/Thursday, July 11, 2019
Mapping the Arenas of Discipleship for the Twenty-first Century:
The Quest for Maturity and Holism
~Gordon E. Carkner, Ph.D. in Philosophical Theology, University of Wales~
email@example.com Campus Blog: ubcgcu.org
Specialist in Graduate & Faculty Ministry, Outreach Canada
- Basic Doctrine for Mere Christianity This is a foundation concern on what a Christian believes and lives (Eerdmans Handbook on Christian Belief; N.T. Wright, Simply Christian; C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity; Os Guinness, The Call). Many churches do something in this arena but could do more to establish young Christians in their faith journey. Regular sermons are not enough to get an overview of the Christian life. Mike Breen, Building a Discipling Culture, helps us take discipleship seriously. Outreach Canada staff person David Collins has a motivating teaching series to mobilize tired disciples to active passion for Christ called Digging Deeper.
- Spiritual Disciplines This arena includes prayer, fasting, simplicity, meditation, gratitude, lectio divina, etc. (Excellent resources are found in Richard Foster, Spiritual Disciplines; and Streams of Living Water; Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms.; Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy). Barry Whatley, an Outreach Canada staff person in Montreal, bears a deep concern for this dimension of discipleship and the Christian experience of God, a concern for both leaders and pilgrims. Barry is building a strong resource kit on this topic. Regent College Bookstore displays an amazing source of volumes on spiritual direction, ancient and modern. Regent College founder James Houston has championed the writings of the Western Church Fathers and other notable saints of the contemplative tradition. David Bentley Hart has championed the Eastern Church Fathers. See bibliography.
- Biblical Knowledge, Literacy and Biblical Theology This item includes the larger story or metanarrative horizon, i.e. helping Christians develop an understanding of the overall architecture and content of Scripture (Old Testament and New Testament). There is a serious need to learn basic biblical hermeneutics. (Gordon Fee, Reading the Bible for All its Worth; Walter C. Kaiser Jr. The Promise-Plan of God: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments.; Iain Provan, Seriously Dangerous Religion; Richard Middleton, A New Heaven and a New Earth; Bruce Waltke, An Old Testament Theology). Willingdon Church in Burnaby, British Columbia is running such a program. This includes several eight-week courses to develop people in biblical literacy. It also helps launch future leaders. Biblical knowledge is terribly weak in an age of technology and superficial identity, but there are now excellent resources online if one knows where to look: for example, world-class educational resources can be found at http://www.biblicaltraining.org/. There exists a need to help Christians build deeper roots in Scripture; deceased Bishop Lesslie Newbigin encouraged us to indwell the biblical story (The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society), to be so familiar with the Bible that it flows through our veins. My colleague, John B. MacDonald, staff member at Outreach Canada, has developed a robust course on Matthew’s Gospel, which he developed over several years as a paradigm for discipleship; he sees discipleship as the deep structure.
- Moral Vision/Quest for the Good: This involves the politics of love, poetics of community, learning to leverage agape love and grace (D. Stephen Long, The Goodness of God; Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self). Academia, the church community, as well as the political and business communities realize that our culture needs recovery of, and retraining in, ethics. Radical left views have taken the spotlight in the media, constantly pushing the envelope in the more liberal (freedom of individual choice or autonomy) direction, often with no emphasis on responsibility for the common good. Margaret Somerville, distinguished Law Professor at McGill University, is a key conservative voice in Canada on public moral issues. There are issues to reckon with inside the church and with its leadership as well. One of the big issues is moral motivation—why be good if you can get away with narcissism, entitlement, cheating and lying? (Henry Cloud, Integrity: the courage to meet the demands of reality). My PhD dissertation covered this topic in detail, especially the recovery of the good in the work of Charles Taylor. Jim Wallis has a significant contribution on the recovery of the language of the common good in (Un)Common Good: how the gospel brings hope to a divided world. Brazos, 2014).
