What does it mean to be human? In theory the Disciples of Jesus answered that question the moment they choose to become Disciples. At that moment of decision, the journey of personal transformation to become fully human was in process for them. Christianity was established by God as the organization to help people make the free will decision to become disciples of Jesus. In most cases this is the stated goal of every local church group but as we analyze the effort of theses local church groups there appears to be a disconnect from that main mission.
Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…
Luke 6:40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.
The question is, that after over 2000 years of Christianity has the average person who calls themselves a Christian been fully trained or transformed and are they any closer to being what it means to be fully human as exemplified by Jesus than humans of Jesus generation? If that is the goal of Christianity then what needs to change to accomplish this goal?
Prior to Jesus the Christ, Old Testament Judaism created the expectation of a savior for humankind that would bring freedom from the materialistic bondage in this earthly realm. As I continue my oversimplification, Peter soon after the resurrection of Jesus established the Church in Jerusalem putting the first humans on the path of transformation, let’s call this Christianity 1.0. However in 1517 Martin Luther initiated a protest that was aimed to reform this first version of Christianity to move the church from a system of indulgences to one of faith as the new foundation of Christianity. Let us call this Christianity 2.0.
Now at the turn of this millennium (2000 AD) there is another protest coming out of this post-modern culture that answers “no” with respect to the question have we been transformed as humans and are we more fully human when compared to our human ancestors of Jesus time. Therefore what I sense emerging from Christianity’s many sectors and denominations is what I call Christianity 3.0.
From my point of view of what may emerge as the newest tenants of Christianity will include 1) the removal of the religious hierarchical structure thus empowering and elevating all individual believers to a place of equality and 2) there will become a new awareness and focus on the spiritual (mystical, divine) primary, vertical relationship between God and each disciple of Jesus and 3) the development of a practical biblical love based relationship between each disciple and the rest of humankind as sisters and brothers.
Christianity 1.0 and 2.0 will remain vibrant and will naturally undergo transformation as it relates to its newest sibling Christianity 3.0. As this new move of God grows and emerges many invested in the current status quo may allow their hearts to become hard toward God and become resistant to the birth of a new movement and miss the true desire of their heart. Revolutionary transition is never easy but there is already a whole generation of 2.0 Christians that felt alienated for a while are ready to embrace the changes in Christianity.
So if the lack of hierarchy and the development of spiritual and loving relationships become a new trend, how will the transition play out? Already new styles of worship services and new types of gathering styles have been developed and are being tried. Meeting that are more community oriented and less big groups following one person will user in new styles of leadership. In fact many of the 1.0 and 2.0 seminaries have begun offering courses to students as they explore this new movement. There is also a trend of very successful ministry leaders taking sabbatical to hear from God and get a handle on growing movement.
If there is one lessons to be learned from the Christianity 2.0 transition, it is that 500 years from now what will Christianity 4.0 want to reform about this move? The pioneers and forerunners of this move are reviewing and again experimenting with old traditions of the early and middle age church hoping to uncover some lost jewels that may be relevant to the disciples of the 21st century. So what we are carrying forward are those traditions that are biblically mandated and those that are producing good fruit. Christianity 3.0 must ask itself, if the disciples of this move fail to produce disciples that measure up to the image of Christ what will the next generation change and can those changes be made now?
As we look back over the previous versions we have a lot to be proud of. At least we were given a faith and a hope. However as we develop new styles and practices we must ensure that our communities stay focused to make sure we keep to the mission? Individually as disciples we must take responsibility of our personal transformation and determine if change is happening as efficient as it can go. We must question as to whether we yielding to the Spirit of God and allowing ourselves to be changed. We must ask the hard questions as to whether we personally are more like Christ than humankind was at the time of Jesus or have we retreated to just keeping our religious traditions.
Some would argue that if we could get back to where the early church was this generation would be doing great. But we all must ask why and how did we lose what they had? Disciples believe they can do what their rabbi does. More important if a rabbi selects a disciple to be a follower, it is because the rabbi believes the disciple can become like the rabbi. No disciple wants a bad rabbi and rabbi chooses a bad disciple.
So I believe God’s faith in us is the driver of this reform in Christianity once again. God has made a way for each of us to be one with Him and that is the hope and faith we share as humans and Disciples of Jesus.
Romans 8:38-39 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.