Here at Mockingbird we pride ourselves on being Theologians of the Cross. That is to say, we believe that God works, most often and most powerfully, through weakness and defeat, rather than in strength and victory. As Paul writes, recounting God’s answer to him in the midst of suffering:
But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Co 12.9&10)
Of course, the problem is, none of us actually believes this, and I speak for myself first and foremost. None of us actually “delights” in our pains, as does Paul. None of us enjoys failure, or takes it as a sign of God’s favor. As Gerhard Forde has written, we are inveterate Theologians of Glory, who always take success to be a mark of God’s blessing and failure a sign of His curse. This is just as (perhaps more) true in the “Christian” world as it is in the “secular.”
For the past two-and-a-half years, my wife and I have been planting a church in New York City. It has not been without its joys, but it has not been easy. Perhaps most difficult has been the insistence of many voices around us, both within and without, that success is a matter of finding the right “strategy” or “improving our skill set”, maintaining a “positive attitude”, “projecting an image of success”, “creating and capitalizing on momentum” and on and on… This is Glory language, plain and simple.