- Stewardship of Creation or Creation Care What does our carbon footprint have to do with discipleship? Why is environmental responsibility and stewardship or creation care important to faithfulness, within a circumspect virtuous lifestyle? How do we encourage a broader ownership of the current problems and the fruitful solutions? This is a key area of integrity for the church and a key concern in reaching the younger generation, which are highly sensitive to this issue. Thus, they are leaving the church when it is insensitive to environmental concerns. There is a strategic mission opportunity for people with expertise in environmental science in China and Mongolia; here and in many other places, there is a genuine crisis. It is a life and death concern for the developing world, especially the poor whose homes and livelihood are most at risk. It is a spiritual concern to love the biosphere and love our poor neighbor. (Katharine Hayhoe a top climate scientist; Jonathan R. Wilson, God’s Good World.; Steven Bouma-Prediger, For the Beauty of the Earth.; Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything: Capitalism versus Climate.; A Rocha an agency which features this concern worldwide). Katharine Hayhoe is a Canadian climate change scientist participating at the Regent College Pastor’s Conference in May 2015. The world may be at a tipping point in this arena says Naomi Klein. The United Nations is saying that we could be faced with millions of ecological refugees. A Lausanne Committee Statement on this issue can help motivate evangelicals: http://www.lausanne.org/content/statement/creation-care-call-to-action and particularly Part I, Section 7)
- Christ Consciousness This involves building our identity and sending our roots deep into a robust vision of Jesus, versus a more comfortable, reductionistic or dumbed down version. See my other short statement on this topic. “Jesus is the Yes and Amen to it All”. (We have super resources in Eugene Peterson, Practice Resurrection; and N.T. Wright’s excellent scholarship in Jesus and the Victory of God). Learning to build our identity in Christ and practice his Lordship in life and outlook will go a long way to mature us as believers. There are a lot of other forces pulling at the Christian identity these days and a literal crisis of self in late modernity, which I examine in my dissertation on Michel Foucault. In a day of Nihilism, one has to work hard to build a plausibility structure, and lay out the plausibility conditions for belief, meaning and transcendence (Charles Taylor, A Secular Age; Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society). See on this issue my book Escape from Nihilism: rediscovering our place in late modernity. Christo-centrism is an anchor and a key credibility factor for Christian faith these days, in order to keep us from getting off on contemporary causes or superficial trends. Jens Zimmermann (Incarnational Humanism) and James Davison Hunter (To Change the World) warn us that Christians can have their identity washed out by plurality of options and by what Hunter calls dissolution. Jim Wallis (The (Un)Common Good) encourages us to look at what it means to have Jesus as a Living Teacher walking with us to bring heaven to earth, to discern the kingdom of God on our planet. This is a very mature pastoral statement about the deeper walk of discipleship.
- International Awareness This arena works on critical growth in identity as a global citizen of the kingdom, developing a global vision, growth in awareness of cultural and ethnic diversity within our Canadian neighbourhoods. The goal is to develop in disciples a missional outlook. (Ross Hastings, Missional God, Missional Church: hope for re-evangelizing the West.) There is now a large missional church literature and conversation in North America. We are familiar with the concept of emotional intelligence in leadership discourse (Primal Leadership by Goleman, Boyatzis, and McKee); a key concept here is cultural intelligence. Graduate students in our universities are coming from everywhere in the world and are training for international leadership in various fields. Thus, you can sense why I am passionate about their spiritual well-being. We ought to take them more seriously in terms of the strategic future of the kingdom and the church, as well as their future leadership calling in society as international ambassadors. A former president of UBC said that they are called to global citizenship. There are now some 10,000 postgraduate students working at UBC; that’s a lot of brainpower. Outreach Canada’s Perspectives Course has been quite effective in developing the vision of global Christianity, to raise consciousness of God’s embrace of the whole world.
- Maturity through Suffering This arena explores the art and meaning of suffering, redeeming our suffering, building character through suffering, and learning compassion through suffering (I Peter). How do we handle societal or academic marginalization as Christian exiles (James Houston, Joyful Exiles)? Resources include: Scott Cairns, The End of Suffering: finding the purpose of pain; Henri Nouwen, The Wounded Healer. Suffering and the Problem of Evil seem to coalesce as an issue in people’s minds, but this is not always helpful; it is much better to grapple with suffering in itself. There is great discipleship benefit to drilling down into the biblical concept of suffering. People need help in learning to suffer well, keep their dignity, and discover a new closeness to God in the midst of their suffering. The Apostle Paul had a strong consciousness of participating in Christ’s suffering, and suffering for the well-being of the early church. This is an arena where the Christian story can stand positively and confront a narcissistic culture of entitlement and consumeristic individualism leading to self-implosion. Deeper discipleship emerges when we suffer for doing the good and right thing—righteousness. Perhaps Anabaptist traditions can teach us in this area.
- Historical Heritage: This builds in a vision that today’s believer is standing on the shoulders of past saints, reformers and martyrs in church history. With all the intensity of church planting going on across the country, there is a strong need for teaching the history of the church community. Teaching in this arena offers correction and rebuttal to inadequate historical accounts of Christianity’s influence on Western culture (David Bentley Hart, Atheist Delusions: the Christian Revolution and its Fashionable Enemies; Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity). Churches should not shy away from tracing their roots and benefitting from the depth offered through a knowledge of the history of both doctrine and practice. Many of the battles we are fighting today were also fought decades and centuries ago; we have ancient as well as modern colleagues from whom we can learn. There exists a great crowd of witnesses and we can benefit from the spiritual roads they have laid down and the mountains they have climbed. We can also learn from their mistakes, especially how to avoid their extremes (e.g. The Crusades and Inquisition). One could draw on Don Lewis and Bruce Hindmarsh at Regent College for inspiration in this arena. I have benefited greatly from classes at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School under noted scholar David Wells on the history of doctrine (Reformed Theology in America). See also Donald Dayton's Discovering an Evangelical Heritage; Mark Noll A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada; David Bebbington, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s.
