In the Preface of his Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, "In times of church renewal holy scripture naturally becomes richer in content for us."
It seems that Bonhoeffer didn’t see church renewal in the same way that many of us do. It certainly wasn’t about programs to attract new members or the revision of liturgical texts to make them more relevant. Church renewal meant, chiefly, the renewal of Christian’s discipleship, of our obedience in following Jesus. It meant, in Bonhoeffer’s case, the obedience that had led him to reject the unholy alliance between the Nazi regime and the German Evangelical Church, a rejection which led to his execution in April 1945.
While the shape of Bonhoeffer’s obedience might seem obvious nearly seventy-six years after his death, it probably didn’t seem obvious to many of his contemporaries, including some in the Confessing Church, and the shape of our obedience today may not be obvious. Knowing, not what would Jesus do, but what Jesus wants us to do takes discernment.
Often Christians think that discerning a call to action should begin by looking inward. I think a better way to start is by looking outward to see signs of what God is already doing. We are called, I am convinced, to share in God’s mission in the world. The church does not have a mission; God’s mission has a church. So we are to look outward, seeking the signs of God’s mission, and only then look inward to see what gifts and passion we offer for the mission.