Remembering Stuart Briscoe (1930-2022)

This past Saturday, Kelly and I attended the memorial service for Stuart Briscoe at Elmbrook Church. It was a joy to reconnect with friends and former colleagues I hadn’t seen in some time and to celebrate God’s work in and through Stuart’s life. My first full-time vocational role in ministry was as the Pastor of Collegiate Ministries at Elmbrook after Stuart had already retired. Although I did see Stuart from time to time during those years at Elmbrook, I actually grew to know him more personally during my last decade or so at Eastbrook. During my first at Eastbrook, I reached out to Stuart to talk about transitions in ministry, specifically how to best follow a founding pastor. I asked him if he had any advice about how to fulfill my calling as a new Senior Pastor, and he shared his oft-repeated essential advice for pastoral ministry: preach the word, love people, and pray for the Spirit to move. Before I left, Stuart gave me a signed copy of his memoir, Flowing Streams. In recent years, I enjoyed other opportunities, both formal (see further below) and informal to connect with Stuart and Jill. Their down-to-earth manner, filled with commitment to Christ and a healthy sense of humor, encouraged me greatly. You can view Stuart’s memorial service, which was about two hours long, below.

Through all this, I was reminded of the Leadership Community gathering we hosted at Eastbrook three and a half years ago with Stuart and our Pastor Emeritus, Marc Erickson (no relation, believe it or not). Stuart began the night with a 20-minute message on three distinctly Christian aspects of the leader’s character. During the next portion of the gathering, I facilitated a Q&A with Stuart and Marc about the character of a leader. This led us to explore some important questions in our current era, as well as many interesting insights and funny stories from their own lives. I hope you enjoy this view into the lives of two pastors who have steadfastly walked with Christ over the years.

The Weekend Wanderer: 10 July 2021

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.


“The Platform is Not the Person” – Scot McKnight in his TOV newsletter: “We all present ourselves to give good impressions to others. Ordinary community members want other ordinaries to think of them in positive ways. More public figures in a community do the same, sometimes with a more ramped method of image management. Teachers do this in their teaching, pastors do this from the platform and pulpit and in various communications, neighbors can be quite busy in managing what other neighbors think of them. Authors present themselves in their writings in a way that readers trust and then think of them in those terms. What about social media? Not a few critics think the whole thing is little more than image construction and management. I’m not so cynical, but let’s not be naïve: our social media is a forum of self-presentation. Let’s call all this self-presentation the platform. On the platform we create a persona, and the persona is what we want others to think of us, whether we are curating that image or not. Others generate impressions of who we are on the basis of our public presentation. Untangling persona and platform from person, personality and character require discerning eyes, wisdom, and discernment.”


green-burial“Green burial as an act of faith” – Dawn Araujo-Hawkins in The Christian Century: “Hoeltke started looking for a more Christlike alternative to conventional US burial practices—and she found it in the resurgent green or natural burial movement. Broadly speaking, green burial means caring for the dead with minimal environmental impact. That usually includes forgoing any chemical embalming, opting for a shroud or a biodegradable coffin instead of the more popular steel or fiberglass, and skipping the cement vaults that typically enclose a coffin in the ground. It can also mean being buried in a cemetery that practices land conservation efforts. And for some people, like Hoeltke, natural burial also involves a more participatory burial process: washing and dressing your loved one’s body at home, accompanying them to the grave site, physically laying them into the ground, and then fully covering their body with dirt. ‘It’s a really beautiful experience. And I know that sounds crazy, but I’ve seen the beauty of what can happen,’ Hoeltke said.”


