Beginning ‘The Great Spiritual Migration’

‘Coke and the Can’

Read the preface and introduction to ‘The Great Spiritual Migration’ by Brian McLaren. Read the short reflection below, then comment about either reading or the reflection!

I will confess a more than passing affection for the pastoral writing of Brian McLaren. Like many others, his voice rings true to my experience of faith and life in the church. His wrestling with how to do this religion thing doesn’t so much root into my bones as connect to the nodes already there. As if, in just a few words, he makes an instant connection.

Maybe this isn’t the case for you. Or haven’t read any of his previous books. Or maybe the very idea of addressing a gap between the church we embody, the church we’ve inherited, and our spiritual selves is not something you’ve thought much about. Maybe this is all new. McLaren’s style is accessible and has drawn millions of people to see things a new way. I’m certain this can mean you, too!

In his newest book, The Great Spiritual Migration, McLaren addresses a shifting and changing religious context many have wrestled with before, but this isn’t just a new spin on an old concept. And it doesn’t feel like another system for understanding the way things are. It feels like something else. Something more organic and God-led.

And it begins with a simple metaphor, which should make a connection for those familiar with the gospel teachings of Jesus: that focusing on the outside, we might miss what has spoiled on the inside.

Tomorrow, I will have served the church as priest for 9 years. And in that time, I have heard the same arguments again and again. The top three most common arguments have been about:

  1. Music
  2. Building
  3. Politics

And to be more specific, it is about the aesthetic of music, preserving the aesthetic of the building, and the words chosen which are presumed to sound politically divisive.

No matter which church I have served, again and again, I’ve heard, like the person on the phone obsessing about the packaging and the look of the pop can while the person complains that his Coke is skunked. Our obsessions are demonstrably external, even as we use them to judge the internal.

This is the lens through which the great thesis of the book must be seen: that what we believe and how we behave around that belief are not in line. And finding that alignment may be easier than we think.

“For centuries, Christianity has presented itself as an “organized religion” — a change-averse institution or set of institutions that protects and promotes a timeless system of beliefs that were handed down fully formed in the past. Yet Christianity’s actual history is a story of change and adaptation. We Christians have repeatedly adapted our message, methods, and mission to the contours of our time. What might happen if we understand the core Christian ethos as creative, constructive, and forward-leaning — as an “organizing religion” that challenges all institutions (including its own) to learn, grow, and mature toward a deepening, enduring vision of reconciliation with God, self, neighbor, enemy, and creation?”

Questions:

What are you fundamentalist about?

Have you left the church? Returned? Stayed away? What have friends who have left said about leaving?

What treasures in earlier eras of Christianity have you discovered? What could be brought to the present for further study?

What would it be like to follow your heart into a new place with a whole flock of like-minded birds?