i say it best, when i say nothing at all
this year the pixie and i spent the saturday before easter in one of our favorite places, columbus, ohio. before the pixie capitulated to my desire to marry her, she served with xenos - an enormous columbus-based cell-church that has an incredible campus ministry, is equipping hundreds of young people with the biblical and practical skills they need to lead transformational communities and, in the end, completely defies description – and we love to re-connect with that incredible community and revisit the streets and sights that provided the context for our courtship as often as possible.
anyway, on saturday night paul and becky alexander surprised us by cooking up a huge dinner and filling the house with our old xenos friends. sometime after dinner, while sitting out on the alexander’s porch with paul, ryan and aaron we began to discuss the theology and mission of the church. after one of the guys seemed to short-change the ministry of martin luther king by suggesting that his efforts to secure civil rights and tireless advocacy on behalf of the poor had less eternal significance than simply “sharing the gospel,” i openly challenged his limited definition of the gospel and thus fulfilled my part-time role as theological provocateur.
as our conversation continued i could not help but be overwhelmed by pure, unmitigated passion these dear brothers had for sharing the liberating gospel of Jesus with others. every time we visit our friends at xenos they are a part of a new home church, because their last church incorporated so many new people into the body of Christ that they outgrew their meeting space. moreover, nearly every time i hang out with xenoids I meet another young man or woman that they are educating and mentoring in hopes that this person will help lead one of the next wave of home churches. xenos’ passion for evangelism and church planting is absolutely contagious. so much so, in fact, that i often leave columbus wondering what i’m doing wrong.
while i am proud of what sinners and saints has accomplished over the past four years and am constantly amazed by the intriguing ways that our s & s alumnus are pursuing the Kingdom of God throughout the country, i cannot deny the fact that our little community has never been all that effective at inviting others to receive the grace of God and participate in the life of Jesus in this brief time before the renewal of all things.* i don’t say that to either deride our community, which i love deeply, nor to deny the fact that we have seen a couple of wonderful people incorporated into the body of Christ over the past four years. rather, i simply mention that fact because it is true.
i mention all of this because i pondered this truth while sitting on the alexander’s porch, and, in my own way, confessed to the guys that i would like to share both their unmitigated passion for proclamation and certainty regarding their theology and missiology. however, as it was, i had to confess that i simply did not see gospel ministry as having such a singular focus on evangelism, my ever-evolving theology made me leery of propositional evangelism** and my diverse ecclesiology has led to a little church that, while undoubtedly vibrant, is probably not the most well-defined landing place.***
all of this to say, i wish i could tell you that i have “one pure and holy passion,” but i don’t. i am passionate about a number of things, including proclaiming the good news, incarnating Jesus’ compassion and creating alternative communities and none of these passions can claim primacy over the other. but although i cannot reduce my mission to a singular goal,**** i can work a lot harder at doing the things i love and spend a lot less time worrying and toiling at things i hate. i suppose that’s more than enough musing about my personal mission. it’s time to get on it.
* i suppose that instead of providing this wordy description i could have simply said “evangelism,” but i’d rather not.
** which these cats use to unquestionably great effect.
*** paul responded to my confession by suggesting that maybe my diverse experiences have made my mission all the more complicated. i suppose that might be true, but fear that my life would be far less meaningful without the diverse experiences i’ve enjoyed and even those i’ve simply endured.
**** anybody who suggests that i embrace a pithy statement from the westminster confession or a concept from john piper as my singular focus can expect to run a three legged race to the hospital (so that i can get my foot out of your ass).