- Incarnational Humanism It is good to realize the tremendous social, institutional and cultural (human) impact of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and ascension. This arena focuses on learning to become a better human and how to hold out a vision for social health, civility and reform (Dietrich Bonhoeffer). What does it mean that we are the Body of Christ in cultural leadership terms? Fresh research and creative thought has emerged since 2012 from Trinity Western University’s Jens Zimmermann, (Incarnational Humanism: a philosophy of culture for the church in the world). Christians urgently should reclaim their heritage in the history of humanism, going all the way back to Augustine and indeed rooted in the Old Testament. The cross-denominational journal First Things highlights this arena from a variety of perspectives as does the organization Cardus on public policy in Canada (Convivium Magazine) The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada has a stake in the evangelical response/representation to government. The challenges come from the Nihilists (anti-humanists and post-humanists of Nietzschean descent); scholars Brad Gregory (The Unintended Reformation) and Charles Taylor (A Secular Age) have very helpful insights on faith and cultural opposition. At the end of the day, is not the redemption of our lives in Christ to make us better humans and committed to shalom, offering a blessing or contributing to the common good of society? Sociologist James Davison Hunter (To Change the World) uses the language of faithful presence. James Houston searches out a discourse on how to move from individualism to become a relational person (The Mentored Life: from Individualism to Personhood). Paul Ricoeur (Oneself as Another) is strong on the narrative aspect of personhood. We expand this concept later in a section on Church and Government.
- Apologetics Skill and Giftedness This involves learning to give an answer to those who ask why we believe and why we suffer with Christ, or why there is evil in the world if God is good. It also helps Christians who are going through questions and doubts about their faith. This involves learning the language of contemporary (late modern) culture, communication, debate, and dialogue, skill in answering the tough questions. It helps develop the breadth and depth of language to include the transcendent and the poetic. (Alister McGrath, Intellectuals Don’t need God?; The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics: surveying the evidence for the truth of Christianity, eds. Ed Hinson & Ergun Carter 2008; Tim Keller, The Reason for God; Philip Yancey, Reaching for the Invisible God; see my blog ubcgcu.org for multiple resources in Apologetics). I often offer an overview seminar to introduce the vision for the value of Apologetics to discipleship at Missionsfest Convention in Vancouver. The agency ‘Apologetics Canada’ in British Columbia and the agency ‘Dig and Delve’ in Ottawa offer conferences specifically to develop and equip 18-30 year olds in this vision in early March; these conferences have had a growing popularity and success. For example, Apologetics Canada drew 2000 people last March It is one thing to introduce someone to Christ; it is quite another to establish them and give them the tools to face their detractors, especially if they have converted from another religion or worldview. Often one finds a culture of doubt and cynicism as the atmosphere on our campuses where the best and brightest are nurtured. It is very encouraging to see churches set up a tough questions series or run debates on relevant issues. I cannot state how critical this arena is and how poorly the youth I Canada are served currently.
- Knowledge of Other Religions and Worldviews This includes secular ideologies such a scientific/exclusive humanism and Nihilism, plus radical post-humanism. Pluralism of belief is often overwhelming Christians these days and they need help at discernment and skills in dialogue. This focus is important in order to intensify our knowledge of the Christian faith, and promote inter-religious dialogue, peace-making, appreciation and impact. The wise understanding of the relationship between philosophy and theology, reason and faith, is a key issue here (John Stackhouse Jr. at Regent College; David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God: being, consciousness, bliss.: Eerdmans Handbook on World Religions). See the special emphasis on Islam in section 20. Sociologist Christian Smith at Notre Dame University has alerted us to the intense intellectual confusion and needs in this 18-23 age group. A basic course on world religions in today’s complex society should be taught in the local church. It is inadequate simply to repeat that Jesus is the only way to God without grappling with the nuances of other religious views, and showing how Jesus fulfills all the aspirations within every religion (Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society). How else are we to engage and love our neighbor of another faith persuasion? We must first seek to understand and then to be understood; this works with students on campus. Students may take a comparative religions course and end up quite confused as I was in second year university. Don Klaassen, staff member at Outreach Canada, is mobilizing concern for reaching Punjabis in the Fraser Valley and reconciliation with Native Canadians in British Columbia. Dr. Miriam Adeney, Seattle Pacific University, is a sound resource in this arena. Christians could be much more effective with neighbor love and understand what they bring to the table of dialogue with some discipleship in this arena.
