A year or so ago I had a minor revelation that changed how I understood much of the New Testament. It’s a small thing that dramatically shifts how we understand the priorities of Jesus and the apostles. Are you ready?
Somewhere along the way I began to replace every occurrence of the phrase “the word” with “the message.”
You see, every time I read the phrase ”the word,” my mind always pictured the Bible. So when I read that Jesus was “the Word” (John 1:1) I would always think Jesus is the Bible. This was really confusing and I’ve seen it cause some folks to deify the Scriptures.
But if I replace “the word” with “the message” I get something entirely different. Now when I read that Jesus is the word I understand He is God’s Message. He is what God would say in any circumstance. And this message became flesh and lived among us (John 1:14).
So when Luke writes in Acts 13:49 that “the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region,” I know that Luke is talking about the spread of the Gospel and not the knowledge of Bible verses. In the same way, when Paul encourages the Thessalonians to pray that “the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you,” (2 Thessalonians 3:1), he’s asking them to pray that the message of the Gospel would be received powerfully.
All of this should shift the focus from accumulating Bible knowledge to actually being a part of knowing, embodying, and declaring God’s message that’s found so clearly in Jesus and the Gospel. This is why I’ve argued elsewhere that one of the minimum standards of discipleship is a functional knowledge of the Gospel.
What do you think? Would reading the Bible this way change how you understand what’s happening in the New Testament? And, is this approach dangerous in any way?
I just finished reading a really good article by Alan Hirsch that describes seven practices (or disciplines, as they are traditionally known) that cause a church to thrive in the midst of chaos. Alan loves “living systems theory” and believes the church will thrive best when she is constantly operating in a crisis mode. This crisis mode causes her to trust Jesus and not be encumbered by distractions that easily shift our gaze from Him. But obviously, to survive in the midst of crisis continually is difficult and so he suggests the following practices for a church trying to live near the edge of chaos:
1. Infuse an intricate understanding of what drives organizational success.
2. Insist on uncompromising straight talk.
3. Manage from the future.
4. Reward inventive accountability.
5. Harness adversity by learning from prior mistakes.
6. Foster relentless discomfort.
7. Cultivate reciprocity between the individual and the organization.
Alan is also very clear that these disciplines must integrated. To have one without the other six or even six without the other one leads to problems. But here’s my question: What does this look like practically in the life of the church? How have you seen these sort of practices fleshed out between human beings in the church to which you belong? I think the answer would be helpful for us all.
I was going to ask Alan on his blog, but you can’t leave comments there. So now, I’m asking you, my faithful readers, what you’ve experienced. And if Alan should happen to stop by, he could leave a comment as well. (Wink, wink, nudge, nudge)