|Commentary: 'Bourne' offers lessons for churches|
A UMNS Commentary
By the Rev. Kelvin Sauls*
Oct. 5, 2007
All he wanted was to be a disappearing act. Instead, Jason Bourne is
targeted by the very people who gave him his purpose and mission. He
struggles to come to terms with the double loss of his memory and his
only love. Defying bullets, car crashes and highly trained enemies,
Bourne pursues a mission to rediscover his identity and redirect his
The Rev. Kelvin Sauls
The thriller "The Bourne Ultimatum," with its global dimensions,
invites congregations to reconnect with and re-imagine the Great
Commission for the transformation of the world.
This "three-quel" to "The Bourne Identity" and "The Bourne Supremacy"
holds lessons for the church in three areas: memory, identity and
activity. The loss of who he was and who he loved are not excuses for
stagnation for Jason Bourne. His grief gives birth to motivation for
engaging in the mission at hand.
Likewise, the church cannot freeze as a result of grief and loss.
God's comforting presence is about resurrection, not stagnation. Loss
will affect memory. Bereavement will influence identity. Grief will have
an impact on activity. Through Bourne's response to loss, the movie
invites the church to employ memory, enlighten identity and exhale
activity to reconnect with God's preferred future.
"Ultimately, his flashbacks do not leave
him stuck in what was. His memory fuels his quest to restore integrity. …
Similarly, the church must learn again to use memory for enlightenment
As Bourne slowly remembers what has been done to him, and what he has
done to others, he seeks to change the present and the future. He also
gives other characters permission to examine and question what they had
been working for.
Ultimately, his flashbacks do not leave him stuck in what was. His
memory fuels his quest to restore integrity. The restoration of his
memory guides his future activity.
Instead of being paralyzed by the pain of the past, Bourne is mobilized by the possibilities of the future.
Similarly, the church must learn again to use memory for enlightenment and empowerment.
The power of memory
Memory brings enlightenment to identity. Knowledge and understanding
of the church's identity are imperative. Bourne reaches back to reclaim
his identity so that he can reach for his destiny.
Unfortunately, the church often survives on who it was and not who it
can be. Rooted in social class and racial classification, the church's
identity must be reclaimed through its Pentecostal and spiritual roots.
The journey toward congregational transformation invites leaders to
rediscover the power of memory. Ultimately, congregational
transformation invites laity and clergy to redefine congregational
identity and redirect congregational destiny.
Bourne struggles with loss, identity and purpose. Moreover, he
struggles with how to understand and undo his past, and re-envision his
future. Bourne is focused and faithful, resourceful and purposeful.
Congregational transformation is an experience that requires
long-term focus, multi-dimensional resourcefulness and participatory
By bringing meaning to memory, congregations can grow into their
creating responsibility. This creating responsibility unleashes
opportunities for congregations to focus attention on innovative
strategies to engage our culture. Innovation paves the way for
congregations to fulfill their calling in service.
Congregations must learn again to use memory and history for
enlightenment and empowerment. Remembering is not an end in itself. We
must remember to re-imagine! Remembering and innovating are two sides of
the same coin. The historical reexamination of the church’s purpose is
critical for the mobilization of what is possible in the name of Jesus.
"The Bourne Ultimatum" is ultimately a movie about identity and
discovery. Its momentum is really about the search for authentic
internal meaning. To serve the world effectively, congregations must
journey inward and seek the Creator of the world. A congregational
identity rooted in "the mind of Christ" can produce a piety that is
prophetic and a holiness that brings about social righteousness.
"Congregational transformation, like the
Bourne trilogy, is action-packed. However, unlike the Bourne trilogy,
congregational transformation in not as fast-paced."
Identity guides activity with neighbor. Knowing that he cannot change
the past, Jason’s desire is to be "Bourne" again for a different kind
of activity. He works diligently to review his past activities and
reprogram his current and future activities. Rediscovering his identity
gives him permission to rediscover his purpose. That, in turn, enables
him to redefine his activities.
Knowing the needs of neighbors is crucial for congregations to
redefine and redirect their ministries. Such knowledge and understanding
will force churches to ask the hard and relevant questions. The answers
will inform the Good News that congregations must express in word and
"The Bourne Ultimatum" invites congregations to understand memory,
update identity and upgrade activity for the purpose of reconnecting
with God's preferred vision and destination.
Congregational transformation, like the Bourne trilogy, is
action-packed. However, unlike the Bourne trilogy, congregational
transformation is not as fast-paced. In the words of Bishop Melvin
Talbert, "It's a marathon, not a sprint."
*Sauls is the director of congregational development at the United Methodist Board of Discipleship. He can be contacted at email@example.com or (615) 340-7066. A longer version of this commentary appears at the board’s Web site at www.gbod.org.
News media contact: Linda Green or Tim Tanton, (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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