There was not a lot to do on the 11-hour flight to Alaska but look out at the big sky, big world and consider the radicals at home that so well-represent the radical in the book I am reading: the Radical Wesley: The Patterns and Practices of a Movement Maker.
In January we are going to emphasize the book in our Doing Theology meeting and in Circle of Hope Daily Prayer – Water (a new resource for people in it for the long haul). I was so excited about the nice summary the author, Howard a Snyder, made of radical Christian distinctives that I thought I’d pass them along to you. They reflect our proverbs and our practices as Circle of Hope – so that’s nice. But more profoundly, they clear away some confusion and reiterate just what we are trying to do in this crazy world. It is hard to remember what it is basic to faith, especially when so many despise it and when even the Christians act undermine it all the time (I won’t even get started with what Christmas has become!).
So here is a little gift of Snyder’s seven elements that make up the radical protestant model of being a missional community in Christ
- Voluntary adult membership based on a covenant commitment to Jesus Christ , emphasizing obedience to Jesus as necessary evidence of faith in him. Believers baptism has usually been the sign of this commitment, but not always. The point is not, fundamentally, the form of joining the covenant community, but the fact and meaning of conscious committed membership in it.
Thus we stopped considering anyone “inactive” covenant members this fall. There is no such thing.
- A community of discipline, edification, correction and mutual aid, in conscious separation from the world, as the primary visible expression of the church.
The wonders of the Debt Annihilation Team are a good example of this spirit, but there are so many more.
- A life of good works service and witness as an expression of Christian love and obedience expected of all believers. Thus an emphasis on the ministry of the laity (all God’s people) rather then of a special ministerial class. The church – the entire believing community – is viewed as a “missionary minority.”
Therefore we are organized a cells where our main work is done, rather than in programs or meetings lead by professionals.
- The Spirit and the word as comprising the sole basis of authority, implying a de-emphasis or rejection of church tradition and creeds.
Thus we see ourselves a transhistorical, not only in an active dialogue with the Jesus followers of the past, but with everyone else, primarily ourselves in a face to face dialogue that results in our direction and sense of unity in the Spirit.
- Primitivism and restitutionism. The early church is the model, and the goal is to restore the essential elements of early church life and practice. This usually implies some view of the fall of the church as well.
That’s why we are Bible people and see ourselves as doers of the word. This often brings us into uneasy relationship with the institutional church, be it Catholic or BIC.
- A pragmatic, functional approach to church order and structure.
We continue to reinvent ourselves as our character and opportunity change. That’s how we got to the whole “second act” sea-change we are experiencing.
- A belief in the universal church as the body of Christ, of which the particular visible believing community is but a part.
That’s why the pastors have been actively working on a better description of how we are allies with all sorts of Christians and good-deed doers, why we are so involved with MCC as a world-wide expression of us, and why we explore the term “multidenominational” to help people figure out how we fit within their labels.
Other themes might be mentioned such as suffering , the eschatological vision, pacifism, consensus in decision making, ecumenism and separation from the state. These have been important themes among some, but not all.
We represent most of these things, but, honestly, they are not themes that we drive a sledgehammer into to preserve our stake in the truth.
So there is my little gift for you. Happy Advent – the advent of possibilities that come with people who are radical Jesus followers. As I looked down on the big world from my plane window, I was again glad that among all the many people inhabiting it, God keeps raising up people who listen to his voice, feel his love and act out his passion, like you.