I recently finished reading Rob Bell’s latest book, the provocatively titled, Jesus Wants to Save Christians: A Manifesto for the Church in Exile. Co-authored with Don Golden of World Relief, the book traces the history of the nation Israel through four time periods that correspond to the places where they occurred.
Egypt: The place of crying out to God, and experiencing God’s response to that cry, which is salvation.
Sinai: The place of covenant between the nation and God, of new identity and a new way of living.
Jerusalem: The place of distraction, where power corrupts the original vision of what the nation was meant to be, where they lose the thread of their own story.
Babylon: The place of exile, where the nation once again cries out to God and contemplates what comes next.
The authors use this pattern as a launching pad to talk about “the church in exile,” suggesting that we as Jesus followers have lost our own story, that we need to cry out to God for His restoration, and that we are faced with a great opportunity to re-imagine the church, to re-imagine ourselves as the people of God.
In all honesty, I found most of the book to be a bit of a slog. Not that it wasn’t engaging, but more that it seemed not to be going anywhere. But the last chapter and the epilogue blew me away. The rest of the book was simply setting the table for the feast of truthy goodness that was to come.
So I have decided to explore some of the ideas and themes put forth in the final chapter and epilogue, bit by bit, day by day, here on the blog. I do this in part to help solidify my own thinking and response, and in part to put forth these ideas in the hope that they will resonate with others as deeply as they have resonated with me.
The themes are deep and rich: being a living Eucharist to the people around us, seeking to live broken and poured out for the sake of others, discovering a new humanity in our church community, avoiding the dangerous seduction of demographics and marketing, embracing the path of descent as Jesus did, to name a few.
I can’t say how long this examination will last, or that there will be significant insight gained from the experience. None the less, I’m excited for the endeavor.