Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Follow Me

"And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men"
Matthew 4:19

 These twelve Jesus sent forth and commanded them, saying, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.' Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils. Freely ye have received; freely give.
Matthew 10:5-8

This Past Sunday I had lunch with one of my favorite professors and his wife- how lucky am I to be welcomed into my professors home to discuss philosophy and travel and culture on a sunday afternoon almost two years after graduating. One of the questions I was asked was- "Why is the younger generation of America straying away from Christianity?" I actually didn't have a great answer- I stammered something to the effect of "Its Inconvenient, its laborious, it deviates strongly from American culture, it is outdated..." I then realize those didn't seem to be adequate or viable reasons- much less was really in touch with the religious feelings of my generation. I have plenty of athiest and agnostic friends, as well as many devout Christian friends and even friends from other religions: tho I don't know how representative my friends are of the national tendency.

I continued to ponder this question as the day went on, and the best answer I came up with was this: Maybe my generation has lost touch with the mission, the vision of Christianity. When people hear the word "Christianity", they jump to all the biases and stereotypes of the church- rigid, outdated, righteously, judgmental  domineering or maybe even slight confusing- "Christianity is that 'thing' where people go to church on holidays and get baptized and pray." When people hear the world "Christianity", are they even in touch with what that really means? Maybe they know the story, the cliche's, the tradition, but are they in touch with the inspiration behind it all?

My pastor today gave a wonderful sermon that sparked for me an idea about the 'big picture' of the church. Chad is a fantastic orator, if you want the full sermon (which covers a wide variety of themes mainly focused on child rearing) click here:

Chad at one point mentions how Jesus in the bible says to "follow me". I have heard this line before, but rarely considered it beyond its literal meaning in the bible. Jesus is asking men to become his disciples, to leave their jobs as fishermen and carpenters and rather come help him spread a message to people about a new way of relating to God and each other. I have historically heard conversations in the church about being called to "follow jesus". However this never really resonated, as I didn't find it communicated anything especially profound. This is just the way that Christians tell others to become Christians, right?

Chad also quotes this line: "We need 1% vision and 99% alignment". He uses this as what he thinks is required for a family to be united, successful and ultimately expanding together towards a vision. I think this statement can be taken a step further- this is what our communities, our religion, our world needs. A vision we can all get behind, and then from there we spend our time uniting and directing ourselves towards it. On an aside, I have seen this at work in my daily life. One of the things that Medtronic is famous for is having a mission that regularly inspires and unites the 43,000 Medtronic employees. I see how much this makes a difference for people who work here- to be in touch with the company's cause and ultimate purpose. Chad shared the mission of our church the Urban Refuge: Do Justice, Love Mercy and Walk Humbly". He then shared the newly created vision of the evergreen churches (larger community of churches): "Building Compassion Filled Urban Churches for the next generation of believers". Really simple, really profound, and ultimately two missions I am inspired to be a part of.

What is the vision of Christianity for us? For the world? I do not pretend to fully know this answer, but I will take a stab at it.

A vision of a perfect, enchanting world fully embraced by and partnered with humanity. A world where everything is stripped away and all that remains is breathtaking joy and gentle, awesome beauty. A world where people prioritize their communities, each other and the spiritual before themselves. A world where love is law, and each person has the opportunity to express their most genuine selves through the living of it.

When Jesus said "Follow Me"- he did not just mean 'become a christian' or 'follow the rules'. In fact, when he said that line-follow me-Christianity didn't even exist yet. What I believe he was evoking was calling the disciples, and us- to become a part of a bigger picture, to live a life in service of not just ourselves and those immediately around us, but rather humanity as a whole. To behave in an unprecedented way towards each other, that involved personal responsibility, integrity, generosity and ultimately love and compassion.To set a totally new example for what it means to be in touch with and paying homage to the divine.

And the rules in the bible and the morals behind Christianity are just the lessons in place to break down every behavior and thought that gets in between us and that vision. The rules so to speak seem to be in place to ultimately dissolve selfishness, manipulation, apathy and bitterness.
Overall, this might be one of the most important questions we Christians should be answering, should be living out and communicating. "What is God's vision for us and for our world? What is the ultimate vision of a Christian world?" If we can begin to articulate this bigger picture clearly, in a grounded, jargon-free way- I believe people may become more interested. and, I believe we will each become better stewards of this lifestyle that is so important to so many of us.

1 comment:

  1. I am so happy that somebody is paying attention!  I think you really captured the heart of what I desperately want people to understand. The picture that Christ is drawing us towards is stunning, but the “details” along the way often become confusing and too much the central focus. Again details are not bad and are needed when following the big picture of Christ. However, details can often trip us up because we are so focused on the details of the next step that we never lift our heads up to see where we are going. When we finally do look up, we can often find ourselves lost, or worse yet, we find that we've gone nowhere because we focused so much on the details we end up going in circles.

    One small correction… The Evergreen churches do not have the same envisioned future as The Urban Refuge. Although we are “one church” we can have individual expressions.
    Also, good way to look at our envisioned future would be like this: (Big Picture) Building compassioned filled urban churches with and for future generations. (We do this by) Doing Justice, Loving Mercy and Walking Humbly.

    Anyway, thanks for the kind words and keep learning to appreciate the call to follow Jesus.