As we engage in mission, it is critical that our minds and hearts be connected God through a life of vital piety.Continue Reading...
Archives For Vocation
George G. Hunter, III. The Celtic Way of Evangelism: How Christianity Can Reach the West…Again. 10th rev. ed. (Nashville: Abingdon, 2010). 130pp.
A single question is central to the mission of the local congregation: how can we translate the gospel message for our context? The answer to this question will have implications for every part of our life together. It will influence our discipleship, and it will shape our engagement with our city.
The last sixty years have witnessed significant change in American society. In 1953 few would have anticipated an African American President, the legalization of same sex marriage in several state, or the church being moved to the margins of society. Yet, these are the days we have been given and our commission is to faithfully and effectively communicate the gospel in this new milieu.
George Hunter’s book, The Celtic Way of Evangelism offers insight into how the Christian community can engage these new realities. To do so he draws on the Irish mission work of Saint Patrick, a British Christian who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in Ireland. He escaped and years later returned to engage in a highly effective apostolic mission to the land of his captivity.
Hunter provides a significant amount of historical background that helps the reader come to know Patrick as well as the key distinctions between the Celtic and the Roman expressions of the Christian faith.
This book does not contain a strategy so much as express a vision of what the Christian community can be, and must be, in order to do effective mission in our post-Christendom culture. Hunter identifies ten characteristics of Celtic Christianity the translate to characteristics of effective missional communities today. I will highlight four: contact, community, contextualization, and conversation.
Conversion almost always happens in the context of a relationship (i.e., contact) with both an individual Christian and a community of Christians. Authentic, trusting friendship with a Christian is often a key avenue through which the Holy Spirit draws a not-yet Christian into the kingdom. Relationships–with all that is entailed with sustaining them–were central to the Celtic way of evangelism. Are you intentionally nurturing an authentic friendship with a not-yet Christian?
A unique understanding of community marked the Celtic approach to mission–belonging preceded believing. Celtic communities were hospitable to people, encouraging them to become a part of the community without the expectation that they change in order to be welcome. This is an echo of the gospel–God doesn’t require us to change before he welcomes us. Instead, he welcomes us in order to change us. As a church, are we welcoming strangers and people who aren’t like us? Or, do we inwardly expect people to change (learn “Christian etiquette) before they become part of our community?
Christian missiologist David Bosch informs us, “the Christian faith never exists except as ‘translated’ into a culture.” The job of the church is to work to effectively and faithfully ‘translate’ the message so that it can be heard by the members of our culture, one in which the Christian worldview is no longer ascendent. At the very least the work of contextualization requires taking seriously the changes in assumptions that are now evident in culture. For one, there is no longer an assumption that everyone ought to at least publicly give lip service to the Judeo-Christian ethics. If we start by assuming traditional ethics, our witness to the gospel will go nowhere fast.
Celtic Christianity placed a high value on conversation as opposed to presentation. Conversation is bilateral; presentation is unilateral. The ministry of conversation is central to becoming a new creation in Christ since we encounter the gospel most fully through relationships. Conversation is also significant for discipleship. Celtic Christianity emphasized the role of “spiritual friends” as companions as we follow the way of Christ–people who help us to live out the message in the midst of the realities of life in a broken world.
The Celtic Way of Evangelism is a helpful book that offers much to prayerfully consider as we collectively try to discern what it means both to love God ourselves and to lead our city to God as well.
Across social media platforms friends and acquaintances are urging one another to get out and exercise their democratic right to vote. Those who don’t vote, so the popular wisdom goes, have neither the right to complain nor the right to express a political opinion. What’s more, they cheapen the sacrifices of many women and men who have died in defense of our nation.
I see their point, and respect their opinion. However, this year I chose to do something I have never done in a presidential election since voting in my first one back in 1996. I chose to cast a ballot, but not a vote. In other words, I chose to not make a choice between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney (or a non-major candidate).
Some of you may find this a curious choice. I wrote earlier about why I was considering not voting in the election this year. Read “The Obama Conundrum”).
I am not a political realist. I don’t care much for making a choice between candidates simply because there are only two feasible options. I don’t feel the need violate some of my deepest religious convictions.
I stand by what I wrote earlier.
If I vote for Barack Obama I am casting a ballot for one of the most pro-choice presidents. [Note: My theological belief that all humanity is created in the image of God leads me to value life. For this reason I am deeply skeptical of capital punishment, to the point of thinking there ought to be a moratorium on it. I am also deeply skeptical of war and have a hard time understanding the almost frivolous attitude of some politicians toward it.] A good society is not one that kills its unborn children. And while it may be good to help those in need, it’s also true that the government brings with it a profound ability to dehumanize those it seeks to help, simply by the scale of its operation. The government is also unable to make moral distinctions based on anything other than utilitarian concerns.
On the other hand, neither is a good society one that abandons those most vulnerable to ‘fate.’ The Republican party has become the party of economic liberalism. Taking their cue from Adam Smith’s philosophical reflections (which are predicated on a sub-Christian understanding of morals, by the way) the Republican party has come to espouse the individual as the supreme economic actor. There is no authority (or at least few) that may interfere with the economic actions of the individual. All that is require is mutual consent (analogous to cultural liberalism’s ethics above). A fair wage is what a person may command in the current market; a fair price is what the product will command. There is no moral calculus beyond this, and any effort to introduce one distorts the sovereign market.
That’s why I cast a ballot, but not a vote for the office of President of the United States.
We all want to do things with excellence–in our work, in our relationships, in life. I don’t think any of us is really interested in getting by with the minimum of effort and the minimum return. We may be doing it, but if that’s the case I’m also pretty sure that somewhere deep inside we feel pretty bad about it and would like to change.
As I thought about these questions, it occurred to me that these questions are helpful for a number of different parts of life–home, work, church. In other words, answering these questions honestly will help us reframe our life and work in a way that will provide greater clarity for us and enrich those around us.
When you’re evaluating a project, ask these questions (p.13):
1. What is the product or experience I want to create or transform into a wow?
2. How will the customer or prospect feel as a result of this experience? (i.e., outcome)
3. What specific expectations does the typical customer bring to this experience?
4. What does failing to meet customers’ expectations for this experience look like?
5. What does exceeding customers’ expectations for this experience look like?
Hyatt gives the concrete example of an client waiting in the reception area of an office building. This is a very tangible experience of first impressions–investing in this experience could pay large dividends in good will toward the company, and make someone’s day rather than ruin it.
Like most things, working effectively and strategically is the product of focus and a good deal of intention. Asking these questions is a good place to start in improving a project your currently involved in or as you contemplate starting a new initiative.
In a wonderful article in the New York Times, Susan Cain asks the question: “Must leaders be gregarious?” Read it here. I’ve written on the topic as well giving some reasons why I think introverts make great pastors.
Americans often assume that excellent leaders come in only one shape: the hand-shaking, back-slapping, everyone’s your best friend, All-American extrovert. Cain offers us Bill Clinton as an example. Both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney stand in sharp relief. Does that mean they are not effective leaders?
Far from it notes Cain:
“Many of this nation’s finest leaders have been extroverts — but plenty have not. Jim Collins, in his study of the best-performing companies of the late 20th century, found that they were all led by chief executives known primarily for their fierce will and dedication — and were often described with words like “reserved” and “understated”.”
Apparently no less a figure than Peter Drucker has reached the same conclusion as well:
“The one and only personality trait the effective ones I have encountered did have in common was something they did not have: they had little or no ‘charisma’ and little use either for the term or what it signifies.”
In the end it seems that the qualities of vision, determination, focus, and integrity are more central to effective leadership than the elusive “charisma.”