In Case You Missed It

At the Intersect Project, Dr. Nathan Finn answered a few questions about the relationship between spiritual formation and mission from a new book, Spirituality for the Sent: Casting a New Vision for the Missional Church, which he co-edited with Dr. Keith Whitfield.

In recent years, evangelicals have pursued a more holistic Christian mission and participated in discussions about spiritual formation. Yet these two important movements have developed independently and rarely intersected.

Nathan A. Finn and Keith S. Whitfield want to change that. In Spirituality for the Sent: Casting a New Vision for the Missional Church (IVP Academic, 2017), Finn and Whitfield bring together scholars from a variety of disciplines and ecclesial traditions to address the relationship between spiritual formation and mission.

Nathan A. Finn (PhD, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) is a professor of Christian thought and tradition at Union University, where he also serves as dean of the School of Theology and Missions. He was kind enough to answer a few questions about the book, mission, spiritual formation and cultural engagement.

 

At his blog, The Wardrobe Door, Aaron Earls posted an article discussing how “coasting” only becomes an option in the mind of a Christian when we forget we are trying to draw closer to a person. Aaron writes:

How much did you enjoy coasting down a hill on your bike as a kid?

 

You can put your feet off to the side (or on the handlebar if you’re feeling really daring) and let gravity do all the work. Enjoying the wind against your face is the reward for all the effort you spent pedaling up.

 

As a kid, that was one of the greatest feelings, but sometimes things can go wrong.

 

Once, I was going too fast down a hill. I hit a bump, flipped over my handlebars and rode upside down for a few feet before crashing into a briar patch.

 

Attempting to coast spiritually, has put many Christians in a similar predicament without their even realizing it. Coasting is not an option for the Christian.

 

Over Easter weekend, a fascinating conversation took place on Twitter among several well-known evangelical women writers discussing the ideas of Christians building “platforms” and “brands.” Since that original conversation, several blog-posts have been written discussing this topic further. Below, are a few of these:

 

 

In Case You Missed It

Barnabas Piper shared a post at his personal blog earlier this week reminding us that life is not lived online. Barnabas writes:

I live my life online. So do you, probably. We share everything – every event and crisis and first day of school and pretty plate of food and new place we visit. We are compelled to comment on everything, or at least to like it so the poster knows we are engaged. We share intimate family moments and difficult personal ones. We are authentic in the least vulnerable way possible. The online way.

 

Because life is not lived online. In fact, online is not a place or a thing. It is real but is an alternate reality. No matter how “real” we seek to be online it is never really life. Because life is lived here and now with people in places thinking thoughts and saying words and doping actions. That is life.

 

Life is not actually a public affair. It is not for the consumption of others. Yet we seek to shove our lives into the public alternate reality of social media for all to see. We are confused. The term “friend” no longer means friend. We calculate the significance of our moments by likes never considering if we liked the moment. We take the vulnerable moments of grief, pain, struggle, anger, and confusion – moments to be tended with as much care as an infant in the NICU – and expose them to the elements of that other universe, the online one.

 

At The Peoples Next Door, Keelan Cook shared a post discussing foggy words that can sidetrack the mission.

In order for us to engage people in outreach we need to do life with them and be intentional about loving on them.

You may have actually heard that statement come off some pastor’s lips in a sermon. But think about it, what does it actually mean? You filled in all kinds of meaning behind those phrases. Your meaning may have been absolutely biblical, or perhaps it was way off base. Often, our goal in crafting this language for our mission is noble. We want to find a way to articulate aspects of what it is we are all called to do. Unfortunately, because so many of these words are vague, they get used in all kinds of ways.

 

“In recent years the foggy word ‘work’ has become popular. This least common denominator includes all kinds of activities. Preaching, teaching, healing, theological training, broadcasting, building, and chicken raising-all are work. Ardent church planters like the Southern Baptists, addicted to the idiom, even when they begin a church in some town in Mexico are likely to say, “We have opened a work there.” Wherever used, the word hides what is being done.”

 

That is an excerpt from a book written in, wait for it… 1970.

 

In fact, the author goes on to say, “Similarly the words friendly interest, response, outreach, encounter, and the like are so vague and cover so many activities that they tell little about the increase of congregations.”

 

The author was Donald McGavran*, and he hit the nail on the head. In the church and missions, we love using foggy words to describe our “work.” We have been doing it for at least 47 years now, and I bet we have been doing it a lot longer. McGavran’s warning about our vocabulary is as salient today as it was back then. It is easy for us to cloud our own understanding of our mission when we apply vague terms uncritically and imprecisely.

 

At the North American Mission Board website, Dr. Danny Akin shared a post reminding us that last words are lasting words. Dr. Akin writes:

Last words are meant to be lasting words. They are meant to make an impact and leave an impression. As the Lord Jesus prepared to ascend back to heaven, He called His disciples to Himself and said these words: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt 28:18-20, HCSB). These well-known words of our King are often referred to as the Great Commission. Their greatness is found both in their content and in the one who spoke them. These words are nothing less than a strategic mandate for the Church of the Lord Jesus to passionately obey until He returns again to consummate all things. So, we are told to make disciples. You would think this would be an easy assignment, but my 35 plus years in ministry have convinced me that this is an area where the Church has stumbled about in confusion. Too often we have settled for cheap substitutes that have produces anemic followers of the crucified Galilean. How few there are in our churches who truly deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Jesus (Mark 8:34).

 

Dr. Nathan Finn posted an article at The Gospel Coalition explaining why we should consider living near our churches.

I love the universal church, which includes all believers everywhere. But over the years I’ve become firmly convinced that the local church is ground zero for worship, formation, witness, and service. Local churches are contextual expressions of the one body of Christ. The church is the people, not the building. To use old-fashioned Baptist language, the church building is the meetinghouse. Wherever the people are, there the church is. On the Lord’s Day, and perhaps other times, we’re the church gathered. When we leave the meetinghouse and head out into the world as individual disciples, we’re the church scattered.

