This is freakin’ brilliant! Thanks Scot

AmazingI don't know how he does it…but uber-New Testament professor and blogger, Scot McKnight has posted something today that is absolutely brilliant!  If you have any heart for what it means to live out faith in a pluralistic, post-Christendom culture where young people are making choices to NOT live their life of faith in spiritual community, this article will encourage you.  I'm thankful to Scot for this article and for the man who wrote it.  Read it on Scot's blog HERE…otherwise, here is the article:

To the Church about to Baptize My Baby:

Be warned.

It’s all cuteness and lace now, but in no time at all, my little baby boy- after a brief sojourn in childhood- will hit adolescence. His hormones will kick in and quickly conspire to undo all the good you’ve done in him.

These will be the years that he’ll push you, Church.

He’ll suddenly wonder how Jonah could survive that dark trip in the whale’s belly. He’ll argue that David may have bested Goliath but that he’s no match for Tom Brady and, besides, David’s hardly the unblemished hero his SundaySchool teachers made him out to be. Proud of himself, he’ll point out that Noah never would have had to build the ark had God not decided to flood everything and everyone in the world.

He’ll push you, and if you’re not up to the challenge he’ll be tempted conclude that everything you’ve taught him and everything you teach is, at best, a fairy tale and, at worst, a lie.

And this might be the first time someone he knows or loves dies.

When that happens, Church, you better not resort to clichés. You better be prepared to show him resurrection-of-the-body hope at work among you.

You might as well get ready now, Church, because when those years arrive you will have to struggle just to have your voice heard above all the callings that claim his attention and tempt his loyalty. Just when time seems to race by for his parents, tomorrow will seem forever away to him. Everything, from the face he sees in the morning mirror to the fickle loyalties of his friends, will change almost every day.

And whether he knows it or not, Church, what he will need from you all is a community of constancy. He will need a people who refuse to let go of him, who refuse to let go of what they know to be true and enduring, who refuse to let him slip away before he learns to describe his world with the language you speak.

And he’ll never admit it to you Church, but what he’ll need in those years is a place where he need not wear a mask, a place where vulnerability isn’t a dirty word, a place where a life of mercy and love and gratitude is a viable and even compelling alternative.

And then he’ll start high school. You’ll only have four years of Sundays left with him. Be warned: it will be harder for you to get his attention because he’ll no longer be listening to your words.

He’ll be looking at your life.
I know, scary right?

When he worships with you, he’ll wonder if you’re as friendly as you think you are. He’ll wonder if you ever experience awe and mystery or whether you’re just ticking off your weekly obligation and hoping it won’t be too boring. He’ll wonder if you’re loose and free enough to allow the Spirit to enter your worship.

And your lives.

He’ll look at your life, Church, and he’ll question whether you conform your views and values to the God of Jesus Christ or whether you’ve sketched an idol in your own unthreatening image. He probably won’t put it in those words, Church, or any words at all for that matter, but trust me he’ll be thinking it.

In these years, his BS Radar will be acute so you better not patronize him, Church. You have a tendency to do that when a young person puts you on your heels by asking questions. You better learn how to treat him as a member of the Body of the Christ.

This may be the last time you have his attention. So, for his sake, I hope you lead a life that leads to the Gospel.

And I pray that, just when he’s being pressured and pushed to get ahead, to pursue his future, to achieve success, and to grab after his dreams, by then you will have taught him that servant-hood is the only path that leads to treasure.

A place where he’ll find the Lamb of God in your flesh. A place where he’ll discover the coming Kingdom previewed in your lives. A place where he’ll learn that God is to be found among the lame and the poor and the outcast- not because you tell him but because you, Church, invite him to come and see for himself.

When my baby boy becomes an old man, when his waist is slightly thicker and his hair a little thinner- when he has a whole new set of questions, new hopes and different struggles ahead- I hope he will be able to remember his baptism and be thankful.

There’ll come a time- there always does- when my boy will look desperately for where the living God can be found. When that time does come, Church, I hope he will have a community who won’t just shrug their shoulders, who won’t refer him to the pastor, who won’t quote the Bible at him or try to prove anything to him.

Don’t you dare do that to him, Church.

Instead you better be able, because of the integrity of your life, to say to him: ‘Come and See.’
Church, that’s the sort of Church I would want to give my life so I’m willing to bet he’d give his life to it too.

In closing, Church-

Before the water hits my baby’s head, I hope the irony will have hit you upside yours: my boy will never be able to live out his baptism if you, Church, don’t live out yours.

A Concerned Parent

Read more:

Life cycle 2• Child – Survival is the key word – Question: "can we be self-sustaining?  These are exciting times!

• Adult – Maturity and development are key words – Question:  what will be our identity? do we have a plan to be faithful?

• Parent – Multiplication is key word – Question:  what is happening in and through the faith community that is bringing about new life?

• Grandparenting – Experience and resources – Question:  We should be multiplying our influence…how?  Purpose to encourage and build up others, planting of other "churches."  

