Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Just another awkward moment

So, last Sunday night at a BBQ I was in the midst of a conversation with a number of the forty-somethings from our church. One person was saying that she appreciated my nearly 70 year old mother hanging out with the teens and older kids, overseeing them and interacting with them while they were playing Monopoly. This made me smile. My mom is young at heart and loves kids. I still have a recording of her reading a Christmas book to Karis when she was a baby. Makes me cry nearly every time I hear it. So true to the beauty of who she is.

Anywho, the next thing took me off guard. Dude your mom is nice looking woman. I mean, she is a total MILF (if you don't know what this means it is an acronym, with the first word being mother and the last word a slang term for "relations"), ya know what I mean?

Well, on one hand I was honored that the folks in our church feel so comfortable in laying stuff out there for me. I mean, the language might have been an issue for some, but not so much for me. And I think the world of this person and their family. I feel very honored when people are authentic and vulnerable with me. Wouldn't want it any other way. It is actually a goal in each pastoral relationship to get to that point with people.

However, she was talking about my mother, and so because it was my mother, it was a little bit disconcerting. Just had to share.....

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Review of the Reformation Commentary on Scripture: Romans 1-8

Image result for romans 1-8 reformation

Reformation Commentary on Scripture: Romans 1-8
New Testament Volume VII
ed. by Gwenfair Walters Adams
IVP Academic
Reviewed by Clint Walker

One of my favorite things that IVP has done with commentaries is when they bring together anthologies of original sources from certain eras to show how people interpreted different sections of Scripture. Intervarsity Press started with the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture and has continued with the Reformation Commentary on Scripture from which this volume comes.

I am glad this commentary came out this year, because it completes the Reformation Commentary on Romans, and this seems to a big year for some studies on Romans. This particular commentary will help with historical context with some of those more innovative readings of the classic book in Scripture.

Romans is a watershed book in many ways for the Reformation, along with Galatians. In Romans, there is a particular emphasis on the primacy of faith, and the importance of salvation by grace through faith. This, as the Reformers rediscovered the text in its original language, brought up many questions about Catholic practices of penance, indulgences, and the like that then catapulted Europe into the Reformation.

This resource uses many of the more well known Reformers as they addressed Romans such as Luther and Zwingli, Calvin and Melanchthon. It also seeks to add diversity to the text with lesser known theologians that not only come from Reformed and Lutheran traditions, but also Puritan, Anabaptist, and Catholic perspectives as well.

This will be a treasured resource for me, and will sit in an easily accessible place in my library. I recommend not only using this as a resource, but also reading the introduction. It is both helpful for the common reader, and insightful for those who are well versed in the history of Biblical interpretation.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Day 1--Part 3--Moving from Christendom to PostChristendom---Examining and Evaluating Practices

Organizing the church for ministry is PostChristendom requires to do some different things. Dr. Fitch shared this slide which was helpful in understanding these changes.

The church needs to be described in what purpose it serves in the world.

Describe churches in terms of community and witness.

Fitch then asked us to decide on an essential practice of the church, one that we felt passionate about and could write our paper on.

(This was my first major panic attack in the class. Already? I am just getting started? What if I don't choose the right thing? Oh no! Oh no! I am not ready for this)

Here were the examples of essential practices from different ministry practicioners throughout history.

Here they were:

What are the Non-Negotiables for your Church?

Biblical Appellations of the Church
Pick one (that best describes your sense of your church)
o   People of God Acts 15:14 1 Pet 2:9
o   Body of Christ 1 Cor 12:13
o   Ekklesia (the called out gathering) 1 Cor 1:2
o   None of the above

Creedal Marks of the Church
Pick One (that drives the values of your church)
o   One
o   Holy
o   Apostolic
o   Catholic
o   None of the above

The Marks (Lutheran/Anapbaptist)
Which one do your start with and why?