- Theology and Philosophy of Bodies This involves sexuality, mindfulness, healing from abuse, whole personhood. Many are learning how to cope with sexual addictions, order their sexual desires, respect boundaries in relationships, cultivate faithfulness to married partners and children. The quest for sexual health and whole relationships is a huge issue currently for both married and single people as well as within Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox leadership. The pressures within our culture against sexual wholeness are immense. Stan Grenz (Sexual Ethics: an Evangelical Perspective) offers some wisdom. Technology of sin (see section 26.) is also an important area of teaching and discipleship: the internet poses intense new challenges to discipleship and holiness for young people with pornography so immediately accessible; one Christian college choir admitted this was a big issue. Living Waters (http://livingwaterscanada.org) is an agency that has offered much help in the arena of sexual addiction, ambivalence and homosexuality. Law Professor Benjamin Perrin at UBC has fought a good battle on the human trafficking issue, helping to shape Canadian policy. One of my dissertation supervisors, Dr. Donn Welton (The Body: Classical and Contemporary Readings; Body and Flesh: a Philosophical Reader) Continental Philosophy specialist at Stony Brook University in New York, offers some help here at a sophisticated level on inquiry.
- Science in Healthy Perspective How do we understand science as it relates to Christian faith, to distinguish between legitimate science and the ideology of scientism? One needs to find a balanced understanding of science and its relation to the Christian faith amidst the various prejudiced and paranoid extreme views. Evolution/Origins and Genesis 1-3 (along with other biblical statements on creation) is one of the key issues to discern. Here the quest is to deliver a more robust understanding of the doctrine of creation. The logos doctrine (John 1, Colossians 1) is very relevant. There are many good resources in my Blog on this topic and also my paper on Scientism examines the issues. The parachurch ministry Colossians Forum is working on this dialogue for several churches in the USA; Calvin philosopher Jamie Smith gives it intellectual support. The agency Faraday Institute for Dialogue on Science and Religion at St. Edmund’s Hall, Cambridge University is very a very robust resource (see their Test of Faith three-part video series by top Oxford and Cambridge scientists), as is the Canadian Science and Christian Affiliation (on many topics) and BioLogos (on understanding evolution in particular). Many people find Sir John Polkinghorne, Owen Gingerich, Dennis Danielson, John Lennox and Ian Hutchinson well informed and helpful on this arena of discipleship. This is a key issue of credibility for the church today and perceived conflict between science and religion is one of the top reasons young educated people are fleeing the church. Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith made this point at a recent conference on science and faith in New York City. Churches need to bring in credible university faculty to help cover this concern but studiously avoid the travelling road show speakers. I have a fairly substantial paper on Scientism, having read for two years on this subject.
- Worship as Formation in a Trinitarian, Personal Paradigm Theological resources in this arena include: T.F. Torrance, Kallistos Ware, Jens Zimmermann, Jeremy Begbie, and James K.A. Smith. Brian Doerksen from Langley, British Columbia runs a school of worship arts for Prairie Bible Institute as of 2014. Worship is rarely talked about in churches and is under-studied in general. We need more depth and breadth in this most critical arena of spiritual formation. There are some conferences on worship and liturgy for leaders. Duke University Professor Jeremy Begbie (some would call him a genius) combines the Arts in theology and worship; his is a very thoughtful contribution amongst the Gospel and Culture theologians. Youth and adults would benefit much from teaching and discipleship in worship and the place of the eucharist (Jens Zimmermann, Incarnational Humanism; Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts). There are tendencies in a number of traditions to focus on only one member of the Trinity in worship or to take too rationalistic an approach. With its strong aesthetic and poetic component, worship has great potential to become much more prophetic in Canada. Rooted in good theology, worship can reach the stratosphere in creativity. There is a phenomenal genius in the history of worship that we often are not tapping into (e.g. Handel’s Messiah). Among others David Wesley (Basement Praise) from Waterloo, Ontario has pioneered Acapella praise, a new phenomenon that combines the classics with a fresh style and tremendous power. Wesley is a young genius. I’ll also put a vote in for Hillsong’s mature album Zion and Brian Doerksen’s Holy God.
