This last week I felt I should do justice to the furore surrounding Rob Bell's latest book, 'Love Wins' by reading the source text, if a digital Kindle version can be described as such. I enjoyed the read far more than the running commentary on the 'warfare of words' that has been taking place around our e-world ("e" for 'electronic' rather than 'evangelical'!) Most saddening has been the apparent dismissal of Rob as a serious voice even before the book had been released. I suspect that the 'future' referenced in the Ephesians quote may include a fair amount of 'egg-on-chin' for many.
It is all too easy to point the finger at the 'splinter' over there and yet miss the 'plank' in our own eyes. Recently (as in during this Lenten season) I have been pondering our belief in and commitment to these verses within BridgePoint, our network of simple missional faith communities. I have found myself wrestling with a nagging suspicion that the pendulum has swung a little too far on the organized to organic continuum. One seems to emphasize our corporate identity whilst the other promotes more of an independent free-spirit. There are dangers in both extremes.
Just as it is not good for man to be alone [Gen 2:18], neither is it good for a church community (of any size) to be alone, independent, unsupported and unaccountable to anyone. That would be an approach and a conviction more in line with the flesh than the (one) Spirit. We become more vulnerable and therefore prone to temptation and deceit if we think we can operate as a 'detached limb' of the Body. We live in a culture (& state) that exalts independence and selfish ambition but we truly belong to a Kingdom in which the opposite is true [cf. Psalm 133].
The example of Rob Bell demonstrates that it is not always safe to be real within the Church and that is a tragedy because it means that we tend to remain hidden from one another, out of fear. This happens in our communities when someone disagrees or expresses something with which I disagree and I remain (or go) quiet out of fear. I have been guilty of this myself and guilt is the right word. I am guilty in that moment of not trusting the Father and not being vulnerable with the family of which I am a part. The one Spirit is grieved and I remain unchanged.
So what might all this mean for our shared life within BridgePoint? Well, first and foremost, that we make love (as Jesus loved) a priority in our dealings with anyone and everyone. We are both beneficiaries and dispensers of grace, undeserved favor. We are also to be those who seek to foster with some the kind of close relationships in which mutual accountability is a natural byproduct rather than a fearful imposition.
I would love to see more shared, prayerful and loving leadership teams emerge within our communities where it was safe to hold and express differing passions and priorities. I would love to see leaders 'huddling' with other leaders for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort (not unlike the purpose of prophecy [1 Cor 14:3]]. I would love to see us personally reaching out and showing hospitality to those who are different to us and who are unlikely to take the initiative (whether in our community or beyond). I would love to see us occasionally, yet regularly, gathering in celebration and worship of God, bringing delight to our one Father by giving expression to our common identity and purpose - His glory and not ours.
The Christian life is a battle, not primarily externally but internally, between selfish, me-centered living and selfless, God-centered living in the power of the one Spirit. Too many of us fight that battle alone, unobserved and isolated. We need to be known by someone at that level and vice versa. We need to enter the battle for one another's souls as the Spirit leads and guides us. Until Christ be formed in us - one Lord, one faith, one baptism.