A Mystic Leader’s Crash Course: Light

Welcome back.

A Mystic Leader’s Crash Course
Part 3: Light

The role of the leader is

  • to describe the world we live in
  • to strive to live in the world he describes with moral authenticity
  • to call others to join him in a quest to save the universe

Describing the world in which we live is increasingly complex given the way 21st century media gives us immediate awareness of the diverse histories, experiences and movements that make up our world.

I would like to suggest four images to 21st century leaders as a help in describing the world in which we live.

  • darkness
  • light
  • wind
  • clouds

Light. Here’s the most basic, primal reality: God is creating the universe again via the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Light illuminated and warmed a world in darkness not from within the Temple nor within the church, not from within the scriptures nor within the Sunday morning sermon, but on the “outside” where the rest of us live. The cave from which he rose and the places where he appeared were outside. It was outside that light proved itself stronger than the deepest darkness.
darkness and light; Derek Langley, 2005

The God who spoke and raised Jesus from the dead is He who spoke and said, “Let there be light.” There is nothing else standing behind this primal reality, nothing else which must be referenced in order to undergird this basic truth. In fact, beginning a statement of core convictions with statements about the Bible or the Church puts the cart before the horse. As indispensible a treasure as are the Scriptures and the Church, they are secondary to the God who made the universe and is now making the universe again.

With the same authority with which He spoke all things into being, He now makes all things new by raising Jesus from the dead. This is good news for the world “outside” that lives without reference to the vital clue of scripture.

Because the resurrection happened “outside,” the resurrection stands as an event that can be interpreted and debated, believed in or rejected, considered or ignored by everyone in the world. The conversation about the light of Christ must never isolated within the community of faith but must be conducted “outside” where it happened. This is good for those “outside” but it is definitely good for those “inside.” It keeps us honest.

Those outside who know the depth of darkness, who come to see the light, love the light all the more. Suddenly everything is different. Nature is creation. The Bible is scripture. Human beings are creatures. The second things become second again and in finding their rightful place represent God in the world.

What do you think?

Into the Mystic…

Alex McManus

flags in Montreal: September 2005, Alex McManus

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37 thoughts on “A Mystic Leader’s Crash Course: Light

  1. “As indispensible a treasure as are the Scriptures and the Church, they are secondary to the God who made the universe and is now making the universe again”

    This is where I am, this is where I want to live. But it seems much of what I come into contact with rages against this…or at least forgets it (even myself).

    How do I break the bonds of the machine and get outside, without isolating myself?

    Or is my concern wrongly placed?

    How do I lead others to the mountain top, when it is a struggle fo rme to get there myself? Or is that part of the journey?

    It seems I have more questions than answers.

    I need a guide. But others are wanting me to lead them, is that possible?

  2. Hi Alex,
    Thanks for the post. I realized that I never thought of the resurrection in that way – inside vs. outside. And the expanded idea that an outside fact keeps us on the inside honest. Very intruiging…
    I guess the next step is to figure out how we continue to have the conversation, and all that goes with it, so that its not inside….
    Love this series!

  3. I recently received a responce to a posting on my site from a cafe owner who felt the need to explain that he had in “inside” connection (his grandfather was a pastor) to the Church because he thought I would not hear him as an outsider. He actually used these words as a disclaimer before going into what he actually wanted to say.

    I was so convicted, as a representative of the Body, that he felt so distant and so closed off from us that he felt he needed a mediator in his grandfather. And now, reading this, I am a little perplexed. It is true that this guy is outside of the body – of the church – he does not profess Christ as he one Lord and guide. But, here I see that Jesus was outside (as the true mediator)… And, I do not think that if this guy proved anything, it’s that he has religious baggage, rather than an inside insight.

    Am I mixing metaphors here? How do I show him this Light? He sees me as inside. How do I do this?