Luther’s 7 ‘notes’ On the Councils and Churches 1539
o   the preaching of the true Word
o   The proper administration of baptism
o   The correct form of the Lord's supper
o   The power of the keys  Matt 18 .. binding and loosing … discipline …
o   The lawful vocation and ordination of ministers
o   Prayer and the singing of psalms in the vernavular
o   Persecutions …   sufferings …

Menno Simons .. added the following marks to preaching of the word/sacrament
o   Holy living  - moral non conformity is indispensible to their witness…
o   Brotherly love - moves locus from administration of eucharist meaning of it ..
o   Unreserved testimony -  witness …
o   Suffering    - cross… discipleship

o   Community/fellowship/brotherly love
o   Worship gathering
o   Discipleship
o   Leadership
o   Evangelism (mission?)
o   The ministry to the poor (justice)
o   Catechesis

Dever’s Marks

o   Expositional preaching
o   Biblical theology
o   Biblical understanding of the Gospel
o   Biblical understanding of conversion
o   Biblical understanding of evangelism
o   Biblical understanding of membership
o   Biblical church discipline
o   Promotion of Christian discipleship and growth

o   Biblical understanding of church leadership

Defensive v. Accomodative:
Two ways people engage culture in unhelpful ways

Defensive approach to culture results:

Accomodating approach to culture results:

A missional ecclesiology avoids both of these extremes.

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Church is An Action Word

Church is an Action Word

          Last month I spent a week in the suburbs of Chicago taking a class called “Missional Ecclesiology”. That term is a mouthful. So, let me explain the term a little bit. “Ecclesiology” is a combination of two words. “Ekklesia” is one of the words for the church in the New Testament. “Theology” is the study of God. Ecclesiology is the part of theology that studies what the Bible says the church is.

          The word before “ecclesiology” is “missional”. This term has been used so often and in so many ways, people often lose track of its meaning. Most simply, however, it talks about the church being a “sent” people. When people talk about a church being “missional”, we talk about going out in the world around us, led by the Spirit, to live, act out, and share the gospel among our neighbors and friends in their culture and their language and their customs. The opposite of “missional” is “attractional”, which is where the church expects people to come into the church instead of the church going out into the world.

          The church is, as David Fitch says, “defined by practices that embody beliefs”. In other words, church is not a building or an institution. It is a community of practice, or practices. We don’t go to church. We do church.

The practices that embody our beliefs are practices that connect us to God’s faithful presence, that help us care for one another, that help us move out into our homes and neighborhoods, and into the public sphere living our faith in ancient and yet uniquely contemporary way. A church is a group of people who live a certain way in fidelity to their commitment to the Lord, who has transformed and is transforming their lives as apprentices of Jesus. The practices that are most foundational are the practices we have discussed in worship for the last few months, practices that are put in different nomenclature in our mission and vision.

          As I mentioned in worship last Sunday, this idea of a church as a community of practices is not new. Whether is it the Greek word “Ekklesia” that describes the habit of gathering, or the language of calling God’s people the “Way”, Christian people have been known by their lived belief since the beginning.

          So, as we think and dream of ways to move forward as a congregation, and as we consider God’s unique calling on our lives together, let us remember to LIVE JESUS. Living as the body of Christ, exercising our faith passionately and cooperatively will make all the difference.

Book Review of You Welcomed Me by Kent Annan

You Welcomed Me

You Welcomed Me: Loving Refugees and Immigrants Because God First Loved Us
by Kent Annan
ISBN 978-0-8308-4553-8
IVP Books
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Kent Annan has written a thoughtful, grace-filled book on an issue that is difficult for many American believers to come to terms with, namely the issue of how do we deal with immigrants and refugees. He communicates winsomely about the plight of refugees by not only sharing bible verses and statistics, but by sharing stories of his personal experience and the experience of refugees. Throughout the book it becomes apparent that Annan wants us to move from seeing the immigration and refugee crises we face as issues or crisis to opportunities for real ministry with real people that need our support and love. He also wants us to encounter Christ through the practice of welcoming strangers.

From the start, Annan wants to ground his readers with empathy for other human beings, realizing that if for the grace of God, "that could be me" (p.5). He cautions us against letting fear blind us to real human connection. Early on, he asks readers to measure their lives by the "Dehumanizing Your Neighbor Scale" ( pp. 19-20) and the "Good Samaratin Scale (p. 20).

You Welcomed Me attempts to not just move us to awareness and agreement, but offers practices of welcome that will move us toward action in the Biblical command of welcoming the stranger. These practices are at the end of each chapter. Also, there are chapters dedicated to practical action, and an appendix with further resources and organizations that help refugees and immigrants.

