September 18, 2009

Thinking a lot about churches and how they grow, when I ran across a blog post, now buried deep in my browser’s history, on the order one journeys through belonging, believing and behaving in to the church.  Which comes first?  And what follows?  In what order?

Is it behave-belong-believe?  Believe-belong-believe?  Belong-believe-behave?  There are six options to choose from.  Let’s take a look…

When Behaving Comes First…

I don’t really think it matters what follows when behavior is the gate in to Jesus’ kingdom.  I simply cannot imagine how it doesn’t lead to some sort of moralism.  When behaving comes first my belonging is always at stake and I will become an awesome Pharisee.  On the other hand, if belong proceeds believe, then it leeches the potency inherent in the life altering Truth I have come to know in Jesus.

I Believe Therefore…

Though I’m relatively certain there are plenty of people who have come to faith this way, I’m afraid it leaves me with one major question: Why is the Church here?  If belief comes apart from the church as sign, first-fruit and foretaste of the Kingdom, then what’s God thinking keeping us around?

On the other side, belief coming before behaving, seems like a really good idea.  If Jesus is who he says, and God is telling the Truth when he tells us his story, then I must capitulate, I must change.  If I do not change, then I have missed something of the story, because the story (which spans from creation to new creation) demands that I live in it.


Keeping the believing-behaving order, belonging is the only “B” yet to take its turn at the front of the line.  Of the options listed, this one seems to be the only truly viably incarnational approach.  Since belonging is not based on the prerequisites of believing or behaving, Jesus’ followers are finally allowed to love those around them freely.

One thing about this ordering however is that I think many will confuse it with behave-belong-believe.  Only the Jesus followers who follow him out of the holy huddle on to the streets will truly ever preach a gospel where belonging is not preceded by behaving.  In other words, if you must come to me to belong, then belonging will always only happen on my terms.

Again, this is not meant to be preaching at the choir, so much as it is intended to be preaching at my own heart.  More often than not, I stray back to moralism because I want a savior who saves me because I’m a great guy, or I find Truth has moved to the backseat where it sits helpless to steer anything.  I’d love to hear your thoughts as this is something I am only beginning to explore myself.


2 Responses to “Belong/Believe/Behave”

  1. Ryan B. Says:

    Great post dude, so its Believe > Behave > Belong right?

  2. Win Says:

    I find that to be true, Joey. It’s really easy to judge ourselves and others with a list of standards and morals. We feel like we need to be acceptable to others and to God, therefore our behavior needs to be a certain way.

    How is this reflected in the Church, though? Sadly, more and more the phrase “The Christian Army is unique because it’s the only army that shoots its own” be more true every day. I see bitterness, anger, aggression, and general sadness among other fellow believers who seem to play Pharisee with one another, pointing out mistakes, judging others, and rationalizing this ridiculous behavior with the Word.
    The line of “being in the world, but not of it” has swung deeply on either side, me being guilty either way. At what point do we say “Hey, enough is enough?” How does God want us to represent His kingdom in an incarnate approach when it seems like the only way the world will listen is if you seem to act like them?

    I think of you, Kate, Jude, and the new one coming, often. Keep wrestling, Joey. You’re a blessing, and you’re being blessed. We missed you at the wedding, but you were in our hearts

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