Recently I had the privilege of speaking at a student ministries retreat.  Indeed, to students.  This was truly daunting, since I am no longer a youth and, some would no doubt argue, I am sometimes out of touch relative to North American Youth Culture.  So, I approached the assignment with fear and trembling.

After much prayer and thought I figured it would be good to focus not so much on my fuzzy perceptions of student-culture but on Jesus.  My theme was “Jesus in High Definition.”  I told them of my conviction that in many ways the church needs to “find Jesus” all over again!  Why did and do I say that?

First, it’s all about Jesus, who is the Christ or the messiah.  Most of us are not geniuses, but we can get this—Christianity without Christ is “ianity”   And “ianity” is nothing!  Without a firm and ever sharpening vision of Christ, there’s nothing left to get excited about.  If we get Jesus in HD—we’re going to be on the right track.

Second, it’s so import to get Jesus in HD because a lot of folks look at the church (full of people who claim to follow Jesus), a lot of them listen to the church, and a lot of them experience the church in a way that seems astonishingly different from the picture they have of Jesus in their head.

I know.  You’re thinking that such people often have a picture of Jesus that resembles a little kid’s stick drawing on some proud parents’ fridge.   Be that as it may, still that drawing is good enough so that most look at it and say, “Well, I think it’s Jesus!”

What I’m observing is that a lot of people look at the church and listen to what the church says, and the way it says what it says, and then say, “Is that Jesus?  Or “That’s not Jesus!” or “That’s not Jesus, is it?”

Some people today say, “I like what I can see of Jesus, I’d like to know more about him, but do I have to become a Christian and join the church to do it?”   

Some would even say, “I want to follow Jesus but I’m afraid if I join the church I’ll lose sight of Jesus, and it’ll make me an uptight, sad, critical, judgmental person.  So, I’m OK with Jesus but I’d just as soon avoid those born-agains!”

A little illustration: if you look carefully at the gospel story you find the best people hating him and the worst people loving or at least liking him.  The most religious folk want nothing to do with him, while the really bad people are eager to come close and see what he’s all about.

But today, in general, do the worst people you know, the really bad ones, often try church?  Of course not!  Do they even feel welcome or safe visiting churches?  Usually not!  How can that be?  If it’s all about Jesus, how come the church is so unlike Jesus at this point? How come the folk most eager in the NT to come to Jesus would rather die than come around a gathering of typical Jesus-followers?

In that respect, at least, the church needs to find Jesus all over again, to see Jesus in HD, and to experience Jesus as if in a Jesus-IMAX theatre.

Third, it’s so import that we get HD in seeing Jesus because, when you do you can’t believe how good, beautiful, attractive, magnetic this IC is.

When you see Jesus in HD (as clearly as any human can with God’s help) you are drawn, just like the first disciples who hear Jesus’ call (without a lot of advance preparation) and they get up and go for it, and they begin the adventure of a lifetime. 

Once upon a time, we all understood that it is all about Jesus and following Jesus in just that way.  So, I’m seeking these days to see Jesus with such clarity that original passion, reckless abandon, and all sorts of “foolish” following once again takes hold!

Published by David Kendall

Reverend David W. Kendall, an ordained elder in the Great Plains Conference, was elected to the office of bishop of the Free Methodist Church in May 2005. He serves as overseer of East Michigan, Gateway, Great Plains, Mid-America, North Central, North Michigan, Ohio, Southern Michigan, Wabash, African Area Annual Conferences; and Coordinator of oversight for the World Ministries Center.

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