I think this is a great book for a congregation to read about an important challenge the church faces. I hope small groups, Sunday School classes, and book clubs get a hold of it and take it to heart.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

When a calling becomes a career and a career becomes a calling

So, I was visiting with some friends the other day. They were folks from the church, and they were describing one of my pastoral predecessors (now deceased). They said that one time when they were talking with him about ministry he told them that ministry was a career, a job like any other. They pressed him, insisting that it must also be a mysterious, divine calling that drives his ministry. He insisted, although he did enter ministry with some sense of God's direction, it was a career choice.

I don't know what to make of these stories. I tend to doubt that most previous pastors were as bad or as wonderful as people described them. But, when you sit around people's tables and they tell you stories about previous ministers, they are often not simply telling stories. They are trying to communicate something more. In this case, my friends were trying to communicate what they have shared with me since I arrived in North Platte. They were trying to tell me that they had seen that God had placed his call on my life, that they believe I had embraced that call, and that this calling was evident by the approach I took to my ministerial tasks.

There are times when ministry has to be approached as a job. You have to pay your dues, put in your time, do the grunt work of ministry that nobody notices or remembers. Other times, when you have just escaped a difficult board meeting, or when you are trying to keep going through what feels like the rejection of a family that has left the church, you plod. You show up. You grind out a sermon. You make your visits. You teach your classes. You do your job. For me, ministry is the only career I have ever known.

Having said all that, my friends are right. If it was JUST a job, I would not be doing what I do. I do feel called.

What I did not say to them is this: my calling here has a lot to do with them. When I interviewed and candidated for the position here, it was a struggle to decide to come. More than once, there were times I really wanted to step away from the call to come to North Platte.

I loved Hot Springs and many of the people there. It was not a town I wanted to leave, nor did I want to leave many of the people of my congregation.

I was not sure I wanted to live in Western Nebraska.

I felt badly about having my wife reboot her career.

On the day I preached my sermon to come here, and before I accepted the position, we had a church potluck. As I ate, here came this chubby old farmer, red-faced and in his overalls, to speak to me. He asked to pray for me and my discernment of God's call, which he did. Then his eyes filled with tears as he finished and he placed his hands on my head. He said that he believed that God's Holy Spirit had called me to be this church's pastor, and that his hand was upon me and my life. Tears and snot and sweat dripping from him, he made a half-hearted apology for our awkwardness of our encounter, and then dismissed himself. Between that encounter and the nearly unanimous vote to extend the call to come here, I remember telling my wife that God's call was apparent because of the red-faced farmer who laid hands on me and anointed me with his sweat and tears.

Since I have come, we have become closer. He calls me with health updates. He drops by with produce and poultry from his farm. I have prayed for him and he for me. And now he is dying.

We almost lost the man who laid his hands on me and anointed me for the pastorate of North Platte this week. His blood sugar crashed. The hospice nurse came and got him back on the right track. Later his wife chatted with me. They were ready for me to come visit. I wasn't sure how I was going to fit the visit in this week, but I made it work.

That day, the drive out to the farm, worrying about getting lost, finding my way down dirt roads, that was a job.

Sitting at my friends' table, walking through their fields, taking pictures of their smiling faces and hard working bodies, listening to stories of how they have come to faith and shared it with others, talking about God's faithfulness even in the face of death and dying, and listening to how much a man loves all of his John Deere tractors, well, that is a calling. And, the best part of being called at that.

Friday, June 28, 2019

What is Church--P2--When Christendom coopts the church

In the fourth and fifth century, several things happen
  • Constantine converts to Christianity
  • Constantine makes Christianity the Roman world's official religion
  • Constantine takes initiative to make the church define itself through a belief system--CREEDS
  • This unites the established church, and the belief system both solidifies governmental power and church power individually, and together 
This had several results:
  • "We go from thinking about church as something we do to a church as an article of belief"
  • If we extract a belief out of practice is moves the church toward coercion"
Examples based on "one, holy, apostolic, catholic church"
  • "one"
    • What happens when unity becomes something we believe instead of something we do?
      • Reconciliation becomes forced from the top down
      • see confession, excommunication
      • See Radner "Brutal Unity"
  • "holy"
    • Holiness becomes an article of faith that needs to be enforced
    • "Whenever you extract belief out of practice of the church it becomes coercive. God cannot change people through coercion.
  • "Catholic
    • references a universal church made up of all believers
      • "church is a way of life not a thing you go to"
      • this establishes on church as THE institution
  • "apostolic"
    • Used two ways
      • "sentness" of the church
      • apostolic succession
      • The practice of being sent gets lost in Constantinian church
      • "Words only make sense by their use"
      • "If we don't have a word that uses the practice to change lives we have lost its meaning"
      • "We extract belief from practice and it turns into something enforced"
      • "Coercion does not work in Post-Christendom"
      • "Church is in mission if it starts with practices that embody beliefs as a way of life"
  • Belief doesn't make sense apart from practice.
    • Wittgenstein--"Words don't make sense apart from their use'
    • James--Faith without works is dead

