Study Guide: The Barbarian Way Out of Civilization

Sunday August 17, 2003 | Erwin McManus

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

This morning Erwin McManus, Senior Pastor at Mosaic Church in Los Angeles, challenged the congregation to live passionately for Jesus. He exhorted the congregation to recapture the essence of the “barbaric” attitude of a new Christian. God desires that we live with abandonment.

Extended Summary:

This morning, Erwin McManus, Senior Pastor at Mosaic Church in Los Angeles, challenged the audience to live passionately for Jesus.

Erwin shared that when he was a new Christian he thought that having a bed was a luxury that a follower of Jesus should do without. Thus, for a time he and his wife lived on the floor. He continued by saying that later God prompted an individual to offer the McManus’ a bed (without knowing their situation), which they subsequently accepted. He finished the story by characterizing himself as a “barbarian.” That is to say, in his zeal to live as a fully devoted disciple, he perhaps went too far (e.g. deciding against having a bed) though had the right intentions (i.e. to live in sacrificial devotion to Christ).

Erwin exhorted the congregation to recapture the essence of this “barbaric” attitude. God desires that we live with abandonment. Erwin pointed to the wild prophet, John the Baptist, who prepared the way for Jesus. In his outward appearance and provocative message, John was anything but the status quo. This same countercultural tendency should mark Jesus’ followers. In that holy, reckless abandonment, Christians will know that in losing life (dying to self) for the sake of Christ, they, in fact, find it. Instead, many Christians today are afraid to risk all because they fear losing earthly comfort, status, and security. In contrast to this comfortable Christianity, Erwin urged followers of Christ to be pacesetters in engaging culture with a winsome vision for life. He stated that the church’s desire to be “culturally relevant” often involves a reactive stance. Erwin instead encouraged the church to “crash ahead” of the culture, envisioning Christians as the followed rather than the followers, proactively spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

To actualize this vision involves something much more than stale religiosity. It calls for a vibrant and intimate relationship with Jesus that expresses itself through thoughtful yet reckless abandonment. People might think such living is insane, irrational, and crazy. Do not be discouraged, Erwin said, remember that Paul said that God makes him out of his mind (2 Corinthians 5:13). Erwin stated that he believes that today, Christians in the United States are so concerned about keeping their comfortable life in this free country that they have abdicated their freedom in Christ. That is to say, they have given up the ability to take risks to further the Kingdom of God in radical ways because of their preoccupation with their own comfort and/or “fitting in.”

Erwin closed by again exhorting the audience to push the envelope in being the Body of Christ in the world. In his closing prayer he said, “I ask you God to drive the people here insane.” That is to say, may the people of Woodland Hills be so countercultural in living for Christ that people wonder about their sanity.

Reflection Questions:

  1. What did Erwin say typically characterizes new Christians? What did he also say typically happens to this characteristic without intentionality?
  2. What is ironic about Erwin’s statement that Christians in the United States have largely abdicated their freedom as followers of Jesus?
  3. What are the connections between this sermon and Greg’s recent sermon series on “Dying to Self”?