You May Now Fly at Godspeed … If You Can Get Through America’s Religious TSA

'TSA Security Checkpoint' photo (c) 2009, Bill Alldredge - license:

While Godspeed: Making Christ’s Mission Your Own would not be the first missional book I’d recommend — even to conservative evangelicals (who are the primary audience for this book) — I’m still grateful for it (and other books like it). Why? Because hopefully books like Godspeed will introduce readers to other missional writers and broader kingdom theology.

Written by evangelical megachurch pastor Britt Merrick (and endorsed by a host of other evangelical megachurch pastors), the book builds on a sermon series on “Missio Christi,” the term coined by Merrick, because, well, the domain name was available so he bought it and set it up as a platform for his Reality church to “talk about theology as a community and share stories of what God was doing.” (I’ve gotta give him credit for that creative and entrepreneurial move — and for repurposing his sermon content into this book!)

There are a lot of question marks in the margins of my copy of Godspeed, things I found questionable or that rubbed me (as a post-/progressive evangelical) the wrong way. Catchy slogans like “Missio Christi” and “living at Godspeed” do nothing for me, but Merrick also includes some great missional thoughts from Darrel Guder, Miroslav Volf, Michael Frost, Shane Claiborne, and others. Hopefully Godspeed readers will skim through the footnotes and then go and read some of the original source material.

GodspeedAmerica’s Religious TSA
I think the best part of Merrick’s book is the recurring theme of how the contemporary American church is getting things wrong with how judgmental and self-righteous we tend to be. Starting in chapter three “Sent,” Merrick indicts churches — and all of us who make up those churches — for not being very Christ-like: “We have not been faithful in our sent-ness. We don’t look a whole lot like Jesus. … If God did not send His Son into the world to judge it, then He certainly has not sent us for that purpose either.” (Don’t worry, Merrick affirms later in the book that Jesus is coming again to judge, but here and now things are different …)

I can think of quite a few fundamentalists who need to hear this message (if they had ears to hear, that is). I think a lot of conservative evangelicals — and fundamentalist liberals on the other end of the spectrum — would also be challenged by Merrick’s message of grace and Christ-like love in the midst of participating in God’s mission. He doesn’t get everything right (in my opinion), but it’s a strong message that carries throughout Godspeed — and it’s a good one.

This analogy (from chapter eight) made me laugh out loud, it was so apropos:

“I think the church has become a lot like America’s religious TSA. We screen [everyone’s] baggage. Oh, carry-on baggage we’re okay with. After all, everyone has one or maybe two small items. Larger baggage we can handle too, but we like to put it out of sight as quickly as possible — and the heavier the bag, the higher the fee.

“Airport security has got nothing on church background checks.

“We poke and prod at people’s personal history, examining testimonies for anything suspicious or irregular. … Body piercings set off our detectors, citizens who look Middle Eastern go straight off to interrogation, and for the teen who packs a firecracker — well, we all know he won’t be flying anytime soon. … Anything that might get messy needs to be sealed away in a Ziplock bag. To make ‘Churchianity’ easy, we prefer to confiscate and quarantine these things.”

Well, you get the idea. This message is important and timely. Merrick returns to it over and over again in Godspeed, “If the church is to participate effectively in the mission of Christ, it desperately needs to get humble, authentic, and transparent.”

I’m not sure Merrick is the best person to deliver this message, but I know he has an audience that might never hear it any other way.

What do you think? Am I being too harsh on Merrick and Godspeed?
What do you think of Merrick’s analogy of the church being like the TSA?

The Patheos Book Club this month is featuring Godspeed by Britt Merrick. Check out an excerpt from the book and see if you can find the same problem(s) I had with Merrick’s incarnational theology! (*wink*)

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