Monday, June 24, 2019

Quotes cited in "You Welcomed Me" by Annan

You Welcomed Me

"The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned."--Maya Angelou (1)

"If we are to love our neighbors, before doing anything else we must see our neighbors. WIth our imagination as well as our eyes....we must see not just their faces but the life behind and within thri faces."--Fredrick Buechner

We are all strangers in a strange land, longing for home, but not quite knowing what or where home is.--Madeleine L'Engle

Friday, June 21, 2019

What Is Church?--Part 1 of Missional Ecclesiology Notes from David Fitch

A summary of my Day 1 notes:

see also church practices handout

Intro from a Facebook post on April 26:

"When a church gets old, often in three or four generations, as it carries on the traditions of its founding, it finds itself doing things in certain ways - “the way things always have been done.” Meanwhile the culture around has changed – sometimes significantly (like the country has turned post Christian in 50 years). The language of the culture has changed. The cultural assumptions about church, the sociological orbits upon which these traditions depended, have all changed, and so we need to ask the basic questions over again. What are we doing here? What is church? And why is it so important? And if the what and the why can be re-established all over again… we need to ask the how question all over again, how do we do this thing called church in a way that makes sense in our times?"

Key Statement:
"The church is defined by practices that embody beliefs"

Analysis of the Bible names for church and how they communicate the "key statement" above

  • The Way--speaks to a set of practices
  • The People of God--speaks to a way of life, a royal priesthood
  • Body of Christ--speaks of an organism driven by participation
  • Ekklesia--gathering of civic importance
New Testament Church was a practicing community under a different rule, a community where there is a "stunning lack of hierarchy"

Saturday, June 08, 2019


Today was my last day with the brand new truck that I drove to Chicago from Omaha and back. All tolled, I put over 1000 miles on that truck. If the darned thing didn't run about half of the cost of a new home, I might consider getting one for myself. I certainly loved driving it around.

One of the things I loved about driving the vehicle was its stereo system. I could run everything through it, including a lot apps off of my phone. So, today I listened to several podcasts.

I don't generally listen to podcasts. I have subscriptions to certain podcasts, but then I listen to them so infrequently that they ask me if I want to continue with the podcast everytime I get to the app and open a certain podcast.

There are several reasons why I don't listen to podcasts too often. One is, I don't really have the ability to stream them while I am driving and get anything out of it. I walk to work. Picking up the girls takes five minutes, as does a trip to Walmart. Furthermore, this week is the first time I have been out of town in around 5 months, or maybe longer. Listening to them today made me think I need to listen to podcasts more often.

When I do listen to podcasts, here are a few I tune into:

Our region podcast is quite well done by Greg Mamula. Its called Mission in 5

I listen to a podcast that is done once a week by "men of size" about issues pertaining to heavier fellas. It is called Heavy Conversation.

I have recently begun listening to a few podcasts from Northern Seminary. One is from the man who just taught my class and oversees my DMIN. His name is Dr. David Fitch. His podcast is called Theology on Mission. Also very popular is Scot McKnight's Kingdom Roots.

Onscript reviews scholarly Christian books, and I like that I can listen to this briefly and get an understanding of a text. And I like Freakonomics as well.


Starting Over Again Again

I am going to try and use this platform more regularly again for several reasons.

1.  I need to write for my doctoral stuff, and the best way to improve my writing is to write

2. I need to catalogue thoughts before they escape me.

3. I need a venue to think through things, this worked as well as any

4. Hopefully, if I do it right, this platform can help me network better, which has several benefits

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Book Review of Bible and Mission by Richard Bauckham

Image result for bible and mission

Bible and Mission: Christian Witness in a Postmodern World
by Richard Bauckham
ISBN 978-0-8010-2771-0
Baker Academic
Reviewed by Clint Walker


This is the first of many book reviews related to my D.Min. class. It is also one of the books I have read cover to cover. My stated professional goal is to read 25 books this year.


