The Weekend Wanderer: 4 September 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.


Texas abortion law“Is the Texas ‘Heartbeat Bill’ the End of Roe v. Wade?” – Russell Moore in Christianity Today: “Many people counted down until midnight last night, waiting not for a New Year but for the possibility of a post–Roe v. Wade America. That’s because, due to a legal technicality, the Supreme Court of the United States had until then to overturn a new Texas abortion law before it went into effect on September 1. The fact that the Supreme Court didn’t intervene has some Christians wondering: Is Roe now effectively gone? The reason this case, in particular, is of such intense interest to both sides of the abortion debate is because the law in question, Senate Bill 8, seems to effectively ban abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy. Unlike the Mississippi law that will come before the Court this year, this law is different. It is not enforced by the state but rather by private persons who can sue anyone involved in an abortion—except the woman seeking the procedure. Still, because a law seeming to prohibit abortion is now technically on the books, some have wondered if this means the almost fifty-year era of Roe v. Wade is at its end. And the answer to that is probably not—at least not yet.”


measurement“Urbanization and Measuring the Remaining Task” – Justin Long at Mission Frontiers: “For a very long time, many missiologists have tended to measure “progress in the Great Commission” (however that was defined) to some extent in the context of people groups, and how they are reached, evangelized and/or Christianized. This thread has been pushed forward by the work of David Barrett, Patrick Johnstone and Ralph Winter, who each in his own way pushed thinking and activism related to unreached peoples. ‘Reaching the unreached peoples,’ in particular, has tended to replace the idea of ‘a church in every country’ as the operative definition of closure or fulfillment of the Great Commission. Unreached People Groups better fit the Scriptural concepts of ‘every tribe, language, nation, tongue before the Throne’ (Rev. 7:9). The principal motivation behind the development of the unreached peoples concept was the idea of “gaps”—that there were languages and ethnic groups who had “no access” (defined as the reasonable access of individuals in the group to the gospel within their lifetime) principally being shared) or ethnicity (they couldn’t accept what was being shared by outsiders). However, as we have refined our strategies for closure as ‘reach the unreached’ strategies, two additional issues have emerged, and we’re struggling to address them.”


Kleinig_final_pod-38-1024x536“Why Our Physical Bodies Matter to God” – John Kleinig at the Lexham Press blog: “Our world has many living wonders, many ordinary creatures that are all quite extraordinary. This array of wonders ranges from a simple cell to the supremely complex human body. From every point of view, each embodied person is the most amazing visible being on earth. Our human bodies, linked as they are to the whole web of life on earth and the life of the living God, are indeed ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ (Ps 139:14). Yet the more we examine our bodies and learn about them, the more we discover how little we actually understand them and their complexity. Our vision of ourselves is always partial, incomplete, and one-dimensional, often a reflection of how others see us and of what they tell us about ourselves. We never see ourselves directly, or fully, either by looking at ourselves in a mirror or by thinking about what has happened to us. We only ever see bits and pieces, moments and episodes, in the story of our physical lives on earth—mere snapshots at various stages of our lives, rather than a complete video of our entire embodied life from all points of view.”


Listening Unfolding“Listening Unfolding” – Nate Klug in Image: “The carpeting in the living room is indeed wall to wall, and smells as musty as I remembered. But since my interview visit, someone has spread a tablecloth over the wing table in the living room and planted a sofa by the window, so that when I arrive for my first morning of office hours as the interim pastor, the parsonage resembles a place people actually might visit. For I have assured my new congregation, both in the printed bulletin and during my first Sunday’s announcements, that “I am interested in where God is moving in their lives,” which is true, and that “as they go about their days, they are most welcome to stop in for a conversation”—which might be true as well. As I sit and wait, I remember that I’ve brought my study Bible along. Flipping to next Sunday’s text, I plop it in front of me like an oversized prop, proof against a charge of idleness, in case anyone might be watching through the window. Despite my new surroundings, and the eerie quiet of Main Street in this small Iowa town that I’ll call Ramoth (next door to Gilead), something about the morning’s combination of anxiety and excitement feels familiar. I realize that when I’m at home during the middle of the week, working on my own poetry instead of ministry, I assume the same posture, staring out the window with the words of others nearby, my mind clouded with witnesses—or often just cloudy.”


covid_vaxxed+3“The Young And Secular Are Least Vaccinated, Not Evangelicals” – Ryan Burge at Religion Unplugged: “As the delta variant has caused COVID-19 to surge again in the United States, there’s been a flurry of attention paid to the share of Americans who have chosen to forgo the vaccine against the coronavirus. Trying to understand the causal factors that would lead to one not getting the inoculation seems to be the first task when it comes to finding ways to reduce vaccine hesitancy coast to coast. One of the primary dimensions that news outlets seem to be focusing on is religion. The headlines are published nearly weekly – evangelical Christians are the ones who are the most reluctant to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Yet, when I review the data from a survey that was conducted on May 11, 2021 that was administered by Data for Progress, I don’t find a lot of evidence that evangelicals are the ones lagging behind. In fact, I find that those without any religious affiliation were the least likely to have received at least one dose of any COVID-19 vaccine.”