“On Re-Reading Acts” – Alan Jacobs at Snakes and Ladders: “I’ve been re-reading the book of Acts, and my chief response this time is: It’s wonderfully encouraging to see how bluntly and unapologetically Luke records a chronicle of confusion, ineptitude, and misdirected enthusiasm. The apostles are often a collective mess, and Luke does nothing to hide that from us. I find this strangely consoling. It’s also fascinating to note how little the apostles understand the message they been entrusted with. They know that Jesus is the Christ, the promised Messiah of Israel, and they know that the Christ’s own people rejected him and demanded his death – but beyond that they’re a little fuzzy about what the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus mean.”


faith doubt“Writing in the Sand: The Poetry of Doubt and Faith” – Christian Wiman in Plough: “A few years ago I was asked to give the convocation address at Yale Divinity School, where I have taught for the past decade. Not only did I happen to be reading George Marsden’s biography of the great eighteen-century minister and theologian Jonathan Edwards, who was both a student and tutor at Yale, but I happened to have paused at precisely the moment when Edwards himself was about to address the student body. Teaching in an institution to which I would not have been admitted as a student (bad grades, bad ‘life choices’), I was flattered by the association, and it occurred to me that many of the students in attendance might be as well. To be welcomed into a place with so much august history, so much intellectual curiosity and attainment, so many great names – surely it’s worth a moment of pride. But maybe just a moment….What I do have instead are two things. The first is a first-century Jew from Nazareth well known for his oratorical skills but nevertheless, at a crucial moment in his ministry, remaining silent and writing in the sand. It is a strange moment – and one of my very favorite stories from the New Testament. I’ll come back to that. The second thing is another form of writing in the sand: poetry.”


Wendell Berry's radical conservatism“When Losing Is Likely: Wendell Berry’s Conservative Radicalism” – Brad East in The Point: “The lesson: “cultivating our own gardens and learning the virtues we have forgotten will not suffice to save the world.” Scialabba is surely correct about that. But I think he is wrong about Berry, and in a way that opens the door to larger questions. Those questions concern the connection between public justice and private virtue—or, put differently, whether justice is at once a private and a public virtue. Furthermore, they raise an issue facing a variety of factions and social movements across the world today: namely, whether it is possible to live with integrity, not to mention a clean conscience, when the causes in which one believes and for which one advocates are likely to lose.”


Patriotism?“How Do Christian Patriots Love Their Country Well?” – David French at The Dispatch: “Yet five years later, as our nation picks up the pieces from one of the most divisive, cruel, and incompetent administrations in the modern history of the United States—one in which the pursuit of Christian power led to prominent Christian voices endorsing nation-cracking litigation and revolutionary efforts to overturn a lawful election—the Christian “deal” looks bad indeed. When push came to shove, all too often the pursuit of justice yielded to the pursuit of power. The cultural shockwaves are still being felt. They’re rearranging not just America’s political alignments but our language itself. Is “Evangelical” more of a political marker than a religious identifier? Does it even carry true religious meaning any longer?”


Music: Mordent.IO, “The Foundation”

Putting on the Character of Christ in Divided Days

“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” (Ephesians 4:1)

In Ephesians 4:1, Paul urges the Ephesians—and us, through them—to live a life worthy of the calling we have received. The unity of the church in divided times is tied into putting on the character of Christ. The verb here is “to walk.” We need to walk worthy. We’re to walk it out. Live it out daily. What does that look like? Well, Paul tells us in verses 2-3.

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:2-3)

We are to put on the character of Christ. What is that character? Well, let’s just walk through it slowly with some application to our current moment.

“Be completely humble”

Paul urges the believers toward complete humility and this is a very challenging word. Who has arrived at that? None of us. The sense of the phrase is that believers are to have a wholly humble opinion of themselves. And when we think about the way we live together in the church, we must remember that if we are quick toward a high opinion of ourselves and lack humility, unity will be destroyed.

“and gentle”

Gentleness is a strange word to us today. Who has ever heard a political leader or a CEO start their campaign or new job by saying their agenda would be gentleness? It would not usually be well received. Now there is a related word to gentleness, which we encounter in the Beatitudes, and that is “meekness.” Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). Our experience tells us that is not true, but Jesus shows a different way. In fact, this first phrase of Paul in Ephesians 4:2, “Be completely humble and gentle,” may remind us of Jesus’ own description of Himself when He said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart…” (Matthew 11:28-29) If we forsake gentleness and meekness, we do not look like Jesus. If we forsake gentleness, the unity of Christ’s people will be destroyed.

