I'm currently about 2/3 of the way through Tim Keel's book, Intuitive Leadership. It's a very challenging book, especially following up the things I learned during my study leave. The quote I'm going to share fits within the larger themes of the book but it by no means summarizes the book. It does however, illustrate an incredible experience Erin and I have been having the past couple of months.
"To be missiological in a post-Christendom world is not to be more committed to programs of mission but to hold resolutely to an ecclesiology that is incomprehensible apart from mission. [Stanley] Hauerwas elaborates: 'the work of Jesus was not a new set of ideals or principles for reforming or even revolutionizing society, but the establishment of a new community, a people that embodied forgiveness, sharing and self-sacrificing love in its rituals and discipline. In that sense, the visible church... was not the bearer of Christ's message; it was itself to be the message.' In this context, we do not seek to 'reach' a 'target' group or demographic with a message. We live incarnationally in order to demonstrate the new reality that is being revealed in Jesus Christ and embodied by his people, the church.
The gospel is not a location to be defended. It is an alternate reality based on the person of Jesus Christ, who has called around himself a new community to live his life out in the world in hope, courage and joy.
How can this strange story of God made man, of a crucified Savior, of resurrection and new creation become credible for those whose entire mental training has conditioned them to believe that the real world is the world that can be satisfactory explained and managed without the hypothesis of God? I know of only one clue to the answering of that question, only one real hermeneutic of the gospel: congregations that really believe it. "
At the risk of dumbing up the above thoughts, I want to add some commentary from my own life. I'll share a little bit (won't share too many details for the sake of privacy) about a conversation Erin and I have been having with someone who has become a very good friend over the past several months. On various occasions, this friend has told us that while they believe in God, they aren't sure what to think about Jesus or faith while at the same time adding, "I have faith in your faith." Our friend can tell that we're authentic in our faith, which has lead to our friend having a faith in us. Our friend has told us that while they're not yet sure about following Jesus yet, they see the beauty in our relationship with Jesus and simply wants to follow us for awhile, as we follow Jesus. That is both amazingly affirming and insanely terrifying at the same time! This friend is actively pursuing whether a life of following Jesus is a life worth commiting too. You can pray for our friend as they're on this journey of exploration. In fact, please do!
That story illustrates the change that Tim Keel is describing. No longer do we lead people to Jesus through overpowering arguments or limber intellectual apologetics. We lead people to Truth (Jesus Christ) by embodying the beauty of that Truth. Helping people know the life-transforming Truth isn't about equipping ourselves with machine-gun intellectual arguments that poke holes in their truth structure. Rather, it's about engaging people in deep, authentic, lived-out relationships in which Truth is given a tangible body.
You don't have to be perfect (I'm a prime example). You simply have to be comitted to cultivating a deep relationship with Jesus and a deep relationship with other people.