Daniel Darling firing“NRB spokesman Dan Darling fired after pro-vaccine statements on ‘Morning Joe'” – Bob Smietana at Religion News Service: “The spokesman for a major evangelical nonprofit was fired for promoting vaccines on the MSNBC ‘Morning Joe’ cable news show, Religion News Service has learned. Daniel Darling, senior vice president of communications for the National Religious Broadcasters, was fired Friday (Aug. 27) after refusing to admit his pro-vaccine statements were mistaken, according to a source authorized to speak for Darling. His firing comes at a time when Americans face a new surge of COVID-19 infections due to the highly contagious Delta variant even as protesters and politicians resist mask mandates or other preventive measures.”


Music: Mordent.IO, “Places Everyone,” from Mordent.IO

The Weekend Wanderer: 1 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.


“Died: C. René Padilla, Father of Integral Mission” – Here is David C. Kirkpatrick at Christianity Today remembering a leading missiologist of the last century: “C. René Padilla, theologian, pastor, publisher, and longtime staff member with the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students, died Tuesday, April 27, at the age of 88. Padilla was best known as the father of integral mission, a theological framework that has been adopted by over 500 Christian missions and relief organizations, including Compassion International and World Vision. Integral mission pushed evangelicals around the world to widen their Christian mission, arguing that social action and evangelism were essential and indivisible components—in Padilla’s words, ‘two wings of a plane.'” You may also appreciate the further article: “Leaders and Friends Remember C. René Padilla.”


“Despite multiracial congregation boom, some Black congregants report prejudice” – Adelle M. Banks at Religion News Service reporting on a recent study by Barna and the Racial Justice and Unity Center: “Most practicing Christians believe the church can enhance race relations in this country by welcoming people of all races and ethnicities, new research finds. But 29% of Black practicing Christians say they have experienced racial prejudice in multiracial congregations, compared to about a tenth who report such an experience in monoracial Black churches. And a third of Black Christians say it is hard to gain leadership positions in a multiracial congregation. The new report, released Wednesday (April 28) by Barna Group and the Racial Justice and Unity Center, examines the views of what researchers call ‘practicing Christians,’ people who self-identify as Christians, say their faith is very important to them and say they attended worship in the past month.”


“How Quebec went from one of the most religious societies to one of the least”– Church historian Philip Jenkins in The Christian Century: “Religious Americans sometimes look nervously at the rapid secularization of European nations and wonder if something similar could happen to them. The last decade has witnessed a notable drift to the secular in the United States, measured for instance by the substantial rise in nones, those who reject any religious affiliation. Meanwhile, the current pandemic will assuredly have wide-ranging effects on institutions of all kinds. But we don’t have to look as far away as Europe for an example of a quite sudden and irrevocable decline of religious faith and practice and the general re­placement of old congregations by new populations. To see just how speedily an old religious order can collapse, look no further than the Canadian province of Quebec.”


pastors read“Why Pastors Should Read Literature” –  Karen Swallow Prior at The Center for Pastor Theologians: “It’s always seemed strange to me that reading good literary works—poetry, drama, short stories, novels—is something that needs defending, particularly among Christians. After all, most people seem to understand (even if we don’t make time to do it often) why we visit art galleries, attend symphonies, and go to plays….But the truth is that we are made of words, by words, and for words. Immersing ourselves in beautiful words (even if only for a few precious minutes most or a few days) is like getting a burst of oxygen in air-deprived lungs. Most of us live and work in polluted environments. We are surrounded by words of anguish, anger, anxiety, and—most of all—efficiency. Literary language, on the other hand, is evocative, rich, resonant, and inviting.”


