A Real To-Do List for the Church

“A child was born in Chicago today, and you could put on his birth certificate: + 35 years of life.” … Continued

“A child was born in Chicago today, and you could put on his birth certificate: + 35 years of life.”

Several thousand Evangelical arts programmers sat in the gargantuan main auditorium of Willow Creek Church and wondered where Brian McLaren was going with this.

McLaren leaned forward and said, “A child was born in Sierra Leone today, and here’s what you could put on that birth certificate: – 35 years of life.

“There is no difference in how much parents love their children anywhere in the world.”

Brian McLaren, a fellow On Faith contributor, has dedicated his life to making that child in Sierra Leone central to the life of the church.

When he was a church-based youth worker in his twenties, McLaren had a group of teenagers he was speaking to make two lists. The first was what they were concerned about in church. The second was what they were concerned about in the world.

On the first list: what version of the Bible to use in church, what instruments could be played during worship, whether women should be in leadership roles.

On the second list: war, poverty, overpopulation, environmental degradation.

There was no overlap between the two lists. McLaren couldn’t help but wonder, “What if the church spent its prodigious energies addressing the second list rather than the first?”

There are a lot of people who leave the church (or synagogue, or mosque, or temple …) when they experience that dichotomy. McLaren did something far more courageous: he journeyed to the roots of his faith, and he discovered there a revolutionary theology that too few people are taught in church.

Here is how he described it for the audience at Willow:

“A lot of us believe that the reason for Jesus is to get our souls to heaven. But I don’t think Christianity is a fire escape message. I think the message of Christianity is about the Kingdom on Earth.”

The Lord’s Prayer, McLaren reminded people, says “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” – not ‘get me off this planet’.

He summed up the Christian message in these words:

“We’re blessed, so that we can become a blessing to others.”

It is a message that this Muslim will faithfully share.

(You can read more about McLaren in his excellent book, Everything Must Change, and in this interview)

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  • mr. dave

    angela baby, take a breath. relax. mr. Patel asks you to see beyond your own nose and you throw the most cover-your-ass scripture at him that i’ve ever seen; “1.only i speak the truth,2do as i say,3don’t believe anyone after me.4only i speak the truth.”

  • kvn

    That _is_ a good question. What Would Journey Do?

  • Orbiter Dictum

    Sounds like this guy’s finally coming around to catholicism — it is not by belief alone that one gets to heaven. That was such a cop-out anyway. Believe this and you’re done.As for me, I think piccolo’s should never be allowed in a church. If he were around today, WWJD? I think he’d consider tax cuts for everyone. He’d be for less government and greater lubrication on the wheels of commerce. He’d probably be a futures trader or run a hedge fund.

  • Anonymous

    This piece reeks of inbuilt arrogance.Imagine Christians telling Muslims that they have a “to-do” list for Muslims at the Mosque.Muslims would most likely do the opposite of whatever Christians recommend.

  • RCG

    ORBITER:JIM said:That’s one of the best and smartest religious phrases I have ever read here. Holy Chrome, someone asking for understanding first! That’s amazing! Thank you for that bit of rationalism.ANGELA:How Would Jesus Understand, indeed. Sometimes, I think there’s hope for you Christians yet.


    mr g read my mind- amin to that. 67 mosques in pennsylvania! i had no idea-

  • Mr. G

    Amen to that. Too many times we as Christians focus so much of our energy on things that are internal (budget items, decor, programming, etc.) that we fail to focus on external things (the world around us). Few of us realize that we have the ability to affect change in our world. Jesus didn’t say, “Solve your problems then go out.” He said to “Go, therefore and teach all nations.”

