Diverse Discipleship

Summary: An Evolving Faith

Diverse Discipleship
Thursday, January 2, 2020

I have known Brian McLaren for many years as a friend and colleague, and he recently joined the faculty of the CAC’s Living School. He is an author, speaker, activist, and public theologian who has spent the last two decades passionately advocating for “a new kind of Christianity.” Today and tomorrow, Brian will be sharing three shifts Christianity must make if it wants to serve as a universal path of spiritual transformation. The first shift is to become “decentralized and diverse.” Brian writes:

More and more of us are hoping, praying, and dedicating ourselves to a [new] form of Christianity. This new kind of Christianity can only emerge as a trans-denominational movement of contemplative spiritual activism. . . .

This emerging or emergence Christianity . . . will be decentralized and diverse rather than centralized and uniform. In other words, it will have the shape of a movement rather than an institution. It will be drawn together . . . by internal unity of way of life, mission, practices, and vision for the common good. . . .

Instead of hoarding and centralizing resources like expertise, education, mentoring, and authority, we need to multiply them and democratize them.

This, of course, was Jesus’ original approach. He never announced to his disciples: “Hey folks, we’re going to start a new, centralized, institutional religion and name it after me.” Instead, he played the role of a nonviolent leader and launched his movement with the classic words of movement, “Follow me” (see Matthew 4:19, for example). He used his power to empower others. He did great things to inspire his followers to do even greater things [see John 14:12-14]. Rather than demand uniformity, he reminded his disciples that he had “sheep of other folds” (John 10:16). . . . He recruited diverse disciples who learned—by heart—his core vision and way of life. Then he sent these disciples out as apostles to teach and multiply his vision and way of life among “all the nations” (Matthew 28:19).

As he repeatedly explained, the dangerous, turbulent, uncertain times, together with the failure of existing institutions, made this strategy essential: “The time is ripe,” he said (Luke 10:2, slightly paraphrased), “and we need more laborers.” (This pattern of multiplying leader/teacher/practitioners is exactly the pattern we find, not only with Jesus in the Gospels, but also with Paul throughout the New Testament, in places like 2 Timothy 2:2 and 1 Corinthians 11:1.) . . .

In dangerous times like these, . . . we have to produce generations of dedicated, courageous, and creative contemplative activists who will join God to bring radical healing and change to this damaged world, before it’s too late.

We need this movement—not someday, maybe, but right now, definitely.

Reference:
Adapted from Brian D. McLaren, “Three Christianities,” “The Future of Christianity,” Oneing, vol. 7, no. 2 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2019), 71-72, 73.

Image credit: Healing of a Bleeding Woman (detail), Catacombs of Marcellinus and Peter, Rome, Italy.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: Jesus was about love first and foremost, in word and deed. Jesus began with love for God, but inseparably linked that love with love for neighbor, with the understanding that neighbor includes the other, the outsider, the outcast, the last, the least, the lost, the disgraced, the dispossessed, and the enemy. —Brian McLaren
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