8We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. 11For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. (2 Cor. 4)
+ + +
Let’s suppose we agree that the pattern of growth and change in our natural world, as well as in our lives, is a death-t0-life cycle. In other words, what if we agreed that some things need to die for other things to live? And what if the Gospel pattern of death-to-resurrection was true not just for individuals, but for churches and institutions and countries and more?
It’s not difficult to embrace death’s necessity on one level. Christians believe that the death and resurrection of Jesus paved the way for the hard-but-ultimately-glorious death to resurrection journey for us. Americans, patriotic as we are, also believe this to some degree, viewing sacrifice of lives in war as heroic. But take this a step further.
What if some churches need to shut down in order to create space for new works?
What if a group of pastors got together in a city and began talking about how their individual visions might die so that a vision of new unity?
What if certain churches needed to shut down? Or staff needed to be let go? Or whole programs needed to be eliminated? Or ambitious building projects needed to be abandoned?
What if you needed to fire yourself or demote yourself or let another lead for the sake of something new?
What if you sacrificed being recognized for a big idea, or a creative vision, or a new initiative in order to let a better leader pave the way?
What if you took your much needed sabbatical and trusted that God could take care of your church in your absence?
What if you needed to step down because of your troubled marriage, or your sex addiction, or your financial misdeeds?
What if you decided to relinquish your ambition to plant the next great church, and simply offered to work alongside someone else in town doing it already?
What if your church abandoned its plan for a church coffee shop or a new sound system and decided to focus on teenage girls in the sex slave trade in your city?
What if a handful of local churches decided to pool their resources and leadership, and work in union for the sake of mission?
If so, you might just be getting the upside-down Gospel way of Jesus. Death hurts. But if we really got this, imagine the kind of transformation that could happen.