  4. Maybe part of where we went wrong was taking the “inside” that was always mean to be “outside.” I don’t think God ever intended his followers to hole themselves up, greedily hording the light for themseves. Unfortunately, that began long before Christ came.

    I agree that there is nothing move valuable and important than God the creator, light maker, life giver. Personally, I disagree with the horse and cart comparison concerning God and Scripture. We finitely know God and His character through the Word. Yes, “God’s invisible qualites have been clearly seen…” But having a vague idea of a Divine Being and having a visual INTO that Divine Being’s character are two very different things.

    Through the recorded history of God’s interaction with man, both before, through and after Christ, we catch glimpses of His heart, his passions, his greatness, and we then, after understanding God and his message, can begin the wonderful task of discovering how to relevantly communicate that ‘good news’ with our culture. No, we don’t need to postpone the mission of saving the universe until we’re “biblical scholars,” but we must not dissociate the vitality and neccessity of Scripture. If we downplay the role of the tactical map and instruction manual in our universal quest, we risk effacing the truth for a message that looks nothing like the hard-lines Jesus threw at the rich man who wanted to be his disciple.

  5. For too long I believe we have put our “light under a bowl” (Matt. 5:15). We have kept the light illuminating structures built BY man and FOR man, all the while stifling the very nature and purpose of the light which needs to breathe and move, leaving us with dimly lit structures.
    I am with Eric – I fear isolation, I want others to join me on my run to the “outside”. But, perhaps once we step outside, we will find the opposite is true, that we are not alone, perhaps less isolated than we have ever been.

  6. Thanks for the thoughts, Alex!
    I’m with the comments above. I want to run outside and I think the church needs to live much more on the “outside.” I get frustrated with so much “inside” activity that steals that light.

    Does anyone wrestle with 2 Cor. 6:14-18? I do. The language about light and darkness is in there.

    “Do not be mismatched with unbelievers. For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship is there between light and darkness?” NRSV

    How does this factor into our thinking and our practical everyday interaction with “darkness”? I’m just thinking out loud…

  7. Nathan you seem to assume that the Creator is unknowable without Scripture…is that what you’re saying?

    Seems to me there are plenty of examples that point to God, to Christ, to the Creator (with Scripture supporting); if we are prepared to listen and admit the reality…that’s the rub…our sin nature tends toward the prideful and we miss the message even though we see the messenger. The NT authors we pretty clear that even with the age old writings handed down to them many missed the arrival of the Messiah…just thinking out loud…

  8. Eric, thanks for the question. I should have posted the reference.. I partly quoted Romans 1:20 which says, “Since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” C. S. Lewis talks about mankind becoming aware of the Numinous, that leads us to belief in deities. We can become aware of God’s existence, but to understand his past interaction with mankind, the Scriptures are invaluable. Re-read the first chapter in John’s account of the Gospel. He sheds great light on the Word.

  9. This is actually something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently. Here’s what I have to ask: do we worship the Bible? Does that happen today? Is it right? It intrigues me that many (not all) of the spiritual heroes of the Bible didn’t have their own copy of the Scriptures, were not aware of the Scriptures, and/or lived before the Scriptures were ever written. How should their extraordinary lives be interpreted when one sees the mass of biblical scholarship today and the lack of spiritual fervor?

  10. Alex is right in saying that the scripture and the church are indispensible treasures, so this is in no way meant to devalue them. However, it would seem that we have made them a part of the Holy Trinity – The Father, the Son, and the Holy Scripture or Body. It is intimidating for insiders AND outsiders to feel as though they must be intellectual, biblical scholars to embrace purpose and mission, the pressure to know as much as the scholar often paralyzes people with the fear that they will never know enough and therefore, never be enough. In the first chapter of John, the “Word” is refering to Jesus – Jesus as God, Jesus as reason and truth, Jesus as life and Jesus as light. It is not what you know, but who you know and follow. This makes the scripture and the church come to life and makes it the indispensible treasure that it is intended to be.

