Sine writes, “Entrepreneurial innovation is lying latent in many young people” (296).  This is why youth ministry and Christian education are so important.  Now I’m no youth pastor, anyone will tell you that.  But I am so supportive of anyone who is gifted to speak into the lives of high school and college students who are being shaped and formed by the world around them.  New scientific research on the brain (I just learned in my sex class a few weeks back) tells us that the pre-frontal cortex (the part of the brain that thinks, makes decisions, and judges) undergoes a second pruning phase in the teen years that can last until age 25!  In case we didn’t already know, those years are vital for our development as cognitive, healthy human beings.  Talk about unmined resources.  Giving students the tools and empowering them (and coming alongside them) can totally reshape the vision of the church for ages to come.  Go youth pastors!

I love Sine’s advice: “Begin really, really small” (277).  As a Presbyterian, I’m trained to think in programs.  I want to shift everything at once and put everyone on a new path.  That’s, of course, not the way do to things that stick.  God works slowly, through process, through journey, through relationships that build over time.  If we want this thing to stick, this new thing that God is doing, this ushering in of the new kingdom here and now, we’d better start with this really small thing, this mustard seed that will (like the stubborn weed it is) take over the world.

I went to Haiti for a week in college. We traveled all around the Port-au-Prince area to visit schools run by Christian individuals, interviewing teachers, principles, and even some of the kids who could speak English well enough. Our goal was to raise awareness about the good that was happening through education in Haiti and the great need for more support, financial and prayerful. Educating a child, giving a person the ability to think, speak, and act for themself–that’s a beautiful thing, an empowering, life-giving, world-changing thing. Since writes, “If we can enable people to have a greater voice…they can fashion their own local solutions to many of the economic challenges they are facing” (200). Education, the ability to communicate, to articulate one’s thoughts and beliefs, ideas and plans, and the means to put them into action–that’s the future. That’s way better than math.

I love what Sine says here about the call to take our global futures seriously: “For followers of Jesus, all these challenges are really opportunities to create imaginative responses that reflect something of God’s loving purposes for a people and a world” (133).  This is what gets me excited about new streams of life in the church.  Christianity may suddenly seem harder, less cool, more radical, dangerous even. And that can be a real turn-off for those whose lives maybe are already hard and uncool, or for those who are just not so committed.  But Sine turns it all around with a brilliant call for creativity in the church.  It’s not about doing the grossest, most out-of-your-ability job and slap a “for you Jesus” label on it.  It’s about doing whatever God is calling you to do with the gifts and abilities and creativity and innovation that he’s given you to work with, and in conjunction with that of the people you do Christian life with, your community.  It’s a chance to stir up that new life, not just in your community, but in yourself!

“God has chosen,” Sine writes, “to change the world through the lowly, ordinary and insignificant. This should give us all hope” (22). It’s true that we’re in a season of decline in the church, but the Spirit of God is moving in new ways. Sine wants to introduce a concept that is not new: God uses the foolish to shame the wise. That means we are all able to participate in the new thing that God is doing, not because we are capable but because God chooses to use us, us ordinary radicals, with our mustard-seed faith. That’s exciting!

Maybe that’s what I mean by God is doing something new and it’s going to be big. It’s going to take over the world. It is, I can feel it. Here’s an “ouch” moment for you: “in a Christian culture shopping for the cheapest grace, the temptation is always to tone things down a little bit” (318). We want people to feel more comfortable. But wait! Where does God say, “Be comfortable Christians?” No! I don’t want to be comfortable. I want to grow, move forward, be challenged, challenge others, meet God. Comfortable people settle. They stop moving. They become like standing water, and that breeds mosquitoes that suck your blood and leave gross, itchy bumps. No, I don’t want to be comfortable.

I like Claiborne’s emphasis on imagination. Creativity, innovation, new-ness. That’s what the church is becoming about, that’s part of this new thing God is doing. Claiborne writes, “Jesus’ theological stunts and prophetic imagination surprise and disarm” (282). I know Claiborne’s talking about violence and war, but I think imagination is so much more useful than just for that. Jesus brings healing in imaginative ways, too. And he has imaginative theological and apologetic discussions. The way Jesus engages the world is imaginative, and even the way he engages his tormentors. The way God chose to come to us, the way God chose to redeem us, and the way God chose to leave himself with us until he returns–it’s all imaginative, it’s all surprising and radical and new.

How’s this for another stab at body theology: “All the time we look at people…but over time we can develop new eyes and look into people. Rather than looking at people as sex objects or work tools, we can see them as sacred. We can enter the Holiest of Holies through their eyes [because, remember, the curtain is torn and the sacred is free]” (265). Our culture teaches us to look at people, and it teaches us what we should look for and how we should judge what we see. We label and categorize based on what we see, and that is more of the identity-shaping that culture is oh-so-good about providing. But God gives us new eyes (so much new-ness going on) to look deeper, to see people the way he sees them (and, I hope, to see ourselves). Good body theology is learning to change the lens we look through to see the world, to see people, and to see ourselves.

Here Claiborne tells the story of protecting homeless people from being evicted from living in an abandoned church building. It became a community effort, and before they knew it, “church became something we are–an organism, not an organization. Church became so fresh and vibrant, it was like we had brought something dead back to life” (42). How many of us are looking for that kind of renewal, revitalization, in our own church communities? We can’t replicate the circumstances, but surely we can gain the same results. I like Claiborne’s implicit challenge to stop complaining about the church as it is and start trying to be “the church we dreamed of” (64).

I like that Claiborne defines “radical” as “getting to the root of things” (20). A radical Christian is rooted to the authentically daring life of our incarnational God. It’s true that “many of us feel God doing something new, something small and subtle” (25). I’ve been saying all year that I believe God is doing something new at Fuller, but I think it’s something big. Maybe I’ve been thinking about size in terms of radical rather than movements. And it’s true that we are transformed by “people and experiences” (28). Any emerging church leader will tell you that. As we fight pluralism, secularism, relativism, and even “dualism” (28), it is the personal experience of the new thing God is doing that will work change. And it’s our job as non-nominal Christians to live it out, and to tell the story. Claiborne tells his own story of being “suffocated by Christianity but thirsty for God” (39). How many people like that are out there, those who love Jesus but hate the church, or maybe just don’t care?