I had the chance to spend a few days in and around Yellowstone National Park a few weeks ago with a small group of pastors talking about something called the Jesus Worldview Initiative.
The initiative is being organized by John Pierce and Bruce Gourley at Nurturing Faith.
One of the basic ideas behind this initiative is that Christians in the U.S. have come to be defined in the wider culture by things other than Jesus.
Even more troubling, we as Christians are increasingly defining ourselves – and allowing our views and passions to be shaped – by things other than Jesus.
That means that today, even what is thought of as a “Christian” worldview can have very little Jesus in it.
The goal of the initiative is to provide resources to pastors and congregations to help practicing Christians refocus on Jesus (his life and teaching) as the central component of our developed worldviews.
I came away from our conversations encouraged and inspired. I don’t know of any Christians who don’t passionately want to shape their lives and the lives of their families around the teachings of Jesus. But we all need help as we seek to follow Christ.
So, as we notice a drift in Christian culture from a Jesus-centered perspective, we need an organized effort to make sure that Jesus-centered teaching is put forward as an equal option in the marketplace of ideas – and perhaps most especially in the “Christian” marketplace of ideas.
Here are four reasons why I think this initiative is important:
- Jesus transcends the conversations that divide us.
A growing chasm divides U.S. culture, and that chasm is dividing Christians. The teaching of Jesus touches on nearly every aspect of our life together and has the power to unite us.
That doesn’t mean that Jesus’ teaching isn’t controversial or demanding; it is, or at least it can be. But it’s never divisive.
And, all goodwill Christians can unite around a shared belief that the teaching of Jesus is ultimate in its authority.
- An independent Christian voice or witness is essential not just for the church but for the welfare of our country.
The Jesus Worldview Initiative seeks to reclaim Christian independence from cultural and political influences.
I can’t think of a single instance in history when religious alignment with political power has worked out well for the religious group.
No political ideology or economic theory or corporate vision statement has bringing about the coming Kingdom of God as its aim.
But the teaching of Jesus does. That should be our (only) aim as well. The church – and our Christian voices – must resist the temptation to be co-opted by messages that aim for anything less.
- A Jesus worldview will force us to refocus on missions.
Rather than focusing on cultural divides or religious doctrine, a true Jesus worldview will lead us to get busy doing the things that Jesus teaches us to do.
We should be eating with more sinners. We should be feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless.
We should be speaking out in public settings, not in support of the already powerful, but on behalf of the downtrodden and the outcast as Jesus did. This includes people waiting on healthcare that never comes (John 5), people generally thought of as too personally irresponsible to be listened to (John 4) or women forced to take responsibility in ways that men never are (John 8).
- The Jesus Worldview Initiative can help our churches reorganize around a single question: How are our churches leading people to become more like Jesus?
To the extent that we are, we are advancing the Kingdom of God. To the extent that our activities are serving other priorities, we are abdicating our sacred responsibility as those who bear the name of Christ.
Matt Sapp is pastor of Central Baptist Church in Newnan, Georgia.