Disorganized Religion

On occasion I need a fillet-o-faith to help me cut the condiments and focus back on the central realities of what it means to follow Jesus in this world. No culture is pure, and it is necessary to pick through my particular milieu with redemptive chopsticks, savoring that which is consistent with God’s heart and laying aside the gristle-trappings of additive140 and flavoring076. After all, artificial preservatives do leave a foul taste in the mouth and are legitimate cause for suspicion amongst the unconvinced.

The result of this culinary cleansing is far from a formulaic recipe for the drive-thru spirituality that is often served up. Rather, the directions Jesus calls us toward are the age-old ingredients from which a spectacular array of flavors, expression and demonstration emerge. Disorganized religion. Unorganized order, a spirituality as vital and vibrant as God’s people are creative and diverse.

Jesus teaches us what it means to live. He participates in the world, He lives life. Disorganized religion is guided with patterns offered from the life of Jesus, but these patterns are a far cry from the programmatic checklist often offered by religion. Redemptive description rather than religious prescription is the order of the day, and this is guided by Jesus command to love God and love others.

[JESUS LOST HIS YOGA?]

My dad’s brother doesn’t call me nephew, so he won’t let me call him uncle. He wouldn’t describe himself as a follower of Jesus, though I admire the rigor with which he seeks to understand and live life. He’s interested in people who aren’t “kidding themselves,” and he has a knack for articulating things in a memorable way.

Recently I was ranting to him, venting some frustration over the prose-flattened nature of the mainstream church and my hunger to see a poetic depth emerge. Fewer fluorescent lights, more candles. Less preaching, more poetry. He was trying to understand where I was coming from when he said, “Oh, you mean Jesus has lost His yoga?”

Yes! In essence, that’s where many of us find ourselves. If we strip back the layers of our seemingly complex diet of Bible studies, memory verses, accountability groups, spiritual gift analysis, meetings, 3-point sermons, retreats, slogan-screaming t-shirts, Power Point displays, conferences, words and funky worship bands—we’re missing the yoga-mystery at the center of faith.

Rediscovering our Jesus-yoga through communion with God is essential to love. I want to grow in my experience and understanding of God. I want to accurately re-present God to the world in which I live. I want to tell Jesus’ story with my life and His resources. I want to be known as a person who loves. This requires that I commune with a w(H)oly Other who isn’t loving but who is in essence love. A theological dissertation on God’s love for us is not helpful here. We need to experience Him and reflect that transformational love to all we meet.

In an attempt to discover my Jesus-yoga, I’ve been “getting my monk on” at a local Benedictine Monastery. Not quite the kind of thing you’d expect to read in an article about disorganized religion. God works mysteriously within the liturgy where the words serve to create spaces for God who is between-the-lines. Space, time and silence allow God to breathe life into existence. You don’t need to frequent a monastery for this, the opportunities are everywhere. I’ve been seeking out the almighty ambushes God surprises us with in coffee shops, in books, in nature. I also find my Jesus-yoga, my spiritual mojo, in doing, participating in life living as a follower of Jesus.

[LIFEGUARDS AND UMPIRES]

Followers of Jesus are to be lifesavers, not umpires. Lifesavers are participants. They know how to swim because they devote themselves to swimmers. Plank-eyed Pharisees stand on the beach breathlessly blowing whistles, unable to see Jesus for the wood.

When Paul addresses believers in Philippians and Galatians as “saints,” he’s using the same word from which “holy,” meaning set apart, is derived. The holiness of the believer isn’t evident in his separation from the world, but rather his separation to Christ. Saints are people who are participating fully in the world, but whose lives are remarkably set apart to Christ.

It is much harder to prescribe the redemptive work of Jesus in the life of a follower. Redemption has many faces, and is not so easily catalogued and concluded as a Pharisee might like us to believe. It is, after all, possible to show character consistent with Jesus’—and to be a prodigal miles from the Father’s door. Similarly, it is easy to occupy a pew for 60 years and be obstinately oriented in opposition to Jesus.

There is a place where we were once enemies of God and then become friends, “in Christ,” but where exactly is that place? It’s not as nice or organized as I once thought, but disorganized religion will do that to you.

[1M2 MINISTRIES]

In my short 22 years on this planet, I’ve been called everything from apostle, prophet and evangelist to some other names, which would serve no constructive purpose being articulated here. It was paralyzing. What am I, and how am I supposed to do that?

In order to move on in life and service, I’ve adopted an idea from an old youth pastor of mine who called his group 1m2 Ministries. My “ministry” is the square meter I walk in. Whether I be speaking to a church, playing guitar in a bar or going out for food, I am a follower of Jesus seeking to liberate the light of God in others—be they followers of Jesus or indifferent to Him.

John is a college student who works part time at a café. He attends church and seeks to follow Jesus. There is an understanding at John’s church that if you are serious about your faith you will attend one service, one small group, one accountability group and be involved in one ministry. The time requirements alone almost killed him.

One day someone with the disorganized religion virus validated him as a person who follows Jesus, not a ministry “unit” or “function.” How liberating! John began to thrive in his day-to-day environment. The square meters he walked and lived in became his ministry. He concentrated more on telling Jesus’ story with his life and God’s resources, and keeping his eyes peeled for opportunities to be a lifeguard. And things began to happen. Of course this wasn’t really organized, and he’ll never have a business card.

See Also

[WHERE’S THE LOVE?]

Recently an article on young Christians appeared in a well distributed magazine. It was rather favorable, yet part of me was disturbed by the overall impression of the article. The writer seemed to suggest that the overriding characteristic of young Christians was that they had blue hair and listened to bands like P.O.D.

It’s another scene. A trendier variant of organized religion. What does it mean to follow Jesus? Get a piercing. Get a cross tattoo. Buy from the smorgasbord of selective spiritual merchandise. I guess that’s impressive if your last encounter with church was in the 1950s, but the question that lingers longest and loudest in my mind is: Where’s the love?

The on-going adventure of discovering my Jesus-yoga leads me to more fully respond to God—who He is and how He is already at work in and around me. Seeking to live as a life-saver, a participant in the world leads me to be available for ministry which can occur at any time. In action I come to know God and experience His heart for others. I’m also put into situations where I need God, and this makes all the difference.

Disorganized religion is delightfully transportable and moldable, it comes in range of shapes and sizes, and best of all, it is available anywhere at any time.

RELATED LINKS:

HYPER-ACTIVE CHURCH INVOLVEMENT

THE WARMTH OF WELCOME

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