practical christianity

kathyescobar church stuff, faith shifts, healing, incarnational, jesus is cool 19 Comments

beliefs divide practices unite

it’s been a wild and crazy week around here (i know, i know, i say that all the time) but honestly, the colorado flood has really made things even extra wacky. for the past 4 years the refuge has been gathering in an old grange hall, which is this sweet little space on the “other side of the railroad tracks” in broomfield, just north of denver. we knew we were moving soon, but we expected an easier transition. the basement of the hall was damaged in the flood, and it is not safe right now for any type of gathering.  yesterday a whole bunch of us put on masks and ran fans and cleared out our gear, putting it in storage until our new space is ready. then we met underneath a gazebo in a local park, ate some good food and enjoyed a sweet evening together. honestly, i love all of the craziness because the refuge has never been about a building. our community has always been about people & relationships. the next chapter of our story does include a little better hub for advocacy & community & hospitality & transformation and i am excited for what is ahead for the little mission that should, but it’s a great reminder that everything we do is about people being together. period.

and when it’s all said and done, that’s what i care most about.

i’ve written before about how i dislike labels and coonsider myself a christian mutt, but in a recent conversation the question came up  whether or not to consider me an evangelical because i sometimes can sound like one and sometimes seem so-far-from-it-that-they-don’t-know-quite-what-that-means.  i thought about the conversation for a while afterward and had this interesting thought that  i had never said so clearly before.  i told my friend, “the best way to view me is as a practical christian.”

because that’s what i am.  

a practical christian.

sure, beliefs matter and influence our action. there’s no doubt that orthodoxy catalyzes praxis. i don’t care about what i care about just because i read a few words in the Bible or heard some good things about Jesus and decided to stake my life on it.  however, i think that it’s much easier to spend tons of time and energy hashing out beliefs, aligning with others on beliefs, reading about beliefs, and making people sign statements about beliefs than it is to actively and practically live out a vibrant and tangible faith.

beliefs often divide.  practice usually unites.

i have many friends who are so done with believing certain things that used to really matter to them but still have a mustard seed of faith left when it comes to Jesus call to care for people, advocate for justice, cultivate hope, catalyze change, and stand alongside others in need in practical ways.

and mustard seeds can move mountains.

unfortunately, our measurements of what “counts” and what doesn’t in many circles has nothing to do with practice. what typically counts is what we believe and what our positions are.  that is what helps people know who’s in and who’s out.

and it’s leaving a whole lot of people disillusioned about christianity. sometimes including me.

honestly, if it weren’t for Jesus getting under my skin and wrecking something deep inside of me, along with the good people i know in real life and online who are subverting the system for the sake of the kingdom, i wouldn’t still be here.  you all have given me a lot of hope–not that the old system would change, but that new trees are being planted with seeds of freedom, diversity, and mystery. that a practical theology is enough.

it makes me think of what brennan manning says, “ragamuffins are simple, direct and honest. their speech is unaffected. they are slow to claim, “God told me…” as they make their way through the world, they bear wordless, prophetic witness.”  somewhere along the line he also said, “if you want to know what a person believes, watch what they do.”

i highly respect many people who love theology and dig spending a lot of time processing it. i know it has its place, but i will admit i have a hard time thinking that it’s what Jesus meant when he said, “i’m leaving, and now i am entrusting you to carry on what i’ve been doing.”  he seemed to focus on feeding, healing, restoring dignity, challenging the status quo, and smashing our addiction to the law.

i believe his call to a practical faith was the most earth-shattering of all.  

it was a call to love our neighbor, lay down our stones, make peace with our enemies, give up our stuff, sacrifice our lives, risk our ego, let go of control, and make ourselves vulnerable in ways that make us want to run for cover in a church that makes us sign a belief statement and never asks anything from us except to come, sit, sing, and write a check.

i also think if practical christianity was more valued, far less people would feel like their only hope for preserving their souls was to disconnect completely from anything-connected-to-his-name.  it would help faith shifters feel far less alone and far more valued.

don’t get me wrong, i’m not saying that there aren’t countless amazing evangelical-y christians who have a very practical, tangible faith doing wonderful work in all kinds of hard places.

i’m just saying that there are a lot of practical ragamuffin christians who aren’t part of typical churches or organizations and can’t align with a long list of beliefs who are deeply and wonderfully  dedicated to living out a simple and beautiful practical faith.  

this thought is still just forming.  i am sure there are so many who can cut this idea to shreds in a heartbeat with their theological scissors, and i can hear the din of the “but what about’s…” as i write these words.  but i will say that practical christianity gives me hope.  not just for me but for other fringers who care about the kingdom but are done signing long technical belief statements.  who believe in the wild ways of Jesus but are tired of defending their faith.  who love people not programs.

who believe that the most important thing isn’t what we believe but what we actually do.