Revitalised in Witness – Lessons in Arousing Curiosity from the Prophets (Pt 2)
“We need to rediscover what it looks like to create curiosity arousing lifestyles…equipping people to live lives that are weird, that are odd, that break moulds.”.
Michael Frost in Missional Conversation Series
Is Michael Frost right?
There are many questions here. What business have respectable middle class Australian Baptists got being ‘weird’? Is there a biblical precedence to support Michael’s viewpoint?
A brief look at some of the Old Testament prophets may provide support. We highlight some of these in our annual Easter Offering video HERE.
Strictly speaking the prophets were in possession of a different set of messages than the Gospel, although we share in common with them the commission to pass on a message from God to the world.
Jeremiah engaged in some bizarre behaviour burying his underwear and walking around with a yoke attached to his back.
Ezekiel’s prophetic modus operandi is similarly odd in comparison to our modern day way of going about proclaiming the message of God. Events that stand out is his act of lying on his side for 390 days, and then repeating that. Eating barley cakes baked over cow manure was another
Perhaps Hosea amongst all the prophets would have the most traction today, due to the self-sacrificial nature of his decision to obey God and take on a prostitute for a wife. It’s not the kind of thing in modern times we expect of God – to be told to live such an unusual, controversial and sacrificial life that plays out like a long running drama speaking to the surrounding world of the nature of God’s love for his people and the degree to which they have defiled themselves.
Christians in popular misconception are perceived to be shunning of sex workers. The truth is that of all the people who reach out to street workers Christians across the world are often on the forefront.
Jesus got a hard time from the religious elite for hanging with tax collectors and other people of ill repute.
It can be argued that there is an incarnational logic to the somewhat bizarre ministries of the prophets. Under the direction of God to deliver a message, they didn’t just proclaim prophecies but lived their message out through their symbolic behaviour, be that in in the choice of marriage partners, their clothing or using their bodies symbolically. They took the word of God seriously and allowed it to have a disruptive and transforming effect on their lives.
Is anybody listening?
The prophets of old weren’t at any risk of being ignored. They aroused curiosity and made the message of God a talking point. It seems as if the church on the other hand is routinely ignored, except for when something controversial happens. So what would it mean to us to live lives that arouse curiosity? Do we have to do something outlandish or bizarre to be noticed?
It is important to note that the behaviour of the prophets mentioned wasn’t some grand plan that they schemed and hatched – it was under the direction of God.
Modern Day Curiosities
There are plenty of examples of Christians living extraordinarily sacrificial lives right across the globe, particularly those who minister amongst the poor and marginalised. However, this is not the preserve of Christian believers alone and therefore not necessarily curious from a religious perspective.
Some modern day believers do choose ‘curious’ ways of witnessing to the world around them. Carl James Joseph, a Catholic pilgrim from Detroit, Michigan, has been living without money and depending on the generosity of others for the past 20 years. Carl carries a large cross on his back and is dressed like Jesus. He is barefoot most of the time and lives a very simple life.
Having visited about 20 countries in the world he has now become a well-known figure in the old city of Jerusalem, where he explores the life and path of Jesus Christ.
If you drive down the old Route 66 into Groom Texas you will see a giant cross which attracts up to a thousand people a day. It was built by Steve Thomas of Pampa, Texas in 1995. Mr. Thomas, disgusted with the huge billboards advertising pornography wanted to make a public profession of faith along the Interstate. Originally he wanted to put up his own billboard with Bible verses but could never find the appropriate verse. Instead, inspired by a cross built by a rancher in Ballinger, Texas, Mr. Thomas decided to construct a giant cross. The cross was constructed by a hundred welders in two pieces and stands 190 feet tall.
Alongside the cross is a replica of Calvary, with steps leading to the crosses, and a replica of Christ’s tomb. The Stations of the Cross feature life-sized sculptures of the events leading to Christ’s crucifixion. The Groom Cross is fast becoming a roadside pilgrimage site with the number of travellers visiting the site increasing exponentially.
But what about us ‘normal’ people?
The most elementary way togain traction and cut through is to upset the applecart of expectations.Through perception that is often justified and at other times unwarranted the church and Christians at large in Australia seemed to be pegged when it comes to expectations of attitude and action. Upsetting those expectations arouses curiosity. Here’s some ways I’ve found makes a difference:
- Not judging when you are expected to.
- Taking an interest in others lives and views rather than just trying to ‘push a message’.
- Being found in unlikely places (outside the bubble of the church).
- Learning to build friendships with people outside of your usual Christian networks.
- Being at the heart of a community rather than the fringe.
- Asking questions rather than making statements.
Whilst the examples above don’t attract as much attention as the antics of the prophets or giant crosses it does make a difference one life at a time. Like the prophets, we can submit our lives to God to be used for whatever purposes he wishes and whatever way he wants. The question is, how are we going to respond if he wants us to do something off the wall?
By Stan Fetting (Operations Manager, Crossover)
For more on being ‘Revitalised in Witness’ please read the other posts in this series: