bits from bob....
Reinhold Neibuhr observed that in the history of thought, one can identify four steps in the thought patterns that have influenced the world-man, message, movement, and monument. The leader of a new group develops a message that continues to attract followers, even after the death of the original leader. As followers multiply, a movement forms. But a movement that does maintain contact with the story of its leader and the message of its leader eventually becomes a monument or memorial to what used to be-a shadow of what could have been.
One does not have to contemplate the above sequence very long to recognize implications for the church. The church's identity is formed by our understanding of Jesus and his message, and our connections with others who share "like, precious faith." I would add another influence-the church's identity is clarified as we understand our mission or purpose in the world.
When the church becomes a weakened movement or an immobilized monument more than a vital body of believers, the need is renewal. The New Testament is filled with the theme of renewal-the Gospel of Mark and the book of Hebrews are two often cited examples. The church's identity comes from its connection with Jesus, the gospel message, and the mission of the church.
Six dynamics are essential in a vibrant, alive church: faith, focus, fellowship or family, fidelity (decision or determination) festivity, and hope for the future. All are essential; none is optional. Faith and focus are foundational. Faith maintains the connection with Jesus as the primary determinant of our identity. Focus maintains the connection with the message so that the mission or purpose does not become blurry.
Renewal is possible when identity is clearly defined. Christian identity comes from Christ and from our reason for existence in his divine purpose. Renewal requires that one give both a biblical answer to the identity question, and also a practical answer that corresponds to the world around us. The church finds its resonance and plays the melody of Christ when the gospel meets the world through the presence of the church.