  11. Some good insights there Alex. I like the bit about the light…nothing else needed. No other strings. God simply said let there be light and there was light. Sometimes we make it so complicated for people to hear the good news by adding all this extra baggage.

    A good story of keeping the light to ourselves: Recently the sports ministry that I am involved with were asked to host an evening church service. We thought it would be a bit radical to actually host it in the local sports club because so often the church buildings here in Ireland actually act as a barrier to the gospel. The venue is viewed as a pretty dark place I guess, with a bar, etc and all the social trimmings of a typical rugby club. We thought that if we were able to talk about Jesus on neutral ground, we might be able to get more unchurched people to come.

    We had to ask the church leadership for permission to host the event in the club. we knew this would test the vision of the church…to be ‘Christ-centred’. As expected (unfortunately), the church rejected the idea saying that ‘people just weren’t ready for that kind of thing’.

    To say that I was ticked off is an understatement. The ironic part of the story is this: the rugby club committee actually gave us the OK to host the event on their premises! So the world allows the church into its midst, but the church turns down the opportunity. Now, what is Christ-centred about that?

  12. Good thoughts Alex, I find it interesting that most of the metaphors used to describe the people of God in the NT push us in the outside direction and yet the church seem so committed to keeping itself inside and for insiders.

  13. Before I begin posting: I’m a huge reading/literacy/freedom of the press advocate. So take all of this with a grain of salt.

    There have been some interesting insights as to how important we hold the Bible to be. Is it as important as we make it out to be? Do we use the lack of a knowlege of it to distance ourselves from those who are new to the faith? These are good questions; ones I think need to be addressed. But not by me. I’m not wise enough. 😉

    A few thoughts: a) the Bible says that in the beginning was the Word. It also says that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Light. Now, I’m not a Greek scholar. And what’s more, I’m told by someone working on his PhD in classical languages and by a couple of pastors– one Princeton-educated and one Lincoln Bible College-educated– that most seminary-educated people reading the NT with their Bible-college Greek aren’t Greek scholars, either! So I don’t know exactly what was being referred to here, what the subtle nuances of usage and grammar refer to.

    But this I do know: Jesus is the truth, and his words– as recorded in the Bible– are true. I need the truth in my life. The light shows me the true state of things; just as when I face the truth in my life, I am able to see the true state of my heart.

    The early church didn’t have written scriptures, but they did have first-hand verbal accounts of what Jesus said and did, which we don’t have– which is why we need the scriptures. While I am aware of God on a primal, Numinous level, it helps to have a road map. It helps to have the Beatitudes as a sort of “Be like Jesus 101.”

    I mean, there is a reason that people were burned at the stake for translating these words out of Latin and into English, so that the common men and women could read it for themselves! Basically, what I want to say is, you don’t know what you’ve got until you lose it. We in Western civilization take the Bible for granted. Those who live in repressive regimes where it is outlawed, don’t. They recognize it for what it is: life-giving, radical, dangerous, subversive! The very Sword of Truth. Suddenly, they have nothing left to lose.

    Wow, I’ve inspired and ashamed myself. I don’t read this book nearly often enough. Right. I’m just going to go read some of that wild, passionate, sacred literature again.

  14. Tim,

    There’s insight in your story as well.
    Especially where the church says, “people just weren’t ready for that kind of thing.”
    Based on the assumption that the “people” to which they refer are themselves, the insiders,
    I suggest the following.

    In my experience, people on the “outside” are often if not usually more ready for the gospel
    than the people on the “inside.”

    That’s why Paul shook the dust off of his feet.

    Alex

  15. Alex,

    In your last comment you said, “In my experience, people on the “outside” are often if not usually more ready for the gospel than the people on the “inside.””

