At Vision New England’s recent GO Conference, Carl Medearis said something that I have been contemplating. He interviewed fifty random people at a mall in Boulder, Colorado, asking them, “We’d like to know your thoughts on Christianity.” Fifty out of fifty people responded negatively.
Then, he asked fifty people what they thought about the person of Jesus of Nazareth. All fifty were positive.
So, what is the difference between Jesus and Christianity? Here are a few of my initial thoughts:
I am burdened by the fact that people have such different impressions of the Christian Church rather than that of Jesus. During a book signing, I had the opportunity to ask Carl Medearis, “So, what do we do about this?”
He said that he has created entirely separate structures in his mind separating Jesus and the Church. However, I’m not sure that’s the answer, because the Church is called to embody the message of Christ. To separate Jesus from the Church would be the biggest tragedy of all.
What do you think? How can we help the Church look more like Jesus? I’m not exactly sure what the answer is, but I am certain that I want to be a part of this change in the world.
After Carl’s talk, I have a renewed perspective of the power in the person of Jesus Christ. Paul wrote, “I resolved to know nothing but Jesus and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). In these coming months, I am going to devote myself to studying the gospels, the stories describing who Jesus was and what He did. I want to know Jesus so intimately, as both savior and friend, that I can better carry his message in the world.
The gospel is good news because the person of Jesus has reconciled us to himself. While religion divides, Jesus unites. We don’t have to work to make unity happen, because Jesus is the uniter. All each of us has to do is live deeply in our relationship with Christ and point to Him.
Hi everyone! I had the opportunity to speak last week at the Boston Theological Institute’s 2016 Orlando E. Costas Consultation on World Mission & Ecumenism.
The title of my presentation and paper was: “Mutual Indwelling: The Perichoretic Nature of the Trinity as a Model for Ecumenical Consciousness and Praxis.”
Yes, this sounds intense, but it’s really not so bad, promise! We have so much to learn from the Trinity.
God within God’s self is radically relational.
In 749, John Damascene began to propose the term “perichoresis” to describe the “cleaving together” of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The fellowship of the Godhead is so intimate that the three persons not only embrace each other, but also enter into and dwell within one other in a divine dance.
The Trinitarian life is also our life; as followers of Christ we are called to become an “image of God” and take on God’s way of being. Yet throughout the 2,000 years of its existence, Christianity has splintered time and again, to the point that some estimate more than 33,000 Christian denominations. This disunity is a scandal and a public contradiction of the gospel.
Today, our parishes largely function as isolated autonomous entities, with some city blocks having multiple Christian churches with nearly identical goals yet little to no communication between them. This isolation leads to growing negative views and polarization between different cultural expressions and ideologies present in the Church. This is not who we are called to be, and this is not the way of the Trinity.
My thesis is that the self-giving nature of the Trinity must be reflected in our relations with other Christians. Christian unity is a process by which the church is brought to maturity. In going beyond our own Christian tradition, we find that our negative beliefs about other groups are overgeneralized and untrue. Thus, Christian unity reveals our hidden biases and matures our faith personally and corporately.
What we know about the Trinity must be reflected in our ecumenical praxis. We must go beyond our siloed independent church walls, towards those who are ideologically and culturally different than us. Ecumenical initiatives have traditionally consisted of inter-denominational worship events and high-level dialogue, but have neglected to build the depth of relationship between all Christians demonstrated by Trinitarian communion.
I’m the founding director of an ecumenical movement in Boston called UniteBoston which seeks to nurture these relational connections. We have a website and newsletter as an infrastructure for communication for Christian events happening around Boston.
Each fall, we also coordinate 10 nights of worship gatherings designed to reflect the diversity of Boston’s Christian community and promote ecumenical understanding.
Finally, we coordinate a team of UniteBoston Reps who work with pastors to identify shared missional goals and collaborate on joint service projects. Last October, over 200 Christians throughout Boston – Catholic, Orthodox, Mainline Protestant, and Evangelical – served together on twelve service projects to tangibly demonstrate the love of Christ.
