Wes started a great conversation by asking us to reflect on some words. One of the words is ‘revolution’. I will throw in my two cents and also stick my neck out in doing so. Before I start let me just mention that JR and I are reading “Renovation of the heart” together, although we’re separated by the mighty Atlantic, and emailing back and forth on some issues. The concept of revolution is fresh in my mind because Dallas wrote some excellent stuff in Chapter 1 of the abovementioned book. Here are some novice thoughts and reflections offered as a fellow sinner and pilgrim.
Revolution. No one has started one without tremendous cost. True, it starts small but the end result is total overhaul, not just “homeowner improvements”. So when we start the revolution talk we need to be reminded of our Revolutionary Leader and Friend beckoning us to follow on the one hand and warning in the same breath to “count the cost.”
Revolution has no parking space marked “comfortable” or “status quo”. It’s like a tunnel linking past, present and future with the Great I am. It will-and must rip our brains rewire our hearts and re-channel our wallets, it will lead us through seasons of a lot of talk and sometimes absolute silence with a vigorous walk. It will confuse … and it will inspire. Revolution will kill us, and then we’ll live!
Radical needs a root and revolution too, without the root they are orphaned. The root is Christ, and the revolution has Him at its centre.
Church life, and I’m talking from experience, so easily degenerates into other roots. Roots of methodology or form or leadership or ’success’ OR whatever the latest wave would be. These secondary roots, though well-developed leaves us empty and prone to fall over. I wish for a Revolution rooted in a daily Revelation of Christ. I sometimes wonder what would happen if all of us who love the church spend as much energy and time with and on Christ as we do on the church … I think revolution!
Now comes the scary part of my thought process on revolution. You know that famous verse Romans 12:1-2? The excellent description of “be not conformed to the world” well what if most of what we’re experiencing as ‘church’ is a result of digested conformation? That’s why Mike Yaconelli wrote an article entitled,
”Getting fired for the glory of God”. It’s not a new problem though, a cursory reading of Kierkegaard will show us a lot that we’ll sadly recognize, he once said: (link for a free book download)
Christianity has been made so completely devoid of character that there is really nothing to persecute. The chief trouble with Christians, therefore, is that no one wants to kill them any more!
When we experience inner revolution we will clash with systems and structures that are not revolutionized. Dallas Willard explains:
The revolution of Jesus is in the first place and continuously a revolution of the human heart or spirit. It did not and does not proceed by means of the formation of social institutions and laws, the outer forms of our existence, intending that these would then impose a good order of life upon people who come under their power. Rather, his is a revolution of character, which proceeds by changing people from the inside through ongoing personal relationship to God in Christ and to one another. It is one that changes their ideas, beliefs, feelings, and habits of choice, as well as their bodily tendencies and social relations. It penetrates to the deepest layers of tier soul. External, social arrangements may be useful to this end, but they are not the end, nor are they a fundamental part of the means.
On the other hand, from those divinely renovated depths of the person, social structures will naturally be transformed so that “justice roll[s] down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24). Such streams cannot flow through corrupted souls. Conversely, a renovated “within” will not cooperate with public streams of unrighteousness. It will block them – or die trying. It is the only thing that can do so.
Are we perhaps trying to start a revolution by means of “social institutions and laws”? Fiddling with non-essentials; are we so distracted by ecclesiology that we displaced Christ? May it be that we’re trying to have a revolution without a Leader, but with very cool gadgets? Now don’t get me wrong, I love the church and am excited about emergent and post whatever! But I’ve been in the position of worshiping and idolizing the church, and she’s already betrothed to someone else … I want to make sure that I’m part of a revolution with Jesus leading us out … leading me out, starting today and now.