Many people have asked, “Why do you need to go outside of the church to do this?” That’s kind of a weird question. If God’s people are the church, then as God’s people, we aren’t going outside of ourselves. This is another example of how our current understanding and experience of church eclipses our discussion. I think what people mean by “going outside of the church” is “Why do you have to explore a different religious model or “do church” differently?”
I would like to answer that question with a question, “If the current Christian religious system we are all currently participating in really works, then why aren’t we observing significant results?” Again, the common adage comes to mind, “The system you currently have is perfectly designed to produce the results you have.” In other words, the failure of modern American evangelical Christianity to transform its members and the society it dwells in is BECAUSE of the system, not in spite of the system.
This raises a lot of thoughts in my head, so if you don’t mind, let me ask some questions: What if God’s mission on earth from Genesis onward is the redemption, recreation and restoration of humanity and creation to form a new society of redeemed people who live in harmony with God, each other and creation on a renewed earth filled with God’s glory? What if THAT is the big story we’re living in? And what if Jesus came to draw our whole lives into THAT story? That means our conversion has little to do with being forgiven of sins so we can go to heaven.
In fact, what if our conversion in Christ is actually about restoring our relationship with God so we can participate in God’s call and mission — your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven? What if participation in God’s mission on earth is a better understanding of salvation rather than (although including) forgiveness of sins? And if that’s the case, what if our participation requires us to become the kind of people who naturally embody, demonstrate and announce (literally, to incarnate) God’s character and kingdom? What if that is what Jesus meant when he said, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21)? That means we need to engage in a whole new lifestyle of spiritual formation to become by grace what Christ is by nature so we can participate in his mission.
If this is what it means to be the church, then it literally changes EVERYTHING. It demands a new way of being and acting as the church because the current Christian religious system has drifted from the true story of becoming the kind of people who can carry on God’s mission on earth. Whatever Christian church system we participate in — the current one or a new one — it MUST have as it’s primary purpose the transformation of people so they can engage God’s mission as Christ did.