This is a rather short book (112 pages) by one of the world's leading scholars on theology and New Testament studies. This book is based on a series of lectures first delivered in England, and then again in Ethiopia about what the Bible says about Biblical truth, mission, and Christian witness in a postmodern age.

The thesis of this book is that, "the Bible itself embodies a kind of movement from the particular to the universal, which we as readers need to find ourselves inside" (11). Richard Bauckham goes on to say, "This is a universal direction that takes the particular with utmost seriousness. Christian communities or individuals are always setting of from the particular as both the Bible and our own situation defines it and following the biblical direction towards the universal that is to be found not apart from but within other particulars. This is mission" (11).

That is a mouthful. What he is trying to say is that God works with and calls individual persons or groups of people, which he refers to as the "particular". He chooses them. He chooses them not for their own benefit, but for the benefit of all (the universal). God chooses Abraham and gives him a blessing. He is a particular person. He chooses Abraham in order to bless the whole world through Abraham. A universal blessing through God's calling of a particular person to facilitate that blessing.
The same is true, Bauckham demonstrates, through David, and through the nation of Israel as "God's Son.". All of these blessings and choosings of God come to fulfillment through Jesus, who then creates a way for the whole world to have the opportunity to experience salvation.

The whole narrative arc of Scripture, Bauckham would teach, functions in this way. Thus, although the Bible deals with particular historical people and places, it calls us to see ourselves in that narrative, making the truths of the story as well as the cadence of the story our own. The church has been called as God's people. We have been called not to simply experience God's blessing and new life, rather, we have been blessed to bless others, called to call others into the community, and to be a transforming presence in the entire earth. This metanarrative of particular folks being called by God to live a holy life that will be a blessing to others and invite them into a transformative community. That community, Bauckham clearly states, must experience "a downward movement of solidarity with the on the bottom of the social scale of importance and wealth" (54)."

This "downward movement" is important because it shares a metanarrative that unlike the totalitarian, oppressive narratives of modernity, is empowering to the oppressed and open to diversity of persons, experiences, and cultures. Christianity "exhibits more cultural diversity than any other religion," Bauckham posits (9). It is not a narrative of "human mastery" over self or others (91). "It views history in terms of the freedom and purpose of God and of human freedom to obey or resist God," the text says.

Thus, we must understand that Godhead is at work throughout human history in real persons and real places. He uses those people in those places as folks that are chosen by him to demonstrate his will among the nations, so that all the nations can see his goodness, place their faith in him, and live healthy meaningful holy lives in the way God created them to be. He moves from those particular people, since they were blessed to be a blessing, out into the whole world. Holy ground moves from Israel to wherever God's people are gathered. God's holy people move from Abraham to Israel to all those who place faith in God through faith in his Son Jesus. And the kingdom keeps going out, as God seeks to continue to bless the whole world through imperfect people being transformed by his grace.

Ok that last sentence got a little preachy, but oh well.


"The Bible...tells a story that in some sense encompasses all other human stories." (5)

"the metanarrative of progress was significantly a narrative of domination, for all that it made freedom one of its values." (5)

Saturday, March 09, 2019

An Introduction to the New Testament by David A. deSilva

An Introduction to the New Testament: Contexts, Methods & Ministry Formation
An Introduction to the New Testament: Contexts, Methods, and Ministry Formation (Second Edition)
By David A. deSilva
ISBN 978-0-8308-5217-8
IVP Academic
Reviewed by Clint Walker

There are a lot of New Testament textbooks out there. Some are more entry level in nature. Some are more academic. None is as good as deSilva's Introduction to the New Testament at both equipping ministers to understand and live in the word, as well as training students of the word to be academically engaged in understanding key issues of biblical scholarship. As deSilva says in his introduction that he "seeks to nurture this kind of integrated approach to Scripture, attend both the methods and results of the academic, critical study of the New Testament and to the ways in which these text continue to speak a word from the Lord about discipleship, community, and ministry" (xx).

Throughout the text, deSilva endeavors to teach the content of the material, while at the same time introducte exegetical methods to the reader. For instance, in Luke attention is paid to interpreting parables, and in John the reader is introduced to narrative criticism.

Each study of each Biblical book ends with a way of taking a theme from the book that has been introduced in the rest of the chapter, and relating it to ministry formation. Sometimes readers are challenged to lead themselves and congregations with integrity. Other times it reminds us that the gospel has a "communal context" that we should pay attention to (337).