 

For most of us, it’s easier to be a meaningful part of the church gathered—and to partner with the rest of the church scattered—when we live in the same community where our church’s building is located. I believe it’s ideal to live near your church’s gathering place for the kingdom’s sake.

 

At The Intersect Project, Doug Ponder published an article titled: “Fear Not, Little Flock“. Doug writes:

Fear and worry and anxiety run deep in us all. We’re afraid of being alone, of being unloved, of being abandoned. We’re afraid of looking dumb. Some are afraid of losing; others are afraid of success. We’re afraid of taking chances, but we’re also afraid of missing that “once in a lifetime” opportunity. Most are afraid of economic hardship — and the fear never seems to go away no matter how high the dollars stack. We’re afraid of hurting others, and we’re afraid of being hurt. Singles are afraid they will never marry; married couples are afraid their spouse won’t stay forever. We’re afraid of growing older; we’re afraid of dying young.

 

No one really likes fear, but it’s the air we all keep breathing. It is as if the world is fueled by fear. Indeed, not a few industries profit from our fears. Insurance salesmen come to mind, but so do politicians, who practically depend on fear to run their campaigns. The candidate who taps into our deepest fears almost always wins the election.

 

At his personal blog, Art Rainer shared ten Bible verses to start off our 2017.

For some, a new year means a new start. It’s a natural point in our lives when we consider what we desire to see happen over the next twelve months. Maybe you desire to be a better leader. And this is the year. Maybe you desire to get your finances headed in the right direction. And this is the year. Or maybe you desire to spend more time with God. And this is the year.

 

I am sure that you have high hopes for 2017. You are setting goals and making plans. And this is good. But there is no better place to start this fresh year than in Scripture.

 

So, here are 10 verses to start your 2017

In Case You Missed It

At his personal blog, Art Rainer shared what could be the worst goal to pursue in 2017.

What are you going to chase in 2017?

If it’s on the leadership level, what mountain are you going to ask your team to climb with you? If it’s on the personal level, what in your life do you want look different 365 days from now?

 

In my last post on goals (5 Reasons You Can’t Avoid Goal-Setting), I pointed out what characteristics make up really good goals. They are S.M.A.R.T.—Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based. These are the types of goals you want to pursue over the next twelve months.

 

So what characteristics would make up really bad goals? What does the worst goal to pursue in 2017 look like? How can you spot one? S.M.A.R.T. goals can provide us some guidance.

 

Here is how the worst goal to pursue in 2017 will present itself

 

At The Intersect Project, Meridith Berson discusses the virus of moral superiority. Meridith writes:

The past election cycle was hard on this country. For starters, it was long. The Republican primary debates started in early August of 2015, leaving us with fifteen grueling months of a politically charged news cycle. As a country we watched as the various Republican candidates spared, dropped out and endorsed or denounced their peers.

 

We then watched as a left-wing Independent from Vermont began what was dubbed as a revolution, aimed at taking the Democratic Party further left than it was accustomed. The reactionaries in the Party then pivoted to bring this wing into their fold. While it was a calculated attempt to reunite the party, it left the remnants of the revolution confused and alienated.

 

Somewhere in the midst of the unfolding drama, the voters spoke and the results yielded two opposites. One was a carefully calculated, and seemingly handpicked, candidate. Her name had been circulating in political circles for longer than most Millennials — the base she desperately needed — had been alive. She came across as scripted, elitist and, for many, the paradigm of corruption. Yet, there she was, the representative of the party that presents itself as the caretaker of the marginalized, the party that fights inequality, the party of the people.

 

Bruce Ashford shared five reasons for atheists to join Christians in church this Christmas.

Earlier this month, American Atheists launched two nationwide billboard campaigns urging Americans to celebrate the holidays by skipping church. The first billboard depicts a text message exchange in which one young woman tells a friend that she plans to skip church during Christmas and that her parents will “get over it.” The second billboard parodies President-elect Trump’s campaign slogan, urging Americans to “Make Christmas Great Again!” by skipping church.

 

In an interview explaining the billboard campaign, American Atheist President David Silverman said, “It is important for people to know religion has nothing to do with being a good person, and that being open and honest about what you believe—and don’t believe—is the best gift you can give this holiday season.”

 

While we are a little confused by Silverman’s apparent delight in fantasizing about family division during the holidays, we agree with Silverman that openness and honesty are good things and, in that spirit, we offer a few reflections.

 

At the Baptist Press, Micah Fries, Nathan Finn, and Jon Akin shared an open letter discussing the need for cooperation amid SBC tensions.

Controversy surrounding ethicist Russell Moore’s past comments on President-elect Donald Trump has led three Tennessee Baptists — all under the age of 40 — to issue an open letter calling “the [conservative] resurgence generation and their protégés” to “be the statesmen we need them to be in this season of denominational tension.”

 

Jonathan Akin, Nathan Finn and Micah Fries wrote in a Dec. 21 open letter provided to Baptist Press, “Now isn’t the time for acrimonious debates over secondary and tertiary doctrinal matters,” such as the extent of the atonement, church polity, methodology and the appropriate means of cultural engagement.

 

They directed their comments especially toward Southern Baptists who led the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s as well as those mentored by that generation, noting, “Our real enemy is the Prince of Darkness.” The resurgence attempted to make biblical inerrancy a bedrock commitment of Southern Baptist Convention entities.

 

At his blog, Chuck Lawless shared 10 gift ideas which do not cost money. Dr. Lawless writes:

Christmas can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, we usually give gifts that don’t last anyway. This Christmas, give one of these gifts to someone.