(RE)UNION STUDY 2/10
Welcome back to our (re)union series!
In my last post I explained how this blog is being hijacked for the next few weeks while we work through the content of my new book, (re)union, via our current teaching series at The Meeting House. In this post I’ll share some follow up thoughts to the first Sunday message in the (re)union teaching series at The Meeting House and also list discussion questions for the first five chapters of the book. So productive! (The pace will slow down to one chapter per post after this.)
First the Sunday message…
The early Anabaptists, like the early Christians, were constant evangelists. You just couldn’t shut them up. They had fallen in love with Jesus and they wanted the world to know. They even kept preaching the gospel to anyone who would listen while being paraded away to their own public executions, usually by either drowning or burning. In fact, tongue screws had to be used to shut them up.
How did we go from being passionate proclaimers of the good news of Jesus to instead becoming “the quiet in the land” – funny looking farmers who keep to ourselves, or worse, people who blend in well with our culture but who never talk about what is most important to us?
For many of us, our favourite quote on the topic of evangelism is…
“Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.”
~ St. Francis of Assisi (12th Century)
Great quote from St. Francis of Assisi. Except for one thing – he never said it. At least, we have no record of him saying it. Nevertheless, someone said it, and we love it. I think we love it because it seems to give us validation for our “quiet in the land” approach to evangelism, which is to say, not evangelizing at all.
Now here’s something St. Francis did say:
“It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.”
His point is, don’t go out of your way to give the gospel if you aren’t committed to live the gospel. Amen. But this call away from hypocrisy and toward authenticity is not intended to justify our common refusal to simply, genuinely, authentically talk about our faith in Jesus. Jesus is our example. In his life we see the presence of the kingdom AND we hear the proclamation of the kingdom. A radically loving life should come with an explanation. And any proclamation of the gospel should be accompanied by a radically loving life. It’s not either/or, but both/and.
If we find that we almost never talk about Jesus with our friends and family, I’d like to suggest that we may be creatively, systematically, and subconsciously avoiding the topic. Otherwise, Jesus should come out naturally in all kinds of friendly conversation. If Jesus is our first love, our primary mentor, and the teacher who most shapes our thinking on all kinds of relational topics, how could we not quote him or at least reference him in conversations from time to time – unless we’re intentionally trying not to.
If your friends, family, coworkers, and neighbours have no idea you are married, or anything about the things you love about your spouse, I’d say you are doing your spouse and others a disservice. Part of how we honour the person who is most important to us is not just how we treat them when we’re together, but how we represent them when we’re apart. And part of participating in any basic friendly relationship is being open and authentic about those things in our lives that are most important.
Now, if we have been intentionally, even if subconsciously, avoiding talking about Jesus in our everyday relationships, some retraining may need to happen. What should be a natural way of being in this world will feel unnatural at first, like learning to walk again after muscles have atrophied due to injury. So for those of us who need a little rehab, here are some suggested ways that we might naturally (with intentional effort at first remember) bring up Jesus in conversation.
- That reminds me of a story Jesus told…
- That reminds me of a teaching of Jesus…
- That reminds me of something Jesus did…
- That reminds me of something the Bible says about Jesus…
- [Baby steps version] That reminds me of something I heard at church last Sunday…
Of course, if we’re going to say things like this, we have to be people who actually pay attention to the things Jesus taught and did. We need to be people who read the gospels and think about the teaching and example of Jesus. We need to be people who read the rest of the Bible with Jesus in mind. We need to be a people who attend church, read books, listen to podcasts, and read blog posts with an alertness for what we can learn about and from Jesus. For some of us, maybe this is the problem. We don’t actually live lives immersed in the person, teaching, life, and lessons of Jesus. If that sounds like you, the good news is, you know where you need to start.
I hope you really do approach a potential “study buddy” for this series. Let them know honestly that you’re feeling awkward and uncomfortable and yet eager to learn and to grow. Express your gratitude that they might be willing to help you with this eight-week project. I’m looking forward to hearing your stories!
That’s it for my extra Sunday reflections. Now onto the study questions for the first five chapters of the book…
- If you are leading a group discussion on (re)union, I suggest starting each session with a quick chapter review followed by the open-ended questions: What idea stood out to you the most? And/Or, what questions has this chapter raised for you?
- These questions are designed to allow seekers, saints, and sinners to study together. However, I’m sure they will need adjusting depending on the makeup of the group.
