One.Life Blogging Project: Chapter 9 – Committed.Life

(picture originally uploaded to Flickr by The Cleveland Kid)

This is part of a book blogging project for Scot McKnight‘s book, One.Life. In this blogging project, various contributors will be looking at each chapter of the book as McKnight unfolds his answer to the question, “What is a Christian?” I believe that what McKnight has to say will challenge each of us in different ways on how we view what it means to follow Jesus and how we help children and families understand that. Please interact with what is written here in the comments section below. Also, I encourage you to pick up One.Life and read along with us adding your thoughts and impressions as well.

The review for chapter 9 is submitted by Chris Lema. Chris has spent the last twenty years starting things up—5 businesses and 5 church plants. A senior executive for a software company, he has spent his time volunteering as a college campus pastor, a youth pastor, a teaching pastor, children’s pastor, and associate pastor. He loves teaching the hard parts of the Bible, but that doesn’t always win him friends or influence people. Finishing up a Masters degree in Entrepreneurship, he is more convinced than ever that the hope of the world is the local church and wants to keep bringing his passion for starting things up to it. He, his wife Melissa, and their two kids have just moved to the San Diego area and can be found at North Coast Christian Church. Soon he’ll be launching a site for launching new ministries (www.leanmin.org)  but for now he blogs at chrislema.com and can be found on Twitter (@chrislema).

Chapter 9: Committed.Life

Each year more studies appear that suggest the church is further and further from engaging the community with any message at all. In a post-modern, multi-cultural setting, the church struggles to not only hold on to its own identity but to also engage the community around it. Of course, how is this any different than the entirety of the Old Testament (and much of the New)? The church has always struggled to understand that it wasn’t just the recipient of God’s blessing but the vehicle for God to bless the communities around it. In that dynamic, as we read the Old Testament, we see God send prophets—speakers of truth—that bring His message to the church, to call it to a grander vision than what they’re experiencing and to call it to repent. Thank God He hasn’t stopped sending modern day speakers of truth to the church. Every year it seems like I pick up a book that calls me, and all of us, back to re-evaluate what it means to be a Christian. A couple years ago I read Crazy Love by Francis Chan. I went to the bookstore, bought a stack of them, and gave them out to close friends—suggesting it was the wake-up call that we needed to hear. Last year, I think it was Rob Bell’s Jesus Wants to Save Christians. Today, there’s no question that Scot McKnight’s One.Life is in the same class. The only difference is that this year I don’t need to leave the comfort of my couch to give the book away. Amazon let’s me send e-gift cards to friends so they can buy the Kindle version (never mind the irony of me choosing comfort for a second while I read a book looking to push me out of my comfort zone)

McKnight articulates a complete theology—meaning he doesn’t skip over different parts of the question, “What does it mean to be a Christian?” He even covers the tough topics like money, sex, and work. Where he differs from Chan and Bell is that he convicts by painting a grand vision (yet still practical) of how we were meant to live, rather than conviction from guilt (even when that guilt may be applicable). Because he takes this approach, his work is easier to read. And while you can get through most of the content quickly, the interludes between each chapter ask questions that may stop you for a day or two (or more).

By the time I started chapter 9, called “Committed.Life,” I was well into the material and had a pretty good handle on what McKnight had to say, how he liked saying it, and even a guess as to where he was going to go. He did not disappoint. Back in November, I wrote an article called “A Parent’s Faith: Are you too Rich to Pass it On?” In it I reflected on the fact that my children (5 & 3 years old) rarely experience the need for God in our house because we’re smart enough and well-off enough to cover all our needs and answer all their questions. In that world, they learn little of the faith I want them to embrace. McKnight challenges everyone, regardless of whether they’re a parent or not, to ask questions about how they use their wealth. My favorite line in the book is actually not McKnight’s but where he quotes Jim Wallis:

“‘Because of our fascination with wealth, our economy has been sustained by buying things we don’t need, with money that we don’t have.’ And someone has added this: ‘To impress people we don’t like with things that don’t last'” (p. 111)

Where this chapter surprised me was when he departed from the challenges of how we use our wealth and stepped into the area of forgiveness. It reminded me of Jesus, after healing the paralytic in Mark 2, asking the question, “Which is easier to say?” Bringing the topic of money and forgiveness together in the same chapter has the same effect—it is easier to talk about forgiveness but harder to do it and harder to talk about money but easier to change spending habits than forgiving our enemies. More importantly, McKnight isn’t giving us his own opinion on money or forgiveness. Instead he brings applicable (and contextual) scripture to the topics so that the reader is challenged and convicted by the Holy Spirit, rather than McKnight directly.

