ReImagine began as a series of conversations and experiments among friends about how to connect our faith journeys with the realities of life in a progressive world city. We took a highly experimental approach to our work, launching intentional communities, local arts initiatives, neighborhood serving projects and intensive group learning opportunities. In 2005 we launched, a yearlong series of Learning Labs designed to help participants integrate the teachings of Jesus into every aspect of life. Our work has attracted risk taking leaders who have gone on to inspire or start similar initiatives in cities around the world.
The world is changing. Globalization, massive shifts in technology, trade and communications are giving birth to a new consciousness about what it means to be human. Some refer to this as a transition from a modern to a post-modern paradigm for life. Others suggest that what is emerging is a more ecological view of the world-- in the sense that we are learning to pay more attention to how all aspects of our lives are related, connected and interdependent.
This shift in how we organized ourselves and how we perceive our lives has brought up new questions about the role of religion in the emerging culture. Many have concluded that traditional notions of God have little relevance to our lives in contemporary society. And yet at the same time, there is a tremendous hunger for a spiritually integrated way of life that acknowledges the sacred and empowers us to love.
WHAT IS THE ESSENTIAL MESSAGE OF JESUS?
As we connect with neighbors and friends, one thing we are often asked about but find difficult to explain is the disparity between the life and message of of Jesus and the reputation of "Christians" in our society. Mahatma Ghandi once said, "I like your Christ, but I do not like your Christians--because your Christians are so unlike your Christ." We wonder if the gospel most people have heard is actually the message that Jesus proclaimed. Jesus came announcing, "The time has come. The kingdom of God is at hand!" and "The Kingdom of God is within you." He spoke of the reality of God's caring presence and the invitation for us to collaborate in seeking the good dreams of our Maker "on earth as it is in heaven." Gradually we realized that the message of Jesus is more immediate and tangible that most of us had realized. If the kingdom of God is at hand and we are invited to seek greater wholeness in our world, then everything matters-- (how we care for our bodies, the earth and each other, what we do to seek justice and compassion in our world and how we create beauty with our lives).
We began experimenting with new practices to explore the present reality of God's kingdom, seeking to be more intentional about every aspect of our lives. We launched initiatives to integrate our discipleship to Jesus with compassion and justice, creativity and the arts, community and neighborhood. We developed friendships with our homeless neighbors, ate meals with at-risk youth, sponsored community mural projects and gallery shows. And we learned to deepen our connection to the Creator through classic Christian disciplines like contemplative prayer, fasting, silence and solitude.
The late Dallas Willard, USC philosophy professor and author of The Divine Conspiracy was a key influence in the development of ReImagine and made several trips to San Francisco to consult us in our work. He suggested that to live into the greater wholeness of the kingdom of God we need to be systematic about learning and doing what Jesus taught. "A group of people should read the words of Jesus and try to follow his instructions," Willard said. For many of us there has been a monumental transition from seeing Jesus solely as a savior to also adopting him as our teacher for life. Jesus invited people to be his apprentices or disciples-- to learn how to live his kind of life. We studied the gospels together and it was hard to ignore statements like: "love your enemies" "sell your possessions and give to the poor" "the greatest among you will be your servant" and "love your neighbor as yourself." We began to experiment with how to apply these teachings to our lives, realizing that we needed a more risk-taking in our approach. We began a new initiative we called The Jesus Dojo. In Japanese, a dojo is literally, "a place where you learn the way." We think the setting where we learn to follow Jesus is more like a karate studio than a college lecture hall. We began forming project based groups that meet weekly for 2-3 months to incorporate a specific facet of the teachings of Jesus into their lives. Our first project was called HAVE2GIVE1. A group of twenty-five of us explored what Jesus taught about money and possessions by divesting of half of what we owned to give our money to global poverty. Other projects have included silent prayer retreats, a neighborhood advocacy project and reconciliation initiatives.
Gradually these experiments have been developed into a year long spiritual formation curriculum and formal learning labs which have birthed several generations of neighborhood based intentional communities and an Apprentice Program.