One of the early slogans of the particular branch of the church in which I’ve grown up and served is “We’re not the only Christians, we’re Christians only.” Though some of the people in our movement that I knew as a kid seemed to have forgotten this statement, I always suspected that there really were genuine Jesus following people in other church groups (like Methodists and Lutherans and Baptists and Catholics and…) Our movement began as an effort to unite Christ followers of all stripes by seeking and cherishing the deeper truth of God that had become buried in centuries of differing opinions. At our best, we have done just that; at our worst, we have become one more exclusionary group defining who’s in and who’s out.
As I read McLaren’s book, I couldn’t help but think of my roots (and future) in the Christian Church. Much of what he says echoes the simple plea to follow Christ. But instead of cutting out any extra faith labels, he wants to hold on to all of them. (The subtitle for the book is “WHY I AM A missional + evangelical + post/protestant + liberal/conservative + mystical/poetic + biblical + charismatic/contemplative + fundamentalist/calvinist + anabaptist/anglican + methodist + catholic + green + incarnational + depressed-yet-hopeful + emergent + unfinished CHRISTIAN”) He looks into the histories of these groups, which often have little but scorn for each other, and points out valuable insights that each can bring to the table of the church in the post modern world.
I think his best thoughts were contained in the final chapter, where he describes this generous orthodoxy as one that is constantly in development. ‘We’re not finished yet.’ There’s been a lot of criticism of the emergent church that I think stems from this underlying current in the conversation. It seems that many in the church are afraid to acknowledge that we’ve not yet ‘arrived’. But Paul did so – and proclaimed that he would “press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”
I may not agree with everything McLaren advocates, but I am eager to ‘press on’ into what is ahead. This is a thoughtful, challenging book that shows many beautiful aspects of various ways of thinking in the church. May Christ followers of all varieties be able to bring our divergent colors together into a rich portrait of His Body.