Monday, April 26, 2010

Holy Subversion

I find the video below intriguing, particularly in light of Walter Russell Mead's observation that "As a whole, the mainline churches are now making the transition from slow decline to progressive collapse."

The video features Baptist pastor Trevin Wax talking about his book Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals. At the website, the caption beneath the video says: "Challenges Christians to stop privatizing their faith and begin undermining the cultural 'Caesars' of our time by reclaiming the early church's radical proclamation: 'Jesus is Lord.'"

I was particularly struck when Pastor Trevin said this:

The bigger problem isn't that we don't have answers when people ask about the hope that is within us. To me the bigger problem is nobody seems to be asking about our hope. Why aren't they asking? And, I guess it's because people look at our lives and they see that we have the same hope, the same dreams, as everyone else around us. We're also hoping for a bigger paycheck, more cars, more time for leisure and entertainment, a better job, a bigger house.

Holy subversion calls us as churches to ground ourselves in the gospel that transforms our lives, the gospel that backs up our declaration as God's church, as God's called-out people, backs up our declaration that Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord.

Previous generations heard that declaration and said, "Prove it." Our generation hears that declaration and says, "Show me."

Having written before about "failing Christianity," I cannot accept Pastor Trevin's suggestion that most Christians have answers to the questions of others when it comes to our faith. Too many of us - especially in mainline churches - find ourselves speechless and embarrassed when questions arise. However, I do think his concerns about the Church's accommodation to the prevailing culture, and thus the inability of our lifestyles to bear witness to the Good News of God in Christ, are on target.

But even if the diagnosis is mostly correct, the prescription may be a bitter pill to swallow. Note how one review of the book frames it:

Imagine interviewing for a church position today and saying, "I believe God wants us to be kingdom-focused and mission-minded. It could be that as we start to move into more intensive discipleship, we will shrink before we grow."

In most churches, you would be shown the door quickly. It's too risky. No one wants to hear about shrinking. Never mind that the concept is biblical. Never mind that Jesus talks about branches being pruned for the good of the tree. Never mind that shrinking actually happened in Jesus' earthly ministry.

Risky, indeed. But perhaps the alternative to shrinking before we grow is to shrink until we die.

Watch all of the video:

Holy Subversion from Crossway on Vimeo.

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