Friday, June 23, 2006


Great, great discussion on last Friday's post. Thanks to everyone who commented (and are still commenting), particularly Father Thomas who made some great points about worship and glorifying God. Check his blog out at Also, John Alan Turner whose blog you can find at

Before the last couple of years, I'm not even sure if I thought that being a disciple of Jesus was an option for me. Sure, I was a Christian and that pretty much meant being saved, going to church, doing the right thing, and generally keeping my nose clean until I died and went to Heaven. I didn't really consider the idea that someone who claimed to be a Christian was truly claiming to be a disciple. I thought the disciples were the ones who followed Jesus around in the Bible. But as I've been guided in my thoughts by people like Lee Camp, N.T. Wright, and Brian McLaren, what I've started to believe is that discipleship is what Christians should be about, or rather had better be about.

Now, Father Thomas might disagree with that and say that the purpose of Christians is to glorify God. However, I don't think I see the two as mutually exclusive. I think when people follow Jesus' example and take him on in baptism and worship him, that is a part of glorifying God. This is why I think that what happens outside the walls of the church building is of much greater importance than what happens inside them. It can be really easy to be a Christian inside the walls. We're surrounded by people who believe similarly to us, generally who look and act like us. When we take our faith outside the walls outside of the homogenous existence inside, that's when the rubber meets the road. That's when we truly find out if we will follow the Way of Jesus or if we will compromise with the world.

I've been thinking a lot about the Sermon on the Mount this week, since I'm going to start talking about it in my Kingdom class at church this week. What Jesus offers there is not some pie-in-the-sky vision of how great things possibly could be, if we just happened to do a few of those things. He's offering a vision of what living as a disciple of Jesus could be like. When he calls us to love our enemies, it's not a call to be nice to someone who cuts me off in traffic. It's a call to seek the betterment of someone who hates me, simply to walk in the example of Jesus who loved those who hated him, even if that love involved turning the tables in the Temple.

What do you think? Have you experienced any such changes in thinking about discipleship? How does being a disciple of Jesus play itself out in your everyday life?


Anonymous said...

As someone unfamiliar and unread with the "emergent?", "Kingdom?" ways of looking at church, can you give some examples of how your life changes after coming to the conclusions you've come to over the last 2 years?

What do you do differently than you did before? I think it would be helpful for me to see some meat on the bones. Practically speaking.

Phil said...

Hmmm. Tough question. Well, first off, I'm not completely emergent. I identify with a lot of that thinking, but haven't completely gone down that road.

I think the biggest way I've changed is how I think about other people and other perspectives. Taking my cue from Jesus, I try to think about the disenfranchised and do things that will lift up people. I don't condemn people for holding beliefs different from mine, just because they are different. I listen, I engage, I dialogue. I don't argue (as much). I've done prison work and work with some of the poor.

From the Kingdom perspective, it's given me a wider view of Christendom, both globally and historically. It's opened me up to what God is doing in this world and encouraged me to join with Him in it.

I don't know if that helps at all, but I'll try to answer more if you need me too.

TCS said...

Everyday life. That's a good question. And man, I missed all the discussion last week!

I have come to believe that it is about more than sin management and we are called to good deeds or to make the world better. How that plays out is lots of daily decisions. Sometime the right one and sometimes not. Thinking more before buying things.
Slowing down to listen for guidance
Slowing down to really listen to others needs.
trying to provide clients not just with what they want but what will make make the world better.

Brent said...

I thoroughly enjoyed last week's discussion. It is obvious that Thomas and I do not see things from the same perspective. Phil, I have gone back and read some of your comments on this and other posts. It is obvious that the ethics of Jesus and his "kingdom message" are an important part of your current Christian viewpoint. I would probably conclude that you and I do not see things from the same perspective, as well. However, it appears that you respond to differing perspectives a little more openly than Thomas.

Here are some of my own views on Jesus' teachings or, as I would contend, what various writers have Jesus say (his actual teachings and sayings were never recorded, they were only compiled later after decades of oral and written development). 1st of all, I don't see Jesus' teachings in the same light as I did when I grew up as a child; nor do I look at them the same way as I did in college; not the same as post-college; not the same as 4 years ago. I'd have to say that (though they all overlap) I probably have had at least 6 or 7 ways that I have viewed Jesus over the span of my life. Reading "Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time" (Borg) and McLaren's 1st chapter in "A Generous Orthodoxy" have helped my see this for myself.

I say all of that to say that there is no ONE right way to view Jesus and his teachings. If someone thinks that they have THE correct way to interpret Jesus, they have immediately put on tunnel-vision goggles and removed information crucial to a well rounded study on Jesus.

