The Cat and the Toaster: Living System Ministry in a Technological Age uses the text of Jesus’ letter to the Laodiceans in Revelation chapter 3 as a template to give structure to the teaching on living system ministry. This introduction gives the title of each of the parts, the portion of the Laodicean letter used in that part, and a glance at where that section is headed.
PART ONE: UNDERSTANDING OUR TIMES
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. —Revelation 3:14b–16
Maybe it’s time we took a new and closer look at our deeds, our actions, as the Western church. Instead of asking, “What would Jesus do?” maybe it is time to ask, “What are we doing and why are we doing it?”
PART TWO: EMBRACING OUR POVERTY
You say, “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.” But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. —Revelation 3:17
Like the people of Laodicea, we as Western Christians are leaning heavily on our abilities and our resources. I don’t think God is impressed by this. Instead, he sees the Laodiceans wallowing in deep poverty. I think that, as a church, we need to own this for ourselves as well and repent of our self-sufficiency, agreeing with God that we are in inner poverty and that the shiny resources surrounding us are only empty shells!
PART THREE: DISCOVERING OUR WEALTH
I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. —Revelation 3:18
It is a paradox, isn’t it, that only when we admit our death can we cross the line to participate fully in life. Admission of our fallenness, not wealth or righteousness, not perfection or wisdom or holiness, is the entry point to each of these three treasures that Jesus counsels us to buy. We need to admit our poverty to receive his refined gold, we need to admit our sin to receive his white clothes, and we need to admit our blindness to receive his eye salve.
PART FOUR: ALIGNING OUR ACTIONS
Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. —Revelation 3:19
Jesus’ tough love alerts us to align our actions to the way God does things in his world, rather than being misfits who blindly cause damage to living systems. He clearly does not want our ministry to bear temporary fruit or for us to be lukewarm believers. He wants us to work with him in his way in his living systems so that we will bear much fruit, the fruit that remains. As youth learn by trial and error, we will learn kingdom work by trial and error. And as we do, we start to take our place in the family, though still under discipline. This inward discipline demands a growing level of maturity and responsiveness to Jesus so that he does not have to speak sternly to us all the time.
PART FIVE: OPENING OUR DOORS
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. —Revelation 3:20
Jesus is knocking and calling. I see him knocking on the door of our Western, secondary culture church, so much like the church in Laodicea, and he is calling softly to us, asking if we will invite him into our high tech kitchen to have intimate friendship with him, joining him to do ministry with him in his way.
PART SIX: BEGINNING OUR JOURNEY
To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. —Revelation 3:21
The hope for vitality in Western Christianity in our technological age is not found in our past, but in our future. We can’t go back to Eden. Nor will we be able to escape the growth of technology, should we even want to. As the benefits of technology continue to spread throughout the world, people will long for something to give direction to the way life will be. Heaven is that very practical and very real goal that can give shape to the way we live here and now. The new Jerusalem, with its perfect technology, is the perfect interrelationship of the three realms of reality—the physical, social, and spiritual creation, all operating as one living system, together eternally giving glory to the King, Jesus Christ, who was, is, and always will be the Ruler of God’s creation.
NEXT: Read a condensed version of the book, as edited by Jeff Bass, that helps flesh out each of these six concepts. It should whet your appetite to learn more.