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The Rev. Dr. William H. Willimon The Rev. Dr. William H. Willimon

The Rev. Dr. William H. Willimon is Professor of the Practice of Christian Ministry at The Divinity School, Duke University. He is recently retired after serving eight years as Bishop of the North Alabama Conference of The United Methodist Church.

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Bishop Will Willimon: Claiborne's Call to Young Christians

August 17, 2009

Claiborne's Call to Young Christians

This year's [North Alabama] Annual Conference focused on reaching and empowering a new generation of Christians. At Conference our churches received some great ideas about how to reach out to the under Forty generations, generations that we appear to have (unintentionally) excluded from too many of our congregations.

Some of our younger clergy like Carrie Kramer Vasa, following up on the energy ignited at Conference, have invited one of the most exciting spokespersons for a new generation of Christians -- Shane Claiborne. Shane will be with us on August 29. I've worked with Shane and have found him a fascinating new mix of evangelical passion and good old Wesleyan concern for "practical Christianity." Shane keeps focusing on Jesus and the radical, life-changing, world-changing power that flows from ordinary people (like us!) taking Jesus seriously. His books Jesus for President and The Irresistible Revolution are just great.

I could say more about Shane but I will let him speak for himself. Here are some Claiborne quotes that I've collected:

"Most good things have been said far too many times and just need to be lived."
(Ouch! As somebody who does lots of talking, it's good to get this Wesleyan reminder that the truth about Jesus is meant to be lived!)

"I think that's what our world is desperately in need of - lovers, people who are building deep, genuine relationships with fellow strugglers along the way, and who actually know the faces of the people behind the issues they are concerned about."
(Everything we know about attracting young adults to the church says that they must be engaged in face-to-face, hands on mission.)

"I need to be born again,.... But if you tell me I have to be born again to enter the Kingdom of God, I can tell you that you have to sell everything you have and give it to the poor, because Jesus said that to one guy, too. But I guess that's why God invented highlighters, so we can highlight the parts we like and ignore the rest."
(Isn't it curious which scripture we ignore and which we notice?)

""How ironic is it to see a bumper sticker that says 'Jesus is the answer' next to a bumper sticker supporting the war in Iraq, as if to says 'Jesus is the answer - but not in the real world.'"
(Shane really stresses taking Jesus seriously.)

"It is a dangerous day when we can take the cross out of the church more easily than the flag. No wonder it is hard for seekers to find God nowadays."
(We've got to make sure that when we attract people to the church we, in Wesley's words, "offer them Christ," not some gospel substitute.)

(Shane says of his own young adult years....)
"But as I pursued that dream of upward mobility preparing for college, things just didn't fit together. As I read Scriptures about how the last will be first, I started wondering why I was working so hard to be first."

"I asked participants who claimed to be 'strong followers of Jesus' whether Jesus spent time with the poor. Nearly 80 percent said yes. Later in the survey, I sneaked in another question, I asked this same group of strong followers whether they spent time with the poor, and less than 2 percent said they did. I learned a powerful lesson: We can admire and worship Jesus without doing what he did. We can applaud what he preached and stood for without caring about the same things. We can adore his cross without taking up ours. I had come to see that the great tragedy of the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor but that rich Christians do not know the poor."
(I see John Wesley smiling.)

And this...

"Christianity is at its best when it is peculiar, marginalized, suffering, and it is at its worst when it is popular, credible, triumphal, and powerful."

--Will Willimon

[Taken with permission from "The Weekly Message from Bishop Will Willimon," Aug. 17, 2009]

 


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