Brian McLaren, who is an author and a pastor in the Emergent Church movenent, spoke at Vision New England's annual Congress event in February of 2006. As a person in an organization there promoting our ministry, I couldn't wait to get the chance to duck in on his session and hear what he had to say. There are a couple of things he said that really stuck out for me. One of which I'll share now and one a bit later in another posting.
While Brian was speaking, he said these words that resonated within me. He said, "When you have a lot of change in a short amount of time, the old maps no longer show us reality."
Now he, nor I, is not referring to the Bible as our map that doesn't show reality, rather, it's the accepted ways of doing things. How we get to the ends we're trying to achieve sometimes changes. This is illustrated adeptly in the Rand McNally Road Atlas. It's updated every year. Why? Because the roads and routes whereby people have taken for years to get to work, vacation etc. have changed greatly in some places. Where I live, the infamous "Big Dig" of Boston has changed everything in how to get into the city, to the bus station, to the airport etc. The old maps really don't reflect a picture of reality anymore. I remember going to the bus station to pick up my sister-in-law in Boston. It was the first time in a couple of years where I had to go to the bus station. It was frustrating because I couldn't go the way I used to. That way didn't exist anymore!
So what does this mean for Christian spirituality in today's day and age? Well first of all it doesn't mean that the message changes one bit. God loves us, is willing and ready to punish sin and forgives us based on his wrath being satisfied through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is still the way it is. But, we must admit some things have changed.
1. How people hear has changed. We can no longer assume that people know and understand who Jesus Christ is. In this generation, we are dealing with a people that are totally ignorant to the concept of the biblical Jesus. We can't just tell them Jesus loves them. They don't even know who Jesus is. There must be a relevant explanation of Christ.
2. What people respond to in regard to the plea of another human being has changed. It was once popular to have a long bench known as a "mourner's bench" or "sinner's bench" in churches. At the end of a very passionate and lively-delivered sermon, there would be a place for all who would walk the aisle and confess their sin in front of the church. In doing so they would be saved.
3. The definition of "Christian" has changed. If you were to look at George Barna's web site (www.barna.org) and see the statistics, you'll find that while many people define themselves as "Christian", most of those people do not exhibit or practice any of the behaviors that a disciple of Christ would exhibit. In this day and age, it can be confusing when you can live how you want and say what you will and call yourself a Christian, meanwhile, exhibiting none of the behaviors of what Jesus would call a disciple.
It's time we all get a spiritual GPS! A GPS simply takes information from a satelite above and shows the up-to-date map so the user can travel quickly and efficiently. If one misses a turn, the information from above shows alternate routes and guides the user back on track.
It's time we get synched up with the things above so we can effectively travel the routes that God has planned for us. While some believers will insist that the road they used to use is the best way to go, reality is telling everybody else that that road doesn't even exist anymore.
I believe that God is leading a bunch of people in a path of discipleship that looks like it's off the beaten path and it may well be, however, in time we'll see that it's the path God intended. I believe we'll see people using methods, venues, all kinds of places to bring people into the knowledge of Jesus Christ that were unheard of 50 or 60 years ago, maybe even 5 or 10 years ago! But it's OK. As long as we stay connected to the Giver of the information above, he will lead us and guide us into all truth.