    This got me to thinking. When someone feels a strong call and passion to proclaim the good news of the Gospel, the most common next step (if the person is associated with a typical Western Church) is to enter into pastoral ministry. Unfortunately, this can be the quickest way to kill the passion and douse the light in this person. If the people they have been charged to lead in mission, will not receive for themselves the very message (light) they should be carrying, the light will never make it to the outside. How many “good pastors” have been tamed and civilized (“The Barbarian Way”) by the very structure that they were to be leading into revolution? With the inner call and passion not matching up to the actual job being performed, it is not wonder so many pastors find themselves feelilng beat up and exhausted. What would happen if as soon as we found someone who had this deep calling and passion, we sent them out into the world to proclaim that passion (and spread some light)?

    Jeremy

  16. Jeremy,
    I totally agree! Leaders of churches should be Christ-Followers and not people-pleasers! Remember the good shepherd? He was willing to leave the 99 sheep and after the one lost sheep. Do you think the 99 sheep were ready to be left? do you think they were happy? I don’t think so…I think they would prefer the shepherd to stay with them and someone else to go after the lost sheep. I can just imagine the 99 old dears with their white hair ‘Baa-ing’ their disgruntlement at the shepherd.

    But the shepherd was more concerned with the one on the outside…sometimes church leaders need reminded of this with a good kick up the backside!! (with love of course)

    (You can tell that this REALLY ticks me off!)

  17. I’m just wondering what is meant by the end of this statement…

    ”The conversation about the light of Christ must never isolated within the community of faith but must be conducted “outside” where it happened. This is good for those “outside” but it is definitely good for those “inside.” It keeps us honest.”

    I think I understand the first part, about how our mission is to follow Christ outside, because that’s were he is already. Not to grow old & have giant brains with no arms, legs, hands, feet or heart. I also agree this is just as good for us as those “outside”.
    I guess I am wondering what is meant by, “It keeps us honest.”
    I’m sure it’s something simple, but I’m a slow learner.

  18. I’m just reading your blog for the first time, so I’ll have to hang out to learn more of where you’re coming from. For now, I wonder what you mean by church and the inside/outside distinction. Your image of light is primal and convincing in a mystical kind of way. But the implicit image of church that I pick up is one that is enclosed. To me, you are writing as an insider looking out through a portal (or at light streaming in through a door, as in the photo), not as a traveller out roaming free and beckoning others to come out of the enclosure. In your response to a comment (just above), you talk about sending a few out into the world. Out of what? Why are the out of the world now, unless the people in that “box” pulled them in to begin with? Are you in a box pulling people in and now thinking about sending them out again? I don’t mean to get carried away. Like I said, I’ll hang out for awhile and read more. Peace.

  19. Here’s what I think…

    Before the Word was written or spoken it was embodied in Jesus. To know the Word is to know Jesus. By reading the Bible I learn ABOUT God and His role in and plan for history. I know ABOUT Jesus. And what I learn is invaluable. BUT… I have found a major difference between knowing ABOUT God and knowing God.

    I know God through personal encounter. I know Him because I’ve met Him and lived with Him for over 25 years. It is not just His written Word that is a light unto my path. He guides me from within. His Spirit speaks… teaches… guides… comforts… His Words challenge me and lead me forward. And every day I know Him better through a relationship we enjoy.

    The written Word validates what He’s speaking to me now. It helps me understand better. But His Word is first embodied, second- spoken, and third – written. We have the privilege of going straight to the source.

    Also, my experience has been that God encounters us primarily on the outside. I was a church-goer, but I met God walking down a country road in the middle of the night. Our relationship has developed “outside” and rightly so, since I don’t spend the majority of my time in church. He shows up in my everyday life in the oddest places at the most unusual times! I have found through the Scriptures that this seems to be the way God chooses to encounter most people – outside – in the context of their everyday lives.

