Philippians 2: downward mobility

March 31st, 2010

By Chris Scott, 1995 EMU alum, current seminary student, and pastor at McDowell United Methodist Church

Read: Philippians 2: 5-11

A couple of years ago I went to a church planting conference in San Antonio, Texas. The conference was advertised as a way forward to think about “doing church differently,” whatever that means. It was supposed to be about not getting caught up in old paradigms of church growth, programming, and so forth. Though from the moment we landed at the airport we recognized that it may not be as advertised.

We ran into several pastors at the airport and in the shuttle ride over to the Ramada Inn.  The first question that literally every person asked after preliminaries of names, location, and denomination was a numbers question. “So how many are you getting these days?”

The conversations would go from there to topics of buildings, programs, church growth, and all of that. People came flush with business cards and fliers advertising their books and availability to lead workshops. It became a self-promotion orgy. My wife and I decided to go visit the River Walk and avoid the conference entirely if it that was going to be the attitude. Thankfully it got better.

We so easily slide into an attitude of success and achievement in the church. We name ourselves as followers of a Messiah that did not seek self-promotion and then fall into cultural patterns of larger churches and better career opportunities.

We see Christ’s model in this Kenosis Hymn (from the Greek word ekenosen, “he emptied”) from Paul to the folks in Philippi. Jesus emptied himself of privilege, taking the nature of a servant, submitting himself to be executed violently on the cross, and going to every length to demonstrate the shattering and life altering love and nature of God.

This to me shows the awe inspiring downward mobility of Jesus.

Jesus went in the wrong direction according to today’s standards. We would expect him to be going higher and higher, further and further. Instead he started at the top and threw that off to come to the earth, to pitch his tent among us and show us the true way to live.  He could have insisted on worship, and instead he sought out the towel of service.

As followers of Christ we are to live our lives in such a way as to bring honor to the name of Christ. We are to live into the name by which we are called.  We are to have the self-deprecating spirit and approach of Christ, rather than the self-serving attitude of those who put Jesus to death.