Irresistible Revolution–Food for Thought

I just finished reading “The Irresistible Revolution” by Shane Claiborne. (I know, I know, who hasn’t read this book or blogged about it) Anyway, I thought I would put my two cents in because I am on record, with some folks here in Bend, that Shane isn’t the end all be all of ministry.

After reading his book, I stand by that. I will say that I think one of the reasons that I have had such a negative reaction to Shane (something I have just recently become aware of) is a) the people that first introduced me to him just repeated his language but when asked to define what things like “ordinary radical” meant were silent (much like some of my brothers and sisters when asked to define or articulate their interpretation of things like “hate the sin, love the sinner” or “radical inclusiveness” just repeat the platitude in different language) essentially they worshiped him for lack of a better term. Something I am sure that he does not need or want. b) after reading his book I have realized that our thoughts on how we should be in community loving one another and the need to be honest about the cost of discipleship. I especially liked how he acknowledged that Jesus “messed him up.” I probably would have used different/harsher language but to each their own.

Throughout this book I was challenged to rethink the way I live, the way I minister, and my place in this world. Some of it I balked at, some of it I appreciated. For instance, I was asked a couple of weeks ago to write a piece for Union-PSCE’s online lectionary resource (Join the Feast). I was asked to do the study for April 19 and when looking at the passages for that Sunday I read Acts 4:32-35 (which talks about the disciples sharing everything they had with one another.) I remember saying, “yeah, right!” One of my youth (who I was having coffee with and doing his homework at the time) who happens to be an Atheist, said, “Communism is BAD!” (and smiled). But after reading this book I have a different perspective on that passage and I intend to write my part of the study on it.

Shane did a great job when talking about the separation between “the poor” and “the rich”. He challenge us to get out of our cars and talk to the guy with the cardboard sign on the street corner. He invites us to not only serve at the soup kitchen or give to good will, but to sit down and share a meal with the people. He challenges us to live differently. I think he has some good points, I don’t think he has it all figured out, but at least he is in the conversation.

There were a couple of things that were troublesome to me. There were times in the book when I did not feel like he was talking to me (I am fully willing to accept that this is my issue, but this is also my blog so…). I felt like he was talking to a particular section of Christendom, specifically post-Evangelicals, or current Evangelicals. I grew up in a progressive Presbyterian house and while there are plenty of issues to be delved in to there, they are not the issues of the Evangelical/Megachurchs that Shane is addressing.

I also felt like some of his thoughts on selling all your things and just living out the gospel where flat out impossible for me. Especially the part about churches not worrying about paying their staff. In my world, the world of the PC(USA) I am required to go to three years of intensive, expensive seminary, not to mention the 23 (I think) steps in the process for ordination. There are a lot of programs out there that help with these costs, but the fact of the matter is I have debt (not credit card debt, not a car loan, educational debt…to be fair I do have two masters degrees and went to a small Christian liberal arts undergrad, so I realize that I do have some blame in this) I also have discerned my call as professional clergy. I am dependent on the giving of others to feed and cloth myself. Let me also mention that I am a Type 1 diabetic, (and in good health) my health care cost alone are several thousand dollars a year with insurance (now we can argue about the health system, but that is another post entirely).

I would love to work for less, live like a monk when my housing, clothes, food, etc. was provided by the community, but the fact is I need money to pay for the things that I have to pay for. I need to back up and say I think the ordination process in the PC(USA) is a good one (not perfect) but good. I am infinitely more prepared for ministry after having gone through it than I would be if I haven’t (I have seen some of my colleagues in ministry who didn’t have the opportunity to learn and discern, I see them being ineffective simply because they don’t know any better and it’s sad).

This is a long post already but I wanted to leave with some quotes from the book:

On congregations and community: “Many congregations are in love with their mission and vision and rip one another apart in committee meetings trying to attain it.” (320)

on charity: “People do not get crucified for charity. People are crucified for living out a love that disrupts social order, that calls forth a new world. People are not crucified for for helping poor people. People are crucified for joining them.” (129)

One last thing, as Shane would probably appreciate I borrowed this book from a friend who highlighted and made notes throughout. It was a treat reading his thoughts as I was discerning my own. Especially on page 324 where Shane is extolling the fact that God doesn’t want big churches, but God loves to camp. In the margin it says, “but G makes plans for Solomon to build temple…” Beautiful.

All in all I think this is a wonderful book and should be read by you and everyone you know. It challenges, irritates, humors, and convicts. Thanks Shane, I hope to continue our conversation.

Greg Bolt


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