    We tend to want to live “inside.” We read christian books, listen to christian music, have christian friends, go to christian schools, work in christian businesses, spend tons of time at church, play on church sports teams, … “The box” is a self imposed prison that isolates us from the world in the name of personal holiness and keeps our light from penetrating the darkness… because we rarely maneuver through it. The above things aren’t bad in themselves – it’s the way we’ve structured our lives that has minimized our influence and impact in the darkness. All we have to do is go outside…

  20. Very insightful Stephen.

    A good analogy that I heard once was:
    If we are supposed to be the salt…then salt is no good if it stays in the shaker. To have any effect, the salt needs to get out of the shaker.

    And so, we as Jesus Followers, need to get out of the ‘church’ if we are to have an effect on our communities.

  21. Stephen,

    Very well put. If the spirit of God said something to me that didn’t line up with the Bible, I would questions whether it was actually the spirit of God or whether it was something I ate. 😉 But equally, without the spirit breathing life into the Word and revealing the truth in it to my mind, I would not be able to grasp the beauty and power of the Word. And it certainly would not seem personal.

    And, my favorite thing about God is the unusal places he meets me: on a back-road in rural Illinois after dark with the top down on the car; in a piano bar in Guatemala; sitting across from me on the bus on my way in to work in the morning.

  22. I noticed a typo in my comment. I meant to say, “Why are THEY out of the world…?” It seems to me that it’s implied that Christians are “in” and we ought to send some of them “out.” I appreciate both of the comments that have been made (thanks). As for me, I’m wondering we’re stuck with a way of being the church that is separated from the world and separating people from the world (like a box that we actively draw people into, and then we are perplexed about how to get them to go out). What if we stop going to church (entering a place, a box, etc.) and start living church together wherever we are?

  23. I noticed a typo in my comment. I meant to say, “Why are THEY out of the world…?” It seems that it’s implied that Christians are “inside” and we ought to send some of them “outside.” I appreciate both of the comments that have been made (thanks). Yet I’m wondering if we have a way of being the church that is separating people from the world (like actively drawing people into a box), and then we are perplexed about how to get them to go out. If so, maybe we should change some of our assumptions about church itself. I know some are asking (Jim Petersen, perhaps to an extent George Barna, and Wayne Jacobsen come to mind), what if we stop going to church (entering a place, a box, etc.) and start living church together with Jesus and others (fellow travellers) wherever we are?

  24. Andy, welcome to “into the mystic.” Yes, i’m in a card board box with my young son. we have newspaper captain hats on and are using the inner part of a toilet paper roll for swords in our swashbuckling adventure.

    Kidding.

    I didn’t find the distinctions you’re making here. [Couldn’t find the comment you mention.] Maybe you brought the box you see with you when you came. But thanks for the visit and your comment.

    By the way, most of the people here would hold a similar orientation to the one you’ve expressed. In fact, one of our residents “majors” on reminding us that the church is not a place.

    “Inside” in this piece refers to the institutionalized church (little “c”). I don’t equate the institutionalized church with the Church (capital “C’). I could easily have written about going “out” into the world from “within” Christ. This has nothing to do with three dimensional space. The planet has multiple games going on at any given time and swimming in and out of “boxes” is an art and a skill.

    I think you’ll find a lot of kindred spirits here and some antagonists. Thanks for your input and contribution today.

  25. Is there really an inside? Or is it the artificial relgious envirnoment we have created. Isn’t the church “salt and light”? Jesus warns against the salt losing its pirpose. It makes me think of the salt staying inside the salt shaker and not out on the things it is suppossed to flavor and preserve. He warns that it does not make sense for the light to be covered… or “inside” if you will.
    I’m thinking I should not even be trying to decide about getting outside. It is where I was made to be. It is unnatural for me to be “inside.”
    Inside is not real, it is a farce, it is the “matrix,” it is nothing but fig leaves.
    Ok, now I’m ranting. My bad.
    Am I crazy? Is our inside a false place we have made to try and hide from reality and God? Your thoughts?