- Recovery of the Virtues and the Virtuous Community This arena includes character formation as per II Peter 1: 3-8; Philippians 4. The C.S. Lewis Summer Institute in Cambridge and Oxford during July 2014 focused on the theme: Recovering the Virtues for Human Flourishin http://www.cslewis.org/?utm_source=E-Chronicles+October+23%2C+2014&utm_campaign=October23+E-Chronicles&utm_medium=email I believe that the conference has captured something quite vital as an arena for exploration, discovery and impact for the church. We see a robust recovery of virtue ethics within academia (Ian Brooks just finished a doctorate in the field within philosophy; see also David Lyle Jeffrey of Baylor University) and emphasis on character formation these days in business leadership (Henry Cloud, Integrity). Fran Vanderpol has found that the discussion of character is a leverage language within the general community in Abbotsford, British Columbia. Is virtue being taught at a serious level in churches? Do we highlight character and the virtues as a strength to be promoted? If we do not, we are missing a major countercultural opportunity of witness. Do we just assume it is being caught by osmosis? Good resources for further discussion are found in: Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue. Stephen Bouma-Prediger, For the Beauty of the Earth. Other resources on the intellectual virtues include Brad Gregory, The Unintended Reformation; Linda Zagzebski, Virtues of the Mind). Virtuous Community This is an urgent concern given the crisis of civility and threats of violence in the West at the moment. Churches have an opportunity to lead by example: building moral capital and enhancing the plausibility conditions for faith within society at large, possibly even helping curb fundamentalist religious radicalization. The Catholic Church has traditionally carried the strongest flame for the virtuous community, especially in the monastic movements, but Protestants have regained an interest and a stake in the discussion. Martin Luther King Jr. regularly heralded the concept of the beloved community as a key pillar of his vision. It is a concept that can be recovered for the good of the church, as we see in the new monasticism movement where young Christians build community in a poor section of town (Jim Wallis, The (Un)Common Good)., This arena of formation offers a strategic cutting edge of witness to a cynical culture which is struggling with dishonesty, greed, gossip, cheating and incivility. Apostle Paul adjures us to pursue the power of virtue ordained by the Holy Spirit whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable. Notre Dame History Professor Brad Gregory (The Unintended Reformation) articulated the vital importance of this issue for me in recent years and showed how human rights discourse could recover a more holistic context within the virtues. Jim Wallis’ notable 2014 book The (Un)Common Good: how the gospel brings hope to a world divided also gives a rich discussion of a robust kingdom heritage in Jesus teaching. When we speak of virtues, we are speaking of those rooted in Trinitarian communion over against a Stoic approach of secular self-management. Christians need to recover their own ethics; a parallel discussion occurs in Charles Taylor’s recovery of the good (Sources of the Self) which is a key element of my Ph.D. thesis. There is a very wealthy resource here that remains untapped by many clergy and churches.
- What is the Nature of the Church? We seem to have a bit of an identity crisis these days in late modernity (i.e. what we mean by church) and there is real conflict among believers on the nature of church (traditional versus emerging/emergent) between generations of pastoral leadership. Some pastors see themselves as more ‘postmodern’ in their outlook, even while they may not realize the Nietzschean implications of that overused term, and love to experiment with form. Some use Deep Church (Jim Belcher, Deep Church) or Mere Christian as a talking point on a third alternative. I’ve been to conferences on the subject and found the vibes fascinating. Eugene Peterson has a mature statement on church and Christian identity in Practice Resurrection: a conversation of growing up in Christ, which is a prophetic exposition of the book of Ephesians relevant to late modernity. Many are leaving the traditional church out of boredom; these otherwise faithful believers do not attend any church because they are fed up with being patronized or just used as a wallet or pew warmer to keep organizational machinery going. This is a real wake up call to leaders. Openness, wisdom, creativity, dialogue and imagination are all needed; the tensions can be used to our advantage and the growth of the kingdom. Included in this arena is whether women should be allowed (top) leadership positions within church hierarchy, or in several cases any official (eldership) leadership at all. American New Testament Scholar Scot McKnight has some fresh views in this arena. Canadian creative thinker Alan Roxborough (Missional Map-Making) mixes it up with some of his thoughts on church and leadership. Of course, there is profound work done by Hans Kung (The Church).
- Grappling with Western Culture and the Language of Secularity Charles Taylor (A Secular Age) and Jens Zimmermann (Incarnational Humanism) are two deep analysts on this issue. Christian leaders often struggle to understand the culture in which people in their congregations live and the language they use day to day. (See James K.A. Smith, How (Not) to Be Secular: reading Charles Taylor; Smith offers a reasonably good introduction to Taylor’s tome). The myth here is that the rise of science has brought an end to religion, or replaced religion, in the West (Taylor’s subtraction thesis). This is one of my areas of research interest. Naturalistic materialism is being critiqued: David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God: being, consciousness, and bliss or Alvin Plantinga, Where the Conflict Really Lies. This also includes wrestling with Nihilism and the anti-human spirit in Western thought, Post-Romanticism. See my new book which uses Taylor as a backbone philosophy to try to rebuild the plausibility conditions for belief in a Trinitarian faith: Escape from Nihilism: rediscovering our place in late modernity. See also Jens Zimmermann, Incarnational Humanism: a philosophy of culture for the church in the world. Al Gore’s insightful book The Future: six drivers of global change is also a good read for progressive thinkers; it gives the big picture on current global challenges and gives a heads up on how we read the daily news. One wise leader in the business community suggested that pastors have lunch with the business colleagues of their parishioners to get to know their world and their language game (finance, mergers, legal, stock markets, immigration, supply chain management, lawsuits, economic challenges). Sermons should connect with real world concerns, and the languages of society, not just pop culture.