- The “Q & Eh?” section is to help generate discussion about the chapter content. The “Digging Deeper” section is designed to help facilitate a brief Bible study and/or time of reflection and meditation. There is a kind of meditation that seeks to empty the mind. Another kind helps us develop mindfulness about our immediate experiences. Biblical meditation is designed to help the mind focus on one simple important truth, and let that sink into our souls. If Bible study is like typing information into our minds, meditation is like pressing “enter.”
Q & EH?
- Sometimes people refer to followers of any of the three great monotheistic religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – as “people of the book.” How is this true and yet not true of people who follow Jesus?
- “The message of Jesus changed the world, until the world changed the message.” How did the Christian Church over time change, water down, and weaken the original message of Jesus? (Note: For more on this point, see chapter 6.)
- In what ways do you see yourself as a seeker, saint, and/or sinner?
- Read: Jeremiah 31:31-34.
- Think: What are some of the attributes of the promised New Covenant? How are these qualities different from the Old Covenant? Why is this good news?
- Meditate: The New Covenant has come.
Q & EH?
- What is your reaction to Gandhi’s quote at the start of the chapter?
- What has been your experience with “evangelical” Christianity? How has that influenced your ideas about Jesus?
- If one aspect of the gospel includes the good news that God is offering us forgiveness for our sins and healing for our souls, how can we communicate that in a culture that seems allergic to the idea of sin? In other words, how can we prevent this good news message of freedom from judgment from sounding like a bad news message that is very judgmental?
- Read: Romans 1:14-17.
- Think: Why is Paul “eager” to proclaim the gospel?
- Meditate: God’s righteousness (not our righteousness) saves us when we receive it by faith (not by works).
Q & EH?
- What are some of the implications of the Bible’s teaching that all humans are made in the image and likeness of God?
- If love is a choice, and act and expression of will rather than emotion, what are some implications for how we love: a) family, b) friends, c) coworkers and classmates, d) strangers, e) enemies?
- What one word most comes to mind for you when you think of the good news of Jesus? Why?
- Read: Genesis 1-3.
- Think: Ponder the ways this story sets the stage for everything that comes after, including and especially the gospel itself.
- Meditate: God is always relating within himself, and we are invited into that relationship every moment of every day, including this one.
Q & EH?
- The scandal of particularity means that before Jesus, God was best known through promise, prophecy, and foreshadowing, and after Jesus God is now best known through history – the study of the life and teachings of Jesus. How does this affect the way we read and study the Bible today?
- If Ultimate Truth is more personal than propositional, more relational than mere facts, then we will access it more through trusting relationship than through mere academic study. What do you think about that idea?
- “The Bible says it, that settles it, I believe it, let’s do it.” Why is this not the motto for a true follower of Jesus?
- Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase, “The medium is the message.” How does this apply to Jesus?
- Dynamite plus particleboard is not more, but less. Jesus plus other additives is not better but worse. What other ideas, philosophies, or religions are you prone to mix with the good news of Jesus?
- Read: John 1:1-18; 5:39-40.
- Think: The Bible is more like John the Baptist than Jesus – more of a pointer to the Word of God than God’s ultimate Word. In what ways do these passages point to this truth?
- Meditate: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (Jesus)
Q & EH?
- Review the significance of each word choice in the good news in three words – Jesus is Lord. (In other words, why are these words even more significant than some other combination such as “God is Savior” or “Christ was Teacher” etc?)
- What is the relationship between “Jesus is Lord” and those other three beautiful words, “God is love”?
- Jesus didn’t just point to Scripture as our ultimate authority, but to himself and his teaching as our ultimate authority (see the repeated “You have heard it said… But I tell you…” pattern in Matthew 5:21-45; the crowd’s reaction in 7:28-29; Christ’s direct claim in 28:18-20; Jesus’ overriding of scriptural law in 19:1-9 and Mark 7:18-19; etc.).
- If Jesus IS Lord, meaning he is leading and guiding us today in just as active and personal way as he did with his disciples two thousand years ago, then how can we best hear, listen, and respond to his leading today?
- Read: Philippians 2:5-11.
- Think: The apostle Paul writes that we should have the same attitude of mind and heart as Jesus, who gave up his power and privilege in order to serve others. How ready are you to be mentored by Jesus so that you can become more like him?
- Meditate: The mindset of Jesus is an example and inspiration for me.
THANK YOU for interacting with this blog! I’d love any feedback you have to offer. Comment away!