I know this blog has been relatively quiet this fall. That’s because I’m spending the bulk of my time working on my next book, Finding Church: What If There Really Is Something More? This book is bringing together so many threads that have been dear to my heart over the past 40 years. It’s the stuff I wish someone had told me when I was twenty, before I ran off trying to create manmade versions of a reality that can only exist in him. Right now, it’s got nineteen chapters, and I’ve jsut completed chapter six. It’s called “First Place In Everything,” and I’m going to include some excerpts below because I just can’t wait until it’s all done. I’m now working on seven and hope to make a major dent in it before I head out to Ft. Worth, Texas for the weekend. That will probably be my last out-of-state trip this year, though it looks like I may be headed for a few days in San Diego in November.
I love the time I’m getting to write this fall, but interestingly enough I find myself missing the conversations that
So, here is a couple of excerpts from Chapter 6:
Now the mystery is revealed. He is fashioning a new society under Jesus himself, not only in his work on the cross that sets us free but also by engaging our lives every day so that we can learn to live the way God always meant us to live. Only he can show us the way to live without the debilitating effects of shame, and without the need to put our desires above those of others. By living freely in him we discover who God really made us to be and can live in a way that reflects his character to others around us. As he is, so we get to be in the world.
…So when Paul declares that as the firstborn of the new creation, Jesus would get first place in all things, he meant that as the defining reality of the church. The church does not exist where people fight for power or where we focus on our programs, doctrines, and activities and reduce Jesus to a figurehead. The church takes expression in the world as people who are learning to relate to and follow him, and share that journey by the laying down of their lives for a greater kingdom, instead of seeking their own gain.
Where Jesus is the focus, where his word is the motivation, where his voice is obeyed, the church takes shape. If it’s God’s stated goal to bring all things together under one head, why haven’t our Christian institutions been a part of that process? Perhaps Jesus said it best, “There shall be one flock and one shepherd.” (John 10:16). The reason we don’t have one flock today is because we have hundreds of thousands of would-be shepherds leading people to follow their mission, vision, or program. Unless Jesus is supreme in all things, we will divide the body based on human preferences and desires.
That’s why the institutional answers here are not easy. Once we institutionalize God’s work, a host of factors come into play that make it difficult to let Jesus have first place. There is no system humanity can design that can’t immediately be taken advantage of by those who seek to lead it, and those who seek to benefit from it either from its income or its program. Letting Jesus have first place in everything can only begin in one place—the human heart.
It’s the space where God’s purpose unfolds in the hearts of willing children who are discovering what it means to live in him. We give him first place by actually following the Lamb wherever he goes. And “the church” follows him not by following leaders who figure out what he wants and tells the rest of us what to do, but where each person is learning to follow him as the expression of the new creation. That begins inside a relationship where people are learning to live in his love, be shaped by it, and then live in that world loving others as well.
Letting him have first place isn’t a decision you can make once for the rest of your life. It is a continuous challenge in a hundred decisions made day after day as you learn how differently his desires are from your own. The new creation is not some sort of spiritual Disneyland where your every dream comes true. It’s where Jesus’ every word and desire comes true. You grow into the freedom of wanting his will most of all and learning to live inside it with him in joy and thankfulness.