McKnight ends the chapter asking the question that I’ve heard countless times. When I led 4th & 5th grade boys I heard it. As a youth pastor, I heard it. Working with college students, I heard it. As a teaching pastor or associate pastor, I’ve heard it from adults. The question never comes across, initially, as a question but more as a gasp after reading the text, “He can’t be serious.” This is code for, “How much of this do I really have to follow to be OK?” And McKnight answers perfectly: Jesus wants perfect commitment. We won’t get it right all the time, but this isn’t a game of brinksmanship—seeing how close we can get to the line without going over.

My second favorite line in the book appears in this chapter (and others), “The mark of a follower of Jesus is following.” Before any role I hold in church, my primary role is as a father and parent to my kids. It keeps me up more than I like to admit, but in that way, I’m pretty similar to all those I’ve had the privilege of pastoring. We stay up late worrying that our children won’t be hurt or scarred by something that happened that day. We stay up late wondering how we’ll pay for the programs and care they need. We stay up late wondering how we’ll afford that next vacation or pay for toys we’ve already purchased. McKnight challenges us to worry about something far more important: how will we help raise our children as real followers who follow. More than anything, I appreciate the book for that prophetic challenge.

Be sure to check out the rest of this book blogging project:

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8 thoughts on “One.Life Blogging Project: Chapter 9 – Committed.Life

  1. Matt McKee says:

    I to love the line “The mark of a Jesus Follower is following.” as much as I want to lead I know it is how I follow that makes all the difference. Great review Chris!

    • henryjz says:

      I agree. It is a hard thing to follow. I like to be in the driver’s seat too many times forgetting that I’m only a student driver (aka, Stellar Kart).

  2. Cara Martens says:

    How have I not heard about this book? Scot McKnight’s Blue Parakeet is a personally favorite as well as Bell’s Save the Christians in terms of connecting the dots and showing God’s big overarching story. What a great review and project! Thanks, Henry and Chris.

    I’m definitely drawn to grand vision versus guilt approaches. I seriously want to laugh when anyone says that they loved Francis Chan’s “Crazy Love” though. I’m not sure we read the same book! You don’t say you love a good kick in the pants, although you know you needed it and are better off because of it 🙂

    To me the line that stood out as most convicting and relevant in this post is “How much of this do I really have to follow to be OK?” Like in our classrooms or workplaces, we are looking for shortcuts to save time but get to the bottom line. So what’s the least I can get away with here without disappointing someone or getting in trouble? Ouch. Ordering this book now!

  3. Joy Bowen says:

    Great post Chris.

    I’m not sure how I’ve not heard about this book as well but after reading your review, I’m grabbing my ipad to download it for sure.

    I love Cara’s comment about shortcuts. What kind of example are we setting for our kids, friends, neighbors….when we play the game of only giving the perceived minimum to be “ok”? Ok is not ok at all.

    I also love the challenge to raise our children as real followers who follow. Reminds me of the story from “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” where the father of a rebellious teen challenges his family to raise money to build an orphanage. (You gotta read it if you haven’t…I won’t spoil the ending….) God’s story is inspiring and bigger than ourselves. It challenges us to live differently. Looking forward to diving into this book myself in the very near future.

  4. henryjz says:

    Chris,

    Thanks for contributing to this project! I love how you talk about when we take care of every need for our kids, we take away opportunities for them to experience God in amazing ways. We need to let our kids have opportunities to commit themselves to God by stepping back sometimes and making space for God to work instead of us.

    • Chris Lema says:

      Henry – thanks for the opportunity to review a chapter – though like Cara said, it’s funny to say I loved it, since it was a challenging book to read. But well worth the time and fantastic reminders to be someone who follows.

      Cara, Joy & Matt – thanks for the great words!

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