July 8, 2006

Reform & Resurge 2

Category: Theology :: Permalink

A long time ago, so long ago that most of you have forgotten about it already, I attended the Reform and Resurge conference hosted by Mars Hill Church in Seattle. I started blogging about it when I got back home, but then life interrupted me. So here’s a somewhat belated review of some more of the conference.

The second speaker was Anthony Bradley. Bradley himself seems disappointed with his talk. I will admit that I was disappointed by the beginning, where he appeared to be trying to hard to seem hip and funny, and the end, where he presented a rather strange interpretation of being the “salt of the earth.”

But in between, he said some very good things. His title was “Beyond Brokenness: How Jacked-Up Punks Will Change the World,” and he painted a powerful picture of the brokenness in our world. I was particularly struck by his remark that men are frequently trying to answer the question “Am I okay?” and they answer it by turning to work or even entering the pastorate so that they can hear people tell them that they’re okay (“Pastor, you have changed my life! I’ve never heard anything like that before!”). Ministers wreck their churches by trying to manipulate peple into making them feel validated as men.

I also appreciated Bradley’s statement that people are more than just sinners; they’re also broken and in need of healing. I was struck by the same thing in Harvey Conn’s Evangelism: Doing Justice and Preaching Grace. Conn talks about working with prostitutes in Korea.

At first, he said, he simply approached them as women who were sinning. But then he learned more of their story. He learned how they came to the cities with no money, hoping to find work to support their families at home, but instead were caught by men who promised them a place to live but who raped them instead and then told them that they owed them room and board and could only pay off the debt through prostitution.

Were the women sinning? Perhaps. But they were also victims, broken and in need of rescue and healing.

So it is with people in the world around us. Are they sinners? Yes. But they are also broken people, people whose lives are (to use a phrase I heard often at the conference) “jacked-up.” Many of them have been seriously hurt by divorce. (Bradley recommended The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce, based on a 25-year study of people involved in divorces). Divorce leaves people (husbands, wives, children, and others) broken and fearful.

Our world is full of brokenness. But it is precisely broken people that God takes and uses to change the world. Isaiah 61 is a familiar passage because it’s the passage Jesus quoted at the outset of his ministry in Galilee (“The Spirit of Yahweh God is upon me, because Yahweh has anointed me”). But what we often miss, and what I hadn’t noticed until Bradley pointed it out, is that the focus of the passage is not strictly on what the Anointed One is going to do.

That’s where Isaiah starts. The Anointed One is going to proclaim good news, heal the brokenhearted, announce liberty to captives, and so forth. He’s going to comfort and console people and dress them in praise. He’s going to give them a new identity so that they will no longer be junk, identified by their abuse, but will become new creations in Christ.

But that isn’t where the passage stops. It goes on to say that these people, the very ones who were broken, will be the ones who rebuild the old ruins and repair the ruined cities (Isa. 61:4). Jesus heals broken people. But he heals them in order to make them into agents for healing.

Bradley himself may be disappointed with his talk and parts of it were disappointing. But at the heart of it was a great encouragement and a good summons to what Mark Horne calls “cruciform dominion,” God’s use of broken people to bring salvation to the world.

Posted by John Barach @ 6:33 pm | Discuss (0)

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