We’ve collected some rebels, let’s be honest
One of my favorite things about Circle of Hope? We collect cynics, and skeptics, misfits and rebels. We’re definitely the church for you if you don’t quite fit into the stained-glass-and-pew variety. And not just because of aesthetic or just to be different. We are really trying to do something different to reach different people. We see ourselves as doing our part in the greater project of Jesus’ world redemption.
We want to be a church that keeps moving and listening to where the Spirit is leading. One of our pastors said it this way: we’re not done yet. We want to keep going and keep changing. That adaptability and flexibility allows us to learn from the past and change for the future.
Our willingness to reject what didn’t work before and move into something new is elemental to who we are. I think it is that characteristic that lets us attract those rebels. We end up with a lot of rebellious, countercultural people around here. I wouldn’t have it any other way. If you don’t fit where you are, you might fit with us because we have a lot of misfits.
Jesus hung out with the rebels
I think that’s exactly what Jesus did, too. He hung out with people that didn’t quite fit in. I think you see this all over the Gospels. He recruited Simon the Zealot, a rebel in his own right, to be one of his team members. The Zealots were a political party that was radically opposed to Roman occupation of Judea. It wouldn’t be surprising at all if Simon carried a dagger ready to jab a Roman centurion if the occasion called for it. They were probably the most radical of the “separatist” political parties (the Pharisees, like Nicodemus, and the Essenes, like John the Baptist were the others). Simon was a radical.
But he wasn’t the only misfit. Jesus also got Matthew the Tax Collector, a hated position in the Jewish community around the time of Jesus. It’s kind of amazing that Simon and Matthew could hang out together because Matthew was literally the kind of guy that Simon would be after. Matthew robbed the Jewish people by taxing them. They were hated by the overtaxed Jewish community.
But more than that, he hung out with untouchable people like people who suffered with leprosy. People that no one would ever dare hang out with.
Jesus also discipled and empowered women, another big no-no in his time. Mary Magdalene funded his ministry. He ministered to the Women at the Well in John 4, not only a woman, but a member of a group of people estranged from Jesus’ people. He also ended up being moved and convinced by a Syrophoenician woman up in Tyre when he was trying to escape the crowds.
Furthermore, and he got in trouble repeatedly because he dined with “sinners,” he wants to relate to people that don’t fit in and need a way to get in. This is exactly why Circle of Hope breaks its back to make sure we are welcoming, hospitable, and that anyone can join us, even people who hate church or who have been burned by it. We want to follow in Jesus’ example of radical inclusion and hospitality.
Jesus is living the greatest mutiny ever
Jesus collected these rebellious people in order to enact the greatest rebellion ever. We’re joining that rebellion when we sign up to follow him. The reason that Simon and Matthew, for example, could get along and not kill each other, was because they joined a rebellion. They didn’t waste their rebellious spirit on one another, they used it for the cause.
Joining the cause, joining the resistance, means sacrificing the individuality that rebels take pride in. It’s hard to join a movement if you’ve defined yourself by not joining a movement. Before long, the rebellious church you joined might start feeling like “The Man.” And you might rebel against us.
We have a proverb about this very thing: Jesus is living the greatest mutiny ever—we should not waste our rebellion on each other.
We’re trying to build a movement that changes the world
We want people to join our rebellion, more than we just want to facilitate their rebelliousness. We want a movement that changes the world. That means we collectively and cooperatively and mutually rebel against the powers and principalities of darkness. That actually means we have to agree to agree, mutually submit to each other, and move a singular cause and mission together. We can’t just do our own thing. We’re doing something together.
This is a problem with postmodernism. Appropriately, we are rebelling against the powers of the world, but we can’t seem to unite together because we’re too busy fighting each other. Political movements sometimes call this “horizontal hostility.” It’s hard to build a coalition when you think you’re morally or intellectually superior than everyone. Of course, you can relate to this because you know someone who always thinks they are right and is also acting smug and sarcastic about it. It’s probably your boss. But if you’re just thinking it’s someone else who is being hostile, you’re missing my point.
We are doing something together. The legend is that Castro took over Cuba with just one hundred people. They were a group of rebels and revolutionaries. But if they just revolted and rebelled against each other, they would have lost their faith. I’m not suggesting a communist revolution, for what it’s worth, but just noting that we need to organize together in order to achieve our goals.
Tension, in-fighting, and rebelling against each other might be what we are defaulted into doing. We met up largely because we were unsettled and unsatisfied with how the world was working. So it’s not surprising that we have people that just don’t fall-into-step around here. I’m glad for that, too. It keeps us honest. It holds our stuff to the light. That’s what we want.
Join the rebellion, don’t just feed your rebelliousness
But we do want to do something together. The rebellion will fall apart if all we want to do is rebel. Honestly, if that’s what we’re doing, maybe it should fall apart. But I think we’re doing something bigger than our own desires. We’re trying to change the world with Jesus. We want to share the Good News of Jesus’ revolution. We need a team to make that work. We need a core of people to make that work. In Circle of Hope, that’s why we have covenant members. People that are committed to the cause, who agree to sharing their heart, time, and money into it. It’s a beautiful expression of our radicality.
We submit our desire to use those things for our own purposes and submit them to God’s. God authors our revolution and we work it out together. Not just some charismatic leader, or a behind-the-scenes leaders that no one ever hears from. We do it together. We work on it together. We execute and enact it together. That requires a commitment to unity, a commitment to one another, a commitment to use our rebellious spirit, for the sake of the cause, for the sake of the rebellion.
You ready, comrades? Let’s go.