By Jeff Goins, Editor
The year 2007 was a roller-coaster of a year for me. I went from bachelor to bridegroom, from vagrant to grown-up, and from self-centered Christian service to embracing the “least of these.” Part of that paradigm shift is thanks to a man named Shane Claiborne, co-founder of a faith community in Philadelphia, PA called he Simple Way.
I haven’t met Shane, nor did I pay much attention to him over a year ago when there was a lot of hype surrounding moving to the inner-city to “live like Jesus,” but I have been influenced by those whom he’s influenced. And if what John Maxwell says about leadership being merely influence is true, then I’ve been led by this postmodern Jesus Freak into a more abundant life of following Christ.
Let me explain. Shane Claiborne has influenced a lot of people who have made a significant difference in my life, and for that, I owe him thanks. It’s interesting how the Body of Christ works like that… through small little movements and organic relationships, you end up influencing more people than you thought you would.
Shane didn’t turn me on to homeless ministry or anything like that. The discoveries I’ve made about God’s heart for the poor and issues of social justice are attributed to an honest reading of Scripture and Christ being more fully formed in me and not some Christian fad (I hope). I don’t mean to be derisive, because Mr. Claiborne is someone whom I admire and appreciate, but his influence goes much deeper than showing me how to sew my own clothes and hang out with the destitute (which aren’t bad things, by any stretch of the imagination).
I’ve realized that some of the values I’ve recently adopted and even the phrases that have been thrown around lately in different circles of friends can be traced back to Shane and his crew at the Simple Way in Philadelphia, PA, such as what it means to be an “ordinary radical,” a concept that has really begun to resonate in my soul as I discover what this thing called “discipleship” really ought to look like.
I found myself having more and more conversations that mattered with people and finding that Shane’s manifesto The Irresistible Revolution was a major catalyst for change for these people. It kept coming up again and again… From my mentor who read his book and had his group of missionaries model it in their ministry to a female friend who challenged me with a deep conviction of nonviolence and opposition to capital punishment, I’ve seen a lot of “Shane” in unlikely places.
I’m sure the compliment would give Mr. Claiborne an uneasy feeling, and, of course, the true credit goes to Jesus. However, every once in awhile it’s refreshing to see someone laying down his life to follow Christ in a way that is truly costly – it’s inspiring. And I’ve seen Shane have this influence on people, which has indirectly influenced me. The largest influence, interestingly enough, wasn’t a call to altruism, but a call to a fun, adventurous life of seeking Christ.
I heard a lot about the Irresistible Revolution about a year ago (first from my mentor Seth), and, with anything that appears to be moderately popular, I had an aversion to the book. Shane had his fair share of critics, and I was suspicious of the book’s quick rise to fame. Finally, after the din of of dreadlocks and social justice quieted, I picked up the book. It instantly gripped me.
Shane mixed humorous antics with the dire needs of the world. At first, I was appalled. I wanted a serious kick in the butt from a guy who was living the values that Jesus seemed to advocate in the Gospels. And then, I realized that despite (or perhaps, because of) the fact that the author was serving lepers in India, dumpster-diving with the homeless in Philly, and praying with the church in Iraq, he was enjoying life.
Far from just a self-deprecating humanitarian, this thirty-something loves what he does. And that may be the most “irresistible” part of this treatise to a generation of young people who aren’t just interested in going to heaven, but in bringing it to earth.
So, although I applaud him for making his own clothes and living off of others people’s garbage, I am most impressed by the fact that Shane Claiborne has found a way to live life that is fun, adventurous, and abundant. That has had such an impact on the people I know, which has trickled down to significantly influence me. The joy that Shane and other “simples” have may be the most irresistible part of this revolution. They are not growing weary of doing good, but have found that spending themselves on behalf of the poor is the most fruitful way to live.
The Irresistible Revolution for me wasn’t so much a wake-up call (although there were some startling moments), but rather it was a reminder that when we delight in God, the world around us sees Christ most clearly.
You can preview the book (read a sample chapter here) or hear an excerpt from Shane himself in this Youtube video. Also, Shane recently came out with a new book called Jesus for President in March 2008 that he’s hoping will “provoke the Christian imagination” for the upcoming November ’08 presidential elections and beyond. Check in at Wrecked for the upcoming book review. Here’s a quick introduction to it:
Drawing upon the work of biblical theologians, the lessons of church history, and the examples of modern-day saints and ordinary radicals, Jesus for President stirs the imagination of what the Church could look like if it placed its faith in Jesus instead of Caesar… (Read more about the Jesus for President blog tour)
Also, check out:
- It Had Flesh On It: A Day With Shane Claiborne
- Homeless Jesus: Reflections from a dumpster-diving evangelist
- Another World is Possible: How to redeem a culture
- Jesus for President: Long live the slaughtered Lamb!
Jeff graduated from Illinois College, a small liberal arts school, with a degree in Spanish and Religion. He lives in Nashville, TN. He works for Adventures In Missions, edits this silly little magazine, and loves to do new things. He just got married in January. Check out his blog: Pilgrimage of the Heart.