I have found it hard, for some odd reason, to get into reading of theological things over the past several weeks. The last thing I read at much length was Shane Claiborne’s Irresistible Revolution. I have a slight suspicion that maybe that has sparked in me a deep cynicism about the usefulness or relevance of reading without much serious attempt to do something about one’s imprisonment in the culture. The booklet, Becoming the Authentic Church, has also added to that deep dissatisfaction.
The other part of it is that when I do happen upon something that addresses any of this, or demonstrates some concern about this problem of cultural captivity of Christianity, I find it hard to read , knowing of the seeming impossibility of finding a significant (even small) group who want to give a go at some semblance of alternative discipleship.
It disturbs me to see the blinders put up by churches to buffer themselves from having to expose themselves to life outside of our suburban bubble. There are plenty of “Progressive Christians” who make the drive into urban settings and support the work of churches there. But the life together of such churches, at least as far as it goes in my experience, is lacking when it comes to what Elizabeth O’Connor calls the “Inward Journey”; an “accountable discipleship” that truly asks some things of us and invites/challenges/expects us to throw ourselves with serious abandon into the adventure of discerning call together, and to be accountable to one another for our shared disciplines in seeking this. To devote ourselves to seeking out our gifts for the purpose of mission. To commit to the task of being mutual “evokers” of gifts, and enabling one another in the process of discerning what God is calling a specific group to do about a particular place of need. There is very little of this discernment happening where I have looked in my searching for such a community. One does not hear much talk about “the sounding of a call”, such as that which has been a foundational piece of the mission groups of The Church of the Saviour. It’s not that the same language is required to do the same kind of work. The “sounding of call” is an announcement that a particular need has been discerned, accompanied by the “matching gifts” of a particular group who sense the call to journey together as both an “Inward Journeying people” to hold one another accountable for the inward work that must accompany their mission, and to journey together in the building of a mechanism ; a structure, to address the discerned need or problem. This is the Outward Journey.
In light of the above description of my “reading problems”, perhaps it is the sense of “individualized” reading that has fatigued me. All this reading seems to be of the kind of individualized , “personal devotion” kind of thing that leaves me all the more sensitive to the isolation that this can bring about.