In-Sight: Follow Jesus

Andrew Sullivan’s feature article in the current issue of Newsweek (April 9), “Forget the Church, Follow Jesus,” is both creating quite a stir, but also revealing a tsunamic trend occurring in North American Christianity.  We may not agree with everything he is saying, but to ignore what he is describing is foolish.

For all sorts of reasons (not all of them good or valid), a growing number of people “have had it” with institutional Christianity.  And sadly, the demise is the result of multiple self-inflicted wounds (some of which Sullivan describes) that we have done to ourselves as professed believers.

The result is that “Churchianity” is headed out the door (as well it should be), but the hunger of the heart for God is still as strong as ever—thanks to the imago dei.  The challenge is for us to simultaneously allow the exit on the one hand while passionately calling men and women to Jesus on the other hand.

“Christianity” still has life in it, because Jesus is at the center of it—not ego-driven and morally-bankrupt leaders.  Sullivan has done a pretty good job (in the span an article-length piece) in exposing the charlatans, while leaving the door open to the real thing.

I do not agree with every line in Sullivan’s article (e.g. his use of Jefferson as some kind of “light” in the darkness), but I think the timeliness of the article now gives us something to deeply ponder in the days following Easter.  And I was glad to see Sullivan turn from Jefferson to St. Francis for a way forward.

Oboedire exists, in part, to properly separate the incarnational and the institutional.  I hope these postings lead you to Jesus, and that in his presence you find the abundant life that each of us craves. I find great joy when this blog helps readers to grow closer to Christ.

At the same time, we must all do our best to figure out the right “mix” of Christ and the Body of Christ (Jesus and the Church).  Otherwise, we run the risk of separating the Head from the Body.  An extreme version of “churchless Christianity” is not the answer to the problem Sullivan is addressing, but his call to follow Jesus (and let the false messiahs alone) is right on target.

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 45 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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2 Responses to In-Sight: Follow Jesus

  1. Jim Bradshaw says:

    Great Post Dr. Harper! One of the reasons I felt called to leave a denomination was because it is not the Church I and many others see that Jesus is building today (If we are wrong, we will expire and the denominations, old and/or new will live on). I believe in the prayer the Lord gave to his disciples. I also believe in the prayer Jesus prayed for his disciples… to be one. There is much more to this… but I appreciate the wisdom shared in this post. Thanks Dr. Harper!

  2. Keith Harcombe says:

    One of the reasons I felt called to being a part of a denomination was so I could possibly be a pointer to Jesus within the “churchianity”. Some times I do not like it, can I live through that and still point to Jesus? This is the question leaders face within the church.

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