The Three B’s of the Church

Another great message today over at All Saints Church, this time by my good friend Dan Dameron. He spoke out of Luke 19:1-10, the story of Jesus and Zacchaeus. This is a story that a lot of people are familiar with: the tax collector (read: morally bankrupt sellout) Zacchaeus wants to see what this Jesus is all about, he is too short so climbs a tree, Jesus sees him, calls him down and invites himself over to stay. Then people complained that Jesus is going to hang out with a sinner, then there is a sudden change in Zacchaeus where he offers to pay back his debts fourfold and then Jesus restores Zacchaeus as one of the Choosen.

Dan had a lot of good things to say but I mainly want to focus on what he had to say about how the Church should look. The interaction between Jesus and Zacchaeus (along with numerous other accounts) show how Jesus is concerned for the marginalized. Usually when we think of Jesus helping (or calling us to help) the marginalized, we think of the poor or the widowed or the disenfranchised (or others along the same lines). That is all well and good, but Zacchaeus showed us that Jesus was also concerned with those the are marginalized morally. The morally despicable. Which, when it comes down to it, we all are in certain areas.

Not only does Jesus show his care for those that are marginalized here, but his example shows us how the Church should emphasize a certain mode of relational interaction with the world. The great missionary Leslie Newbigin once said:

How can this strange story of God made man, of a crucified Savior, of resurrection and new creation become credible? … I know of only one clue to the answering of that question, only one real hermeneutic of the gospel: congregations that believe it.

I think that is extremely well said! The churches that are truly living the gospel are the ones that are actually living it out in meaningful ways. The traditional church model, the “Three B’s” if you will, may need to be revised in order to best actualize the Gospel.

Behave - Believe - Belong

This is the traditional model. Once one figure out our lingo and start acting how we think you should act, then you can investigate our dogma and believe the things we do, then you are one of us, you can be a member of our church and we will call you a Christian. In some circumstances, that model may work, but it isn’t necessarily the best way. Among other things, there are two things that this model implies. First, it suggests that behavioral modification is the most important thing. This makes it very easy to not feel welcome or at home. Second, this model implies that there is a certain gnosticism about becoming a Christian. If you just do these particular things, you are one of us. If you know these specific pieces of information, you can be part of our church. That is not what the church is supposed to look like at all. I’m not really sure how we came to that model either because Jesus certainly never led us to believe that that is how things are supposed to be done.

I suppose the reason that model is so prevalent is because it is much easier and simpler and cleaner than the other way.

The work of Jesus was not a new set of ideals or principles for reforming or even revolutionizing society, but the establishment of a new community, a people that embodied forgiveness, sharing and self-sacrificing love in its rituals and discipline. In that sense, the visible church is not to be the bearer of Christ’s message, but to be the message.

That quote from Stanley Hauerwas suggests that the Church can and should look different than that traditional model. The “Three B’s” are the same, but reorganized.

Belong - Believe - Behave

Psalm 34: 8 exclaims “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!” Just jump right in! Try it out, you will see that God is good! If the Church is truly following the words of scripture, Newbigin, and Hauerwas; believing and being the Gospel message, people would 1) be much more comfortable and welcome in church and 2) actually see that the Lord is good, that Jesus Christ truly has brought redemption and that it is open and free to everyone.

In this model, churchy jargon will still show up, but it can be seen in action. It is in relationship that this happens. Once people belong and are in relationship together, they can see why beliefs are held and what they are. When people are in a place where they can move from just belonging to the community into belief in what Jesus Christ has done for us all, it is then that we are called into trying to behave in a manner that Jesus has laid out for us. It doesn’t make sense to think that people should change and act like we think they should if they don’t actually believe the things we do. Yes we are absolutely called to holiness and we should uphold those values, but is it more important that people just act right or is it more important that they understand the relationship that Christ has called us into and then worry about changing our ways?

What order of the Three B’s do you think God would be more concerned with?

The second model will be more messy because it means living in community and in relationship with people who will be in very different stages of their walk. Just keep priorities in mind. People coming to know Christ (by becoming part of the community, even if they don’t really believe yet) is much more important than getting someone to act like a Christian.

If you want to hear exactly what Dan had to say, and you should, you can listen to the streamed message over at All Saints Church’s website, or download the message: 07.08.07 - Dan Dameron (MP3, 22.3 MB).