  • Angela

    Mr. Patel,When is it going to stop. In a word: heresy. Distortion of God’s word that’s McLaren’s new fangled, ear-tickling, soft cotton candy; it’s almost a 70s hippie doctrine. In addition, we need to speak truth in love. No where in scripture does Jesus state our will be done: The Lord’s Prayer, THY KINGDOM COME, THY WILL BE DONE ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN. It doesn’t mean that our kingdom come (sounds like self-servitude); our will be done. Distorting doctrine to suit the new tolerant, do your own thing and it’s ok w/me gospel. Wow: what happened to take up your cross daily and follow me and submitting to God’s will, not our own. All about self. We are our own little Gods. amazing…Jesus preached REPENT: for the Kingdom of Heaven is at Hand, not our KINGDOM…distorting God’s truth to suit everyone’s felt needs. Pretty frightening post….Charles Spurgeon the Downgrade; Christians and fellow human beings should read it! Everything Mr. Spurgeon said over 100 years it coming true and more over, everything Jesus said, coming true to light: 2 Peter 1:4; 1But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.

  • roboturkey

    Of course, there is always the tension of the church pushing to become a political of cultural force for whatever its vision of “good” is in the world vs. being a refuge of peace and sacred space to retreat temporarily from the rat race with others of similar belief.I think that America is currently in a season where he refuge factor of safe churches is badly needed. There is nothing wrong with taking care of congregational family. We are being pulled by so many eloquent requests for needed action that there is an instituional sense of exhaustion to many ministries. I just don’t see a compelling biblical mandate to go out and change the world.

  • Jim

    “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done . . .” But, what does the kingdom look like? How do we understand God’s will? A message at the beginning of a construction manual read, “Assembly of Japanese bicycle requires peace of mind.” Yet, we are often in such a hurry to build something or do something that we neglect to read the instructions at all. Our anxiety to build and to do emerges from anything but peace of mind. We frequently rush ahead to build or do for fear of “being scattered over the face of the earth(Gen.11),” only to be halted, frustrated, only part way to completion, to ask ourselves, “Where did we put those instructions, anyway?” Too many Christians spend too little time reading their scriptures. Far too few spend any time looking at each others words, let alone those of non-Christians. Before Christians attempt the question of WWJD, we need to ask ourselves HWJU (How would Jesus understand?). The truth sets us free!

  • Angela

    RCG: Fellow Christians should read some of Mr. McLaren’s new spin on God’s word. Interpretation: it boggles my mind when I hear that. If you want to interpret scripture, get a concordance or a lexicon or study Hermeneutics: don’t distort scripture. So what you’re saying is well: God didn’t know that things would be the way they are now so it gives us the right to say “well this is what He really meant”; utterly shameful….

  • Arminius

    Eboo,A beautiful, beautiful essay. The world needs more like you. Thank you.Arminius

  • Arminius

    Angela,Please do yourself a favor. Pick up your bible, open to Matthew’s Gospel, and start reading. Do NOT go to the OT or anywhere else. Pay special attention to exactly what our Lord is saying. When you get to the end of John’s Gospel, put the bible down, and think about it. Then pick up that book and start at Matthew again, because you probably don’t have the message yet.The message you look for is the now trite ‘What would Jesus do?’, and also the one added on this blog, ‘How would Jesus understand?’. The message is NOT ‘Who would Jesus bomb?’.

  • Paganplace

    I mean, hey, look at these Christian-believers paranoid about some idea any courtesy shown to Muslim is tantamount to bending over and handing off some Astroglide….They live by some need to believe that Yankee people, never mind chicks, can’t go tactical and run circles round yer ‘Good Old Boys.’ Shhh. But it’s so. Meaner isn’t anywhere near the same as stronger, boys. The stronger you are, the less you fear. Frankly, the less chicken**** you are, the less you need a big weapon. One rule is, the bad guys always bring plenty of weapons. Stand honorably, and stop freaking out, Christians, You’re embarrassing us.

  • Paganplace

    I dunno, Arminius, you’d think some of these Christians never faced down a weapon before. Someone comes into our neighborhood with a gun, you *take it away,* you don’t cower about how everyone with the same skin tone wants to kill you. Gods, what is this?

