Teach us to live in accordance with the truth that Yours in unfinished business and requires us to unlearn as much as we claim to know. Help us to appreciate the fact that “the major challenge for leaders is not only the acquisition of new insights and skills but also unlearning what they already know. Today’s leaders need the courage and ability to risk their false sense of confidence and to surrender their predetermined, “wired” responses, and outdated and inaccurate mental maps.” (2) Help us to embrace the counterintuitive nature of Your gospel, that “To be great is to make children, the weak, the powerless, and the needy, the honored guests in our lives. (3) May we continue to cherish the precious reality that greatness is not our aspiration. It is to be, to live and love those you place in our paths. We are Your children. “Only as we know who we are as children of the King can we be secure enough to lead from our knees. People will then recognize an authority that comes from above and will call us “blessed.” (4)
Remind us that each of us is a part of your Body. This privilege provides each with an opportunity to function in concert with other parts, in community. Remind us that “There are no spectators in God’s kingdom. God has given all members a task, a talent, a voice to share.” (5) Empower us to relentlessly break down barriers to provide the essential entry points for all to participate in fulfilling Your tasks, contributing their talents and lifting their voices.
Lead us along pathways we have never tread upon. Help us to live out the fact that to be led requires us to follow. Give us the strength to do whatever is required to learn to truly follow you. “Those of us who follow Christ in this culture will never achieve all that He desires for us until we are willing to open every nook and cranny of our own behavioral house for remodeling and cleaning. Only then will we begin to live the kind of lives that others will find intriguing and distinctive.” (6)
Temper our enthusiasm as we come to places where we think we know something that others must simply understand. Help us walk with humility, guided by the truth that, “Christianity is a mystery religion. When you’ve wrung the mystery out of Christianity, you’ve wrung its neck.” (9)
Empower us to embrace those the world rejects, demeans and belittles. Help us to move and live outside the camp: “If our theology is to be an authentic reflection and witness to God who is revealed in Jesus Christ as the God of the excluded, then we need to embark on the often painful journey to meet with Jesus the Christ outside the camp, among the excluded. Such a journey will leave us uncomfortable and displaced in the “carnivalesque” postmodem world.” (12)
Miracles come from You. Perhaps the most magnificent miracle would be that during this upcoming year we could begin to impact this world in such a way that people would once again be attracted to You, for Your glory. Help us become your healing hands and feet: “It is time that we demand more of ourselves as Christians. We are the hands and feet of Jesus Christ, and if the world is going to see, feel, and touch him, it will have to be through us.” (13)
Exceed our expectations. We have the faith that You can and You will. Help us to be those who release You from the box that man has attempted to confine you to. Help us become those whose lives shout hope to the hopeless, faith to those who have abandoned it, and healing to the wounded and suffering. “Hope is not a feeling; it is a decision. And the decision for hope is based on what you believe at the deepest levels – what your most basic convictions are about the world and what the future holds-all based on your faith. You choose hope, not as a naïve wish, but as a choice, with your eyes wide open to the reality of the world – just like the cynics who have not made the decision for hope.” (14)
Restore a way of life in us that says, “When we talk about Jesus, we must make it clear that he is not just interested in our well-being in the afterlife. He is a Savior who is at work in the world today trying to save the world from what it is, and make it into a place where people can live together with dignity.” (15) Help us live Your Gospel in a way that says very clearly, “What I believe is not what I say I believe; what I believe is what I do.” (16)
Grow us God. “If our destiny is to grow on and on and on, into some far more beautiful creatures than we are now, that means that we need to have the shells broken quite frequently so that we can grow.” (17) Help sustain us during periods of growth. We are weak creatures when it comes to discomfort and pain.
Encourage us when we encounter resistance, discouragement, the unexpected, and failure. May we honor this movement of your Spirit by valuing the contributions of those who, since the Reformation, have remained sidelined as spectators in your Church. Help us to live out the wisdom in the following: “Ultimately, the moral and spiritual revolution that will produce the new Church will emerge from within the laity. The impetus to change and the creative focus and force reside within the frustrated masses, not among the distracted professionals. Marrying the resources of both the laity and the clergy could introduce an exciting era of Christian renewal. But the catalyst for this new reformation will be the people, not the professionals.” (18)
It is my prayer that the emerging church movement does not succumb to resting upon our laurels this year. There is an insidious form of paralysis that can occur when people become complacent and/or comfortable sitting on their butts: “But, what if…But that might cause…But I just don’t have time…But I can’t do it…But that’s not my responsibility… But, I’ve never done that before,” etc.
One dimension of my life in Christ is very different than the process of rebooting my pc. When I reboot the pc, all the same software, the functionality if you will, is the same after rebooting. When my spiritual life is rebooted, I am somehow able to see things that I was previously blind to, and navigate certain seas in life I had failed to explore and/or intentionally avoided. I pray for the same for the emerging church movement this year.
In Reflecting upon this past year, the emerging church movement has distinctly evolved. There have been tremendous contributions to the conversation. Yet, moving forward into the furure, I hope we avoid moving forward with one eye in the rear view mirror, engaged in some sort of self-righteous basking in the achievements of the past. This is a movement of God’s Spirit, never to be confused with credit afforded humans who participate in His process. The Glory is God’s.
My prayer is that the emerging church movement will be challenged by a Spirit inspired case of uneasiness so we remain reluctant to sit on our buts. Perhaps we are being led to a new posture; a posture that requires the ongoing conversation to become embodied in behavior. As George Barna has recently written: “He made it very clear that the proof of people’s faith is not in the information they know or the religious gatherings they attend, but in the way they integrate what they know and believe into their everyday practices.” (19)
Oh, about those year-end-update-letters that everybody now routinely crams in their Christmas cards that have become so widely accepted and universally adopted. It all started with just one person. So, for this next year, I am going to continue a new tradition I started in last year. I’m going to send everybody my personal, written, spiritual challenge for the New Year that emanates from the process I just completed, as described herein.
My spiritual journey in this past year is summarized by the challenge contained within the following: “The Question “who do you say that I am?” demands not a theoretical answer but a practical answer, a lived answer.” (20)
Will you join me? Will you join Him? Will you join us? It’s all about us…God, you and me.
1 Rieger, Joerg Opting For The Margins – Postmodernity and Liberation in Christian Theology, Oxford University Press, NY, NY © 2003 by The American Academy of Religion, p. 154.
20 Rieger, Joerg Opting For The Margins – Postmodernity and Liberation in Christian Theology, Oxford University Press, NY, NY © 2003 by The American Academy of Religion, p. 154.