- Peace-making, International Compassion, Non-violence, Reconciliation and Justice One might call this the Politics of Agape Love of Neighbour. Essential to the teaching of the New Covenant is the art and ministry of reconciliation (II Corinthians 5). Never before has there been a greater need for this skill as a Christian in a violent world of militant ideologies, dwindling resources, child soldiers, radical ideologies, cruel dictatorships. Theses concern are compounded by intense capitalist greed, financial institution reckless irresponsibility, growing disparity of wealth between plutocratic rich and poor, sex trafficking, abuse of women and children, millions of refugees and displaced peoples from terrorism. The poor or the least of these as Jesus speaks about it in Matthew 25 are often the last priority and the most easily exploited (Jim Wallis has an excellent statement on this concern in The (Un)Common Good). By powerful wealthy agencies. This arena of concern involves teaching Christian believers to cooperate, mobilize prayer and activism across denominations and the political right and left for the sake of noble kingdom causes as we find in the Sermon on the Mount. Ron Sider, Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Miraslov Volf, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King Jr., Gene Bethke Elshtain, Nicholas Wolterstorff, and Jim Wallis are some of the key voices. Notable are the books: Elizabeth Gerhardt, The Cross and Gendercide; and Miraslov Volf, Exclusion and Embrace. The movie I Am by Tom Shadyac as a testimonial gives direction of a new paradigm, a virtual rethinking of Tom’s life goals. Through a terrible accident, he had time to reflect on his life and on how we North Americans are treating one another and the biosphere. He offers a new trajectory where one lives more simply, walls are broken down and love is at the center of motivation. Although I do not agree with every ideology represented in the film, it is a story of someone who has rethought his paradigm of what is essential to the ‘good life’. Christian young people should be made aware of what their options are for service to the world when love is at the centre. It brings into critique the spirit of entitlement, individualism, racism, clannish behaviour and isolationism. My Ph.D. research reinforces this concern at a philosophical level.
- Loving Our Muslim Neighbour This arena speaks of one major implication of section 6. International Awareness. With major immigration to Canada from the Middle East in the next thirty years, thousands of Muslim students attending our Canadian campuses, large refugee problems and globalization, we have a strategic opportunity and challenge to get to know and reach out to people from the various sects of the Muslim community within our Western cities. France is this issue writ large. The same applies internationally as we travel and work in various industries, countries, NGOs and humanitarian organizations. This again is a serious call to maturity: i.e. to go the extra mile in discipleship and compassion. The need has hardly been more intense than today, with much research, thinking and wisdom required. It includes developing a working knowledge of the documents (Koran, Hadith) and Apologetics to meet Muslim challenges to the Christian faith in various parts of the world. Fundamentally, it requires much love and listening. One must discern between radical Islam (as in the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS) and faithful Muslims with family values who believe in a just and merciful Allah. Yale theologian Miraslov Volf (Allah: a Christian Response) has an important YouTube talk on comparing the Good of Christianity and Islam: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BylHdkuxmec Gordon Nickel (Peaceable Witness Among Muslims; helpful with original documents of Islam), Andy Bannister (Ph.D. in Muslim Studies) and Nabeel Qureshi (Seeking Allah Finding Jesus) of RZIM, and Ron Dart at University of the Fraser Valley are thoughtful resources on this subject. The Canadian Network of Ministry to Muslims, a partnership with Outreach Canada headed by Peter Wolfe, is a discussion and support group in this arena; a recent conference involved 320 enthusiastic participants. Reverend Bob Roberts at Northwood Church in Dallas/Fort Worth sets an example for leveraging agape love in reaching out to the Muslim community: Bold as Love: what happens when we see people as God does. See also David Garrison, A Wind in the House of Islam; and David Goa at the Charles Ronning Centre, University of Alberta, which deals with research and dialogue on religion and public life.
