This is the sixth post interacting with Brian McLaren’s A New Kind of Christianity. Please remember that I cannot reproduce the book in these posts. I will do my best to summarize without being overly simplistic or reductionistic. Each post will be two parts. The first will be a summary of McLaren’s discussion and the second will be my reflections.
The Church Question: What do we do about the church?
This is the first of five questions on how McLaren sees his vision of A New Kind of Christianity working itself out practically in the real world. McLaren paints a sad and realistic picture of the church. He says that owe are “divided, immature, confused about our purpose and identity, in danger of fragmenting our way into nonexistence, all at once bending over backwards and straddling fences, stiff of neck and soft of spine, and otherwise twisted and contorted in compromise. We have financial problems, sexual controversies, pride problems, schism threats, excesses in some forms of spirituality and deficits in others, and all manner of authority issues (165–166).” It is not a rosy outlook. McLaren reminds us that these were the same issues that the Corinthians faced and so he sets out to show how Paul dealt with these issues in 1 Corinthians.
Paul’s perspective, according to McLaren, can be summarized this way, ”…the church most truly is: it is a space in which the Spirit works to form Christlike people, and it is the space in which human beings, formed in Christlike love, cooperate with the Spirit and one another to express that love in word and deed, art and action. (171)“
We are to become a people who take action by “listening, dialogue, appreciate inquiry, understanding, preemptive peacemaking, reconciliation, nonviolence, prophetic confrontation, advocacy, generosity, and personal and social transformation (171).” This is the mission of the church.
I think that the picture that is painted of the church here is beautiful, powerful, and engaging. I think that McLaren has hit on something that we need to embrace again. If the Church looked like this then we would see a renewed engagement with the world that is far from Christ. We would see movements that seek to transform culture and build bridges to the gospel.
Nevertheless, there is something missing. I found myself getting excited about the picture that he was painting as it is very similar to the dream and picture I have of the Church. It is challenging. It calls the Church to a higher standard. However, in his exposition of 1 Corinthians there was again the absence of the discussion of the cross and the resurrection. McLaren handled the issues of knowledge, love, and power with insight but again excluded the cross.
Again, I must beg for more. I am concerned that McLaren “The Pendulum Swinger” (as a friend calls him) has removed the pendulum.