I don't usually rehash sermons on this blog but on this occasion I have found the four imperatives in 2 Timothy 2.1-7 to be so compelling - particularly as I work away at the interface between the Post-Christian West (P-CW) and Post-Western Christianity (P-WC)...
"be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus" (2.1)
Could it be that in the P-CW we are too strong in too many areas? We have books and DVDs. We have programmes and seminars. We have colleges and consultants. We have money. Let's face it - we don't really need Christ in order to function as the church. However in P-WC, time and time again, the only option available to people is to be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Is that united-ness to Him really the truth on which we depend?
"the things you have heard me say ... entrust to reliable people ... qualified to teach" (2.2)
Could it be that in the P-CW we are placing gospel-sized hopes in leadership? It is important. Of course it is. But what kind of leader is required? Have we started to down-grade the skill of teaching? Might one of the issues today be that people are over-inspired and under-fed? Paul's plea to Timothy was about entrusting responsibility to leaders who are 'reliable people qualified to teach'. In P-WC when leaders are needed the eye still turns to the theological college - and when the college is at its best (which is not always the case, sadly), it is a great place to find reliable people qualified to teach.
And what about 'entrust'? Is this not a Pauline word for discipling, mentoring, coaching? As one leader said to me recently, "all mission is going to become mentoring", or entrusting. I suspect this will true regardless of whether we live in the P-CW or P-WC.
"endure hardship" (2.3)
Could it be that in the P-CW we are prioritising the wrong imperative as we live in this world? The call goes out - all the time - to be relevant. Of course we want to be relevant - but is it really that important? Does it not smack of too much salt and not enough light? Does it not end up being too concerned about minimising differences so as to help people be comfortable, rather than maximising differences to help some people be intrigued and attracted, while allowing many other people to mock and ridicule? There is something to endure in the life that bears witness to Christ in the public world - always, always, always. In P-WC endurance is just so commonplace as people experience oppression and persecution for their faith. The language of relevance rarely emerges. Have we been duped? C-mon, isn't mission in the P-CW hamstrung largely because we have forgotten to live different lives with distinction ... and then endure the consequences for the sake of Christ?
"reflect on what I am saying" (2.7)