Being and Doing – by Pastor Josh Butler
Heard two great talks at Catalyst West today: one by our very own Rick McKinley and the other by Bob Goff. It was interesting how the two talks unintentionally played off each other.
Rick started off talking about how in church culture today we’ve gotten really big on the activism front, going out to “do stuff” and change the world—and often we find ourselves burned out and frustrated, or perhaps successfully able to get stuff done while having left Jesus behind. Neither really embodies the reality of Jesus’ kingdom. We are in danger when we neglect the inside-out, heart-centered transformation of our desires and affections that Jesus’ gospel is about.
Goff, on the other hand, opened with inspiring stories of people stepping out into risk-taking adventures on behalf of bettering our world. He encouraged those present to just get out and do something. He laid a heavy emphasis on action, getting out there, creative risk-taking and making something happen. He has found that often it is in the midst of such action that we encounter Jesus and find him shaping us. It initially led me to question: were these two messages compatible with one another?
My thought was Goff’s message probably speaks somewhat prophetically to a moralistic church context where people compete with one another to show off who knows more of their Bible but don’t actually step out to participate with God’s mission in his world. But this is not my context. My context tends to be all of us (former & would-be) activists who’ve stepped out and tried to change the world and fallen flat on our face and become cynical and disillusioned and depressed with how heartbreaking the world is outside the face of Christ.
For example, a friend of mine who has spent 10 years fighting human rights issues on behalf of marginalized people in the developing world confided in me his thoughts of suicide. He shared, “I feel like I’ve been rolling this boulder uphill for 10 years now, but every year that goes by I realize the boulder gets bigger and bigger from what I initially assumed; then I look to the side and see with all my pushing I’ve actually been going downhill. This world and its tragedy and trauma just seems to be building year by year.” I do not believe God’s word of hope for him and the many others like him is to just “get out there and do something” but is rather allowing Christ’s mercy and kingdom to press into their being, to shape their hope, affections and desires.
Rick shared three things that tend to distract us from God’s stirring of our desires for him:
- 1) Dishonesty: we put on the fake happy smile and are dishonest with God and each other about where we are truly at. “One of the problems within the church is that we’re nice but we aren’t really honest;”
- 2) Duty: we turn our life with God into duties to be followed rather than a treasure to be joyfully sought after. “Most of us pastors would probably prefer having Pharisees in our churches over our own people. They read their Bibles, pray, serve and get things done.” Duty can motivate people so far, but it is opposed to gospel-centered transformation of our heart and soul with affection for God;
- 3) Death: we all live under the foreboding shadow of death (like my friend in the story above). If this life is really all there is, we might as well go after all the money, sex and fun we can get in while we still can. But to hope in the power of the resurrection means to find joy in the God of life as we sacrificially live out our obedience to him in pursuing his justice and righteousness in our world.
I am grateful for both Rick and Bob’s messages, and believe there is a synergy between being and doing that they both affirm: Christ overwhelms our affections and desires which are at the core of our being with his very presence which motivates us into joy-filled, sacrificial, creative action in his world. In the context of this action, Christ continues to encounter us through his word and in his Spirit, shaping us as his people for his glory.