Sergiu M. Brădean

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Biserica și cultura “What if”!


L-am cunoscut în Los Angeles. Era târziu, eram foarte obosit după ce toată ziua condusesem mașina închiriată, pe care școala mi-a pus-o la dispoziție, nu am prea avut posibilitatea să îmi sun familia și eram sigur că sunt destul de îngrijorați; stăteam la intrarea clubului Mayan din centrul LA-ului. Discuțiile destul de intense ale colegilor treceau pe langa urechile mele fără să mă afecteze prea tare. Vorbeau despre Erwin McManus, un produs al școlii de lideri de la Asbury, care pusese bazele unei biserici “deosebite” în LA, numită Mozaic și care urma să țină un “Serviciu Divin” în acel loc (destul de renumit) de la ora 20:00, înainte ca la ora 22:00 clubul să-și deschidă porțile pentru alte “servicii”. A oprit o mașină în fața clubului și a coborât un bărbat îmbrăcat destul de modest, simplu, care ni s-a adresat cu o voce liniștită, chiar molcomă. S-a purtat foarte familiar cu noi toți deși ne întalnea pentru prima dată, însă ne considera pe toți colegii lui. Am fost impresionat atunci, iar apoi am rămas înmărmurit de cât de profund a predicat mulțimii de tineri adunați în “club”.

În acest articol Erwin McManus încearcă să ne trezească îmaginația și să ne facă să privim spre viitor înțelegând potențialul pe care Dumnezeu l-a investit în noi.

Erwin McManus: Imagine Tomorrow

The reality is that the church is really not a “what if” culture. We’re a “what is” culture. We’re informed by what is, and our precedent has more power than our imagination.

What Is the What If?

Looking back on all of the different things I’ve started throughout my life, I suppose it’s fair to say my addiction or dysfunction is that I’m a serial entrepreneur. While it may appear that I’m unemployed a lot, and I certainly have had a serious number of failures along the way, overall this neurosis has worked well for me.

Much of this has been a journey of self-discovery. Never having obvious natural talent, my passion and hard work compensated for what I lacked in innate gifting. Much of my life has been the result of great burdens, big dreams and fierce ambition driving me to find a way to overcome what was obviously lacking. What do you do when you see a future you must create and know you cannot do it alone?

In contrast, some people have obvious, extraordinary talent. When my daughter Mariah was 2 or 3 years old, it was already apparent that she was a musician. We were changing channels on the television and we hit this orchestra, but when we changed the channel again, Mariah started singing back in perfect pitch what the orchestra had been playing. I told my wife, “Go back, go back … Watch!” Mariah just started mimicking what was on the television. By the age of 3, I started writing songs with her. I’d tell her to just start singing, and I would put it to music and try to connect her with the extraordinary and obvious talent that was given to her somehow in her genetic code.

I admire people who are prodigious, people who have these extraordinary talents—the Mozarts of the world, the Picassos of the world. Maybe you’re one of those people. You just have this incredible talent from your first breath, but I’m not one of those people. I’m one of the people who has been searching for his particular talent all of his life. You know those kinds of people?

I told my son, “If you don’t have any obvious talent, then you have the gift of leadership.”

There are people who seem born to become world-class cellists or Olympic sprinters. They’re mathematical savants, or they have the gift of painting or sculpting. But then there are a lot of us who, in one spectrum of analysis at least, would be in the “No Perceivable Talent” category. That’s why we’re leaders: because we then begin to imagine a creation that is beyond our own capacity.

If you’re like me, you begin to experience a level of angst because you can see something that’s beautiful, but you have never had the talent nor the capacity to execute it or create it. You know that story needs to be told, that a world needs to be created, that a future needs to be shaped. That creates a dissonance between the idea that moves you and motivates you and the reality of your limited gifts, talents and abilities. If anything, I am immensely grateful that God decided to make me so untalented so that I would find myself dependent on the gifts and talents—the genius and beauty—inside so many other people.

I’ve discovered I’m one of those unemployable people because you can’t really figure out what I do—but if you take me out of the equation, the formula loses its catalytic force. My talent, it seems, is to unleash the talent of others. If you move me out of the room, the room stops dreaming, elevating, creating. You see, that’s what I do. I do that. What is that? I don’t know. Just move me, and you’ll see what it is.

But whatever it is, it moves us from “what is” to “what if.” What you find is that the church, cultures, societies, nations and empires are built and unleashed by men and women who are driven mad by an imagination of a world that could exist, but they lack the personal creative talent to make it happen unless they create this beautiful thing called community. The church is ultimately God’s agent to usher in the future. The church unleashes the future that exists only in the imagination of those who dream with God.

For me, that’s the “what if.”

