Brian Zahnd and Prophetic WitnessApril 16, 2015
I spent half of this week in St. Joseph, Missouri, for the 2015 Faith & Culture Conference. Held at Word of Life Church, it included two speakers: Brian Zahnd and Walter Brueggemann. Both of them ended up on my top ten books of 2014 list (with Zahnd in 4th and Brueggemann snagging the top spot). So I have been thrilled at the opportunity to hear the two of them and join the dialogue. I wrote about Brueggemann's remarks in a previous post.
While I've known about Brueggemann for years, I only recently stumbled across Zahnd. I read one of his books last year, and have since followed his blog, tweets, and (sometimes) his sermon podcast. He noted at the conference that Brueggemann was a key voice who influenced his own faith journey. That impact can clearly be heard in Zahnd.
It had a cost for him, though. The church went from being one of the fasting growing churches in the U.S. to losing 1,000 members as he spent six months preaching through the 'Sermon on the Mount.' True prophets aren't usually popular. But we need them.
Zahnd offers provocative remarks, often in pithy soundbites. Yet, like the prophets of old, he's also aware of the power of poetry and storytelling. He mixes those to challenge Christians to think in fresh ways about the Bible, faith, and culture. Here are some of his comments from the conference that especially stood out:
"I preach what I can't not preach."
"I don't follow a donkey or an elephant. I follow a Lamb."
“I’m not a Republican or a Democrat; I’m a Revolutionary Christian.”
Churches shouldn't serve as "chaplains to the empire."
"Americanism is essentially a rival religion to Christianity."
In presidential election years, "people just go crazy and they lose their Christianity."
"I pledge allegiance to the Kingdom of Christ."
"Preaching against personal sin is relatively safe. Preaching against systemic sin is dangerous."
"I didn't get all intellectual; I just lost the passion for being ignorant."
"Jesus does not save us from God; Jesus reveals God as Savior."
Churches should have weekly communion because "what is the church without the Eucharist?"
... and much more!
I appreciate Zahnd's journey and witness. He has challenged me to think more carefully and critically, and I hope he does the same for others.