  26. I think it would help to clarify how the Bible uses “inside” and “outside” langauge versus the way that we have come to think of it. The Bible does make this distinction. Someone already quoted Luke 15 and the 99 sheep. 1 John 2 talks about those who go out from us and prove they don’t belong to us. 2 Cor. 6:14-18 talks about coming out from “them” and being separate. So, no doubt there is some inside and outside reality according to the biblical writers.

    What I think so many of us are frustrated with is the “inside” and “outside” boundaries that we’ve created through Christian culture, Christendom. It’s no longer about being IN Christ. It’s been redefined to mean physical space (the box) and cultural space (like the way Stephen put it above).

    Barry, I think this is the artificial Matrix thing you’re talking about. This is where it’s comfortable to hide and not deal with what God really wants.

    My 2 cents…

  27. Alex,
    I went back and reread your post again. You write from “within the community of faith” but not not from a “box” necessarily. Maybe I overreacted to the inside/outside metephor. There is a part of my that resonates with Barry’s comment (and with most of the dialogue going on here).

    As for me bringing the box with me, well, I imagine most of us are dealing with boxes. I’m moving outside the box of small “c” church in concrete ways, but the hardest box to “leave” is the one inside of me.

    Thanks for the welcome. 🙂

  28. We have a “vision council” @ my church. I am very blessed to be a part of it. At one meeting, I remember sitting there listening to every person around the table voice dreams they have for our church. But after each statement, was a justification for what they thought. Each dream was followed with something like… “not that there is anything wrong with…”.
    I looked inward at that moment…
    Andy, you helped me label what I saw inside me & around that table in each person sitting there…a box.
    I finally spoke, I asked why we are so afraid? I think we didn’t even realize we were. But now it makes sense.
    It’s like if you lived on an island (a.k.a. inside) and everyone had arms growing from there butts, you wouldn’t even notice. But the moment you come to mainland (a.k.a. outside) you’d realize you need a surgeon.
    I guess what I’m saying is, “I need a surgeon.”

  29. I think it might be helpful to write more about the nature of light if we are to deepen our understanding of mystic leadership.
    For example: light eminates from a source, it can be reflected, it has varying degrees of brightness, darkness can not overcome even the smallest light, it can be blocked or smothered.
    I would find it helpful to read people’s thoughts on how as leaders we could be brighter or how the Church could be brighter (can it?) and what would that mean/look like. Thanks.

    Jon

  30. Jon,

    I am a lampshade. The light is not of me, it is merely in me. I deaden light, diffuse it.

    The best thing I can do–the best thing the church can do–is to get out of God’s way and let his beauty shine through without the filter of misconceptions we create, the barriers we as a little-c church have (most often unintentionally, I hope) put up that keep people from seeing God for the dynamic, mysterious, loving Person he is.

    I don’t know what this looks like, though. I’m still trying to work that out in my life. I think mostly it means to speak the truth in love– but how difficult that is!

  31. I think God loves to shine through us. In some paradoxial way, we are not the problem, but we do have ways of dimming and obscuring the light that would shine through us. Perhaps the secret lies in our being in Christ — living/being in a way that is true to how he has made us (and transformed us to be), rather than pretending and/or trying to live up the an image of the Christian life. We can do this securely IN the world, outside the walls, because Jesus is in us.

  32. I think Hebrews 13:12-16 is real insightful to the whole inside-outside thing. I like to be reminded that Jesus was crucified OUTside the gate and the author of Hebrews says we should be too.And the author also explains why we like to stay put inside-because of the abuse that waits for us on the outside.Hope this helps!

  33. Great timing! I was just reading Arthur Pink’s summary of Matthew 5:13-16 Salt and Light passage. Pink says that Jesus told those who were charged in preaching the gospel that they were the “light of the world.” He states the properties of light as illuminating, conspicuous, and elevated.
    I like the term conspicuous. Those who live in the darkness cannot mistake the Light and those of us who reflect the Light can never forget it.

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