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.

The Vertical Self

I just finished a new book from Mark Sayers and I am thankful for the reminder it provides that my identity is in something so much different from success, popularity, materials… it is in a God that loved me with grace that I will never understand.

The Vertical Self, Sayers’ book that Thomas Nelson publishing provided to me to review, attempts to lay out “how Biblical faith can help us discover who we are in an age of self obsession,” and it does a pretty good job of opening our eyes to the way in which we live and posture ourselves. Too often we have a horizontal focus, thinking of things around us as giving us identity and comfort and Sayers shakes us out of that posture, reminding us to be vertically focused on the provision and person of God.

I think the book is written to a younger audience and it is an easy read. It stands next to other calls against idolatry such as Tim Keller’s Counterfeit Gods, with crisp storytelling and wisdom. This is not a theologically definitive piece of work but it guides reader to search after God in place of the systems our culture has attempted to use in his place.

Sayers sees an opportunity for a whole generation of newly vertically minded individuals living in community with each other and spreading the hope we only find in Jesus by dismissing the “cool” and learning to harness our desires to give God glory.

Over all The Vertical Self is a good book to start a conversation and pursuit towards God. Now here is to living vertically!