“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Monday, November 07, 2005

Rob Bell's Velvet Elvis

Independent of you might think of the "emerging church" movement, there are some interesting comments being made by those in one way or another who are involved in that movement. For example, Rob Bell (pastor of Mars Hill Church in Grand Rapids Michigan, an amazing church which I had the opportunity to visit a week ago with a dear friend, Dan Morton) in his book Velvet Elvis, wrote the following:

If the gospel isn't good news for everybody, then it isn't good news for anybody.

And this is because the most powerful things happen when the church surrenders its desire to convert people and convince them to join. It is when the church gives itself away in radical acts of service and compassion, expecting nothing in return, that the way of Jesus is most vividly put on display. To do this, the church must stop thinking about everybody primarily in categories of in or out, saved or not, believer or nonbeliever. Besides the fact that these terms are offensive to those who are the 'un' and 'non', they work against Jesus' teachings about how we are to treat each other. Jesus commanded us to love our neighbor, and our neighbor can be anybody. We are all created in the image of God, and we are all sacred, valuable creations of God. Everybody matters. To treat people differently based on who believes is to fail to respect the image of God in everyone. As the book of James says, 'God shows no favoritism.' So we don't either.

This is a controversial statement no doubt, but the point of the church surrendering itself to radical acts of service and compassion, expecting nothing in return is something we have lost to a significant degree. Yes there are pockets of radical service, however, we as an entire church body could hardly be characterized as being involved in radical acts of service, nor could we as individual members of churches be characterized as involved in radical acts of service (I count myself among these individuals).

But what is the example of our Lord? Somehow, I need to make the radical acts of service more important than the probably thousands of hours I spend with my children or on my own in sports activities, for example. If we are doing anything radically, we are missing the example of Christ in a radical manner.



Anonymous said...

Dr. McNair

The comments by Rob Bell on "radical" thinking in the church in order to save the unbeliever made me think of a conversation I had recently with my 19 year old daughter. She attends "Sandals" church on the CBU campus and the pastor spoke in blunt terms about how he wanted to make all people from all walks of life feel welcome. He gave the example of people living a homosexual lifestyle. He said we can welcome them into church and be kind to them, without necessarily approving of their lifestyle. His point, I believe, was simply this: Let's get them in the door to hear the message so that God can start working on their hearts. It is not for us to sit in judgement of their behavior, that is God's job. It is also not up to us to decide if the message is lost on unsaved people, or people living a life of unrepentant sin. Our only job is to welcome them in Christian love and let God do the rest. This attitude of course should be extended to those in our society that are dealing with disabilities of one kind or another. We all have flaws, it's just that some of us are able to hide them better than others. Who are we to judge if a person with a mental disability will not be fully cognizant of a sermon's message? Perhaps they will glean something that we miss due to our "overthinking" that so-called intelligent people tend to do! This also relates to your more recent posting about prayer. I do not believe that God listens to the words so much as he listens to the heart!

Anonymous said...

Radical thinking. Ah, what a powerful idea in the world of Christianity. So many Christians feel that they need to think within their boxes, boxes made up of their beliefs and interpretations of the bible. The bible states all that we need to know. The bible states all that we need to run our lives in a way that is pleasing to God. These are very true statements, but so many interpretations have been made on what the bible tells us that many Christians have lost sight as to what God really wants for our lives.
I used to attend the First Presbyterian Church of Upland in Upland, California. One of our congregation was either a cross-dresser or a transsexual, I’m not sure which. It wasn’t my business and I never asked. But he/she was the nicest person you would ever meet and attended every Sunday. One Sunday, a couple visited our church and noticed this person worshipping. After the service, they approached out pastor and asked whether or not he knew that there was a cross-dresser in the congregation. Our pastor said yes, he was aware of it. They then asked him what he was planning to do about it. He said he planned on doing nothing about it. When they expressed concern over this, he told them that the church should be a “haven for sinners, not a fortress for saints.” I was deeply touched at this statement.
I have run into so much close-mindedness in my explorations of various churches and, each time, it has turned me away from that church. We, as Christians, need to be accepting of all people we come across. It is not our place to judge, that is God’s job. We are to love as Jesus loved when he came to walk among us.
Jesus was the ultimate in radical thinkers. He came to earth and “challenged old rules that were steeped in tradition,” to quote Michael W. Smith. He befriended the sinners and not the saved. He came to find his lost sheep.