In my opinion, this book would be great for academic classrooms in college and seminary, but it would also be helpful for pastors leading a church. For some of us, there is material that is review. However, I think the author does a good job at making the readers experience both formational and informational.

Saturday, March 02, 2019

Book Review of Understanding Scientific Theories of Orgins by Bishop, Funck, Lewis, Moshier and Walton

Image result for understanding scientific theories of origins

Understanding Scientific Theories of Orgins: Cosmology, Geology, Biology in Christian Perspective
By Robert C. Bishop, Larry L. Funck, Raymond J. Lewis, Stephen O. Moshier, and John H. Walton
IVP Academic
Reviewed by Clint Walker

For decades, a group of professors at Wheaton College has taught a class on Theories of Orgins of the universe from a Christian perspective. In doing so, they have not advocated for an understanding of a young earth. Using multiple scientific and academic disciplines, they have shown how it is possible to have a number of view of orgins based on Scripture, including one that integrates the findings of science that lean toward evolution with an honest interpretation of Scripture, especially Genesis 1-3.

This book is a result of the up-to-date results of their work together, designed as a text that other professors in other schools can use to replicate the experience that these professors have had in their class. Published in partnership with Biologos, an organization that seeks to integrate scientific perspectives with Biblical truth, this is sure to be used in Christian schools and maybe some secular institutions as well across the country.

What a great addition to the study of orgins. I need to give it a more thorough reading. As for now, it has a place on my shelf both as a resource and a conversation piece.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Alternative thoughts on the Methodists and the Traditional Plan

The United Methodist General Conference just voted to accept the "traditional" plan in relationship to same-sex marriage unions in their congregations, and same-sex relationships and sexual activity among their clergy. There is a lot to say about this, the nature of church institutions in relationship to their membership and more. I will leave that for another day and another time.

What I find interesting about the whole process is the interplay of the global church with the American/Western church. If left to itself, the Methodists in the USA would have adopted a more LGBTQIA friendly plan. However, because the denomination makes decisions globally, it adopted a plan that maintains its discipline on sexual morality, with plans for more strict enforcement of the denomination's covenant.

Having been involved in a Methodist fellowship a few years ago, I was party to some conversations between a bishop and clergy leaders. This bishop, at the time, chaired the congregation of bishops in the UMC, and thus was the "lead" bishop. (Not sure what all that entailed) In that discussion, the bishop shared that although he knew the global church was more conservative, he believed that those churches who were historically founded by Western mission work would not vote for a measure that would lead to division in the Methodist fellowship. He believed this because the conservatives and liberal churches in the USA were like parents to the global church, and they would vote for family preservation instead of their "parents" divorcing. Furthermore, it was implied that the global church would not want division because they were dependent on a "united" support of the churches in the USA.

The non-American churches, especially those in Africa, by voting for the traditional plan, rejected not only a more liberal interpretation of Scripture and human sexuality, they rejected the paternalistic rule of the Western church that the bishop I heard articulated. No longer willing to have their theology and ethical standards dictated to them by the powers that be, they decided that they could read the Bible, discern what it said, and continue in obedience to the Scripture and the historic stance of their fellowship.

This is a lesson for both conservatives and liberals in the church as they seek to develop global relationships in years to come. Christianity, whether it be Catholic, Pentecostal, Methodist, or nearly any other denomination, is going to be centered more in the southern hemisphere in the years to come. The people groups that were reached in years past are now going to become the leaders of the global church, and the United States and Western Europe are going to become less a mission leader and more of a mission field.

We need to speak about, engage with, and work with our ministry partners around the world as partners instead of thinking of them "children". We need to realize that their voice matters, that they have truth to speak to us, and that our parners from all around the world have leadership to offer and truth to speak. The same Holy Spirit leads us all.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Covington Catholic Kids, Native American Elders and an opportunity for growth

So, if you were like me, at some point this weekend you may have seen a couple of viral videos documenting an encounter between teenagers from Kentucky and a Native American man who resides in Michigan. Many of us were rightly concerned as we observed the video of this conflict. As the conflict played out in the media, longer videos were released which demonstrated that there was more context that needed to be considered that helped observers understand the predicament that these young people were in.

