There is no better book on the Christian life today.
This read will cause you to reexamine and release expectations had of God. Reading will help the heart re-hear the words of Jesus and see where (directionally) God is forming us. Christ is the substance, the journey, and the destination. We must always face the question: How does it turn out for Jesus and what is the journey to that destination?
Nouwen’s book, like no other book he had written, helps the heart discern where divergence from the way of Jesus has happened and how to recognize the Way once more.
The title itself is grace: The Selfless Way of Christ: Downward Mobility and the Way of Christ.
Below you’ll find some neat ideas on cultivating community, cultivating spiritual growth and cultivating compassion for your group. The ideas below are suggestions and could feel overwhelming if we felt like our group was supposed to express all of the listed characteristics at once! It’s not supposed to be that way; groups go through seasons and the ideas below are helpful for navigating the seasons we go through together.
I invite you and your group to pause and wonder. Let the ideas below spur your imaginations. Let the ideas nudge your group toward experimenting with helpful ways of listening to and living like Jesus together. Sometimes all we need is a good question to come our way and we see new life blooming in its wake.
Thoughts On Cultivating Community
• Everyone has someone in their life who knows everything about them—there is nothing being carried alone in darkness • Within the group, both marriage and singleness are supported with a healthy and balanced perspective • People are comfortable both giving and receiving mentoring • People feel that they belong to a group who together form an authentic expression of church • The group is characterized by regular and gracious hospitality • You all feel loved emotionally and supported practically by the group—it’s not just going to meetings • People regularly discuss with each other how they are seeking to be better followers of Jesus • Overall, people feel surrounded by meaningful community
Thoughts On Cultivating Spiritual Growth
• Group members make regular time to retreat, reflect and pray • Together you have found a way of praying regularly that suits your life and community personality • People in the group feel close to God at the moment • Your group worships God in numerous creative ways • You hear God’s voice when you gather and put into practice what He is saying • As a group, you observe both regular and occasional Spiritual Disciplines • Together you find relevant ways to learn from and be shaped by Scripture
Thoughts On Cultivating Compassion
• Your group has a clear missional focus towards which you devote time and energy • Your community spends time with lots of friends and contacts who are not in church • In the last month, your group has found ways to lovingly demonstrate the power of the Kingdom to people who are not Christians • Your group has seen people with whom you are in contact start to follow God in the last year • Members are involved in lots of activities beyond church life • The place where many group members spend most of their time (at work, study, play, etc.) is predominately in relationships with non-Christians • As a group, you are excited about your involvement in serving the wider missional context • In the last three months, each member has offered to pray with someone who is not a Christian • Your group has a name that reflects who you are • Your group is actively involved in an area in which injustice exists
[WIth some of my own editing, these ideas mostly come from: Breen, Mike; Alex Absalom (2010–11–11). Launching Missional Communities (Kindle Locations 3073–3082). 3DM. Kindle Edition.]
(The conclusion of a short series: comparing four views of the cross from the four Gospel writers.)
“John ‘spiritualizes’ the cross more than the synoptic [Matthew, Mark and Luke] authors do, stressing the intimate connection between Jesus’ crucifixion and his exaltation. The life of the Son of God is best understood as a journey: he comes from his preexistent state in heaven, dwells among women and men, then returns to heaven. In essence, John overcomes the scandal of the cross by interpreting in terms of Jesus’ exaltation (12.32-36). Of spiritual significance for believers are the moments on the cross when Jesus confers a familial relationship on the beloved disciple and Mary, then gives up his spirit (19.26, 30). Orthodox Christian faith sees the establishment of the Church and Christian tradition in these acts. Christian spirituality is thus understood to be informed by Jesus’ spirit.” The New Westminster Dictionary of Christian Spirituality, “Cross and Spirituality”, Elizabeth Koenig, p. 221.
I think we can agree that John’s take on the cross (and so much else about Jesus) is a bit different than the other Gospel writers – but we love his perspective all the same.
As you remember reading John’s description of the cross, how do you relate to what Koenig wrote? I found the Orthodox conferring of the spirit part most intriguing.
This concludes the short series comparing the four Gospels and four views on the cross. I hope the brevity and the resource was helpful. I enjoyed thinking through this myself.