What is the future of the church in the 21st century? We explored that question in a conference with Dr. Brian McLaren, founder of Cedar Ridge Community Church in Maryland, and Dr. René Padilla, founding member of the Latin American Theological Fraternity and Kairos Publishers.
René challenged us: "Why the church? What difference has it made in the world?"He has dedicated many years to helping people move beyond the false dichotomy of evangelism vs. social action to a broader vision of the Reign of God that is transforming every aspect of human life and creation, what he calls mision integral.
Brian, whose books include A New Kind of Christian, suggested new ways of looking at key elements of our faith:
not a conquest but a dance, in which we help our partner hear the music.
not a system of beliefs, but a narrative of God's actions.
It involves orthodoxy (right thinking),
orthopraxis (right action) and
orthopatia (right feeling).
approach the Bible not as a CSI team, dissecting and analyzing it,
but as a dating relationship, letting its message "romance us".
not to increase knowledge of Christian beliefs but to learn skills,
like a violinist, learning to make music with our lives.
The question is not,
"Does the church have a mission?" but rather,
"Does God's mission have a church?"
The church doesn't exist to serve its members but to equip its members to serve the world.
As we listened and discussed and challenged one another, I was grateful to be part of a ministry that is trying to shape the future, and to be invited to work with other ministries that have vision. I wondered if the strife among American Baptists would be healed if we could grasp a larger vision of what God is doing in the world.
Ediciones Lumbrera worked with seven other groups to coordinate the event, participating as the distributor of Kairos books in Costa Rica. We were present at the lectures with a book table, featuring the many books by Rene Padilla and Brian's recently translated book on evangelism as dance. The coordinating group decided to continue meeting to keep up the momentum of these new ideas.