The main issue that I have with using the Sermon on the Mount or any of Jesus' teachings as a template for my life is this (brace yourself): Jesus spoke to his contemporaries and them alone. He was not speaking words of timeless truth or told his parables so they could be applied for all eternity. No, Jesus spoke to the issues of his day.

Jesus does not directly address many of the issues in our day. The world is a totally different place now. Sure, I know, people generally have the same problems as they always have - they still kill each other, they still rob from one another, they still lie about things, blah blah blah. What I mean is that, though Jesus was speaking to the condition of mankind, he was speaking about mankind's current situations.

We can timewarp all of Jesus' teachings into today's society and force them to fit, but was that his intention? Was he really revealing God's words for all people of the earth for all time? Or could we instead see Jesus as one who offered an alternative way of experiencing the divine and that everyone after him should continually evaluate how we all should live here in this world together? After all, God put us all here (I'm assuming an intentional creation, of course) to live with one another in harmony, didn't he?

So I think that Jesus and his teachings are great. However, the worldwide community of mankind has a responsibility to one another to live together in a constructive and reinventive way. As long as groups attempt to get rid of other groups (by either killing them or by converting them) who don't interpret this life in a similar way, this place will be constantly in tension with itself. The world will keep moving toward its own premature extinction.


Thomas+ said...

Hey Phil.

Its fun to see my name getting used in your post.

A quick aside for Brent, who said "He (Jesus) was not speaking words of timeless truth or told his parables so they could be applied for all eternity."

Yeah, we couldn't be in different minds on that one. I believe Jesus was God incarnate, the mediator of a new covenant, and that his words remain forever.

I wonder, just out of curiosity and not as a "judgment" if you consider yourself a Christian, as in a disciple of Christ, if you don't think anything he said or did really matters at this point? I would assume not, which is fine, but I'm not sure how it would work otherwise.

Oh, Phil. I am not opposed to discipleship, and yes I think it glorifies God. However, I will dig one foot deeper (maybe) and say this. I think the point of the Christian life is to know the love of God so that I may love him and others (include "me" under "others")

And, I hope that this results in transformation for myself and for society. But, at heart, I'm all about the L-O-V-E.

I'm not against intercessory prayer, but I get a lot of help from the 11th Step which says, in part, that we pray "only for knowledge of his will for my life and the power to carry that out."

Brent said...


Where do I start and how do I keep this short? I consider myself a Christian by tradition only. Let me explain. Our family goes to church fairly regularly. I go at least half the time. My wife takes the kids by herself when I don't go. I have ongoing conversations with some of the members at our church. I think that they're trying to bring me back to the flock and probably don't consider me a Christian. They must think I'm going through some funky phase in my life.

I don't pattern my life after Jesus' actions and deeds. I actually don't think anybody does. In my opinion, Christians simply choose which parts of Jesus to follow so that they can consider themselves "Christian."

Christianity has formed me into the person that I am. I was raised by parents who taught me Christian morals and principles which I still follow. I still consider Jesus as one of the greatest examples in human history. However, I don't view him as God incarnate. We gave him that tag.

My beliefs are not Christian. I hold Christianity high in many ways. I don't consider most Christian beliefs as absolute truth, though I do see many of them as generally true in applicable ways. I believe that communities and societies determine morality, not God.

I do think that what the evangelists have Jesus say DOES matter. The reason the "words of Jesus" matter is because people have made them matter. Christianity has affected the world unlike any other religion in history, so Jesus does matter in that sense.

So I guess that confirms your assumption, Thomas.


Thomas+ said...

Trying to now answer Phil's question: How does being a disciple of Jesus play itself out in your everyday life?

For me, first off I have to know Jesus, not as I wish he was but as he really is. And I find the truth of who he is in scripture, especially in the Gospels. So, for me discipleship begins with Lectio Divina, the holy reading, ruminating, praying, and listening in the context of the Gospel stories.

Also, worship, whether its corporate or private, points me to Jesus and helps me know him more.

That hopefully leads me to a deeper sense of the love of Christ for me, of his forgiveness, his restoration, his justice, etc.

Out of that, I pray to be transformed into his way. I, like Brent, see Jesus as the example. Of course, the question "what would Jesus do" is stupid. In the context of his word and his love, empowered by his grace, I ask "what would Jesus have me do" and then I ask him to help me do it.

I do a lot of surrendering throughout the day, a lot of giving stuff over to him. I say the serenity prayer a bunch, as well as lots of conversational prayer.

Also, its really important for me to get out of my own head and serve others. That may be letting some guy in in traffic, it may be putting down my agenda by listening to someone. It might be paying attention to my kids when I really just want to play on my PSP.

So, for me, the "doing" of Christianity is really important. But, it must proceed from the surrendered "being," or its all just pride and striving.

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