“To most believers, their faith is a “bonus” or an add-on dimension of their life rather than the priority around which everything in their life revolves…more often than not, our goal is to feel happy, comfortable, and secure.” Growing True Disciples By George Barna
Over the last year or so, my Guarani colleague, Alcides, and I have been gathering information from Guarani folks young and old about their worldview. One of the things we found is that the worldview of most Guarani Christians is not much different from that of the non-Christians. Most of the time it is hard to tell them apart just by having conversations about “non-religious” things. It gets easier when you bring religion into the conversation because the Christians tend to be more judgmental and sure of who will be in Heaven and who won’t and what you need to do or say to get there. But as George Barna put it in the quote above, it is too often an add-on, it doesn’t change much about how they live each day or how they view their neighbor, but it does give them security about what is to come once this life is over.
What gives them the most security and comfort in this life is that everything else stays the same. And some of that stuff is pretty bad; physically, emotionally, and spiritually bad, and they know it, but there is something that holds them in that cycle of familiarity, as toxic and even deadly as it may be. One lady we talked to told us that she took her inconsolable crying baby to the pastor for prayer and that instead of praying, he referred her to the witch doctor.
And of course, this is not just a Bolivia problem, or a third world problem. We see this situation played out in different ways all over the world. For those of us who are privileged, the results of seeking comfort and security in our familiar circumstances may not seem so dangerous or even consequential, but when we look harder (and we may need to be willing to turn our own worldviews on their heads to see things more clearly) we may begin to see the psychological, emotional, and spiritual consequences for ourselves and our families, or perhaps more often, for the unknown neighbor.
Salvation without transformation isn’t salvation at all, because the salvation Christ died to make available to us was meant to transform us to be transformers in a world desperately in need of transformation. And we all know transformers are not conformers. And I know, maybe better than most, that moving from conforming to transforming is really hard and I still need a lot of help moving along that path. Hopefully, we are all works in progress helping each other to move along from our decision to follow Christ to the goal of Christ likeness, or at least more Christ like today than yesterday. What is certain is that we can’t do it alone. We need to help each other along that path. It’s what we call discipleship. And that is a word that causes much frustration for our pastor and church leader friends here. Part of the problem, they say, is that they are not good at discipleship and that there is a lack of available training and contextualized resources. So we are working on that. We are currently working together to translate and field test discipleship materials and contextualize Bible study methods to better serve those we serve. Please pray for us and the Gather team as we work with pastors and church leaders to bring this together as we try to close the gap between salvation and transformed lives here in our little corner of God’s kingdom.
In the gospels, Jesus constantly challenges the comfort and security of his listener’s worldviews and turns them on their heads. While he certainly offers glorious promises for life beyond this world, his main concern seems to be the Kingdom; a place that spans heaven and earth, from cross to eternity, and starts here and now for those who are willing to sacrifice their comfort and security, and even their lives if necessary, to be a witness of God’s love to others. It is our choice, we can be like the rich young ruler or maybe a poor rural Bolivian and be equally unwilling to move beyond whatever we have established as our comfort zone, or we can take Jesus at his word and find that when we turn our lives over to him, “What is impossible for mere humans is possible with God.” Luke 18:27