- Discipleship of the Christian Mind or Worldview Dr. John Patrick at St. Augustine College in Ottawa is doing a great job of preparing high school grads for university in a one year program on Christian foundations; the program takes seriously the interface between faith and culture. Over eighty percent of the grads of this school do not lose their faith in university. Other such programs are desperately needed for youth entering academia. James Sire has a long track record of supporting university students in this arena (Discipleship of the Mind; The Universe Next Door, which has gone through 27 revisions as an all-time best seller for IVP. Brian Walsh and Richard Middleton (Transforming Vision) have also contributed much encouragement in developing a Christian worldview. More recently, Andy Crouch has become a very popular spokesperson (Culture-Making: recovering our creative calling) addressing many key issues in late modernity. This has always been a big part of my work with undergraduates and postgraduate students, i.e. helping them to engage their studies from a Christian critical outlook. Intervarsity Press (IVP and IVP Academic) has traditionally taken a lead here, employing Christian faculty in different fields, but of course many other publishers complement this work of Christian scholarship. Marketplace Theology at Regent College (Paul Williams) puts a high priority on the mind; they launched an eight-session video course on the subject called Reframe in fall of 2014, making the discussion quite accessible for church communities and other Christian agencies. Learner’s Exchange at St. John’s Anglican Church Vancouver offers Sunday morning seminars on intellectual topics. This vision is also carried by the Pascal Lectures at University of Waterloo, Graduate & Faculty Christian Forum at UBC, Gifford Lectures at University of Edinburgh, Veritas Forums on campuses across North America. I also offer a faith and culture section and posts on my blog written by various faculty, graduate students and myself: ubcgcu.org. Christian faculty members of secular and Christian universities and colleges are a strategic help in this arena of discipleship, encouraging vital Christian reflection. This moves us a level beyond apologetics to thinking as a Christian which is super relevant in today’s complex world.
- Global Intercession This arena involves the development and nurture of an awareness, aptitude, faith and passion for the big scale changes that prayer can bring about. It takes seriously the movement of the hearts of kings and governors (Psalm 138, Daniel, Esther), heading off an evil movement, ending Apartheid, releasing political prisoners, deconstructing an oppressive regime, supporting the persecuted church in other countries. It takes seriously the concept of principalities and powers (Walter Wink, The Powers That Be; Engaging the Powers; Ephesians 6). Here discipleship builds the awareness that God is interested in Berlin Walls, Russian incursion into Ukraine, ISIS brutality, North Korean oppression. Ute Carkner, staff member at Outreach Canada, is a champion of this concern. This is in addition to her spiritual mentorship of faculty wives, young emerging leaders and graduate students at UBC.
- Spiritual Gifts and Giftedness This is a very challenging but important arena of stewardship, one that requires significant spiritual imagination, and yet it is filled with radical potential. How do we help people discover their spiritual gifts and put them into practice in the local church and beyond? Many parishioners today are frustrated with the lock down on leadership by professional ministry staff, especially in larger churches. Many church members feel underemployed concerning their actual gifts by ushering, parking cars, making coffee, counting the offering and teaching Sunday School. They are yearning to be developed and mentored, thinking that here must be more to Christian service than what they are presently experiencing. The gifts can be taught, but individuals need an opportunity to explore their giftedness in real time with healthy feedback from a wise community of believers. As this is taken seriously, it will motivate and mobilize massive amounts of hidden talent within our congregations and assemblies, issuing in the development of new leadership beyond our imagination (Romans 12; I Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4). The Holy Spirit wants to do so much more with our corporate giftedness and release an abundant grace and blessing upon Canada. Lay people also have a responsibility to courageously present serious ideas to clergy for their engagement and evaluation. The St. John’s Vancouver Anglican Artidzo Program has made significant strides in this arena in recent years, offering various levels of mentorship towards leadership. This is also a potential area for wise and loving senior citizens in our midst as per section 25 below.
- Eschatology of Discipleship What is the end game of one’s discipleship? C.S. Lewis puts it in context of eternity in the Eternal Weight of Glory. J.R.R. Tolkein (The Hobbit; Lord of the Rings) and Lewis (Narnia Chrinicles) put it in terms of a great battle between good and evil, where evil is finally vanquished. The Apostle Paul sees the destiny of the quest as the oikodome of righteousness (II Corinthians 5) an eternal dwelling which is more real than our own bodies. Darrell Johnson gives perspective on the relationship between time and eternity, the two realms of discipleship, in his popular commentary on the book of Revelation, Discipleship on the Edge. See also Richard Middleton’s new book on this theme: A New Heaven and a New Earth. The key word here is pilgrimage. Have we lost the sense that we are on an important quest, one which requires heroism, loyalty and courage, where there are big consequences to our choices and attitudes? Philosopher of Religion Ingolf Dalferth (Theology and Philosophy) has an intriguing concept of the eschatology as a spiral upwards towards the heavenly. This reminds us of Dante. Baylor University English professor Ralph Wood, a Tolkein expert, thinks we should be less concerned to get to heaven rather than to currently get heaven into us https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0QAnfJloJec Incarnational theology is committed to exploring the connections between the temporal and eternal now.
