Came accross the vedeo bellow from Carl Medearis the other day thanks to Mike Morrell(I hadn’t heard of him before, and except for this video I’m completely unfamiliar with his theology, Mike I think said he’s an “evangelical”). I find the video fascinating for two reason: 1) That he conceives of an ability to follow Jesus without any body that can structure and encourage one in being a follower of Jesus. 2) His three types of followers is what at its best the Church in Christendom attempted to do – embrace people in a spectrum of following Jesus from the most distant (The crowds to use his terms) to the most committed.
Of course in Christendom you couldn’t choose not to be a “follower of Jesus”, or in the very least the structures of society and government was such that one was always in the orbit of this Jesus and there was no way out of it.
This fascinates me because the Believers Church understanding of things criticized this broad approach. Pietism and Revivalism sought to bring about a decision to become a committed follower of Jesus. In fact to follow Jesus in these traditions didn’t include the crowds or the curious. The structures of much American Protestantism were intended to bring people from “crowd” and “curious” in the Christian culture of the United States to the place of “committed” follower of Jesus.
The one problem I have with this approach is its lack of sense of the Body of Christ. “Follower of Jesus” is all well and good, and I appreciate his sense of porous boundaries and grace. But actually following Jesus isn’t the end of the story even for the twelve disciples and those immediately surrounding the twelve. Certainly I’m not against following Jesus, but following Jesus simply puts one in the orbit of something greater than simply following Jesus. Or at least following as a term that can describe all three groups that followed Jesus around 1st century Palestine. Also, following Jesus and being disciples should take us beyond what we find in the Gospels. For the Twelve and those with them, following Jesus lead to the supper in which Jesus offered his body and blood under bread and wine. We must come to the Cross, and come to realize that who we are following is God’s own self in human flesh. Thus following Jesus is more than choosing a way of life, it is a dying to the self, it is entering a new realm. The work of God in Christ is active in the world but it also needs to be conveyed in a certain specificity. Simply being a follower of Jesus can’t bring one to this sacramental transformation of ourselves and the world, for that we need something God does through people and physical things connected to and in continuity with the Life death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, that is the Church and its Sacraments.
Medaris’ mistake is in thinking that we as those attracted to Jesus are simply meant to live in the Gospels as if Jesus was still wandering the earth as he did in Palestine. Actually that isn’t why God came to earth. There is so much more to Jesus Christ than attempting to simply live as those we find in the Gospels. The Gospels are to lead us to something, the Gospels are about God establishing the basis of something new. We live in that something new, or at least I hope we do.