I’ve come to realize that the source of my dysfunction is that I do not live well in the present. I have always felt as if I were born in the future and somehow found myself lost in time. In a world that lives comfortably in the “what is” it is hard to find a place to belong if you live in the “what if.”

What if the church became the human incubator for creating the world’s best future? What if we walked away from our security in the “what is” and began to live in this mystery of the “what if”?

If Mosaic in Los Angeles is anything as a community of faith, it is that she has never found her “what is.”

There are some things that are incredibly reproducible, like McDonald’s, and aren’t we grateful for that? (That’s a joke.) Or Starbucks.

There’s something strange inside of us that, at first, causes us to feel grateful there are franchises, but then later, we learn to despise them. I can tell you, I’ve traveled the world, and I’ve been so grateful when I’ve seen a McDonald’s in the middle of some obscure country when I’ve been really, really hungry. After a while, even the smell of grease is appetizing.

For a season—when Starbucks was taking over the world—I would feel a sense of connectedness and community when I saw a Starbucks in an obscure and unexpected place—like I’d found my place to belong wherever I was around the world. “Oh, there’s a Starbucks.”

My wife used to mock me and say, “Every time we pass a Starbucks, you have to say, ‘There’s a Starbucks.’”

I don’t say that anymore. Now I say, “Let’s go to Peet’s … Let’s go to Intelligentsia …Let’s find some Stump Town or Handsome coffee”—the world keeps changing for the better.

There’s something inside of us that, at first, longs for standardization so we can make sense of the world, and then something that causes us to despise standardization because it causes us to lose our sense of self.

What’s happened is that we, as the church, have chosen to live in the space of standardization, security and comfort. We live in this “what is” reality, and then we talk about things like creating culture, making history, creating the future, and we don’t realize that we actually do not have the fundamental core values of a “what if” culture because they violate our core values that protect the “what is.”

When I became a follower of Christ, I didn’t feel I was properly equipped to believe because faith became about what we knew, not what we imagined. The church was actually more about belief than about faith.

What if the church became the epicenter of human creativity and human imagination?

I have worked as a futurist for 20 years for companies and organizations. I realized the reason I was a futurist outside of the church was because the church wasn’t interested in the future. When I would work with churches, organizations and denominations, people would come and say, “How are you able to have such keen insights into the future?” I’d say, “I don’t have any keen insights on the future. I just see the present really clearly.”

Most people are living in the past, and the present terrifies them.

What if we created the kind of environment where people didn’t have to go outside the church to dream and imagine and create the future?

What if we didn’t have to go outside the narrative of Christ to invent and to create this beautiful reality that is known as the future? Most of us have a passive view of the future—our view is that it already exists, that it’s already determined, that it’s already going to be whatever it’s going to be, and we wrap it up in our theology and our faith.

But what about those of us who have a dynamic view of the future—that the future is created by human choices and human actions? For us, we know the future is an integration of the divine act and the human will. This is perfectly in line with the sovereignty of God because it’s how he designed the future to happen!

So, what if we were the stewards of God’s future?

What if the church’s principle role was to be an agent of change to create a future that is only in the imagination of God right now?

I remember speaking at Columbia University. I was thrown into a debate with a scientist and an ethicist. The whole conversation was “What Can Be Known?”

The scientist said, “Only empirical information can be known.”

The ethicist said, “Only human actions can be known.”

Then it was my turn.

I said, “I have to admit I know something I’m not supposed to know. As a follower of Christ, what I know are things we shouldn’t know. There are things you can know that go beyond the senses—like knowing you’re in love. You know there is a chair in the room, and that the walls are painted red, and that it’s hot outside, and that the earth revolves around the sun, and that you are in love! What humans know goes beyond our knowledge. You can know things you’re not supposed to know because humans are designed for multiple layers of knowing.”

I love what Jesus said to Peter: “Who do you say that I am?”

Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

Jesus said, “You got this one right, Peter [and that’s how I know you cheated]. Flesh and blood have not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”

Summary: “Peter, you know something you shouldn’t be able to know, unless the knowledge came from the Creator of the universe.”

I love this window into the potential of human action and interaction; that God would whisper into the human imagination a picture of what he wants to create. This is a glimpse into the potential that is ours as materializers of the invisible when we choose to act on what God has spoken and make visible that which is known only in eternity.

We are residents of the future living in present times.

When we stand in the intersection between time and eternity we break free from “what is” and bring into reality “what if”!

Erwin Raphael McManus serves as the principle visionary and primary communicator of Mosaic in Los Angeles. He is the author of several books, including “Soul Cravings: An Exploration of the Human Spirit” and “Wide Awake: The Future Is Waiting Within You.” His newest book is “The Artisan Soul: Crafting Your Life Into a Work of Art.”



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