Contending Over Commenting

I have been reading the latest book from Mark Sayers on renewal in the church through a remnant of discontents seeking Jesus. Reappearing Church: The Hope of Renewal in the Rise of Our Post-Christian Age. It is stirring some good thoughts and hopefully refining me as I attempt to lead such a ragtag remnant.

This weekend though one line really put a pin in something I have experienced in leadership. In a chapter calling the church to move away from consumerism Sayers says this: “Consumer Christianity is a form of cultural Christianity that compromises the cross with self rather than flag, mixing the worship of God with the worship of options, personal autonomy, low commitment, and opinion over responsibility.

First, we have to recognize our penchant to be consumers. Even those of us in the Christian subculture that prefer hymns over fog machines, we are likely to pursue church, and dare I say, community as a consumer. I do it, you do it, we all do. From that point we recognize a major problem.

We prefer to maintain our own kingdom rather than surrender to Christ’s in a community of believers (meaning my time, my hobbies, my Netflix binges that interfere with mission and the life of the church.) And we prefer to add comments rather than sweat or contend for mission and discipleship in the church.

Too many wanna-be leaders are well equipped to opine on the health of a church or lack of forward motion while neglecting to take any action themselves. Maybe we think the people paid to do ministry should handle everything or maybe we are just stuck in our consumer mindsets. We convince ourselves that our schedules are too full or life is too busy to take up the work. So we keep our options open, commit just a little more than the next guy so we can feel like we are the most righteous, and then miss out on mission because we refused to contend for the church.

We refuse to contend for renewal in Christ.

There is hope. Repentance and realigning our priorities and lives around the mission Jesus has given us, move us beyond consuming. Giving our lives away for the glory of Christ breaks the hold of autonomy of self.

Will you pray with me toward this end? That the Lord would refine us, renew us as we contend together? There is a place for you to contend. Step up and pursue Jesus with abandon and find a family of believers to do it with.

We need friends from other tribes

I recently had the opportunity to catch up with an old friend, someone I highly value and am thankful for his friendship. But it has been a long time since we discussed things of theology and the church.

Now we are both Christians, trusting in Jesus for salvation, but my writing, teaching, and church experience lands me within what some would call the Reformed tradition.

To this I found my friend sharing a view of “reformed” theology that was foreign to me. Almost as if it would be a perspective shaped by someone antagonistic rather than inquisitive. But the banter was light-hearted and no one was harmed!

I did conclude the conversation however by encouraging my friend that he needed more “reformed” friends. Given the more you know they less likely you are to have a mistaken view.

This goes for all of us. Certainly outside but especially inside the church. For whatever reason God has allowed us to have a varying set of doctrines and views all within the realm of orthodox. And it is important to know we are all kingdom citizens with faith in Jesus. We don’t need to always agree or give up our biblically-formed beliefs but we probably need more friends outside of our tribe so we at least understand each other better.

There is much to learn from many movements but we will never learn it if we are cloistered with our brand exclusively. So the Reformed guy hangs with some Arminians, Charismatics dine with the Lutherans, Presbyterians drink a beer with Baptists (wait that would never work!). You get the point.

Branch out. Get some friends from another tribe, people you love that think differently. Because Jesus can handle it. And you will be better for it.

Basic Ministry of the Spirit

“The truth of the matter is this. The distinctive, constant, basic ministry of the Holy Spirit under the new covenant is so to mediate Christ’s presence to believers – that is, to give them such knowledge of his presence with them as their Savior, Lord, and God – that three things keep happening…

First, personal fellowship with Jesus… Second, personal transformation of character into Jesus’ likeness… Third, the Spirit-given certainty of being loved, redeemed, and adopted through Christ into the Father’s family.”

– J.I. Packer in Keep In Step With The Spirit

Life Defining & Life Demanding Faith

To own and expose the fullness of Christ in all of life. This is what I desire to be about. Seeing how the gospel of Jesus impacts every corner of our existence and embracing it, following it to the source for his glory and our good.

Of course, that wasn’t always my purpose. There was a time I wanted to change the world with my politics, by convincing people of policy and programs as the resolution to all that ails us. I even have one political party’s logo tattooed on my body which has become a memorial to my idolatry, my god of politics.

Thankfully in his providence, God had a different purpose for me. His kindness and the good news of forgiveness and adoption in Christ far outweigh any inkling of engaging again in that realm beyond having opinions and being a participating citizen.

It is with keen interest that I pay attention then when political leaders choose their faith over the defined success of leading and winning. One such character in Britain has done just that today. Tim Farron has been the leader of the Liberal Democrats and is stepping down in what beautifully seems to be an act of life defining and demanding faith in Christ. May we all, that claim Christ, be found as faithful.

Be encouraged by Farron’s statement:

This last two years have seen the Liberal Democrats recover since the devastation of the 2015 election.

That recovery was never inevitable but we have seen the doubling of our party membership, growth in council elections, our first parliamentary by-election win for more than a decade, and most recently our growth at the 2017 general election.

Most importantly the Liberal Democrats have established ourselves with a significant and distinctive role – passionate about Europe, free trade, strong well-funded public services underpinned by a growing market economy.

No one else occupies that space. Against all the odds, the Liberal Democrats matter again.

We can be proud of the progress we have made together, although there is much more we need to do.

From the very first day of my leadership, I have faced questions about my Christian faith. I’ve tried to answer with grace and patience. Sometimes my answers could have been wiser.

At the start of this election, I found myself under scrutiny again – asked about matters to do with my faith. I felt guilty that this focus was distracting attention from our campaign, obscuring our message.

Journalists have every right to ask what they see fit. The consequences of the focus on my faith is that I have found myself torn between living as a faithful Christian and serving as a political leader.

A better, wiser person than me may have been able to deal with this more successfully, to have remained faithful to Christ while leading a political party in the current environment.

To be a political leader – especially of a progressive, liberal party in 2017 – and to live as a committed Christian, to hold faithfully to the Bible’s teaching, has felt impossible for me.

I’m a liberal to my fingertips, and that liberalism means that I am passionate about defending the rights and liberties of people who believe different things to me.

There are Christians in politics who take the view that they should impose the tenets of faith on society, but I have not taken that approach because I disagree with it – it’s not liberal and it is counterproductive when it comes to advancing the gospel.

Even so, I seem to be the subject of suspicion because of what I believe and who my faith is in.

In which case we are kidding ourselves if we think we yet live in a tolerant, liberal society.

That’s why I have chosen to step down as leader of the Liberal Democrats.

I intend to serve until the parliamentary recess begins next month, at which point there will be a leadership election according to the party’s rules.

This is a historic time in British politics. What happens in the next months and years will shape our country for generations.

My successor will inherit a party that is needed now more than ever before. Our future as an open, tolerant and united country is at stake.

The cause of British liberalism has never been needed more. People who will fight for a Britain that is confident, generous and compassionate are needed more than ever before.

That is the challenge our party and my successor faces and the opportunity I am certain that they will rise to.

I want to say one more thing: I joined our party when I was 16, it is in my blood, I love our history, our people, I thoroughly love my party.

Imagine how proud I am to lead this party. And then imagine what would lead me to voluntarily relinquish that honour.

In the words of Isaac Watts it would have to be something “so amazing, so divine, (it) demands my heart, my life, my all”.

HT: Andrew Wilson