The Rev. Michael Loomis
Pastor, First UMC Satellite Beach, FL
A New Kind of Christian
In a Matrix world, the thoughts of someone named Neo should draw great interest. At the edge of a ministry and faith crisis, the fictional Reverend Dan Poole knows that he has a decision to make. Either he must fake it and keep doing what he is doing, or leave the ministry and perhaps his faith behind. That’s when he begins a journey of spiritual and intellectual growth, aided by his new friend, Neo (Dr. Neil Edward Oliver) that leads him out of his despair into a new way of thinking, living, and serving as pastor.
In story form, author Brian McLaren, pastor of Cedar Ridge Community Church, draws us, along with Dan Poole, into a journey of discovery about how the modern world most of us know and appreciate is changing. It is a journey the author knows well, for he found himself at the edge of that same crisis a few years ago. He helps us see that while every age is an age of change, ours is also an age of transition, of cataclysmic change. To live, have faith and minister in such a post-literate, post-modern age, may require of us to think, feel, believe and follow in new ways.
Dan Poole grapples with trying to understand the Bible in a new way, one neither literalistic nor relativistic, and not held hostage to the presuppositions of conservatives or liberals. He is confronted with discovering a new kind of Christianity that is less about issues and more about relationship with the God revealed in Jesus Christ ("Jesus didn’t get crucified for being exclusive; he was hated and crucified for the reverse – for opening the windows of grace and the doors of heaven to the tax collectors and prostitutes, the half-breeds and ultimately even Gentiles." P. 127); less about theology and more about being on mission with God because we in the Church are saved to serve ("The church exists to be a catalyst…of the Kingdom." P. 84); less about being right and more about helping people re-connect (religio, literally to re-ligament) to God.
At one point, Neo tells of a conversation with a Jewish man who thinks "…Christianity is a force for evil in the world. I’ve studied Jesus, and I think he was a great Jewish prophet, maybe the greatest who ever lived. But Christianity and Jesus don’t seem to have too much in common…." (63f.)
For anyone who has ever grown sick of doing the work of a pastor, or who feels at odds with a world strangely different from what we have known, A New Kind of Christian will make you think, laugh, cry, and call you to walk more closely with Jesus as we minister in a time which has more in common with Jesus’ day than yesterday. Oh, and as Neo said,
"I want you to invest your lives not in keeping the old ship afloat but in designing and building and sailing a new ship for new adventures in a new time in history, as intrepid followers of Jesus Christ." (38)