In February I attended a Pastor’s Day at Point Loma University and Brian McLaren was the guest speaker. He shared his thoughts on the current state of the world with some possible direction for the church. Here are his thoughts as best as I can recollect them. Let me know what you think.
Generally, there are two lists: List 1 – the things the church deals with (like women in ministry, speaking in tongues, predestination, etc.) and List 2 – the things the world is dealing with (like nuclear war, poverty, epidemics, etc.). He marveled at how unsimilar the lists are.
As he understands things we have created a societal machine that involves prosperity, security and equality. In regards to these we have created four global crises.
Crisis #1 – The Problem of Prosperity: this aspect of the machine is working so well and so fast that the ecosystem cannot sustain its growth.
Crisis #2 – The Problem of Equity: the prosperity system works really well … but only for a small minority and as a result more and more of the population is living in poverty.
Crisis #3 – The Problem of Security: because of the growing disparity between the rich and the poor the rich arm themselves to protect their prosperity and the poor secure more catastrophic weapons to try and acquire some of the wealth, which results in an absence of peace.
Crisis #4 – The Problem of Story: our world’s religions are failing to provide us with a framing story that can help us with the mess we’re in, which means we have no purpose; i.e. we’re focusing on the wrong list of things. The world’s religions (and much of Christianity included) focuses on domination, revolution, scapegoating or isolation. These were even present in Jesus’ day: Sadducees/Herodians (domination), Zealots (revolution), Pharisees (scapegoating), and the Essenes (isolation).
The question is this: Does Jesus’ story about the kingdom of God provide us with a different framing story and if so what is that story? As we wrestle with this question perhaps we will have some clear direction for the church to move.