I have both optimistic and sarcastic sides to me. Maybe two sides to the same coin. On one side I see a problem, that I feel is so obvious but no one else sees. I want to stand up and shout about it. On the other side I have hope. Hope that my thinking is not unique, but part of a waterfall. What happens when church leaders, church staff and elders, youth leaders, Sunday school teachers, start to think more like I do? What happens when the people in the pews start to be hungry for something more relevant, more earthy, more authentic, than sitting in the pews just to be sitting in the pews?
This is my hope for the church. The waterfall, the tide, the upswing of optimism. When we start demanding that Christianity be a positive, powerful influence in the world. When we demand that discipleship means following Christ. Following Christ not by building a kingdom for man, where we can isolate ourselves and declare God's goodness to blank walls. Following Christ not by expanding the global domination of the church system, not by opening more franchises where people can pay an entry fee to worship God and see each other doing it, and not by declaring that the entire world must go to our church or suffer eternally.
No, following Christ is about, forgive the phrase, deconstruction, about post-modernism, about anti-institutional-ism. Following Christ requires leaving behind what is comfortable, what is our identity, what is expected of us, and what is urgent to us, in order to instead build something that is "anti" all of those things. Anti-establishment, and anti-modern if you will. If we don't tear down the system that we've built, laughing at its shallow purposes, then we can't leave it behind. We need to learn to criticize ourselves, encourage radical upheaval, and scoff at our own human-driven purposes. The wind of the Holy Spirit is wild, untamed and unpredictable. Where does she want to go? Where does he want to lead us? Can we haul up the anchor and prepare to follow? Or must we dig in our position and defend it against the very wind of God? I wouldn't try it!
The hope for the church: is following Christ. If we act like he did, and take up the same passions that he did, we will find our way. We will abandon comfort, abandon identity, abandon our own human sense of urgency. We will follow the new wind of Christ, wherever it may desire to take us!
Are each of us like those people that declare "I will follow you" but then when Jesus speaks, we answer back with excuses? See this passage from Luke:
57On the road someone asked if he could go along. "I'll go with you, wherever," he said.
58Jesus was curt: "Are you ready to rough it? We're not staying in the best inns, you know."
Jesus said to another, "Follow me."
59He said, "Certainly, but first excuse me for a couple of days, please. I have to make arrangements for my father's funeral."
60Jesus refused. "First things first. Your business is life, not death. And life is urgent: Announce God's kingdom!"
61Then another said, "I'm ready to follow you, Master, but first excuse me while I get things straightened out at home."
62Jesus said, "No procrastination. No backward looks. You can't put God's kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day."
Luke 9:57-62, The Message
Let me ask you the question: if following Christ meant being willing to toss out hundreds of years of tradition and religious practices, in order to embrace something new, would you do it? If it meant standing up for equality and freedom, would you do it? At any cost? If following Christ meant you needed to reduce your investment in man-made kingdoms, would you do it and let those kingdoms fall into disrepair? If following Christ meant you may not have comfortable children's programs or the kind of music you like, would you do it? If following Christ meant looking at other fellow-followers and listening to them, instead of looking at a stage and listening to a sound system, would you do that?
My hope for the church? Is that it will follow Christ.