“Be patient”

If the first two words didn’t get you, this one will. Patience means long-suffering. One additional shade of meaning on this word is that such a person is slow to take vengeance. This is good because the Lord has said that vengeance is His, not ours. But if you didn’t notice, we live in a vengeful culture. Be careful of what you say or what you do. It may come back to haunt you. In fact, you may be crucified by those who accuse you. But don’t worry, the accusers usually become the accused in a culture cycling through vengeance. But the body of Christ is to exhibit a different way. We are to be patient. If we forsake patience, if we are quick to anger and swift to revenge, then unity will be destroyed.

“Bearing with one another in love”

The image here is to hold something up as one stands erect, sustaining something or, here, sustaining one another. Believers are, in a sense, to stand shoulder to shoulder, upholding one another. How do we uphold one another? In love. I really appreciate how the New Living Translation renders this: “making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” Have you ever seen another person’s faults in the church? Have you ever seen your own? Make space…bear with one another. When we do, unity is sustained and upheld.

“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:3)

And to cap it all off, Paul says that we have to exert ourselves to keep unity. Here is an important idea: unity does not happen by accident. The natural tendency of human existence is toward disunity and disorder. Just look at your apartment or house over the course of a week. It does not become cleaner on its own, but it does become dirtier. In like manner, the gravitational pull in human relationships is toward disunity and disorder. Unity happens only through focused exertion toward that end. But also notice how Paul emphasizes the exertion is partnered with the Holy Spirit. This is not merely a human work; it is a spiritual work of God within humanity. If we do not work at it, relying upon the Holy Spirit, unity will be destroyed

These days have been hard for everyone. Churches are feeling the tension during these days. But the church is supposed to be a diverse community, with young and old, local and international, rich and poor, many professions, many ethnicities, and many opinions. We must make space for one another around Jesus and the Cross, but also choose to put on the character of Christ in our relationships.

Please pause and consider some personal reflection questions about this in the midst of the divided days:

  • how does our character match up with Paul’s exhortation here?
  • how is our humility, gentleness, patience?
  • how well are we bearing with one another in love?
  • are we exerting ourselves toward unity…or are we hoping someone else will sustain it if we speak or act impatiently, live with pride, open our mouths in gossip, and generally lean into our flesh?

May God help us to walk with Christ and in Christ as one.

The Weekend Wanderer: 29 May 2021

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.


7 Books for Pastoral Care“7 Books for Your Pastoral Care Library” – Kelli B. Trujillo compiles this helpful list of recent pastoral care resources at Christianity Today. I have read two of these books (A Burning in My Bones: The Authorized Biography of Eugene H. Peterson by Winn Collier and The Beautiful Community:Unity, Diversity, and the Church at Its Best by Irwyn L. Ince), have two of them on my to-read list (Soul Care in African American Practice by Barbara L. Peacock and The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart by Harold L. Senkbeil), and have not heard of the other three. It’s always a joy to find new recommendations to learn and grow as a pastor. “Pastoral care has many expressions, from joyful visits with an elderly parishioner to painful conversations with an adolescent having suicidal thoughts. From the tough work of addressing division and disunity to the tender work of shepherding over the long haul. Here are seven new and recent books that engage and equip pastors for the deep and multifaceted ministry of pastoral care.”


“Character in Crisis: The Challenges of Moral Formation in Higher Education” – Michael Lamb and David Henreckson in conversation at Comment: “This past year was devastating for many institutions of higher education. Jobs were furloughed or lost. Departments shuttered. Many educators were forced to re-evaluate what is really central to our chosen vocation. With all this impermanence, it seems a luxury to talk about ‘moral character,’ or the old trifecta of truth, beauty, and goodness. So, in these austere days, is there still a central place for moral formation in the university? Or is that a peripheral concern when you are living in survival mode?”


28corbinembedleaves“The Abyss of Beauty: The Art of Seeing the Natural World” – Ian Marcus Corbin in Plough Quarterly: “One afternoon last summer, I was sitting on a bench in a small urban park, my youngest son Leonard asleep in his stroller. I’d consciously chosen to leave my iPhone at home, determined to look around me as I went. It’s an ongoing ethical project, a way of life I aspire to and too rarely achieve. I have a running suspicion that I could really, deeply love life, or a day or afternoon at the very least, if I could just be quiet and look, stop the incessant scheming and worrying and mental grappling. When Gerard Manley Hopkins sits still, he finds that the natural world is ‘charged with the grandeur of God,’ and exults in the knowledge that its ‘blue-bleak embers’ ‘fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.’ That’s what I want. I want to see embers, blue-bleak and dying, to see that when they fall and gall themselves, gold-vermillion gashes out into the visible world. How different would that be from my current life of cars and sidewalks and text exchanges, of long nights in my restless, thought-infested bed? Perhaps we can see ourselves to life.


