I’ve been thinking about what it means to follow Jesus in twenty-first century American culture. The more I think about it, the more I’m forced to the conclusion that there’s a lot about our American way of life that wars against the Christian way of life.
Perhaps it’s peculiar that I used the phrase “Christian way of life.” Being a Christian means being converted–a conversion that begins inside us and works its way out into the texture of our life–our way of life.
Somehow we’ve reached the conclusion that the Gospel can reach into our hearts and change how we relate to God and to a lesser extent we agree that the Gospel can change what and how we think. We’ve got a long way to go in terms of allowing the Gospel to really saturate and alter the ways in which we choose to live. Our way of life is more influenced by the American story than by the Gospel story:
“If you live in North America, you are a prime candidate for a slow death by overstimulation. Your environment is busy depleting you with noise, distractions, and the compulsion to always be in a hurry. If I had set out to destroy my identity as a beloved child of God, I couldn’t have done better than by living in America at the start of the twenty-first century. The greatest threats I’ve encountered are not the arguments of skeptics or the lure of drink, drugs, or sex. The greatest threats are the constant busyness and frantic hurry that demand my allegiance. Author Robert Benson says, ‘We take our place in the race and watch our lives disappear in the daily grind.’ We are rarely grounded in the present moment (where God is to be encountered) because we’re always rushing out beyond it or replaying in our minds our disappointing past. Shame and sadness over our dark past drives us to strive for a brighter future, which generally winds up being busier rather than better.”
In order to be effective outposts of the Kingdom, churches need to spend energy helping to guide followers of Christ into a more kingdom-centered, missional ways of life. We don’t need more bedraggled followers of Jesus who limp through life exhausted and overspent. We need joyful disciples who are committed to keeping important things central to their life and who eliminate distractions ruthlessly.
Exploring the what and the how of such a way of life is at the heart of my sabbatical and I hope to write more as my leave progresses.