  • Arminius

    Paganplace, you said,Gods, what is this?”My friend, don’t exhaust me this early in the evening! Ya gotta elaborate. I suspect we’re onto something here.Arminius

  • Paganplace

    Myou.. I do find it insulting that some Christians seem to believe that just because I don’t believe firearms should be passed out at gun shows, that I don’t know more than I would like to remember about what these devices do.Righteous guys.Capiche?

  • Arminius

    Paganplace,First, your comment, “If I had to choose a weapon some righteus dude was to shoot me with, it’d be the biggest wet dream possible.”I have not laughed so hard in quite a long time! Thanks!Next, you said,You have it there. We are definitely getting somewhere.Arminius


    one of my favorite sayings of the Prophet(pbuh) is (paraphrased) strength is not overpowering another with ones strength- but controlling ones anger- something like that-

  • Arminius

    Paganplace,”Waktah!””Let’s see what we, the ‘meek’ can make out of the wreckage. 🙂 Gotcha skills? :)”

  • Paganplace

    *taking Arminius’ hand* Some will say it is weaknessto pu t one hand in another…. Who will take the other hand of either of us? Still two open hands, here, who will take one?

  • Arminius

    Paganplace,Your hand graces mine. If no one else is here, then we can join both hands. But there should be somebody else around, damnit! I know you are out there! We’ve got work to do!Arminius

  • Arminius

    Paganplace,In my humble opinion, for two persons to join hands, even if in a virtual environment, is to share strength. It is not a weakness, ever. Friendship is not a weakness. Not ever. Not ever.Arminius

  • James R. Cowles

    I agree with the latter, this-world-oriented set of priorities. No argument there. But I do have a perhaps-naive question. If we make that latter set of priorities determinative then … why do we need God? I mean, if you actually, really, truly, and seriously have to have God to command you to care for each other and the environment — if the Big Guy actually has to tell you to do that — then you need professional help. Compassion for each other and compassion for the earth should not have to be “command decisions”.

  • Anonymous



    i only see great strength and beauty in you right now paganplace- i would be honored to offer my hand-

  • Arminius


  • Anonymous

    If Muhammed really said what Victoria quoted, that is heartening, but since she failed to provide an actual reference for this saying, like Bukhari # ____, it sadly appears she is just distorting the facts. Victoria;

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    After 47 comments, Some Reality:”Until the koran is deflawed, all mosques are “febrezed” and Sunnis and Shiites pacified, no one is safe!!!!

  • Anonymous

    staying away from mosques in the US is better than attending them. they became full of hypocrites and Moslem-FBI agents.it is difficult to live in a country in which you, as a moslem, and only you is being viewed as a potential terrorists!!!!

  • Phillip C. Smith, Ph.D.

    It is wonderful to read of anyone who is engaged in service to others. Christianity should be about service, helping people to come to Christ, keep his commandments and receive the blessings that come therefrom.Part of service is to help those in difficult circumstances. Many in the developing world are in such circumstances. I belong to a Christian Church that has donated tens of millions of dollars worth of supplies and assistance to many foreign countries. Our Mormon Helping Hands efforts have, as well, made a great difference for good among those caught in natural disasters and other difficulties. We need to be positive toward and supportive of all in religions who seek to serve others.We should all work together to alleviate suffering everywhere, lift people through helping them make better decisions and showing them love.Phillip C. Smith, Ph.D.


    I have always liked:Gospel according to Thomas

  • Priver

    MMA Arminius, PP..Got room for one more? :)there is strength in numbers. Maybe it will catch on.*offers hand to all*

  • Anonymous

    Go for the Gusto! Looks like the girl likes Sclitz Beer as much as her prophet!

  • Apostate

    Victoria; You had to mention your prophet(PBUH) and spoil the mood of the ongoing dialogue. Where did your “ideal for a human” say what you claim he had said?

