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

In a recent post at Facts and Trends, Aaron Earls discussed the ten worst countries for Christians in 2017. Aaron writes:

For the 16th consecutive year, North Korea tops the list of the most oppressive nations toward Christians.

Open Doors, a Christian persecution awareness ministry, published its annual World Watch List, highlighting the plight of Christians around the world who are arrested, harassed, tortured, and killed for their faith.

 

Dr. Bruce Ashford published an article at his personal blog which shares twelve important books about intellectual history and the Western mind.

Here are twelve books I recommend to persons who wish to better understand the rise and development of Western thought. Together, the books form a sort of “starter” course. I will describe each book and then rank its level of difficulty on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the most difficult. Level 1 is the category for a book you could give to any friend or family member. Level 5 is the category for a book that might be required in a PhD seminar.

 

In a recent blog post, Eric Geiger shared three indicators you might love ministry more than God. Dr. Geiger writes:

Ministry is thrilling. Yes, there are deep and painful challenges, but we get to see the Lord change people’s lives. Ministry allows us to enjoy a front row seat to people grasping the gospel, to people being sent out on mission, and to the beauty of Christian community. Yes, there are plenty of people who throw stones and criticism, but there are also God’s people who offer encouragement and prayers and support to those who lead and serve. Because ministry is thrilling, it can be addictive. Because affirmations exist, we can long for more and more of them. We can, if we are not careful, love ministry more than the God who equipped us for it. If you love ministry more than God, these three things are true in your heart.

 

At The Center for Great Commission Studies, Dr. Scott Hildreth shared about the little things that make the biggest differences.

Over the years I have worked with missionaries, church staff, and students. These men and women have had passion in their hearts and a vision to changing the world for Christ. They launch into a ministry. Soon they are frustrated and ready to give up. They do not see the fruit or success they hoped for. They suffer from burnout or their family suffers because of an unhealthy work/ministry pace. The back half of this proverb quoted above contains some important tips for successful ministry/missionary life.

 

Trevin Wax posted at The Gospel Coalition discussing why Christians should care about ideas.

I can’t forget the shoes. Piles and piles of them filling the room. Of all the gruesome images I saw at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., the room filled with shoes from Jewish victims is the one thing I can’t forget. I think about the people who once owned those shoes, and I mourn the human lives lost in a vortex of unspeakable evil.

The tragedy of the Holocaust reminds me of something I heard as a high school student—ideas have consequences. Adolf Hitler did not come out of nowhere. Before there was the Holocaust, there were decades of philosophical theories advocating superior races, nationalistic laws, and the use of eugenics to weed out inferior peoples. Throw in a dash of “survival of the fittest” from Darwinism and perhaps the pursuit of raw power from Nihilism and eventually we arrive in the concentration camp—a horrifying concoction of various falsehoods.

Ideas do indeed have consequences. But sometimes those consequences are beautiful, as in the early days of Christianity when plagues would sweep through cities in the Roman Empire. While many Roman citizens chose to abandon family and friends and flee the city to escape contamination, early Christians stayed behind to nurse the sick. Because of their belief in a Savior who sacrificed himself for others, they were content to give their lives as well.

 

In a post at his personal blog, Dr. Danny Akin shared six ways preaching aids discipleship in the church. Dr. Akin writes:

Discipleship lies at the heart of the Great Commission, so it should be at the heart of all our ministry as well, including our preaching. Many churches struggle to disciple their people, but I want to suggest that the preaching ministry of the church can and should be one of the main engines of discipleship for the entire body. Here are six ways I believe faithful biblical exposition can help Christians grow to look more like the Lord Jesus and live well before Him.

In Case You Missed It

At The Gospel Coalition, Trevin Wax posted an article discussing the blessing of weather that confounds the control-freak. Trevin writes:

One of the greatest temptations in a technological age is to imagine that human beings create truth rather than receive it. Through scientific inventions and social media re-inventions, we suffer under the illusion that reality is something we can determine rather than something we must discover.

 

As C. S. Lewis put it: in ancient times, “the cardinal problem had been how to conform the soul to reality, and the solution had been knowledge, self-discipline, and virtue.” In a technological age, however, “the problem is how to subdue reality to the wishes of men; the solution is a technique.” 

 

“Subduing reality to our wishes” is the promise of technology, right? And even if we do not put our faith in this technological solution to human problems, we live in ways that further the illusion that we are ultimately in control—from our social media personas, to the heating and cooling of our houses, to the tailoring of our phones to our own needs.

 

At the Center for Great Commission Studies, Scott Hildreth shared five reasons (with solutions) which might cause evangelism to not get the emphasis it should.

There is little doubt that God’s mission and mandate for his church centers on evangelism. This means that, no matter what churches are doing, the primary objective must be clearly and plainly communicating the gospel. Our message is good news – God loved our sinful humanity so much that he gave his only Son. Anyone who believes in Him will not perish but will have eternal life. (John 3:16)

 

Carl F. H. Henry once wrote: “The gospel is only good news if it gets there on time.” Most Christians know this is true; however, we are consumed with other activities and forget the importance of evangelism. Below give 5 reasons for this misplaced focus and then give some recommendations.

 

At his blog, The Wardrobe Door, Aaron Earls shared a helpful reminder that we as Christians should stop making ourselves the hero of Bible stories.

For most movies, the protagonist or main character is also the hero, the person you are meant to identify with and want to emulate. Why is that?

 

Well, you naturally feel sympathy toward the person at the center of the story. It’s very difficult to constantly see the world through one person’s eyes and not view their perspective as right or at least defensible.

 

This creates a perpetual temptation for the Christian. Inescapably, we see life through our own eyes. We are the protagonists of our story and we naturally want to make ourselves the hero as well.

 

When you read a Bible passage, with whom do you initially identify?

 

Joe McKeever shared a post at his personal blog discussing twenty things which pastors should not love too much. Dr. McKeever writes:

“Do not be excessively righteous or overly wise” (Ecclesiastes 7:16).

Most of us would not include those excesses in a list of which to be wary.  But for most, I imagine the list might look more like this…

 

Chris Martin posted an article discussing how Americans feel better about most religions, but not Evangelicalism.

This week, the Pew Research Center released some data about how Americans feel about various religions, and how these feelings have changed from 2014 to 2017.

 

Perhaps the most interesting part of the data—and the focal point—is the comparison between how Americans felt about religious groups in 2014 versus 2017…every single religious group increased its reputation among Americans except for one: Evangelical Christians.

 

Yes. Americans warmed up to every religion over the course of the last three years except for one: Evangelical Christians.

 

Chuck Lawless posted at his blog sharing eight things which North American believers can learn from believers around the world.

In my various roles, I’ve been privileged to travel the world, talk to global brothers and sisters in Christ, and learn from them. I may be the professor, but they always teach me. Here are some things we North American Christians can learn from them.