Justin Hiebert

Catalyzing Change

Centering Faith

Posted on 15 Dec 2013 in Christianity, Church, Discipleship | 2 comments

I’ve written before about the need to operate from a centered set mindset, and not a bounded set mindset.

But this last week I was having a conversation with someone about that, and I came to a realization about centered set theology in many of our churches: [pullquote] If we elevate community membership to a higher status than the Jesus who gave us the community, we’ve failed as a church and committed idolatry.[/pullquote]

It’s easy for churches do a great job of centering people on the need to belong in the community, but not a great job of centering on Jesus.

We sell people all to easily on belonging with us. They are quirky, so are we. They’ve been labeled a misfit, so have we. They are odd, unruly, passionate, outspoken, liberal, eccentric, random, or conservative just like we are. That means they would make a great addition to our church, wouldn’t they?

Perhaps. But I’m firmly convinced that this is the absolute wrong way of going about it.

Bulls eye!

Bulls eye! (Photo credit: netsnake)

Because if we attract people to fit the personality of the community, and not the Jesus that loves them, we’ve committed idolatry by placing the community and its needs above that of Jesus.

As churches or missional communities attempt to outreach and disciple those around them, we need to be cautious to remember what exactly it is that we are promoting and advocating for. We aren’t advocating for the community, belonging, inclusiveness, or even social justice. We are advocating for Jesus. We are ambassadors for Christ and his Kingdom, not for membership of our community.


Thoughts? Enter the discussion below, I’d love to hear them

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Justin Hiebert

Leadership Catalyst - Entrepreneur - Coach at JSHiebert Leadership Coaching
I am a Business and Life Coach in both non-profit and for profit settings. I coach leaders, executives, and pastors in areas of vision, clarity, and values. In relationship coaching I focus on healthy and sustainable relationships, and in leadership development roles I catalyze change for individuals and groups to thrive. I also consult churches and organizations on how to train new leaders and create a healthy culture. In addition to that, I am an Anabaptist pastor in the Denver metro area. I specialize on topics that include: missional theology, discipleship, culture and the church in today’s society. I am married to my wonderful wife Elise and we have three kids. I grew up and now work in the United States Mennonite Brethren Church (USMB) and love the people and history of the Mennonite Brethren faith. I am a graduate of Tabor College with a dual degree in Youth Ministry and Christian Leadership, a graduate of Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary with a Masters of Divinity, and a Doctoral Student and Bethel Seminary. I also teach college classes in areas of Bible, Communication, and Business.

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  • Edd Russell

    Two thoughts come to mind:
    1. The center needs to be defined. Even saying “Jesus” can be a bit vague. Is it Jesus the Son of the only true God or Jesus who is merely an historical figure, or Jesus who is put on a shelf along with other gods, etc?

    2. An interesting statement came up in a discussion about this in our church several years ago: “But what if the center moved?”

    • Edd,

      Some thoughts:

      1.) Guess I’m assuming (at least in my writing and own thoughts) about the resurrected Jesus that has told us to go and make disciples for him. My aim is to write as a pastor that hopefully encourages and challenges people into new thinking and action to advance God’s kingdom, but you’re right, there are a myriad of other options out there about how to interpret Jesus. I just don’t care about those.

      2.) I think it does. God is always calling his people forward, and I think we see plenty of evidence for that throughout the Bible and especially in the early church. It’s a far cry for us to jump from “A” to “Z” so God slowly moves us in that direction, first “A” then “B” etc… It’s why it is easier (though not really easy) to do centered theology bounded. It allows us to be more adaptive. Bounded thinking really has to be static to work, but if we continue to seek the center, we will all, I trust, get there, though it may be at different times and in different ways. By discerning together where our ‘center’ is (and where it is leading us) we can adapt to what comes our way.

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