Screen Shot 2021-05-27 at 3.27.50 PM“For Cosmopolitan Christians, Secular Approval Is a Common Temptation” – Justin Giboney at Christianity Today: “A few years ago, I was asked to speak about the gospel’s justice imperative at a local Christian high school. Upon arrival, I was escorted through campus by a young administrator, who thanked me for coming to engage a topic the school’s elders had ignored for too long. With Dietrich Bonhoeffer–like resolve, he and another young teacher confided that they were subversively trying to change the culture at the school. I immediately, and perhaps hastily, commended their efforts….Without a doubt, the young educators’ concerns were legitimate. Deep, disruptive change was necessary, but the more we talked, the more I grew concerned that their approach was misguided. They were espousing a plainly secular progressive framework, unrefined by the truth and moral order of the gospel. They had an infatuation with trending secular theories, without guardrails to keep them from taking concepts like intersectionality and inclusion into unbiblical territory. Those ideas can be helpful. But they should never be followed uncritically, because they can lead to identity idolatry, which would have us embrace broken aspects of ourselves. There’s a difference between celebrating parts of our identity and centering or exalting identity to the point where it naturally justifies some and condemns others. These brothers correctly identified an old problem, but their solutions were generically pop culture oriented and flat.”


Tulsa Race Massacre“How 24 Hours of Racist Violence Caused Decades of Harm” – A good friend of mine first made me aware of something I never remember learning in history class: the 1921 Tulsa, Oklahoma, race massacre. In the span of twenty-four hours, a thriving African-American community in Greenwood (sometimes called “Black Wall Street“) was decimated following the arrest of a young black man on suspicion of assaulting a white woman. While the charges were never proven, the impact on the African-American community was not just in lives and economics for a brief time, but sent ripples that effected generations. Jeremy Cook, a labor economist, and Jason Long, an economic historian, both at Wheaton College (IL) explore the wide-ranging impact in this powerful article in The Atlantic.


Russell Moore“Russell Moore to Join Christianity Today to Lead New Public Theology Project” – “Christianity Today is announcing the hiring of Russell Moore to serve as a full-time public theologian for the publication and to lead a new Public Theology Project. ‘We could not be more pleased with the addition of Russell Moore in this role,’ said Christianity Today’s president and CEO, Timothy Dalrymple. ‘Russell has established himself as one of the most significant evangelical voices of our time. He illuminates the relevance of the gospel to the whole of life, from everyday matters of faith to the great debates in our society and culture. Importantly, he does all of this in a voice that demonstrates what we at Christianity Today call beautiful orthodoxy, weaving together a deep commitment to the historic integrity of the church with a generous, charitable, and humble spirit.'”


Music: Max Richter, “1. Spring,” Recomposed by Max Richter – Vivaldi – The Four Seasons

The Weekend Wanderer: 20 March 2021

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.even sharing it with someone who you know struggles in this way.


Leland Ryken“Leland Ryken: Teaching Literature and the Bible as Literature” – As an undergraduate studying English literature at Wheaton College (IL), I had the privilege to study under Leland Ryken, an authority on John Milton, but also a man of God passionate about reading and teaching the Bible well. His 1984 book How to Read the Bible as Literature had a monumental impact upon me and continues to have great influence on many others today. I was privileged to serve with a couple others as a research assistant with Ryken and Jim Wilhoit on The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery. Here is Chase Replogle’s Pastor-Writer podcast interview with Ryken as he prepares to release a new book, Recovering the Lost Art of Reading: A Quest for the True, the Good, and the Beautiful.