Iron sharpens iron, and we have found that through rubbing shoulders with other Christians, our perspectives are broadened and our love for one another is deepened. As the being-in-one-another nature of the Trinity emerges within us, we are becoming the Church and Bride of Christ that Jesus prays for, so that the world will see God’s true character and love. Thank you.
On October 24, 2015, UniteBoston hosted BostonServe, which encouraged Christians throughout Boston to serve in their neighborhoods together on one day.
It was the first time that UniteBoston held this event – and what a success! There were eleven projects taking place throughout the city.
Together, we can make God’s love for Boston visible in a way that one church cannot accomplish alone.
Check out the photos below to see God’s love in action!
Playground Clean-Up and Painting
With Symphony Church at the Jackson-Mann K-8 School
Trophy Cleaning and Painting
With Heart Change Fellowship at English High School
Cleaning, Painting, and Carpentry
With People’s Baptist Church and North River Community Church
At Timilty Middle School
Codman Park Clean-Up
With Global Ministries Christian Church
Harvard Square Homeless Outreach
With Journey Church, the Coptic Orthodox Church of Boston, and others
Visiting Elderly Friends
with the Community of St. Egidio, the Coptic Orthodox Church of Boston, and others
Ramsay Park Clean-Up
With South End churches, Friends of Ramsay Park, and Northeastern University
God is changing lives through UniteBoston! Listen to testimonies of changed minds and hearts after attending various gatherings during the 10 Days of Prayer. Together, we are better!
Above – 10 Days gathering at the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston
10 Days Boston this year was amazing! But don’t take my word for it. :)
Christian unity comes down to our ability to see Jesus in one another. This year, we took videos of friends throughout the city sharing their story of how God changed their perspectives of the Church as they attended the various gatherings.
For example, a young man named Matt from Youth With A Mission felt led to share an encouraging word from God with a woman who was chanting at the Greek Orthodox gathering. Matt was hesitant to mention anything because he wasn’t sure if that was a doctrine that their church practiced. But, during the fellowship time, he shared what God had put on his heart about the gift that God had given this woman for worship.
After pausing to take in the words, she responded, “Sometimes I just go through the motions of singing, but because of what you said, you have just re-lit the fire of my faith.”
With UniteBoston, our coming together across diversity provides an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to bring life to various parts of the church. We are individually ignited to see our own faith as a valuable part of the corporate whole. In fact, the original name that God gave me for this ministry was “Ignite.”
More photos and video testimonies of changed lives are available on the full blog report here.
Yes, as the body connects together, we know that “We will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Ephesians 4:15-16)
Truly, God is up to great things in Boston – Thanks for being a part of His great work!
God has already done so much through these 10 Days of Prayer!
UniteBoston seeks to be an answer to Jesus’ prayer in John 17 “that we would be one.” We believe that our part in this “oneness” is to nurture relational connections throughout the diversity of Boston’s Christian community.
At the center of Christian unity is the agape love that God has for us and that we have for one another. As each of us step outside our comfort zones to become more aware of the various cultures and Christian traditions in our city, we develop stronger relational connections, cultivating mutual respect and honor for the incredible diversity within the people of God in Boston.
Check out these testimonies to see all that God is doing to bring together His church in the city:
Day 1: Healing Miracle in Prayer Room
Night 3: Experiencing the Orthodox Faith – Changed Perspectives!
Night 4: Worship with our Deaf Brothers and Sisters
Day 5: Answered Prayer: Testimony from Prayer Room
Night 6: Changing Perspectives from 10 Days Catholic Gathering
Night 10: Embracing our Common Identity in Christ
At this gathering, we each placed our name tags with our individual identities at the foot of the cross, so that we were better able to embrace one another as brothers and sisters in Christ:
Reflection – Aaron’s Story
Aaron shares how listening to a sermon by an Episcopal priest reshaped his perspective of the Christian church
For He himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility… His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. (Ephesians 2:14-16)
Praise God for the inseverable and eternal peace that is revealed as we all gaze at Christ’s sacrificial work on the cross!