Categories: Religion, Theology Tags:
  1. July 9th, 2007 at 06:47 | #1

    It bothers me when Christians point out bad behavior or sin to non Christians as if changing their behavior would somehow make them a better person or closer to God. For example it makes no sense to preach to a non-Christian specifically about homosexuality or living with a boyfriend/girlfriend. If the person is not saved, changing the behavior is meaningless. All have sinned and fallen short. Jesus came to save, not condemn the world.

    It is of course different when Christians are talking to other Christians living sinful lives. I learned this most abruptly when going through the airport and a man was handing out tracks preaching salvation. I smiled and told him I was saved. In return he lectured me about my unclean hair cut and told my how it was wrong that my new wife at the time was wearing pants. lol

  2. July 9th, 2007 at 11:26 | #2

    Indeed! A while back I wrote a post on Matthew 7.1, the “Judge Not” passage along those similar lines. It makes no sense to expect non-believers to act as if they are. For one, Christianity isn’t ever about just being a good person and second, even if it was, why would non-Christians want to act like something they are not?

    Haha, that is quite the lecture. Did you, in turn, lecture him about having too clean hair or being too rude? heh. ;)

  3. July 9th, 2007 at 15:09 | #3

    Non-Christians can’t be held to the same standards as Christians, because they don’t have the relationship with Christ that we have. Therefore, they don’t necessarily have the same conviction — well, the same sensitivity to the conviction, should I say — that we do.

    However, it’s equally easy for Christians to go too far the other way. Yes, we need to treat people like Christ treated them. But the danger of that can be that we ignore behavior (there goes one of the pesky b’s) that we need to confront.

    For instance, if I knew the bridge up ahead was washed out and there were no warning lights/indications and I didn’t stand by the road and warn people as they headed toward impending doom, then I would be at fault.

    Also, sometimes Christians want to be so welcoming and open that they shy away from standing up for what they believe. I did that for a long time, almost like I was apologetic for potentially offending someone because I happened to believe the Bible was 100% true.

    There’s a balance in there somewhere.

  4. July 9th, 2007 at 15:36 | #4

    I bet that God is really concerned with the believing. The behaving and belonging can become before or after, really.

    Not that I disagree with the whole relationship rather than shouting at non-Christians as a generally better way.

  5. July 9th, 2007 at 22:41 | #5

    Jenn, I guess what I left out of my gripe with preaching behavior at non-Christians is that time should be spent talking with those non-Christians, but salvation should be the focus and not behavior unless brought up in discussion.

  6. July 10th, 2007 at 12:22 | #6

    I definitely agree Jen. I think the notion of “tolerance” goes way too far. Yeah, tolerate things that don’t matter, but stand up and fight for against the crap that shouldn’t be tolerated! People shouldn’t be appeased just because we are worried that we might offend them, yes, tact is important, but tolerance for sin can only go so far. Thanks for bringing that point up Jen.

    I bet that God is really concerned with the believing. The behaving and belonging can become before or after, really.

    I definitely agree, believing truly is the crux to that God is doing in the world. BUT how do we get there? It seems like quite often people have to go through something to get there and I would rather see the church lead people there through allowing people to belong to the community it see God in action over just having people change their behavior to appropriate actions. I suppose belief can just come, but in our society does that happen by itself any more?

  7. July 10th, 2007 at 14:34 | #7

    I would rather see the church lead people there through allowing people to belong to the community it see God in action over just having people change their behavior to appropriate actions.

    I don’t disagree with that, but the community model can become just as big a problem (i.e., Jen’s concern). I don’t think getting people to come to church to hang out and watch Christians in action, in and of itself, is more likely to lead people to Christ than giving them a list of rules to conform to.

    My point is that the gospel must be preached by one person to another person, and whether they prefer Christianity for the structure or for the community doesn’t matter nearly as much as we think.

    Right now, in America, the community is, no doubt, more effective than the other for outreach. But is it the end-all and be-all of Christian outreach, no. In another 20-50 years the Church will have to adapt its techniques to a changing society again.

  8. July 10th, 2007 at 16:14 | #8

    Very good point. I have a feeling you are probably right. Part of the reason this is necessary is because of the culture we are in and in the future that will change and the Church will have to adapt. One thing that keeps me from 100% agreement is that Jesus is relational in his ministry. This fact makes me think that a relational model of some sort will always be the best means of communicating the Gospel… which I guess you already said:

    My point is that the gospel must be preached by one person to another person, and whether they prefer Christianity for the structure or for the community doesn’t matter nearly as much as we think.

    I think that I am completely on board with.

  1. August 14th, 2014 at 00:38 | #1
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  6. January 16th, 2010 at 15:44 | #6