Li-Young Lee“A Conversation with Li-Young Lee” – With my undergraduate studies in literature, I find tremendous joy in both reading and writing poetry. Here is a fascinating interview of Li-Young Lee, one of our most powerful contemporary poets, by Paul T. Corrigan in Image Journal: “Li-Young Lee’s books of poetry include Rose (1986), winner of the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Poetry Award; The City in Which I Love You (1990), which was a Lamont Poetry Selection; Book of My Nights (2001), which won the William Carlos Williams Award; From Blossoms: Selected Poems (2007), and Behind My Eyes (2008). His other work includes Breaking the Alabaster Jar, a collection of twelve interviews edited by Earl G. Ingersoll, and The Winged Seed (1995), a memoir which received an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation. Lee was born to Chinese parents in Jakarta, Indonesia, in 1957. In 1959, the family fled the country to escape anti-Chinese persecution and lived in Hong Kong, Macau, and Japan before settling in the United States in 1964. Lee attended the Universities of Pittsburgh and Arizona and the State University of New York at Brockport. He has taught at several universities, including Northwestern and the University of Iowa. His awards include fellowships from the Academy of American Poets and Guggenheim Foundation, a Lannan Literary Award, a Whiting Writer’s Award, the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Award, the I.B. Lavan Award, three Pushcart Prizes, and grants from the Illinois Arts Council, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and National Endowment for the Arts. He lives in Chicago. He was interviewed by Paul T. Corrigan.”


stanley-hauerwas“Peacemaking Is Political: An Interview with Stanley Hauerwas by Charles E. Moore” – Stanley Hauerwas is undoubtedly the most renowned, and at-times controversial, Christian ethicist of our day. His book, A Community of Character: Toward a Constructive Social Ethic, is a seminal work on Christian ethics in the contemporary era. In Plough Quarterly, Charles E. Moore interviews Hauerwas in what becomes an exploration of Jesus-centered ethics, peace-making and non-violence, narrative frames, how peace is political, and so much more. While we may not agree with everything Hauerwas speaks about, he will certainly provoke each of us toward deep thinking about Jesus and what it means to be the church and a disciple of Jesus in an age of violence, tension, and distrust.


spirituals“Black Spirituals as Poetry and Resistance” – From Kaitlyn Greenidge in The New York Times: “This imaginative leap is most on display in spirituals. These are the songs, born from rhythms of stolen labor, that enslaved Black people invented on the plantations. They are an early instance of the kind of doublespeak and double consciousness made famous by W. E. B. DuBois. They served, on the one hand, as a testament to the Christian experience but also, on the other, as a way to articulate a resistance to slavery. Spirituals, like many other musical genres across the African diaspora, draw on traditions from West Africa. But spirituals are unique to the experience of the enslaved in the United States — the same artistry and craft that birthed them here produced recognizable, but decidedly different, music across the Caribbean and South America.”


Old-Vintage-Books“Reading Old Books: C. S. Lewis’ Introduction to Athanasius’ On the Incarnation – In his introduction to St. Athanasius’ On The Incarnation, C.S. Lewis shares his extended reflections on the importance of reading widely, but always reading deeply, in terms of reaching deeper into previous eras to converse with ancient voices, whose different contexts and different issues can help provide perspective on our own context and issues. If you’ve never read Lewis’ fine words in that introduction let me encourage you to read it here. While you’re at it, you may enjoy reading the work Lewis is introducing itself. Athanasius is one of the most important theologians in the history of Christianity.


Christ Church Melaka Malaysia“Malaysia High Court rules Christians can use ‘Allah'” – From the BBC: “Malaysia’s high court has overturned a policy banning Christians from using the word “Allah” to refer to God, the latest in a decades-long legal battle. It comes as part of a case brought by a Christian whose religious materials were seized as they contained the word. The issue of non-Muslims using “Allah” has in the past sparked tension and violence in Malaysia. Muslims make up almost two-thirds of the population, but there are also large Christian communities. These Christian communities argue that they have used the word “Allah”, which entered Malay from Arabic, to refer to their God for centuries and that the ruling violates their rights. Malaysia’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion. But religious tensions have risen in recent years.”


Music: John Tavener, “The Lament of the Mother of God” (1988), performed by Solveig Kringelborn, the London Symphony Orchestra, and the Winchester Cathedral Choir under the direction of conductor David Hill.