Claiborne basically relays his spiritual journey through stories that have shaped it. Admittedly Claiborne’s journey is much more intense than the average Christian. He also phrases many ideas and questions in shocking, thought provoking ways. I think Claiborne can rightly be considered a prophetic voice for Christians today in much the same way as the prophets of old were to the people of Israel. In Claiborne’s autobiographical approach to this prophecy, the early chapters have a deeper more cutting edge ring to them. It is an edge that possibly turns off more folks than it really should. However, for those open and brave enough to continue reading, the last three chapters find a message that is mellowed by experience and more practical in tone but still just as prophetic. This experienced tone makes it an even more compelling prophecy that is just as dangerous to ignore as it is to acknowledge. This puts us readers in a very challenging position.
Chapter 11 challenges both professing Christians and secular altruists with some compelling words.
Just as “believers” are a dime a dozen in the church, so are “activists” in social justice circles nowadays. But lovers are hard to come by. And I think that’s what our world is desperately in need of – lovers, people who are building deep, genuine relationships with fellow strugglers along the way, and who actually know the faces of the people behind the issues they are concerned about. We are trying to raise up an army not simply of street activists but of lovers – a community of people who have fallen desperately in love with God and with suffering people, and who allow those relationships to disturb and transform them.Chapter 12 challenges particularly American Christendom to meaningfully reassess how we do church today. From the mega churches that turn Christianity into a neatly consumable, schedulable product to the fortress mentality churches that are defending dogma and tradition to the last dying member, “Church” in America today is dying. In my mind these approaches treat “mission” as something that is done to somebody else. Claiborne and a number of other sources these days are calling for a reawakening to the ways of the 1st century Church. This is a much more organic approach that works through building relationships that intertwine and reach throughout the community. This approach treats mission as a partnership where all parties grow. This chapter has particular application at this time in Faith Church’s life. In our healing process we need to struggle with the question of what kind of church does God want Faith Church to be; this, or that, or some hybrid?
Chapter 13 brings us back to unity. This is somewhat ironic given Claiborne’s often shocking approach but is certainly biblical and demonstrates Claiborne’s growth. This chapter emphasizes that we are not alone in any of these struggles. God is ever present and we need to be humble and respectful to each other.
…we have to remind ourselves to stay anchored in the church, for we need roots and wisdom.In one word, from over two centuries of history and from at least one wise Pastor, it all boils down to Agape.
It seems to me that God could surround us with elders as we bring new energy into an aging body, but it will take tremendous courage from old folks to dream new dreams and allow a new generation to make their own mistakes. And it will take great humility from the new generation of the church to listen to the wisdom of our elders and know that we can learn from other’s mistakes.