I don’t want to be a church planter as much as I want to be a world-creator/enactor.

Let me explain.

Walter Brueggemann has popularized the image of the preacher as a poet who causes people to imagine new worlds and calls them to inhabit them:

The event of preaching is an event in transformed imagination. Poets, in the moment of preaching, are permitted to perceive and voice the world differently, to date a new phrase, a new picture, a fresh juxtaposition of matters long known. Poets are authorized to invite a new conversation with new voices sounded, new hearings possible. The new conversation may end in freedom to trust and courage to relinquish. The new conversation, on which our very lives depend, requires a poet and not a moralist.

While Brueggemann’s statement should be true for preaching, how much more true should this be for our lives? Shouldn’t our lives embody a new reality, a different way of living, as we also imagine out loud how “Christian difference” can change a person’s life and the world? If we are Christians, what role does actually following Christ have on this world creation? (GKB brings this up over here, if you haven’t already read it.)

This is why I’m not satisfied simply with “church planting” as the end-all of mission. We envision our lives being the sermon that demonstrates a different way of living — a truly Christian way of living, in the fulness of that term — to a culture crying out for a “different way.” I love the way Shane Claiborne puts it in The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical:

Few people are interested in a religion that has nothing to say to the world and offers them only life after death, when what people are really wondering is whether there is life before death.

If this is true, what would the Christian report card look like with regard to distinctiveness from yet attractiveness to the world? I have a theory about why people weigh Christianity on the scales and end up saying, “No thanks.” While hypocrisy is obviously a big deterrent, I think an even bigger reason people don’t choose Christianity is that we have created a religion that is really not that different from anything else in the world. The only thing that changes is the individual’s status, moving from the “Hell” column to the “Heaven” column.

What if we and everyone that reads this blog committed to modeling a truly different way for the world around us? Would lives and communities around us change? I’m afraid that taking this seriously, though, might mean taking seriously the thing that should strike fear in every comfortable, safety-oriented, “neat” American Christian (myself included) — following Christ.


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