Christians – in name only! A call to radical Christ following – death to Christendom!

Christians – in name only! A call to radical Christ following Christendom!

Jeremiah 23: 1-4 “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD. 2 Therefore this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: “Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,” declares the LORD. 3 “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number. 4 I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing,” declares the LORD.”

We have heard alarming reports about the continued decline of the numbers of Christians in our churches in Sweden through tidningen Dagen. As I indicated before as passed on the statistics during the Pionjär 2008 conference which we hosted in our church on behalf of a number of different denominations, I am not overcome by these statistics.

I consider this process where (finally) the official figures start to portray a more realistic picture of reality as a blessing! Dead wood is removed from the forest.

I cannot refrain from thinking of the scripture in Jeremiah 23 where the word of the Lord speaks against the shepherds of Israel who have been destroying and scattering the sheep. The shepherds were accused of not caring for the sheep; thus the scattering and alienation of them. It reminds me of our present state of Christianity in Sweden; more and more leaders have opened “their” churches (as if they belonging to them and not Christ!) to anyone. It is important we hear that the church is to be accessible for all those who want to get in. It is important to be seeker-friendly. It is important to be having low thresholds. It is important there is room for everybody! This is like trying to go back to the idea of the “Folkskyrkan” – or Christendom!

Those of you who know me and know of New Life Church in Stockholm where I a one of the pastors can confirm how we from the very start of this church in 1993 have tried to be a low-threshold church. As our short history shows; we have truly become a place of refuge and a haven for many whom in many cases would not put their foot in a church. They feel accepted, they feel they can belong, they can be themselves and time is given for them to grow into a conscious Christian faith.

While having low thresholds for visitors and those curious enough to give us “a chance”, we have maintained a rather high threshold for membership. If our responsibility is to care for the sheep as is mentioned in Jeremiah 23, we need to apply a different kind of leadership and example then mentioned in that chapter. We have to care for the sheep. We have to create a save, secure and yet challenging environment where individuals and the church as a whole can grow into the purposes which God has for His Church, which is to be a light to the world! This implies clarity about what it means to belong to this body of believers which is called “Church”. It must mean that we are clear what people can expect within that Body and what the foundational values are. A friend of mine passed on the following quote which since then I have used many times in regards to the kind of “Body Life” in the local church that we endorse:

Stanley Hauwerwas says: “Christians, to be more specific, do not believe that we have a right to do with our bodies whatever we want. We do not believe that we have a right to our bodies because when we are baptized we become members of one another; then we can tell one another what it is that we should, and should not, do with our bodies.

I had a colleague at the University of Notre Dame. He was Jewish and always said that any religion that does not tell you what to do with your genitals and pots and pans cannot be interesting.

That is exactly true. In the Church we tell you what you can and cannot do with your genitals. They are not your own. They are not private. That means that you cannot commit adultery. If you do, you are no longer a member of”us”. Of course pots and pans are equally important.”

I realize that the kind of Christianity which results from a praxis of the above demands Christ-followership rather than Christendom! Therefore, for now I say death to Christendom, life again to the remnant of the people who have not yet been overcome by the agenda of our world! (Romans 12: 1-3)

That’s the Way I see it!

John

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6 responses to “Christians – in name only! A call to radical Christ following – death to Christendom!

  1. Re: In the Church we tell you what you can and cannot do with your genitals. They are not your own. They are not private.

    Ouch! That statement is one of Christendom!

    As a Christ follower my genitals are my own they are private they are my own responsibility. I am myself responsible for how I use my body parts.

    I do not commit adultery because the “Church” tells me not to but because God’s Word (Christ) tells me not to.

    Just as my tongue is my responsibility I can use if for cursing or blessing but as a Christ follower I use if for blessing.

    I agree death to controlled Christendom and Life to the freedom in Christ-Centered living.

  2. It is interesting that you perceive that the quote from Stanley Hauwerwas breaths Christendom. Stanley was a postliberal thinker and theologian. He was among those provided much of the foundation for other movements, such as Radical orthodoxy, Scriptural Reasoning, paleo-orthodoxy and the emerging church movement. His (their) conviction is that theological rationality is not to be rooted in the authority of the individual but in the language and culture of a living tradition of communal life.
    Overall one can say that there is a strong emphasis on the communal life of the Church in their “school”, much thought and time is given to pursue the kind of Christian living marked through the presence and teachings of Jesus. Stanley wrote a great book about this “A community of character – toward a constructive Christian social ethic”. A good book review about it is written by —-Billy Calderwood who is the lead pastor of Aqueous, a missional faith community.

    Personally I believe in strong communal living and have been influenced much by the books by Jean Vanier: Community and growth, and Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I agree that the quote is rather challenging; there is a personal responsibility which we carry for everything in our life, everything which is entrusted to us as stewards and at the same time there is the Church, the body of believers of which Christ is the head.

    His teachings flow from Him into His body, and through His people to each other. It is in this Body that the kind of challenging “Body life” exists that might challenge the choice of the individual. The Church from its very conception has been (at times) like a battle ground between ideas, lifestyles, convictions and praxis between the individual and the community. Let’s not forget that the Bible is not a book written to individuals but to the community of believers.

  3. Well said, thanks for clarifying. I need to read it in context the quote itself can be taken in many ways.

    Perhaps there is a better way of saying it.

    Parhaps since Stanley was a post-liberal thinker that is why it comes of in my eyes as being non-biblical.

    I will have to get the book!

    Thanks

  4. Maybe I’m still not clear on all this. I agree with Douglas’ first post that “I do not commit adultery because the ‘Church’ tells me not to but because God’s Word (Christ) tells me not to.”

    The authority in my life is the Word of God and not found in “language and culture of a living tradition of communal life”. Sure these things can contribute when that life is lived within a scriptural context, but there are many who live in a communal life that does not reflect a life Christ would desire for us to live.

    If we only go by what the church says is right or wrong, I find that we will discover ourselves on a slippery slope heading toward destruction.

    I appreciate that Stanley Hauwerwas emphasis’ the importance of the church (after all it is the bride of Christ) but that does not mean that the church is perfect. So to emphasis or give primacy to the church seems to reduce or at least diminish the authority of Scripture.

    For example. I am a pastor in the United Methodist Church in the US. We currently, in our denomination, have an ordained pastor who has had a sex change. She, who is now a he, is named Drew Phoenix. The church she/he serves in (communal life) seems to be “ok” with it. How can we just shrug and say “if that is what the community feels is good, or right…”

    Scripture has to be the standard to which everything is held up to, not some fickle community that vacillates whenever society changes it’s mind.

  5. Pingback: The only time I agree with Lennart Koskinen… « Synergetics

  6. Hey all, like the way the discussion is (was going), just 2 thoughts for now. First, why are you speaking of Stanley Hauerwas in past tense (ie, he ‘was’) ?

    Second, to Kevin and Douglas. I know we are mincing words and semantics, and I think I agree with your point, but (of course there is a ‘but’), the church doesnt tell me what to do, the bible does? Where do we get the bible? It was handed down to us from and through the church. Maybe I didnt get my copy of my bible, or even my translation, from my local church, or even my denomination, but it has been collected, translated, transported, and carried forth by the church, geez, a good part of it was even written by the church, right?

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