My dear friend Erik asked me a question the other night that I have been chewing on and I cannot help but fixate on as a I walk between classes, run between thoughts, or stare aimlessly at the beautiful ocean. This question derived from one biggest most ambiguous questions all questions ask at some point... and I continue to further explore the idea of the body of Christ, especially analyzing what the future of the Church may be if transformation and development of the kingdom of Christ do not occur simultaneously. The church is a convergence of stories. A place where we bring our personal story, the community’s story, and the Biblical, the story of God at work in history, together. Without the existence of the Church, God still works within the individual and the community, but His story is being hidden or only partially recognized. As we quest for transformational development of the Church, as I would like to put it changing people from bounded by walls to boundless by love, requires the Church body to clarify what is important. Questions that arise would probably be on the lines of what is an abundant life? What is the community for? What vision will lead the community members towards becoming who they truly are? What claims does God make on the community? As the Biblical narrative as the reference point to these complex ideologies, they point to a lucid answer- the unshakable kingdom and the unchanging person are better future and the means to it, and everyone is invited to move. The Kingdom of God is the future that has already invaded history and is growing in the present. This idea of the kingdom vision for a better human future can be summarized into one word- shalom- just, peace, harmonious relationships with each other, ourselves, our environment, and our God. In the Israel’s story we observe the striving for shalom equivalent to the New Testament idea of an abundant life. An abundant life is about living, not simply having. An Abundant life means no limits to love, no limits to justice, no limits to peace. Anything is for life, that enhances life, or celebrates life points towards the Kingdom. The key to moving toward this better future with shalom and abundant life is the discovery that the community’s story and our personal story can in fact come part of this larger story of God’s redemptive work in the work. Getting to a sustainable future requires becoming part of the plan God has already declared. This vision for transformation of the Church’s body is equally interested din being as well as doing. Knowing who we truly are and pursuing our true vocation, not just more things or more knowledge. The vision of the best human future is not modernity’s story of inevitable human progress or the relativistic pluralism of post-modernity.
Continuing this thought…Spiritual sustainability is slightly contradictory. The community needs to believe is not solely dependent on the Church as a vending machine or being spiritual nourished through Wednesday bible studies and Sunday sermons. Yet the body must also believe passionately that is dependent on God. No one is independent; we are all dependent on God. For Christians, being concerned with and playing a role in the spiritual warfare of the community sometimes means surrendering a priveledged place in the community and working ALONGSIDE people who believe differently. If our story is the true human story and if our God is the true God, then we need to become servants of all others and in faith believe that God is able to take care of himself. Recent research by two Canadian studied church growth in the sense of word, numbers, depth, and social influenece. These churches rate highly in “soul care” and “social care”. Soul care is the development of personal faith, personal devotional life, day to day application of the faith and commitment to the Truth of the word. Social care is community services, importance of social action, helping the poor, and correcting injustices in society. Erego, the church has a difficult time realizing that its role might not be so much Christians gathered, although it is this too, as much as it is the place where Christians gather to learn and are challenged to live the WHOLE gospel in the fullness of the life in the larger community.