In this post, we continue what we started in my last post on Jesus and Movement (see bottom of this post). My two posts can be read separately or together (in any order).
The Key to Movement
In his book The Great Omission, Dallas Willard identifies the key reason why we don’t see movement take place in the West today. We have failed to be and make disciples of Jesus. The cost of non-discipleship is the irrelevance of the church. People run here and there seeking true transformation, trampling on the church in the process of going nowhere.
While we are chasing the latest methods and models, God is seeking to transform us, for the One who made us has clearly revealed that the “secret” to movement is imitation.
It starts with our imitation of Christ, the person in whom all wisdom abides. With Jesus as our life teacher, we learn from him why we live, how to live and how to involve him in everyday living. Transformation comes by following Christ through the Spirit.
New life in God has a goal and method. The goal is to learn to be like Jesus, to have the kind of confidence in him that leads us to the same kind of faith he had. The method is living into a rule and rhythm of life that allows us to be constantly attentive to and present with the Holy Spirit in and around us. For the Spirit of God is constantly seeking to woo the world to Christ and involve us in his boundary-crossing mission.
We need to engage in life-giving spiritual habits such as solitude and silence in order to disconnect from distractions. These practices also help us inhabit Christ’s presence so that divine love might permeate every part of our lives.
Communion with God is where movement starts; movement flows from our communion with Him (John 15). Sharing about God’s love isn’t a substitute to living in his love. It is easy to get so wrapped up in service and mission that we simply forget to stand in God’s presence and be enveloped by his love.
If we want lives worth imitating, we need to examine our love quotient:
- Your IQ (intelligence quotient) tells me how much information you can digest and create.
- Your EQ (emotional quotient) lets me know about your interrelational abilities.
- Your LQ (love quotient) is displayed in how much you love your neighbor, and your love for your neighbor is directly proportional to your love for God.
Do you desire to see movement take place in the West? The foundation of movement is Jesus Christ. The key to movement is imitation. Imitation starts with the imitation of Christ and then calling others to imitate us as we imitate Christ. The degree to which we learn to live a kingdom quality of life, one characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, will be the degree to which we have a life worth imitating. The power to love like Jesus comes from accepting the invitation to live into the fellowship of God’s love. So if we want to imitate Christ, we need to participate in the life of the Trinity and join It’s movement in the world.
Have you ever wondered what life is like in the eternal communion of the Trinity? Do you think they bicker about who is the most omniscient or most omnipotent? Of course not.
The Father, Son and Spirit are in an unending dance of mutual enjoyment where “each person is for the others, with the others and in the others” (Leonardo Boff, Trinity and Society). And the most amazing thing in life is that Jesus invites us to participate in the very being of God.
My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me – that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:20-23)
One of the insights we gain from Jesus’ prayer is how communion, community and mission are intertwined and interdependent. Our experience of communion with the community of God informs what it means for us to live as community, and our ability to live life together in loving community is connected to how the world comes to know that Jesus and the Father are one.
Living as community in God directly relates to the credibility of the message we seek to proclaim. We don’t need to manufacture this unity; it is what we find as we live in God together. We just need to maintain the unity of the Spirit that we have through Christ (Ephesians 4:1-6).
So what does it mean for us to live as community in God? It means we imitate and participate in the life of the Father, Son and Spirit.
Paul draws this out in his letters through the “one another” verses. In those verses, we are called to…
- welcome one another
- accept one another
- encourage one another
- exhort one another
- live in harmony with one another
- serve one another.
We do these things because they are what we see taking place with the Father, Son and Spirit. Community formation is a vital competency because mission is unity.
Reconciliation is the ministry to which God has called us (2 Corinthians 5:11-21). As fruits of God’s new creation in Christ, we have been co-missioned to see people reconciled with God, to see the dividing walls of racism, classism and sexism brought down so that we might live as a sign and foretaste of God’s kingdom (Galatians 3:28). For the gospel is not just about God reconciling us with himself, but God, through Christ, rescuing us from the powers of this evil age that perpetuate ideologies that divide us (Galatians 1:4).
When Jesus prays for us to be invited into the community of the divine, it is an invitation that comes at a high cost. Jesus would have to die a humiliating death by hanging on a cross. The Father, who enjoyed continual intimacy with Jesus, would have to watch his Son experience the agony and shame of taking the sins of the whole world upon himself. The Spirit of God, who would come to live in God’s people, would continue to reside with them, despite many who would grieve and quench him.
Each of us is invited to participate in this community of self-giving, self-sacrificing love. As we imitate Christ, we participate in his suffering by carrying our own crosses as we seek to live into and extend the fellowship of the Trinity. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer has said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die” (The Cost of Discipleship).
We must die to our self, our infatuation with speed and size and devote ourselves to the work of making disciples, training the few. As Robert Coleman puts it in his classic work on this topic, “When [Christ’s] plan is reflected upon, the basic philosophy is so different from that of the modern church that its implications are nothing less than revolutionary.”
Training the Few
Common people were Jesus’ way of seeing the world reconciled with God, and Jesus had to keep the group small enough in order to work deeply with them. Yes, we need to teach the crowds and mobilize the seventy, but if we fail to disciple the few, we will continue to see the irrelevance of the church. While Jesus’ way looked unimpressive in his lifetime, the fruit of his focus on the twelve in due time “turned the world upside down.”
Being and making disciples of Jesus is foundational to movement. Maybe that’s why Paul consistently calls us to imitate him as he imitates Christ. And of course we can’t imitate Christ in our own power, we must learn to abide in Christ, to walk in the power of the Spirit, to participate in the life of the Trinity.
Let’s remember what Jesus co-missioned us to do: God authorized and commanded Jesus to commission us: Go out and make disciples, far and near, in this way of life, submerging them in Trinitarian Presence. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).
For Part 1 of this 2-part script on movement, see below.
Latest posts by JR Woodward (see all)
- Film as a Form of Mass (Theology at the Theater, Part 2) - Feb 27, 2017
- What has Hollywood to do with Jerusalem? (Theology at the Theater, part 1) - Feb 23, 2017
- The Key to Movement - Oct 12, 2016