June 1, 2009

So Beautiful #1

For the last eight years, my church has been on a missional journey. Many friends have accompanied us on this journey--Guder and Willimon and Hauerwas and Walsh and Keesmaat and anything recommended by Byron at Hearts and Minds Bookstore (www.heartsandmindsbooks.com). Bell and Claiborne and Young and Manning have sparked our imaginations and even inspired us to write a few of our own books to help us follow Jesus and find friends.

Len Sweet's latest book, So Beautiful, wonderfully describes the necessary future of the church. I cannot wait for others in my church to read this as well, as Sweet wonderfully articulates the heart, vision, and passion of God’s design for the church. Moving away from thinking of “successful” church as quantifiable (attendance, budgets, cash), Sweet contends that the church--that God's Kingdom--grows as we learn to live missionally, relationally, and incarnationally.

Because of the depth and scope of this text, I'll take a couple of blogs to work through it. The 35 page introduction quickly catches the attention, before Sweet introduces the first movement--the missional life.

“If you are reading these words, you are likely the last generation to be familiar with the Christian story and for whom churches have cultural significance.”

“God has had it with cawki (church as we know it).”

“Your church exists to love the world and to commission you for a mission of expanding beauty, truth, and goodness upon the earth.”

We discover who we are in Christ as we go and follow him, making new friends. We have been sent with a mission for the sake of the world, which is completely different from thinking that we need to separate or shelter ourselves from the world. The missional lifestyle “loiters with love’s intent,” living in the fullness of the moment, confident that the Way leads home.

A local grocery store has a neighborhood cafĂ©, with free wi-fi service. I spent the morning reading the first movement of So Beautiful, meeting new friends Debbie and Winston, and trying not to eavesdrop on too many conversations. I helped remember an artist’s name, solve the answer to a crossword clue, and share a few laughs. This is what happens as we grow into our missional calling, we lean into the Father’s “Go” and trust that we’ll be told what we must do on a need to know basis.

The missional life is a life characterized by Mother Teresa’s words, “We can do no great things; only small things with great love.”

The first step is to go. Going is faith in action. Going develops calluses on our beautiful feet, making it easier to take that first step the next time.

1 comment:

godrocks said...

Thanks, Ethan. I just got caught up on your posts and I really appreciated this one. I'll look into getting "So Beautiful" and reading it. Have a beautiful summer!