- Cultivating Wholeness through Healthy Aging and Mentoring A whole body of research is emerging sparked by aging Baby Boomers (Zoomers). See Cultivating Wholeness: A Guide to Care and Counseling in Faith Communities. by Margaret Kornfeld (especially the chapter on death and dying); James Houston, A Vision for the Aging Church: renewing ministry for and by seniors; also The Mentored Life: from Individualism to Personhood. These authors are concerned about the mentorship capacity of people in their senior years—to pass on moral, spiritual and intellectual heritage that a younger generation desperately needs. See also the program Aging Matters: Finding Meaning & Purpose In Senior Years at Carey Theological College, Vancouver, British Columbia.
- Digital Discipleship: Social Networking and Media Consumption Check out the MennoNerds blogging site and The Digital Society: Christians Interested in Technology & Culture Facebook Group. Broadcast media and film are increasingly profane and graphic in portraying gratuitous violence and sexuality, within a ratings system that doesn’t reveal the exact language and depictions that might make a difference to impressionable teenagers in the younger age group who feel that they’ve outgrown PG (parental guidance). Web sites like www.pluggedin.ca are trying to add that information which secular reviewers may not see the need to mention. Social networks can enable ongoing connections with people whom we would not otherwise phone or write to, but can lead to isolation when they replace human contact and physical interaction—e.g. excessive video gaming online. Ubiquitous, fast, and nearly anonymous data connections, in conjunction with the frictionless sharing and promotion of illicit and sensational content, has created many moral hazards in how we use the Internet. Everything from hate speech to pornography to pirated games and movies are easier to find and use without appreciating the impact such consumption has, i.e. spreading intolerance, warping sexual norms, and depriving artists of royalties. Christian disciples would do well to keep in mind the advice in 1 Corinthians 10: 23 “All things are lawful … but all things do not edify.” and Philippians 4:8 “Focus on whatever is true, noble, praiseworthy.” Professors Albert Borgmann at University of Montana, Quentin Schultze at Calvin College, and Craig Gay at Regent College are thinking much and writing about such topics as technology and faith. Borgmann is truly brilliant in showing us how technology shapes us psychologically and culturally and can destroy valuable Christian rituals and traditions such as the family meal and Sabbath. The other side of this is that the blog, Internet, and other social media can be employed towards good discipleship, apologetics dialogue and attracting people to the Christian faith. There is a great amount of free, constructive material in commentaries, courses, bibliography, lectures on YouTube. We use this regularly in university ministry; my graduate student blog has increased the frequency and quality of my writing. Google is trying to get every book in the world on digital format; that is simply as revolutionary as the invention of the printing press.
- Discipleship and Political Power: The Church, Government, Public Square Christians have always had to take a stance with respect to political authority and to grapple with citizenship even under hostile regimes like the Soviet Union or Roman Empire. Indeed we do not have to be political atheists or political non-participants but we need wisdom as to how to proceed, as there exist some real extremes, especially in America. Here are some of the key authors on the subject: John Redekop, Politics Under God; Richard John Neuhaus, The Naked Public Square; and Public Catholicism; Jim Wallis God’s Politics; and The (Un)Common Good; John Stackhouse Jr., Making the Best of It; Andy Crouch, Playing God: redeeming the gift of power; James Davison Hunter, To Change the World: the irony, tragedy and possibility of Christianity in the late modern world; David Lyon & Van Die, Rethinking Church, State and Modernity: Canada Between Europe and America; Rowan Williams, Faith in the Public Square; First Things Journal. Overall this speaks to the issues arising at the interface between discipleship and citizenship. In many respects, democracy needs the undergirding of Christian faith and values to survive.
- A Discipleship that Addresses the Honor-Shame Cultures Shame is used in many societies (Asian for example) to produce social order and harmony. It is the primary device for creating good behavior in children and entails conditional love. If a child does something wrong or untoward, the family will submit them to public shame. The shame is also owned and carried by the parents; the honor of the family has been violated. The child grows up with a great fear of expulsion from the family or group. Thus there is a strong tendency to repress personal problems, negative emotions or actions in order to “save face”; this produces secrecy because admitting wrong behavior or addictions implies a total failure of oneself, and a disruption of honor within the social fabric. It creates a tremendous double bind. Honor and shame are the yin and yang of Asian cultures. Western preaching and discipleship is often insensitive to this problem, as it is mostly focused on a guilt society where the conscience is internal. This is a strong concern on the West Coast of Canada. See the insights of Jayson Georges’ The 3D Gospel: ministry in guilt, shame, and fear cultures; Roland Muller, Honor and Shame: unlocking the door; Psychology Today article by Seattle therapist Sam Louie: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/minority-report/201406/asian-shame-and-honor