Last week, Ed Stetzer published an interview with Jason Dukes, the author of a new book called Beyond My Church: Thinking and Living So That the World Might Know. (See his post “Beyond My church: A Book Interview with Jason C. Dukes.”)
I like the idea of the book – encouraging followers of Jesus Christ to look beyond the fences created by their “local church” in order to interact with the church of God that is all around them.
In the second question/answer of the interview, Ed and Jason touch on a topic that (I believe) is one of the main hindrances to actualized (real, relational) unity among the body of Christ:
Is this a book that only pastors and paid church leaders can appreciate, or can every follower of Jesus begin to think and live beyond their church, and if so, how?
It is absolutely a book for every follower of Jesus. Two reasons why. First, unfortunately, many pastors live either under the pressure to “grow their church,” which is an extremely anti-biblical thought, or they live stifled by their own insecurities, which creates a sense of competition and distrust between local leaders. Often times, our distinctive understandings of secondary theological ideals hinder pastors’ connection, as well. Thus, it is imperative that every follower of Jesus lead out in cultivating for unity around mission among followers of Jesus in a city, therefore encouraging their pastors to emphasize and prioritize for it.
This can be done in the very ways that they cultivate for “beyond me” living in their families, among their neighbors, in the marketplace, among leaders in the city where they live, and even in the ways that they think of the church in the city. There is actually one chapter per each of those topics in the book, offering suggestions for how “beyond MY church” thinking and living can be cultivated. We need a vision for “on earth as it is in heaven” in the communities where we live, not a vision for succeeding as individual local churches. And followers of Jesus who make up those local church families can be key catalysts in enabling and allowing their leaders to feel secure to think and live “beyond MY church.”
Yes, I agree completely that “it is imperative that every follower of Jesus lead out in cultivating for unity around mission among followers of Jesus in a city.”
However, we must admit that most modern church organization are leader-centric (pastor-centric), even if they do not want to be. So, the influence and desires of the leader(s) carries much weight among the believers who see themselves as part of that “local church.”
What would happen if these followers of Jesus Christ “led out in cultivating unity around mission among followers of Jesus in a city”? Well, they may start giving to needs other than their local church budget. They may start meeting and/or serving with others at times when their local church meets. They may start hanging out with and fellowshiping with people who disagree with their local church statement of faith or covenant.
What is “the pastor” going to say about that?
While I know there are exception, I’ve seen many, many examples of church leaders who are cheerleaders for unity among the body of Christ, as long as it doesn’t affect their own “local church.”