The place to begin in mapping a generous orthodoxy is the Kingdom of God as the vision Jesus gave to us for God’s redemptive work on this earth. As I said before, this map of mine is preciptiated by Brian McLaren’s Generous Orthodoxy, and I guess the subtitle for this little effort is “Why I am Kingdom-al.” But it does no good to the Christian story unless that Kingdom is understood in both terms of Orthodoxy and Generosity.
Now I’ve blogged aplenty on Kingdom of God, beginning here, and won’t repeat myself. The Kingdom of God is the society where the will of God, as taught by Jesus, is done. And that Kingdom is a redemptive work in the triune God designed to restore humans to union with God and communion with one another, for the good of others and the world. Nothing less will do. I am working my understanding of the gospel in Jesus Creed and in Embracing Grace which is due out this fall.
Beginning with Kingdom of God is beginning with the “plan of God.” Our summons is to join God in God’s Kingdom work. If you read my blogs on Kingdom, you will also know that the Kingdom of God cannot be divorced from the Church: the Church is designed to be the alternative society of Jesus in this world that transcends its “alternative status” by being a missional community of faith.
As a missional community of Jesus, each local community is designed to be a Kingdom missional community. Missional communities are not so much “buildings” and “places to go” but a community of faith where a society brushes up against the grace of God because the community of faith is a presence of grace. The singular grace the community of faith has to offer to society is Jesus Christ and this grace is “performed” by the local community of faith.
This means that the missional community is essentially generous: it is the “gift” of God of humans who are filled with grace and minister the grace of reconciliation and justice and peace and love to the local society. It is essentially “for others” and ministering “to others” and serving others.
Kingdom work that is marked by Generosity is manifested in the five “Ls” of Love: a missional community mediates the love of God (God’s grace) to others by Looking into the neighborhood, Listening to the needs of that neighborhood, Learning about the needs and how to meet the needs, Linking to the neighborhood in concrete ways, and doing so in a Local context. This is what it means to be a missional community in the Kingdom of God. It is not enough to listen and learn about the Bible as it is preached, nor is it enough to sit in a local church and ingest the Sacraments. Word and Sacrament are designed to create Missional communities of faith that aim at the Kingdom of God.
Generous (evangelical) orthodoxy begins right here: Kingdom of God.
Generous (evangelical) orthodoxy is for the whole Church because it is for the whole world — because God is for the whole world.
I do think there is a way to push forward to a genuine ecumenical place for all Christians where we can have churches that transcend the old differences that prevent Kingdom of God from being little more than “denominational persuasion”. But, it can’t be done without very, very careful and lengthy work by folks who can see the past and map the future in light of that past. That past begins with Kingdom of God.