Christianity is not dying.
But it needs to change.
If that thought frightens you, so might Brian McLaren’s new book.
But if you like the thought of Christianity continuing to grow and expand in ways that reflect more of God’s character, then you might find The Great Spiritual Migration quite encouraging.
What kind of changes in Christianity? McLaren speaks of three migrations toward a “better way to be Christian”:
- Spiritual Migration
From a system of beliefs to a way of life
- Theological Migration
From a violent God of domination to a nonviolent God of liberation
- Missional Migration
From organized religion to organizing religion
All of these changes revolve around a central trait of who God is: God is love. And none of these changes take place alone. As Brian says,
“I discovered at a young age that although you can learn beliefs in isolation, you can’t learn love apart from a community.”
He asks us to imagine what churches might be like if instead of focusing on showing up at certain buildings and supporting certain political or economic ideologies, churches focused on:
“teaching people to live a life of love, from the heart, for God, for all people (no exceptions), and for all creation.”
He points out that Jesus said “Follow me” eighty-seven times in the four Gospels. Following Jesus means living lives of love.
And following Jesus means being willing to change if some of our Christian ways aren’t so Christian after all.
“If you face the dark sides of our Christian past, you will feel discomfort—even deep anger and heartbreak—but experiencing short-term discomfort is far better than living in long-term ignorance, deception, or denial.”
Whether individual or church-wide:
“Whenever I find myself in conversations about ‘saving the church,’ I can’t help but recall Jesus’s words: if you want to save your life, you will lose it, but if you lose your life for my sake, you will find it. …Could it be that the Spirit of God is calling the church to stop trying to save itself, and instead to join God in saving the world?”
You may or may not agree with all Brian’s thoughts about ways the church needs to grow. But likely we’d all agree that refusing to grow at all is too costly.
“The journey of salvation and liberation is long, the risks and dangers are many, and the costs are high. Anyone who is tempted to turn back in fear is free to do so. But if there are costs to change, there are also costs to resisting change. Both costs are worth counting, as C. S. Lewis so aptly said:
It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And we cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.”
What would change look like? Here’s one way to picture it:
“If you want to see the future of Christianity as a great spiritual migration, don’t look at a church building. Go look in the mirror and look at your neighbor. God’s message of love is sent into the world in human envelopes. If you want to see a great spiritual migration begin, then let it start right in your body. Let your life be a foothold of liberation. . . .”
“Repeating sixth grade six more times won’t teach you what you’ll learn in seventh through twelfth grades, so it’s time now to grow up and move on in liberation.”
Our individual paths with Jesus may not look identical, but our goals can be the same: to keep moving in the same direction, toward God, toward each other, toward love.
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What changes have you seen, or want to see, in your church? In your own Christianity? Please share in the comments.
Thanks to Blogging for Books
for the review copy
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