The so-called Deathly Ill letter is partly a theological treatise, but primarily, it’s an invitation. The key phrase is halfway through:
We invite like-minded pastors and elders to a gathering on August 25-27 in Minneapolis to explore joining this movement and help shape its character.
I like the idea of an invitation. I like it, because it calls to mind the ministry of Jesus. But how is this invitation different from Jesus’ invitation?
When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.
Come unto me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
The Fellowship’s invitation: “We invite like-minded pastors and elders….” Jesus’s invitation: “Come unto me, all you who are weary and heavy laden.”
The Fellowship cares whether you’re theologically orthodox; Jesus cares whether you’re hurting.
It’s interesting that the Deathly Ill letter talks several times about being a “missional” organization, whereas Jesus rarely talks about being “missional”.
Even the language of being “missional” is inwardly focused. It’s about me — “Who am I? I’m missional!” Whereas people who are truly missional don’t talk about being missional — they talk about the people who are in need. The Fellowship, for all its navel-gazing about being missional, doesn’t really talk about who might be in need or hurting.
Jesus, on the other hand, seems unconcerned about those who are “like-minded”, and focuses rather on those who are excluded or marginalized, those who are weary and heavy laden, and those who are hurting or in need.
Given a choice between these two invitations, I think I’ll take Jesus’s invitation. It’s the one that’s truly Good News.