times of reflection, a life of freedom and holiness is attainable.
The next few posts are going to focus on the discipleship methods of Jesus. What I encourage and exhort each of us to realize is that the observable life of the church, our practice, is in need of radical change.The church has learned orthodoxy by taking seriously the creedal truth of scripture. In the same way, the time has come to look just as dilegently at the principles of Christian practice articulated by those same scriptures. The reformation of the church on all three levels (mission, discipleship, and sanctification) will restore the church to true biblical practice in the same way that the first reformation restored the church to a biblical faith.