Is There a Better Way to Be Christian?

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”:

  1. Spiritual Migration
    From a system of beliefs to a way of life
  1. Theological Migration
    From a violent God of domination to a nonviolent God of liberation
  1. 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.

* * *

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

20 thoughts on “Is There a Better Way to Be Christian?

  1. TC Avey

    This part is really powerful, “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?”

    How often do we try to do things in our own strength and talents and we don’t look to God until we exhaust all other methods/options?
    Is the church doing the same?

    Very thought provoking.

    Merry Christmas!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      That section about the church trying to save itself was very thought-provoking to me, too. I hadn’t thought of it in those exact terms before, so it is giving me something to chew on.

  2. Pam

    I love the sound of this and what you shared of Brian’s thoughts and ideas. I have served in many church leadership type position and then thirteen years as a full-time staff person and I could “amen” many of his words. Thanks for this review and sharing the good nuggets.

  3. Diana

    Our church has found that as long as we don’t focus on our church’s problems or needs, and keep the focus outward, going into all the world for Christ, we continue to grow in all areas. And that’s it… keep the focus on God! Thank you for this post – excellent stuff to know and remember! Blessings to you! (Visiting via Barbie’s #glimpsesofhisbeauty link-up.)

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Sounds like you have a vibrant church, Diana. One of the things I love most about my church is the same: it focuses on meeting needs and loving people in the community, not just the other members of the church. Thanks for sharing this!

  4. Beverley

    I think the problem with most religions is that they have bent the commandments so far that they are now at breaking point. We need to take a step backwards instead of forwards; toward Jesus Christ’s atonement and away from the teachings of the world. God has not changed, but man as and many want God to change his teachings to fit in with what they want and not necessarily what is truth. God always speaks the truth and truth never changes. When Jesus Christ was on the earth as part of the Beatitudes he taught that he had come to fulfill the law (Matt 5:17), as in the law that had been given to the Israelite nation through the prophets, such as Isaac, Abraham and Jacob. He later went on to teach that there was a new law, the new law was love God and love thy neighbour as thyself (Mark 12:30-31 – on these two hang all the laws and the prophets (Matt 40:35-40). We need to get back to the simple truths of Christ’s teachings and stop looking beyond the mark (Jacob 4:14 – Book of Mormon).
    In the last church conference we, as members, were asked to go through our scriptures and mark every verse that speaks about attributes of Christ and in another colour to mark every verse that tells of him or his teachings. This is so that we can come to know Him better ourselves and so that we can then bear testimony unto the world of His ministry and His Atonement.

    Looks like an interesting read!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, getting back to the simple and most perfect new law of loving God and loving our neighbors as ourselves would solve so many of our own and society’s problems. Sounds like great advice from your church conference to know Christ better in that way.

  5. Diana

    Many churches are now trying to change “the Gospel” to “their Gospel” so that they can get more people to come to church… and by doing that they are moving farther away from the Truth and bending it to suit their means. As I see this happening, I’m even more determined to be literal in my Bible belief, to be biblically grounded in God’s Word and closer to His Truth so that I can share it the way He wants it shared. I’m thankful that my church is literally Bible-based and that we strive to share the Gospel as it is in His Word. Thank you for this wonderful post, Lisa! Blessings to you and yours. 🙂

  6. Ashley Davis

    This post intrigues me in many different ways.
    One, I do think we need to rethink how we have been trying to reach the lost. The Gospel never changes, but sometimes I think we need to change our methods. Most people do not want to immediately come to a church building. They want a relationship with the individual person, and then I think they are more willing to come to the building. I was always taught, invite them to church, invite them to church. However, I think we need to develop that relationship with them first, and then slowly invite them to different things. I wholeheartedly believe in the church, and I want everyone to be involved, but I just think there is more to it than just inviting people “to come to church”. I rambled a bit, but hopefully it makes sense.

    Two, I agree that we need more love. I also think we have to be careful not to overlook sin. Telling people the whole Gospel also involves telling them about sin, and honestly one of the most loving things we can do when done the right way. Often we “love” (I put love in quotes bc I don’t think it’s really loving when we don’t tell the truth) too much and just completely ignore people’s wrong actions (including ourselves), and I don’t think that is good either. There has to be a balance of loving people with the truth, and telling people this truth in a loving way. Again, I might be rambling, but I hope it makes sense.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      If you’re rambling, you still make sense. ha. Sounds like you would probably appreciate this book as well. It makes some hard challenges, but I agree that we do need to rethink quite a few things. It’s definitely not all about bringing people to a building. I’m glad to see that mindset shifting; it’s not a healthy way of thinking for either those who are “outside” the building or those “inside.”
      For your part two, I think we still lack vocabulary to fully express “love”, thus our need to put it in quotes so much. 🙂 Loving entails many things, and it doesn’t look the same in any two relationships. We have to be able to hold it with flexibility, not rigidly. As you’re saying, we can’t ignore the ugly in a relationship, but I don’t think it’s possible to “love” too much. It all depends on how you define love. Love sometimes means putting restrictions on ourselves, as in, I’d love to eat a box of hot Krispy Kreme donuts everyday, but I love myself too much to allow it. 🙂

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