• Senior – Legacy – Question:  Are we going to decline and and move into survival mode or are we seeking God for long-term legacy and rebirth (since we are no longer attracting or keeping young leaders)

The illustration above? That’s a simple picture – things can get and often get more complex and difficult to explain.   The Bottom line – all churches are living systems and as living systems – all have life cycles that are easily discernable.   Unfortunately, sometimes in our discernment we don't like to see what the truth is revealing to us – let me explain:

One of the truths of LIVING SYSTEMS is this – they all, living systems seek stability – most living systems start organically and as organic systems are usually too crazy and unpredictable.  So eventually chaotic living systems become institutionalized – institutionalism causes chaotic systems to get more centralized and controlled. That’s a good thing – at least initially…unfortunately, along with control eventually comes stagnation. Healthy stability establishes things like traditions, roles, ways of managing change; leadership is key here but “releasing, life-giving leadership.   The problem comes when these institutionalized systems start to age…because institutional systems leak life…it drains right out of them.  That’s why an institutionalized system eventually has to deal with things like instability and chaos. That's, again, natural.  The problem though is that when instability and chaos are reintroduced back into institutionalized complex systems, usually one or two things happen – new life is brought about and nurtured and released to bring new vitality to the system OR control, fear, or apathy causes the instability and chaos to run the system into the ground.

Friends, "Church" has moved from a time of unprecedented stability to a sense of chaos and change and survival.  Because of that, many of these “living systems” are struggling to hold on to meaning and stability only to discover problems that they didn’t anticipate.  For the issues that led to the stability and life of these complex systems have changed and the (institutional) system has no way to adapt and move on…the complexities are causing panic, disillusionment, and even resignation.  

Now, that's your more academic analysis of a very real problem…so let me spell it out to you in a bit more approachable manner.  The fact is – a lot of people don’t go to church anymore…they are not church-inclined.  And even if people go to church they are not exhibiting those characteristics that promise or could promise to breath new life back into fading and dying systems

• For churches are full of people who would prefer to be passive, entertained or even “fed” and listen to paid professionals on the stage than do the work necessary to have life.

• Churches are full of people who seek anonymity – they want to be nameless and faceless because that way they are safe from the ever present threat that churches present in asking people for their time.

• Churches are full of people who love to rely on authority figures for information and inspiration. And church systems thrive on these individuals because the church has always had better success establishing unhealthy co-dependency than healthy boundaries where everyone is a player in what God’s up to.

• Churches are full of people who are more academic than pragmatic…more thought oriented than action oriented and much more apt to be addicted to complaining how bad things are instead of acting on dreams of what could become.

I’ve been a follower of Jesus for a long time…started sincerely and deliberately taking Jesus seriously in terms of lifestyle of mission when I was in my teens.  I am passionate about the church – why wouldn’t I be? It is the body of Jesus whom I love and follow.  So it distresses me when this organic system, this life-filled Body of Christ endowed with the power that created the universe is slipping in influence and importance in people’s lives.  

Many of my friends have done the sign of the cross over the church…many have left…many more will follow.  People are fed up with the culture of celebrity and consumerism and competition that have infiltrated contemporary expressions of church.  People are sick of seeing another pastor vie for cultural recognition and celebrity status…they are tired of seeing multi-million dollar facilities being built in the middle of communities that are populated by people barely making ends meet…they are tired of hearing that “we’re better than them” phrases come out of Christians mouths because market share is falling and all Christians seem to be competing for a shrinking number of potential parishioners.   The culture has convinced people that it is better to be narcissistically spiritual than involved in some sort of religious community where accountability and challenge are mainstays.  And people have invested in more of the internal, private, subjective type of faith where they can at least be real than something that is obviously not only more public but they perceive filled with phonies, posers and idiots.

A friend of mine put it this way a week ago:

“I’m so tired of religious people who feel like they have an argument to win, a point to make or a soul to save…people that I knew want to be more than part of the year end stats at some local church…they don’t want to be preached at, judged, or fought over…we are tired of being called sinful or selfish…all we are looking for is someplace and somebody to believe to…someone who will know us and be willing to show us a God who we would like to know…”

Every day something crosses my desk or my computer screen that promises the “silver bullet” to our desperation in ministry

• There are the inevitable – "10 ways to stop driving away visitors" or "10 reasons why young people don’t like church" or "10 things you can do now to make sure your church will grow"

• It’s out there every day…frankly…I’m tired of it.

So as you might guess…many people are looking for that Silver bullet – that one thing that could turn things around.  Many are convinced…if we just have that one program…or that one doctrinal secret…or something that can “poof," solve our problems than we will embrace it with all our might and turn this baby around.  But you know what? There is NO Silver bullet – well, at least there isn’t a silver bullet that is something is easy to apply to our lives.  The ONLY silver bullet that exists is something called discipleship and trust me, discipleship…building disciples…building disciples that are not only faithful to Jesus but also are, by nature, reproductive is darn near impossible in what most of contemporary church has become. Discipleship takes a while. Discipleship isn’t about landscaping schemes or building blueprints…it isn’t about getting that right staff person or dynamic pastor…it isn’t really about style of music or whether or not we celebrate communion this week or not.  And discipleship is definitely not about doing another church program or having the right sermon series…it just isn’t.  Discipleship is about ONE person who desires to follow Jesus learning from Jesus how to follow Him and then teaching and demonstrating to another how to do the exact same thing.  And instead of this thing happening once in a while, it happens daily not in church buildings but in coffee shops, living rooms, break rooms, and restaurants around the community.  

So, I'm praying.  To use Jesus' words, I'm "asking, seeking and knocking."  Discipleship is what's needed and I pray that my community embraces its challenge and reaps its rewards.  I want a new life cycle…I want new life.  How about you?