Monday, June 19, 2017

Book Review of Faithful Presence by David E. Fitch


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Faithful Presence: Seven Disciplines That Shape the Church for Mission
by David E. Fitch
IVP Praxis
ISBN 978-0-8308-4127-1
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Right before I moved, I received the book Faithful Presence from IVP Press. After I moved here to North Platte, I also received a copy of this book from our Executive Minister Robin Stoops. It has taken me a while to carefully read through this book, but I have finally finished the text.

The central idea of Faithful Presence is that there are seven spiritual practices that simultaneously promise God's presence and lead us into a missional presence in our world. Each one of the practices promises that God will "show up" as we live out and share these disciplines. The practices are:


  • The Discipline of the Lord's table
  • The Discipline of Reconciliation
  • The Discipline of Proclaiming the Gospel
  • The Discipline of Being with the Least of These
  • The Discipline of Being with Children
  • The Discipline of Fivefold Gifting
  • The Discipline of Kingdom Prayer
Fitch then goes on to share a model for living the disciplines as the church in three realms:

  • Close circles: Believers in Christian community (the church) submitted to Christ and one another
  • Dotted circles: Believers in the neighborhood submitted to Christ and one another as they live their faith outside of church buildings or the safety of a "holy huddle".
  • The half circle: Where the Christian and christian community goes out into the world as a guest, seeking to live and share the presence of God in that space
I found this book powerful, intellectually stimulating, and believe it will be a significant text in how the church seeks to live on purpose in the world to reach the world for years to come. Eschewing quick fix programs at every opportunity, this book shares values and attitudes believers should embrace in their life together, and as they seek to live on mission in their community and world. Biblically grounded, culturally wise, and pragmatically astute, Fitch lays a foundation for church's in the future that is based on historical models of Christian community and outreach, without embracing traditions and structures that have hamstrung Western Christian mission in recent years.

This is a must read for pastors, church leaders, and followers of Jesus seeking to live their lives in a way that grounds them deeply in their faith, and empowers them to multiply their faith as well.

Our deacon board is studying this book together right now, and seeking to move forward in ministry and mission with the guidance it provides.


Friday, June 09, 2017

Shoptalk: Funerals are different wherever you go....

I am preparing my first memorial service for a member of our church here at First Baptist Church of North Platte, NE. As I do so, I am reminded that different places do things radically different based on the region of the country, the size of the congregation, the size of the community, and the culture of the people that make up the church and the community.

Here are some of the differences:

Reading of the Obituary
Some people think this is necessary in a service, and some people do not. They like or dislike this tradition for the same reason. I think the history of it stems from a melding of the secular and sacred, with the reading of the obituary being an official secular announcement of death. Much like when ministers would say, "by the power vested in me by the state of _____________"

Procession with the Body
This sometimes was dependent on the nature of the facility. In certain churches, this has to be done immediately following the service. Then people can be greeted and visit. Other churches process the body to the back of the sanctuary, often in an overflow area. Others have released the crowds of folks, and brought the body to hearse well after the service. One church I served in, for example, processing with the body was difficult because stairs had to be navigated.

The Funeral Home
These folks all have a different way of operating from one another in relation to pastors and churches. Some places are low on capital funds, and so they insist in having the family of the deceased write personal checks to musicians, pastors, and church ladies for the church service. Others make that kind of thing a part of their package deal. Some funeral homes like having pastors present with the family as they meet with them. Several do not.

Funeral Meal
In some places, a church plans to prepare a meal for nearly everyone in town. Another congregation only allows folks who are family and who are serving with the funeral staff. Some prepare elaborate meals for everyone. Others buy Subway sandwiches and provide side dishes and deserts that are homemade. One church I served prepared "open-faced sandwiches" prepared by church ladies. Still others simply offer a cookie and beverage reception.

There are several other differences I can't think of. What variations have you noticed?