“A child was born in Chicago today, and you could put on his birth certificate: + 35 years of life.”
Several thousand Evangelical arts programmers sat in the gargantuan main auditorium of Willow Creek Church and wondered where Brian McLaren was going with this.
McLaren leaned forward and said, “A child was born in Sierra Leone today, and here’s what you could put on that birth certificate: – 35 years of life.
“There is no difference in how much parents love their children anywhere in the world.”
Brian McLaren, a fellow On Faith contributor, has dedicated his life to making that child in Sierra Leone central to the life of the church.
When he was a church-based youth worker in his twenties, McLaren had a group of teenagers he was speaking to make two lists. The first was what they were concerned about in church. The second was what they were concerned about in the world.
On the first list: what version of the Bible to use in church, what instruments could be played during worship, whether women should be in leadership roles.
On the second list: war, poverty, overpopulation, environmental degradation.
There was no overlap between the two lists. McLaren couldn’t help but wonder, “What if the church spent its prodigious energies addressing the second list rather than the first?”
There are a lot of people who leave the church (or synagogue, or mosque, or temple …) when they experience that dichotomy. McLaren did something far more courageous: he journeyed to the roots of his faith, and he discovered there a revolutionary theology that too few people are taught in church.
Here is how he described it for the audience at Willow:
“A lot of us believe that the reason for Jesus is to get our souls to heaven. But I don’t think Christianity is a fire escape message. I think the message of Christianity is about the Kingdom on Earth.”
The Lord’s Prayer, McLaren reminded people, says “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” – not ‘get me off this planet’.
He summed up the Christian message in these words:
“We’re blessed, so that we can become a blessing to others.”
It is a message that this Muslim will faithfully share.