Reenacting the Way (of Jesus)


It is hard to follow an idea. Ideas don’t go anywhere. It is much easier to follow directions.

If we only define Jesus by who he is rather than what he does, we lose the ability to imitate him. You cannot follow a person who is just standing there being himself. If you daily imagine Jesus as a heavenly being standing in the clouds in all of his eternal perfection rather than a man on mission, you’ll be left taking clues for how to make your next move from everything but Jesus himself.

That’s why my entire book Reenacting the Way (of Jesus) focuses on Jesus’ movement. We decipher the meaning of his most mysterious actions. And we find that his actions are not superfluous connecting material between teachings. His actions were making profound statements in and of themselves. He was challenging and changing the world by what he did. And he was setting an example for all who would follow him.

If we are going to honor Jesus, we must begin to reenact his way of doing things. We must find creative ways to be faithful to his example. Jesus understood the symbolism of wine and water in his culture. He knew what pigs and storms meant to pagan regions around the Galilee. He didn’t take deformities and debilitating diseases at face value. He used their cultural significance to his advantage and took action. We must do the same today.


If you think of Jesus as a great teacher who walked around giving all the right answers, following him will mean doing the same thing. You’ll look for opportunities to learn the right answers to tough theological questions and pass them along. You’ll be attracted to small groups and churches that pull out new principles and truths from the Bible each week. Refining your ideas about God and life will be everything you want to find in a community of faith.

But to be brutally honest, your faith will be more like the appendix to a math book than a way of life. In that paradigm, your faith becomes the summation of all the right answers to all of life’s tough questions. It becomes a way to be right about everything. That pursuit of all the right ideas and answers distracts you from following Jesus because you have to spend so much time learning how to prove others wrong and defending why you are right.

That’s why I have pushed you to change your vision of Jesus. If you look at Jesus as a man on a mission who is calling people to fitting action, then static group settings characterized by “discussions” and “sermons” won’t be enough. You’ll want to find a group on the move. You will quit a Friday morning “study” group for a Friday night “action” group. You’ll cancel your next Christian committee meeting so you can volunteer for the weekend to pack nutritious food for starving children. You won’t stop discussions, but you’ll want them to grow out of what you are doing rather than what you are debating. You will be more concerned about embodying the love and justice of God than figuring out how those two divine characteristics could work together throughout eternity.

If you are wondering where you might find a community of likeminded Jesus followers who are charting new and culturally relevant paths for Jesus’ purposes today, I’d encourage you to attend a Q conference or a Catalyst conference. You can find upcoming Q events at and Catalyst conferences at At Q and Catalyst, you get a rapid-fire introduction to cutting edge cultural engagement from a Christian perspective. Q and Catalyst are built on the idea that Jesus has called us to restore God’s original intent for creation within our cultural context. Presenters and participants are all driving toward that goal. They are creating action groups testing out new ideas for cultural engagement. The people you will meet at Q or Catalyst may just be the friends you need at your side to reenact Jesus’ way faithfully and fittingly in our time and place.

*This is an excerpt from Paul Penley's newest book, Reenacting The Way (of Jesus)

Dr. Paul T. Penley is a Bible professor, author of academic and discipleship books, and the Director of Research at the philanthropic advisory firm Excellence in Giving. He has studied biblical backgrounds in Israel, Turkey, Greece and Egypt and put his faith in action at home with his family in Colorado and around the world on trips to Bolivia, Uganda, Kenya, Kosovo, Mexico and India. Find his latest book and blog at or follow the conversation at

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