The Vision Is Jesus
The point of prayer, the entire impetus behind the 24-7 movement, is not the power that it releases but the person it reveals.
“The vision,” I wrote in the first prayer room, “is Jesus. Dangerously, obsessively, undeniably Jesus.” I don’t pray because I’m into prayer. I pray because I’m into Jesus, so we talk. I don’t believe in the power of prayer. I believe in the power of Jesus, so I ask for his help. A lot.
People sometimes ask me how to start a movement. Everyone these days wants to lead a movement. But the only movement that really matters is that of a solitary soul taking a single step toward Jesus. That was all I ever did. If thousands of others choose to join you and there are wonderful consequences you never expected or envisaged—so be it. But if you move toward Jesus alone and no one joins you, that may, in the end, be the most remarkable movement of all.
The vision is Jesus. Everything else is secondary—even the mission is less important than the man. Actually I hate evangelism, and so do most of my friends and every non-Christian I’ve ever met. But because I’m into Jesus, I talk about him a fair bit, in that way you do when you really like someone and you no longer care who knows it, or the way you do when you’ve seen an incredible movie and you want—you need—all your friends to experience it too. “It’s incredible,” you say. “The cinematography, the plot . . . you’ve got to see it. It’ll blow your mind!” And then, inevitably, you worry that you’ve overstated it, that they’ll be disappointed if the film turns out to be merely quite good, and you feel pretty relieved if they love it too. It’s like that with films, with music, with certain foods, and with Jesus. But please don’t tag me as some kind of swivel-eyed, radicalised zealot. I’m just not that brave or sure.
My vision is Jesus. Not prayer. Not mission. Not social justice. The Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky argued that without God there is no morality, and if he’s right there’s no justice without Jesus either. Think about it: If we’re all just a bunch of highly evolved animals competing to top the genetic charts in a meaningless universe where our existence is of no consequence, what does it matter if some people get trampled along the way? We’re merely cosmic beneficiaries of Tennyson’s nature “red in tooth and claw”: victors or victims in Darwin’s survivalist lottery. It’s Sartre’s existentialism. It’s Nietzsche’s super-race emerging. It’s tough luck on the losers, but so what? “Attempt to bring justice without Jesus,” says author Andy Crouch, “and you may not even get justice. You will certainly not get justice as the Bible understands it—the restoration of all things to their created fruitfulness in relationship with the One who made them. . . . If you follow Jesus, he will use you to bring justice. If you want justice, follow Jesus.”
It’s Jesus who motivates the church to be the biggest global agency caring for the weak and the marginalised. It’s love for Jesus, not justice, that motivates Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity to care sacrificially for those who are dying. Day after day those nuns get up and go out to care for nobodies who are probably just weeks or even days away from departing a world that never even knew their name. It’s relentlessly pointless unless there is an afterlife and a God. Heroic altruism might perhaps motivate you to spend a few weeks in voluntary poverty engaging in such a thankless task amongst the poorest people on earth, but eventually you would run out of steam if no one ever noticed your work and if it never seemed to make a lasting or systemic difference.
The Missionaries of Charity aren’t running out of steam because their compassion for the poor is fuelled continually by passion for Jesus. He notices. He says thank you. His cross reminds them daily that they are not wasting their time at all. For them it’s all worship. In fact, their stated aim says nothing at all about fighting injustice or even caring for the poor. Their startling ambition is “to satiate the thirst of Christ on the cross.” ] “We may be doing social work in the eyes of the people,” said Mother Teresa when she received her Nobel Peace Prize, “but we are really contemplatives in the heart of the world. For we are touching the Body of Christ 24 hours. We have 24 hours in his presence.” Turns out the Missionaries of Charity are not into justice; they’re just into Jesus. So they fight his enemies and befriend his friends, and when they catch sight of him in the faces of the poor, they kneel in worship. Mother Teresa’s Nobel medal will mean nothing at all on the day that Jesus looks her in the eyes and says, “I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink” (Matthew 25:35).
Even worship is less important than Jesus. In fact, worship can become an idol in the church. Some Christians probably worship worship more than they worship Jesus. Some worship leaders probably worship worship-leading more than they worship Jesus. It was never meant to be an industry, a genre in Walmart, a karaoke show on Sunday. If you really want to lead worship, learn to wonder. Learn to be amazed by the life of Jesus, and your passion will quickly spread. Learning the guitar is entirely optional. Jesus never, to the best of my knowledge, played an instrument—he may have been tone-deaf for all we know—and yet he pursued the presence of his Father with every neuron, every waking choice. He erupted with gratitude. He sought knowledge in his Father’s house as a child. He rose early and stayed up all night, just to walk and talk with the Father. I’m not into worship; I’m into Jesus. So when I see him I smile, I bow, and—OK, I admit it—I sing a lot, too.
The vision is Jesus. Not Christianity. Not prayer, mission, and justice. Not worship-leading or church-planting or evangelism. If you love Jesus you’ll do that stuff: You’ll pray and worship and go to church and preach the gospel. But in doing all those things, don’t lose the why, don’t get lost in the crowd.
It might be healthier if we all just stopped being Christians for a bit—a week, a month, or even a year. We’re just too good at it. It has become habitual. We’ve been operating out of religious muscle memory for so long we’ve got spiritual RSI. Urgent voices are calling us to abandon the familiar comforts of Christendom, to strike out into the unknown and rediscover the Nazarene. Let him hack our systems and take us back to the place of willing surrender in which we will simply do anything, go anywhere, say anything he tells us, whenever, wherever, whatever it takes. We need a theophany, a rediscovery of the terror of his proximity. We are overfamiliar with holy things. We speak in tongues and think it’s no big deal. We experience healings. We talk to God and he talks back, for crying out loud. That means we’re either clinically insane, suffering from some kind of religious psychosis, or we’re experiencing an actual living, conversational, interactive relationship with the Creator of the cosmos. No middle ground. You’re insane or you’re a saint.
By Pete Greig from his book “Dirty Glory: Go Where Your Best Prayers Take You”