Belong. Believe. Become.
I think it was first in The Divine Conspiracy that I read the words above. Since then, I have heard the concept developed in many books, presentations, and discussions.
The core idea is that this is a healthy way for one to move into the community of those who follow Jesus — the church. Rather than trying to force people to become an acceptable person before they are part of the community, they should be allowed to belong, and then be transformed within the community. Not a bad idea.
This morning, I feel like it is incomplete. I’m wondering what it would mean to include because somewhere in there — probably in the first spot. The invitation of the church to the world is not just that they might receive something from the church. It is not that they would just be saved. The invitation of the church is to come alongside as we partner with God for the redemption of creation. Here’s how Lesslie Newbigin says it in The Gospel in a Pluralist Society:
To be chosen, to be elect, therefore does not mean that the elect are the saved and the rest are the lost. To be elect in Christ Jesus, and there is no other election, means to be incorporated into his mission to the world
I spent most of this week at the Ecclesia National Gathering. Ecclesia is a relational network of churches who seek to be joined first and foremost in shared mission. I dig that. As we are moving into church planting, I have sensed a desire to be a part of something bigger than we are and not just go it on our own. To be joined with others where our primary commonality is mission seems to me to be finding union in what should be most important.
If that goes for churches that are connecting with others, shouldn’t that go for individuals as well?
There are people all around us who are disconnected from any church, but care about many of the things that God cares about — from global inequalities to environmental abuse to personal wholeness. What would it mean for a church community’s primary stance toward those outside of the church to be an invitation to join with others in causes of shared concern?