Coloring Outside the Lines (Jul 1992)

By Matt Dabbs

by Mike Cope
July, 1992

Jesus of Nazareth might have been a tough kid to teach in Sunday school. Besides being precocious (how’s that for Christology?), he undoubtedly was a colore-outside-the-lines kind of child. I don’t picture him connecting the dots or doing number painting. I imagine this boy marching to a little different beat – more like rap than 4/4.

As a man he was always coloring outside the lines, charging forth with bold steps. he brought crisp air into stale rooms. he ushered light into dark, dank caves. He called for new wineskins. he challenged – no, he rebuked – the inside-thelines, by the rules religious authories. He welcomed lepers, ate with hookers, and gathered a rag-tag team of followers.

He told stories that made people laugh, then smile, then frown, then scream. He overturned tables. He spoke of winning by losing.

And, of course, he was promptly killed. Slaughtered. But that isn’t so surprising. It often happens to outside-the-liners who challenge the status quo. H. Eugene Johnson has put it so well:

We need our rules and games
The comfort of shapes defined,
That mark our boundaries,
We are frightened by those
Coloring outside the lines.

We think in terms approved
By leaders revered of mind
Whose standards are challenged
By the nonconformists
Who reason outside the lines.

The culture we have labored
For must not suffer decline,
Far better to crucify
The disturbing prophets
Who call us outside the lines.

Churches of Christ are desperately in need of more boundary challengers. We must experience a renaissance of creativity. We need to burst some conventional, convenient wineskins; the new wine of the gospel demands something better, more elastic.

Mindless creativity isn’t our goal. Rather, we need imaginative ways to address the ever-increasing challenges of a new world, a new century. The bad news, in a nutshell, is: 1954 is gone and it isn’t coming back. We must not be an eight-track church in the age of CDs, a pony express church in the age of fax, a peck-peck-peck manual typewriter church in the age of word processing. Tom Sine has described the challenge well:

“As we approach a new century, we will need not only a renaissance of Christian imagination, but an army of creative Christian scroungers who are marvelously imaginative in doing more with less.”

While the message of God redeeming us in Jesus Christ can’t be altered or mollified, our context has changed – is changing. Some of our methods, programs, styles, ways of thinking, and traditions need to be buried with honor. As Carol Childress has said, “If the horse is dead, take off the saddle.”

May God bless us with an explosion of creative energy and of responsible change as we seek faithfully to serve Jesus Christ.Wineskins Magazine

Mike CopeMike is the preaching minister for the Highland Church of Christ in Abilene, Texas. He and his wife Diane have two sons, Matt and Chris; their daughter Megan perished at age nine. Chris survived an automobile accident, with serious injuries, in 2004. Mike has written a number of books, teaches Bible at Abilene Christian University. and is a frequent speaker and guest lecturer. [Mike Cope’s Blog]

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1584 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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