Next Sunday I’m speaking about what it looks like to live counter-culturally in this comfortable, affluent western world.
If there is anything that has imprinted on me deeply over the last 10 years it has been that the life of faith must look different to the life without faith, otherwise it has no teeth and no one has any reason to investigate it.
I mean, why would you want to follow Jesus if the only shift in your life was that you got busier on Sundays?… As if…
But if there was something compellingly attractive about the life of faith – even if it was a more difficult life in some ways – then maybe people might get inspired.
Its why we called our previous community ‘Upstream’ – derived from the image of a fish swimming against the flow. I think that experience has left a permanent mark on me so that I can’t just roll over and go with flow now.
This week as I was reading about New Monasticism and the various expressions it takes I came across these quotes in Tom Sine’s chapter of New Monasticism as Fresh Expression of the Church and they resonated deeply:
‘I am convinced that the only way we have any hope of authentically embodying something of the new world that is already here is by creating a spectrum of new countercultural communities that repudiate the reality of the empire’ (Tom Sine in New Monasticism as Fresh Expression of the Church p. 74)
‘The future of the church in western culture – and possibly even the western culture itself – depend on a fresh encounter with Jesus. An encounter with his example and teaching that inspires creative and counter-cultural living… that unmasks the powers and gives hope for a different world… and energises hopeful discipleship’ (Stuart Murray Williams in PostChristendom p. 317)
There needs to be hope. There needs to be real genuine hope that the kingdom of God can have a growing present reality or we will simply live in a perpetual state of religious frustration, or we will settle for a mutant form of faith that is little more than folk religion.
I also see the tension of this for those of us who live in middle-class dom. Its easy to beat yourself up and hang guilt trips on people when we begin to speak about counter-cultural living, but I’m convinced guilt is a very poor motivator and actually ends up undermining our best intentions as we don’t learn good healthy motivations for change.
So I’m thinking we need to start with a vision of God’s kingdom – of the earth as God dreamt it would be at creation – and work from there.
But I can see this being a very disturbing message because it will speak to the things we hold so dear and critique them. (See this old post on the Holy Trinity of Suburbia for more of that.)
Its a hard message to give because we are so deeply embedded in this system and not all of it is bad. But its soo soo easy just to go with the flow and soo soo hard to choose to live differently.