Archives For missional theology

Does God speak? If He does, are we listening?

My answer to those question is that God is speaking. He speaks to His people primarily through Scripture, which is our rule of faith and life–the lens through which we evaluate the content of other messages or impressions that we believe come from God.

God also speaks through patterns in our lives, through people, through the book of nature. Together these things fall into the category of general revelation.

The problem is not that God isn’t speaking. The problem is that we’re not listening.

While I was reading a paper from a doctoral colloquium on church and mission (I know, geek alert), I came across a little phrase that captured my imagination: the recovery of our contemplative faculty. The phrase comes from Catholic theologian Ronald Rolheiser’s book, The Shattered Lantern: Rediscovering a Felt Presence of God.

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Rolheiser’s central assertion is that, “our senses require healing and rehabilitation so that they are adequate for receiving and responding to visitations and appearances of [God]” (p.23). Contemporary society connives to kill our awareness of God: “God dies in our awareness and eventually in our churches as well” (p.107).

Coming from a significantly different theological perspective, Rolheiser echoes an observation made many years earlier by Stephen Charnock (1628-1680). Charnock decried the absence of God in the lives of many professed Christians: “…there is something of a secret atheism in all, which is the fountain of the evil practices in their lives, not an utter disavowing of the being of a God, but a denial or doubting of some of the rights of his nature” (24).

These two radically different Christian writers both touch on our deafness to God:

  • Rolheiser believes that we have simply crowded out the voice of God, become deaf to his voice because of our narcissism, pragmatism, and restlessness.
  • Charnock believes that we purposefully close our ears to the words of God due to our internal desire to be an authority unto ourselves.

Surely both men are right. Surely there is within each of us a unique blend of the desire to be an authority unto ourselves and the a canny inability to allow ourselves to be distracted from the counsel of God.

What causes you to close your ears to God?

 

The fence-pierced tree is a powerful image what happens to many Christians as they face key transitions in life. In my work as a campus minister I often observe the difficulty some students face in making the jump from undergraduate life to graduate study and from graduate school to professional practice.

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Who is my neighbor?

April 29, 2013 — 2 Comments

On Saturday I experienced a foretaste of the heavenly banquet. After spending the morning doing various things to serve our downtown community, members of our church went out and invited everyone they met to have lunch with us. Many came.

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The evangelical church must make significant progress in valuing and embracing the arts. This is the case both because the arts are inherently valuable (they’re valuable because of what they are as well as what they do) and because the arts play a critical role in the formation of culture.

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It’s been a slow week here at jeffgissing.com. My family is in San Diego enjoying some vacation time and celebrating the wedding of my brother-in-law. It has been a fun week–Balboa Park, San Diego Zoo, the Science Museum!

This week I’ve been reading Mel Lawrenz’s Spiritual Influence: The Hidden Power behind Leadership. It’s a great book and is helping me get to the heart of what ministry leadership is–something that I explored last week in a couple of posts. Ministry leadership is, in its essence, a function of discipleship. If a leader is not a disciple, her leadership rests on sand rather than bedrock.

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Here’s how Lawrenz puts it:

“[Great Christian leaders] know that they’re not the real influencers, but that they are being used by God, who brings enduring, transforming influence in peoples’ lives.”

He later writes:

“Leadership that is entirely self-directed [as opposed to God-directed] will always be pathological….spiritual leadership is an extension of discipleship.”

Most of us are prone to excess in this area.

We either think that ‘leadership’ is a bad thing and we avoid it or we valorize it. The problem with this approach is, of course, that Scripture bears testimony to the importance of using one’s spiritual gifts for the purpose of edifying and building up the body in ways that specifically employ our gifts.

On the other hand, many of us go further than Scripture to become obsessed with leadership. As Lawrenz points out in his book, there is no generic term in Scripture for leadership. Leadership is ever and always linked to participation in the mission of God in a specific and concrete way. Leadership is not abstract and ephemeral, it is concrete and involved getting your hands dirty in mission.