“A Law of Deceleration: How I dumped the internet and learned to love technology again”  – Paul McDonnold at Plough: “The monster had taken over my work life, home life, and many of the spaces in between. My one-time enchantment was now disgust, and in 2019 I decided to disconnect, or at least pull way back. As much as possible, I began reading and writing with paper and pen instead of pixels. I dropped my home broadband service. My only personal internet came from a smartphone, which had a 3-gigabyte monthly limit. Beyond that, I used public wi-fi at the library. Email became a once-a-day thing, and I stopped scanning Google News. I let my Facebook page languish for weeks, then months. Then I deleted it. My life decelerated, and time seemed to expand. I was able to do more, read more, and think more. And I felt better. But with so many people still paying near-constant obeisance to digital screens, I also began to feel like I was in a science fiction movie – the only human who had snapped out of the monster’s malevolent hypnosis. Then Covid-19 hit, and I had to make some concessions to the monster.”


friendship“Friendship is a place of sacrifice—and sanctification” – Eve Tushnet at America reviews a recent book on friendship: “There is a way of praising friendships that unintentionally undermines them. We often picture friendship as our refuge—romantic relationships bring drama, work brings hassle, family is chaos, but with friends you can relax. You’re understood. Friendship is ‘The Golden Girls,’ where every tiny comic tiff is resolved by the end of the half-hour. Friendship is sweet because friendship is easy. Friendship is safe, because friendship is too small to really hurt you. This is not the only Christian model for friendship. It isn’t even the most obvious Christian model. The greatest friendships in the Bible are sites of sacrifice. Jonathan, having made a covenant of friendship with David, gladly sacrifices personal safety, his relationship with his father and the kingship. Jesus identifies friendship with discipleship and with his own sacrifice for us on the cross, in Jn 15:13-15 (of course it’s in John, the Gospel of the “beloved disciple”): ‘No one has greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.’ That model, in which friendship can be the site of our sanctification because it is a site of sacrifice, animates much of St. Aelred’s dialogues, Spiritual Friendship.”


Music: U2, “The Troubles,” Songs of Innocence

We’re Family, part 1: Nashat Filmon

This past weekend at Eastbrook Church we began our annual MissionsFest, a two-week journey of awareness, engagement, and growth with God’s mission. This year’s theme is “We’re Family,” reflecting our journey together on mission as God’s people. So much has been affected by the pandemic, including having international guests with us. We were so grateful to still have the first of our two scheduled speakers, Nashat Filmon of the Palestinian Bible Society, join us via video.

You can view his message video and outline for the message is below. You can follow along with MissionsFest here and the devotional that accompanies the series here. You could always join us for weekend worship in-person or remotely via Eastbrook at Home.

The Christian faith is a missionary faith: David Bosch on mission and missions

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David Bosch (center) with Desmond Tutu (right) and Michael Cassidy (left)

Here is South African missiologist David Bosch on the nature of the church and mission from his milestone work Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission.

The Christian faith, I submit, is intrinsically missionary….This dimension of the Christian faith is not an optional extra: Christianity is missionary by its very nature, or it denies its very raison d’être.

Christian mission gives expression to the dynamic relationship between God and the world, particularly as this was portrayed, first, in the story of the covenant people of Israel and then, supremely, in the birth, life, death, resurrection, and exaltation of Jesus of Nazareth.

The entire Christian existence is to be characterized as missionary existence….The church begins to be missionary  not through its universal proclamation of the gospel, but through the universality of the gospel it proclaims.

Theologically speaking, “foreign missions” is not a separate entity. The missionary nature of the church does not just depend on the situation in which it finds itself at a given moment but is grounded in the gospel itself. The justification and foundation for foreign missions, as for home missions, ‘lies in the universality of salvation and the indivisibility of the reign of Christ.’ The difference between home and foreign missions is not one of principle but of scope.

We have to distinguish between mission (singular) and missions (plural). The first refers primarily to the missio Dei (God’s mission), that is, God’s self-revelation as the One who loves the world, God’s involvement in and with the world, the nature and activity of God, which embraces both the church and the world, and in which the church is privileged to participate. Missio Dei enunciates the good news that God is a God-for-people. Missions (the missiones ecclesiae: the missionary ventures of the church), refer to particular forms, related to specific times, places or needs, of participation in the missio Dei.

The church-in-mission…is not identical with God’s reign yet not unrelated to it either; it is ‘a foretaste of its coming, the sacrament of its anticipation in history.’ Living in the creative tension of, at all the same time, being called out of the world and sent into the world, it is challenged to be God’s experimental garden on earth, a fragment of the reign of God, having ‘the first fruits of the Spirit’ (Rom 8:23) as a pledge of what is to come (2 Cor 1:22).

[Excerpts from David J. Bosch, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1991), pages 8-11.]

Serving God in Hard Places (Hard Places)

Hard Places Series GFX_16x9 Title

This past weekend at Eastbrook Church, we concluded our annual MissionsFest. As we celebrate God’s faithfulness to us as a church for forty years, we heard from two of our long-term, international ministry partners on the theme of “Hard Places.”

This second weekend, Rev. Canon Francis Omondi from Kenya spoke to us about the nature of life in the kingdom, beginning from the Sinai Covenant and the Exodus through the exile to Jesus and toward Revelation.

You can watch Francis’s message below, as well as find out more of what is happening in the next week and a half with MissionsFest here.