Living Wide Awake

It is the creative and enterprising spirit of people that is indispensable. Everything else is supplemental. It is the human resource that must be valued, developed and maximized. What would the world look like if all of us lived our most heroic life? What would our communities of faith become if we were committed to mentoring each person until they found the dream that matched their life and then helped them to make that dream their life? What if all of us lived wide awake? These are the questions that fuel us.
mosaic
This past weekend the conversation across our gatherings at Mosaic was focused on how to become an expert in any field of choice. We walked through what distinguished those who are considered the best in the world at their craft and how they got there. Even while I was traveling from location to location, I wondered if this was within the rules of what you’re supposed to do at “church.” Yet, at the same time, I knew that this is one of the many ways that Mosaic is distinct from so many other faith experiences. Religion as a whole specializes in sin management. It’s all about organizing humanity in such a way that we cause as little damage as possible.

The upgrade is when we focus on being good people (good people seem to cluster in suburban areas) who advocate family values. The premium plan is when we admit we’re really bad people (who still try really hard to be good) and realize the best we can do is worship the One (and only one) who is good. Strangely enough, all of these applications have their place and importance even from the perspective of someone who is not compelled by them (that would be me). This series on “practical wisdom,” which coincides with the release of my newest book, Wide Awake, reminds me that for our community here in Los Angeles, the Gospel has become so much more than this.

Just the weekend before I was having dinner with one of Hollywood’s success stories. He is a gifted cinematographer and director. His wife is a person of faith, and he is honest in the fact that he is not. She loves Jesus and he loves her, so we were sharing a meal and he was coming to our gathering afterward. I sat there at dinner, thinking how much I really liked this person. We talked about films and making films and how good the food was, and while I was fascinated by him, he also seemed genuinely interested in me and my story. In the course of the conversation, he asked me what Wide Awake was about, and so I explained it to him in three different layers.

At first I simply said it is about finding a dream that fits your life and how to make it your life. He looked interested, so I pressed ahead with my final explanation: “You know the narrative known as the Gospel? I think it has been demeaned. It has been reduced to this, ‘Come to Jesus so that your sins will be forgiven and you can go to heaven and not go to hell.’ For me this is the most narcissistic, self-focused, self-preserving message I have ever heard.” He just listened without response, so I continued. “Wide Awake proposes the Gospel is in fact a call to provoke the heroic out of us all. That Jesus lived the ultimately heroic life by giving Himself as a sacrifice for all of humanity and that He now calls us to give ourselves away for the good of the world.”

I think right after that we began to talk about how good the shrimp was or something like that. Soon we left and began walking the streets of Hermosa Beach, enjoying the sunlight and feeling our lives are better than our friends in frigid Norway. Suddenly he said, “I’d really like to read your book.” I told him I would be happy to give him one when we arrived at Mosaic. Then he surprised me with his next statement. “The Gospel has never made sense to me,” he said. “It is, as you said, such a narcissistic narrative. But this idea that it is about provoking us to the heroic—this is intriguing to me.” Then he asked me a question I will never forget: “Is it possible that Christianity has rejected this Gospel because it demands too much of us?”
Me … I think it is possible.

Of the original 12, one chose the role of villain. The other 11 were left with no smaller a task than to save the world. If you listen to their detractors, these were ordinary, ignorant and untrained men. They all, even after three years of being personally mentored by the Son of God, walked away from their leader and reverted to the cowards they were. They quickly, after the death of Jesus, returned to their previous way of life. They seemed comfortable with the mundane. Yet, Pentecost changed everything. Whatever they learned over three years paled in comparison to what they gained when the Spirit of Jesus came to dwell within them. He ignited and unleashed something they had never known before. They would never be the same, and because of them, the world would never be the same.

When we look at history, we see history is made up of the heroes of their times. Yet, somehow we miss this when we put on the lens of the Scriptures. Through this lens, we are able to see the activity of God in all of history. We must never forget that. But somehow we also become blind to the heroic culture that permeates the Scripture. Just like human history, so too do the heroes who rise up and call the masses to something greater write biblical history. This is how God works—by calling out greatness from each of us.

In 1965, Nigeria had a GDP of $300. Singapore had a GDP of $600. Nigeria was mineral rich, and Singapore had no natural resources. By 2005, Nigeria’s GDP remained unchanged. In that same time, Singapore’s had risen to $30,000. Nigeria had every advantage to far surpass Singapore. Singapore had no perceivable prospect for a better future. What made the difference? Nigeria neglected the one resource Singapore capitalized on—human ingenuity. This is just one of an endless number of reminders that the future isn’t waiting for you—it is waiting within you.

It is the creative and enterprising spirit of people that is indispensable. Everything else is supplemental. It is the human resource that must be valued, developed and maximized. What would the world look like if all of us lived our most heroic life? What would our communities of faith become if we were committed to mentoring each person until they found the dream that matched their life and then helped them to make that dream their life? What if all of us lived wide awake? These are the questions that fuel us.

When researchers try to break down what is happening at Mosaic, far too often they see the skin and miss the heart. They see nine gatherings in seven locations, and so we are a multi-site congregation. Or they see more than 50 nationalities, and so then we are a multi-ethnic church. They see a community whose average age is 25, so we are postmodern. Or are captured by the fact that we meet in a downtown L.A. club called the Mayan, defined by the thousands of pagan gods that cover the entire complex, and label us an emerging church. The most ironic is that when they listen in on our conversation with an unbelieving world and discover that our community is overflowing with people so far from God that they normally wouldn’t darken the doors of a church—and they conclude we must be emergent.

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To tell you the truth, I don’t know what we are. We are constantly learning and growing and changing. We are really an experiment. We are endeavoring to discover if a community of faith can exist purely for the good of others. Can the Church become the greatest humanitarian movement on the planet? Can we become the epicenter of human creativity, innovation and compassion? Can we create humanity’s next great culture? We think to ask what kind of church we should become is not only the wrong question, it is boring. We should be asking, What kind of future do we want to create?

At the heart of all of this is a passionate conviction that every human is created in the image and likeness of God. We are broken and fragmented images—the material from which a mosaic can be formed. We are committed to calling out of every person the greatness that lies within. We are a disrupting sound breaking the silence of the mundane, awakening the hero within us all. This call is not in conflict with the glory of God but in fact brings God the glory He is due. The entire cosmos groans for its redemption, yet all creation declares the glory of God. We have fallen far short of what we were created to be, but in Christ all things are made new. Jesus came to bring us life, and that in abundance—we’re just trying to flesh that out in community and in the world.

A world where everyone is fully alive … that’s what makes me lose sleep and dream wide awake.

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This post originally appeared in Neue Quarterly Vol. 01

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