Jesus’ life, ministry, and teaching are profound and marvelous. They are full of life, and intended to inspire a revolution. Jesus is not an anarchist, but He is a revolutionary. And Jesus intends His church to be revolutionary. Revolutions are always sparked by an idea. An idea that is so clear, compelling, and catalytic that masses of people are inspired to overcome the inertia of the status quo. Jesus challenged the status quo of religious observance in countless ways. His death, resurrection, and Spirit are what give life to the revolution, but it is His clear, compelling, and catalytic idea that is the essence of the revolution.
Jesus’ revolutionary idea is the essence of all the declarations of God (the law and the prophets) as follows: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind … And … You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” People called to lead the masses to realize the ideas of the revolution in order to experience the ideals of the revolution, must never lose sight of the idea that sparks the revolution. When the idea is lost or obscured, the revolution fails. Here are four revolutionary church ideas:
- I must radically love God: The revolution begins when I respond to God’s amazing love for me with amazing love for Him. As I consider the cross and the gracious sacrifice of Jesus on my behalf, it is reasonable for me to respond with love for God. To love God with all that I am – all my heart, all my soul, all my mind, and all my strength – is truly a radical idea and a glorious ideal. To experience this ideal, I must confess and repent of my love for this world. I must be led by His Spirit and not controlled by my flesh. I must discover more and more the extent of God’s great love and love Him.
- I must radically love my neighbor: Jesus linked the idea of loving God and neighbor not as a revolutionary manifesto. He was making it clear that you don’t truly love God unless you love our neighbor as you love yourself. How did this clear idea become obscured? Well meaning leaders of the revolution started to think and declare that the way that we proved our love for God was as follows: regularly read your Bible, regularly gather to worship, regularly pray, regularly serve the Lord, regularly give, occasionally share your faith, love one another. The leaders of the revolution forget to declare and demonstrate the idea: I must radically love my neighbor as I love myself. Imagine for a moment treating yourself as you treat your neighbor. It is not too attractive an idea to ignore, neglect, and not genuinely care about yourself.
Revolutions become institutionalized, and then the leaders of the revolution become distracted by seeking to maintain the institution. Unfortunately the desire to preserve and advance the institution generally obscures the ideal of the revolution. In the context of the local church, the programs and ministries that are intended to help people to love God and their neighbor become so consuming to the leaders and the congregation alike that there is no margin to befriend and build relationships with my neighbors where I live, work, study, and play. Until we create margin in the church, and our lives generally; and love our neighbors like we care about ourselves, the revolution is lost.
- I must decrease in a revolutionary way: John the Baptist understood, “Jesus must increase, and I must decrease” [Jn. 3:30]. Many of the leaders of Jesus’ revolution affirm this idea, but there may be a tendency to think, “Jesus must increase and I can increase too.” Our flesh is a constant foe and the desire for significance can be an idol that impedes Christ’s revolution.
Imagine a world where Christ’s followers gathered in groups in a local neighborhood and learned to love God. As a display of their love of God, they befriend and build relationships with neighbors where they live, work, study, and play. The extravagant displays of love stir people to interest in Christ and His gospel. Ultimately people are moved by the Holy Spirit and receive Jesus. In this scenario, the priesthood (role) of individual believers is elevated and celebrated. It is a revolutionary paradigm when compared to most local church experiences that tend to elevate and celebrate a gifted leader. The more “successful” a leader has been, the more challenging it becomes to decrease. All the institutional forces pressure a leader to continue the status quo. Instead the revolution requires church leaders to change the dynamic so they and others are on the same level – loving God and their neighbor.
- I must encourage and equip revolutionaries: The church leader who embraces Jesus’ revolution creates margin in the life of the church and their own life. They begin to shift their attention from the church to their neighborhood; they befriend and build relationships where they live, work, study, and play; they discover the challenges and blessings of having meals with people they are in proximity with who have a different worldview; they create time to ask neighbors, “How are you doing?” They have time to listen to the reply. They ask, “Can I pray with (or for) you?” They ask, “What can I do to help?” If possible, they do what is asked for. And they even volunteer and do the Christ-like thing without even being asked. The church leader who does those things has become a revolutionary leader who can encourage and equip revolutionaries. Until church leaders live revolutionary lives the revolution is unlikely to prevail. Once leaders can model the attitudes and behaviors of Christ’s revolution, then others can be encouraged and equipped to do the same.
How are you living a revolutionary life?