Apparently, the teenagers were harassed by a group called the "Black Israelites". These folks, as best as I can understand, are people of African heritage who also claim heritage to the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Although there were many more of the teenagers than there were Black Israelites, some of the Black Israelites said things that were interpreted as threatening. As the Native American elder and his entourage approached, in part to make peace, the teens interpreted their approach as a threat. At least one of the teens reportedly responded directly through impeding the path of the elder. The teens then surrounded the Native American, which he interpreted as a threat. Especially when some teens began to chant and laugh.

Slowly, the viral video, and competing viral videos prompted outrage, conflict, blaming, and all sorts of responses through media, social media, and in conversations in communities small and large. What I find intriguing, however, is not the dumpster fire of labeling, blaming, and shaming that social media has advanced about this event, but the lessons that can be learned from this complicated encounter.

Here we go, like it or not:

  • We need to realize, before making sweeping judgments, that all events have context. Whether it the mainstream or partisan/propagandist arms of media, or social media, people who report problems often neglect context.
  • Secondarily, the complications of a specific context may explain poor behavior, and may even be a prompt to offer people a little grace, but it does not excuse the poor behavior. In other words, the viral video that of the teens at the Lincoln Memorial still demonstrates behavior on those teens part that needs to be corrected and disciplined, though perhaps with a little openness to forgiveness and grace considering the context. 
  • Third, we need to understand that symbols that we may understand as harmless or positive in our context may be considered a threat in other contexts. Like it or not,  MAGA hats, especially when paired with chanting, are considered as much of a threat in a some environments as waving confederate flags.
  • Fourth, our blatant disrespect for elders was on full display, and this is a problem across all elements of our culture
  • Fifth, just because you have an excuse and an explanation, does not mean that your non verbals don't betray your true need for growth. The kid that confronted that Native American elder, and the kids around him, even though there were extenuating circumstances, did demonstrate latent insensitivity to other cultures at best, and prejudice at worst, even given the broader context. To not acknoweldge that is to not offer the opportunity for them to grow and be changed. 
  • Finally the true lesson of this event is not for those teens or our children. It is for us! These teens were simply mirroring attitudes and behaviors than had seen elsewhere.

Book Review of The First Testament by John Goldingay

The First Testament: A New Translation  -     By: John Goldingay

The First Testament: A New Translation
John Goldingay
IVP Academic
ISBN 978-0-830805199-7
Reviewed by Clint Walker

I was sent this book to review by IVP Academic to review for them a few months back. Stated simply The First Testament is a new translation of what is commonly referred to as the "Old Testament". It comes to us from John Goldingay, who is an Old Testament scholar who has written a number of books. Although I am confident that many of his books are phenomenal, he is best known for writting the "For Everyone" commentaries on the Old Testament for which N.T. Wright penned the New Testament portion of the series previously.

For my purposes, The First Testament offers the kind of reading experience I had hoped for. What I hope to get out of a translation like this, or The Message or The Kingdom New Testament, is to read over texts in Scripture that I have heard and read several times, and to be awakened to new insight or understanding. In this translation, Goldingay does just that. For example, as I study Proverbs I become curious  how the word "dimwit" is translated by more traditional versions, and wonder whether Goldingay takes to much liberty translating the "fear of the Lord" as "awe" (Proverbs 15:16). Also, I am challenged to pay attention in different ways in Genesis when the names of the patriarchs and some of the Biblical lands are translated with words that may be more accurate, but are also less familiar.

Like many newer translations, versions, and different study Bibles, intoductions are provided for each book. The introductions are helpful in and of themselves as well. A glossary is provided in the back of the book as well.

As I read through the text, however, I wonder the following:

  • Is this translation "accessible" to the average folks in the pews? (I have my doubts, especially with the more accurate yet unfamiliar translations of names and places).
  • Would this translation be helpful for sermon preparation? (I actually think it would be.)
  • Will this translation find a broad audience (no clue)
Thus, to summarize, I enjoy reading this translation. It teaches me a lot. However, it may not be for everyone, especially the laypersons of your congregation.

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Book Review of The Gift of Hard Things by Mark Yaconelli

The Gift of Hard Things: Finding Grace in Unexpected Places
by Mark Yaconelli
ISBN 978-0-8308-4608-5
IVP Formatio
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Since my years in youth ministry, Mark Yaconelli has been one of my favorite writers and thinkers. Earlier in his career, he led a ministry at San Francisco Theological Seminary teaching about and promoting Contemplative Youth Ministry.

