we've been having some discussions at westwinds lately about soteriology (the theology of salvation) and social justice (aka, helping people)
both are, scripturally, considered "mission" in the truest uses of the term
jesus gave us a soul-reaching/saving/reconnecting/welcoming mission
jesus gave us many missions to do good/redeem the world/love the world/help the poor
at westwinds we have done an increasing amount of really cool missional-justice things. whether that's our gals loving single mums on mother's day with reprieve; or our teens raising $$ to give away cars to families in need; or dave midkiff tackling recycling in the earth-hating community of southern michigan; or rob and wendy white purchasing a home downtown and using it for classes, giftings, and soooo much more; or our many justice initiatives through causemology (our spiritual formation portal at ww); or our advocacy for churches and pastors overseas (like cedric in cape town, dries in pretoria, phillipe and sophia, etc.); and on and on and on
i'm so proud of our church for the many ways they've come to the party to love the world as god has loved the world.
on the flip side, though, we are increasingly troubled about the mission of saving souls.
(by the way, i know that terminology has caused a lot of hiccups for people...just go with me here for a minute and any pomo hangups will be a little alleviated)
see, we understand that everyone comes to faith along a slightly different path. there is only one way to gain access to the father - through jesus christ his son - and salvation is available only through jesus; but there are many ways to find jesus.
some find jesus through scripture
some through prayer
some through a vision or a miracle
some through conversation
some through apologetics
some through friendship
some through culture, media, happenstance
at ww, we try and authenticate the spiritual journey that people are on, allowing them the freedom to be led by the spirit and to dry increasing closer to jesus. we understand our role to be to lead each person a little deeper into him.
so...whether you've been a christ-follower for 50 years or 50 minutes, we believe that god wants us all to draw closer
we call this a theology of journey, and we believe it's much more biblically honest than the raise-your-hand-if-you-don't-want-to-burn-in-hell-tonight approach or the fill-out-this-card-and-enjoy-your-best-life-now approach
but it does create some tension
for example, in the other ways of addressing salvation everyone in church gets to see who comes to faith in christ. so, if i give an alter call in fusion and 20 people every week came to the front to accept jesus, that would look really good to those who are just watching.
whereas, by inviting everyone to move a little closer to jesus, we lose the benefit of seeing one another commit.
there's much that could be said here about whether or not those who "just watch" ought to be concerned about their own motives/preoccupations...but that's not what i'm interested in soapboxing for now.
my point is that the church suffers in the absence of knowing publicly that people are being transformed.
so, even though i believe we see more genuine transformation in the lives of new christ-followers at westwinds than i ever did at the 1000-kids-a-summer-made-decisions-for-jesus-at-my-personal-evangelistic-camps
people feel less confident that that transformation in actually taking place
because they can't see it
now, on the flip side, even though we see (and hear) of a remarkable amount of life transformation, i'm still deeply concerned about us seeing more
in my life
in the lives of all those i know
and definitely in our church
but - for now - i'm simply blogging that our current challenge is how to get these stories in front of our people more and more frequently
because otherwise all they see are our social justice efforts
which, from the outside, look like a enthusiastic not-for-profit club (with a devilshly handsome spokesperson :)
and church, if it is any way to resemble the communities of the new testament, must be about so much more than just playing nice