Jesus never mastered the secrets of management success. It is quite clear that if he had brought in professional help—an advisor or consultant—he would have run his organization very differently.

Just consider the facts. Jesus had no public ministry until the age of 30; he invested almost all his adult life in a building trade. He built his leadership team out of young, inexperienced men—short-tempered fishermen, impetuous resistance fighters, and grafting tax-gatherers, drawn from his following of peasants and low-life. He confined his time almost exclusively to out-of-the-way rural communities in small town Palestine; he was more Podunk, Tennessee, than Washington, DC. He never published a book, wrote a curriculum, initiated a building project, established a foundation, or raised an endowment. His extensive preaching produced twelve committed disciples and perhaps a hundred or so more-or-less fringe followers.

And even after the glory and wonder of the resurrection, the first act of these missionary apostles sent out into all the world … was to spend a month hiding behind locked doors. Frankly, it is hard to imagine Jesus being invited to speak at a church growth seminar.

Jesus’ Measureless Passion …

Jesus’ priorities lay elsewhere, of course. His benchmarks were never attendance, finances, programs, and expansion. Instead he lived out his own teaching, that the greatest torah (that is, wisdom, direction, or rule) is whole-heart, whole-mind, and whole-body love for God, and self-sacrificial love for other people. He did not have measures of success, only measureless passion for glorifying God and breathing new life into shattered human beings.

Eugene Peterson’s recent book, The Jesus Way, draws from the Old Testament a series of cautionary tales for today’s church, which is too often trying to achieve “Jesus’ Goals” independently of walking the Jesus Way. We are passionate about the visionary aims of Jesus Christ: the evangelization of the world, the reaching of nations for Christ. But we seem very quickly to be swept up in a whirlwind of methodologies, techniques, programs, and processes that bear little resemblance to the way of life and ministry demonstrated by Christ and his disciples in the pages of Scripture. Eugene presents us with a challenging picture of what the Jesus Way might mean for the contemporary people of God, and shows very cogently how that same Jesus Way is also found displayed in the flawed but faithful men and women in Israel’s history. It is a fascinating book, and not always a comfortable read.

Life in Abundance

If we want to understand the Jesus Way our most important resource, of course, is the Gospels themselves. Using the guidance in the previous issue of Perspective on lectio divina, you might find it valuable to read slowly through one of the Gospels seeking to explore the character of Jesus’ life and work.

Another invaluable help, drawn from the Jesuit tradition, is a particular way of reflecting on each day’s activities. Find a quiet time towards the end of the day, and spend a little time thinking about these two questions:

• What was life-giving today (for ourselves, and for those around us)?
• What was life-denying today?

Beneath their surface simplicity, these questions bear great weight. Since Jesus spoke of himself as “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6, emphasis added), and promised his disciples “life in abundance” (John 10:10, emphasis added), we are really seeking to identify the presence and action of Christ in our lives. The results can be surprising. If I reflect on this last weekend, I realize that what was most productive was an Adult Sunday School planning meeting. Most fun was an evening out at a restaurant with my wife and another friend. But most life-giving was the morning spent cleaning the house with my kids. There were not many laughs in our mopping and scrubbing, and by the next day the house was a pigsty again (my youngest is two years old: let the reader understand!). But we shared together the work, the accomplishment, the results, and the time. It felt like a gift from God.

The aim of this practice is to allow our lives to be guided more towards those—often small—things we recognize as life-giving, and increasingly away from those that are life-denying. To recognize what really matters, not just what seems important or worthy. To identify the Jesus Way in our own lives and experience—and, of course, to follow it.

Starting Soon: The 2018-19 Renovaré Book Club

How do we read for transformation, not just information? Choose books that stir the soul and have an enduring quality. Then read with God and others at an unhurried pace, attentive to what the Holy Spirit wants to teach. The Renovaré Book Club is designed for transformative reading. It runs October 2018—May 2019.

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