This book is a gift. It comes to us from the next phase of his career, now living in Southern Oregon. I would say the book is more of an experience than a guide, leading its readers to see from his personal experience and the experience of others how God can work in challenging circumstances and difficult places in life.

From the start, Yaconelli acknowledges that the insights of this book will not be helpful to all, and it not intended to take the place of skilled counseling from major trauma. Having clearly stated this disclaimer, The Gift of Hard Things is a tour de force on finding hope in difficult seasons, and discerning the presence of God in the "Dark Night of the Soul"

Each chapter addresses a different experience, a different issue, and through the use of narrative helps the reader see glimers of grace in the middle of harsh landscapes of life. I loved the opening chapter as Mark discussed his own journey with burnout. And, I enjoyed the discussion of a failure of a ministry, and how God was uniquely present in that situation as well.

This is a book not only to be read, but to be savored, and then read again.

Book Review of Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren

Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life  -     By: Tish Harrison Warren

Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life
by Tish Harrison Warren
IVP Formatio
ISBN 978-0-8308-4628-8
Reviewed by Clint Walker

For those of you who are readers of this blog, I apologize! I have received this book quite a while back for review. However, as is the case with many of the books that I review that I want to really dig into, this review is coming to you a little later than it should. It is a well-loved book by this point in many circles, having won Christianity Today's book of the year. Since the publication of this book I have also had the opportunity to see miss Warren speak, and she communicates as authentically and powerfully in person as she does in this book. I recommend getting yourself a copy as soon as you can.

Tish Harrison Warren is an Anglican priest (Church of England but not Episcopal). This is important for the reader to understand. As I understand, she came to this tradition as an adult, and it really informs her book in powerful ways. You see, the premise of the book is that the liturgy of our everyday lives, if we let it, can mirror the liturgy of the church, and vice versa. Both the rhythms of our workday life and the liturgy of the church can work together to form us into the kind of people that God wants us to be. There has to be some intentional openness to being grown through this each liturgy, and the symbiosis between the two, but the growth is indeed possible, and has some beauty to it.

I remember when I was first teaching some of the practices I had learned regarding spiritual formation with young adults, there was quite a lot of resistance from some young mothers who struggled to understand how to implement spiritual disciplines into their everyday life while their kids were young. Of course, they were correct. It is hard to take time for one's self when you live your life is a hamster wheel of diaper changes, feedings, baths, and playing on the floor with one's kids. However, Tish Harrison Warren opens up the possibility of reflecting on the ordinary routines of the day in order to discover new movements of the power of the Holy Spirit and the grace of God.

The book is both winsome and beautiful. I highly recommend it to all.

Book Review of the Advent of the Lamb of God by Russ Ramsey

Image result for the advent of the lamb of god

The Advent of the Lamb of God
by Russ Ramsey
IVP Books
ISBN 978-0-8308-4388-5
Reviewed by Clint Walker

The Advent of the Lamb of God is a great book for beginning to understand the Story of Jesus. It is the first book in a three part Retelling the Story Series published by IVP Books. It would be a wonderful family devotion for couples or people with children well into grade school or older.

Advent of the Lamb tells about the coming of Christ in two parts. After a brief two chapters setting the scene of God's intention through the Messiah, Russ Ramsey summarizes the biblical story through sharing a number of excepts from Scripture. He does this both by referencing the Scripture, and also putting it the narrative of Scripture in his own words.

The second half of the book gets into the traditional narrative of the Advent and Christmas stories, ending with an except from the book of Galatians to summarize what God was doing in Christ at his birth.

There are several benefits of reading this book:

  • It is an easy way to understand Scriptures story in a way that the reader can easy sense and feel the flow of the Biblical narrative. This is more user friendly than simply picking up a Bible if you are trying to get a general flow of God's redemption story. I would recommend reading the Scripture narrative as a part of reading Ramsey's retelling of the story.
  • This book draws its readers into celebrating the Christian year, which I think is very important.
  •  It is very readable in its style, which makes the study of this book not only spiritually beneficial, but also pleasurable.
  • The narrative teaches as it tells.
Even in January, this would be a great read in helping the reader understanding the story of Jesus.


Saying What Needs to be Said, But Should Go Without Saying           Racism is wrong. Violence based on racial prejudice is wrong. Christi...