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated


  • Anonymous



    wow- the first time i try to wing it from memory you guys have a field day of backbiting- sorry- it was the wrong number- but you still managed to find somethign despite your contention that books etc were needed! silly silly bored people- way to spoil a mood haters!


    arminius, paganplace, priver- thanks for the moment-

  • Anonymous

    I looked up the reference that Victoria gave us. This is Bukhari 5719, not at all what Victoria quoted. This hadith does explain though why Muslims protect the criminals in their community and won’t turn them in. By doing so they are aiding a criminal act themselves. There are other sayings too that advise Muslims to stick together whether doing right or wrong.LVIII. “O you who believe! Avoid most suspicion. Indeed some suspicion is a crime. And do not spy and do not backbite one another….” (49:12) 5719. Al-A’raj related from Abu Hurayra that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “Beware of suspicion. Suspicion is the falsest of speech. Do not pry and do not spy. Do not bid against on another, bidding in order to raise the price, and do not envy one another. Do not hate one another and do not turn your backs on one another. Be slaves of Allah and brothers.”

  • hmmm

    Some say that Muslims really need the West to serve as their mutual target of hatred.If they didn’t focus all that hate of theirs on the West, they’d be killing each other. Not unlike what we’ve seen here in Muslim versus Muslim conflict. Go See the Under God section, the Coda one, for some revert versus convert action. It kind of makes you feel sorry for both of them. Dare we say: Get a life girls!

  • Anonymous

    10-4 on the lack of credibility of some who speak carelessly and consider accuracy unimportant.Sami Amin Al-Arian (b. January 14, 1958 in Kuwait) is a Palestinian computer engineer who accepted a plea bargain which resulted in his conviction with conspiracy to help Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Al-Arian, a former university professor, was arrested by the United States government in 2003 on charges of funding terrorists. A jury acquitted him on eight charges and deadlocked on the remaining nine of the 17 charges against him December 2005 after a six month trial with three co-defendants. On April 14, 2006 Al-Arian pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to provide services to Palestinian Islamic Jihad and agreed to be deported. In return, federal prosecutors agreed to drop the remaining eight charges against him. Al-Arian was sentenced to 57 months in prison and given credit for time served. He was to serve the balance of 19 months and then be deported.However, Al-Arian served a 14-month sentence for civil contempt of court after refusing to testify against former associates. The 14-month sentence was in addition to the criminal sentence. In December of 2007, a federal judge lifted the civil contempt charge. However, in March of 2008, The Justice Department subpoenaed Al-Arian to testify before another grand jury. He has refused to testify.

  • Anonymous

    To VictoriaCorrecting false information with facts is not “backbiting.”It is important to correct false statements and provide the truth.I am sorry if the facts offend you but it is important to stay with reality not mythmaking.


    there were 51 charges and over 20,000 hours of taped conversation- over 10 years! and al-arian is not being deported – here are 5 solid articles of length about al-arian give us a break- were not idiots- The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of if you are a muslim, as you claim- your hatred of muslims seems to overwhelm your practice of your own religion- we are here to build bridges of understanding with each other- not tear apart the ‘other’ whomever they may be- get with the program


    It is essential that the one who wants to call people to Islam should have some understanding of that to which he is calling them, but he does not have to know the entire religion, because of the report narrated by al-Bukhaari (3461) from ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Amr (may Allaah be pleased with him), according to which the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said “Convey from me, even if it is one verse.” Al-Haafiz ibn Hajar (may Allaah have mercy on him) said in Fath al-Baari: He said in the hadeeth, “even if it is one verse” so that everyone who heard him would hasten to convey whatever he heard of the verses, even if it was very little, so that in this manner everything that he (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) brought would be conveyed. End quote. Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: If a person understands what he is calling people to, it makes no difference whether he is a great and prominent scholar or a seeker of knowledge who is serious in his pursuit thereof, or a regular person who has certain knowledge of the issue in question. The Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Convey from me, even if it is one verse,” and he did not stipulate that the daa’iyah (caller) should have reached a high level of knowledge, but it is essential that he should have knowledge of that to which he is calling people. But calling out of ignorance or calling based on emotion is not permissible. End quote. Fataawa ‘Ulama’ al-Balad al-Haraam, p. 329.


    so you see convert- we are encourage to have the best intentions- and to share the best of what we know-

  • AMH


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