October 9, 2006
The Master's Program
The Point of View - A Weekly Commentary by Bob Shank

Dear Marketplace Friend,

      Where did all of these allergies come from? I spent 40 years of my still-young life assuming that the vendors at the baseball game were pretty good guys, out to enrich the family sports experience with their effort to save the fans the trip to the concession stands. "Peanuts, get your peanuts, here!!" Turns out, they were really trying to kill somebody. Today, they probably have to wear one of those Warning! signs around their neck, signaling the fact that their hands have touched peanuts... and touching them may lead to death.
      Food allergies are one thing... but aversion to behaviors can be just as pronounced. For my generation of Boomers, it's already apparent that we are going to have a widespread rejection of the last generation's approach to retirement. Peanuts can lead to death for a few, but retirement is already named as a likely factor in the premature death of many. One of the antidotes is already known: instead of retirement, many are choosing reinvention. Don't stop what you're doing; instead, change what you're doing. We may retire retirement before we're done...
      Reinvention means transformation. Transformation means conversion. Conversion means change. The alternative is continuation.... and, if you determine that your current course misses the mark, resisting the change required for reinvention is a self-limiting decision. Is there a better way? Grab it!
      Around the church world, there is evidence of reinvention underway. We'd all agree: maturity means movement from simpleton to sage. Growing up involves behavioral progress. If older isn't better, it's worse.
      Among Christians, you can mark maturity lots of ways. One involves finding their "centering point." When their values and motivators are analyzed, what is their "true north?" On their life's level, where's the bubble?
      There are three categories in this measure. Everyone begins in a self-centric mode. At that stage, it's all about their needs/wants/preferences. "Me" is the operative subject; it preoccupies their prayers. It's all about "me." Most stay there... many die there. Self-centric.
      Big jump to Stage #2; it's the move to church-centric. The conversion is from "me" to "we." The critical community is "us." It sounds spiritual, because "we" have a brand-name: we're the "church." Smarter than those outside, saved by Jesus, "we" becomes the center of the universe. At church, we expend lots of energy to get people converted from "me" to "we." The appeal is clear: "sign up." Get on board; join "us."
      Church-centric is, for many people, the end-of-the-line. But, in Jesus' view, the ultimate destination is Stage #3: to become Kingdom-centric. Self-centric is about "me." Church-centric is about "us." Kingdom-centric is a huge leap: it's all about "them." Who's the "them?" Brace yourself: it's the "world" (not church).
      Jesus talked constantly about the distinctives of the Kingdom. He told stories like this: "The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come... Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.' So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests." (Matthew 22:2-10).
      The King wasn't preoccupied with the people in the banquet hall, who were waiting for their first course: he was preoccupied with the people outside, who didn't even know about the grand occasion. "Why not worry about the people who are already at the table?" Here's a breakthrough thought: Jesus didn't die for the church. He died for the world... and his heart for the world still motivates his actions. Does he love the church? You bet... but his love for the world remains a powerful influence for everything he does!
      Self-centric. Church-centric. Kingdom-centric. Kingdom-centric Christians are the ones who have been in the banquet hall, seen the spread... and have joined the servants who are beating-the-bushes outside, looking for people to join the party. They won't come back empty-handed. The King deserves nothing less.
      You're in one of those groups, friend. How grown up are you?

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