The Weekend Wanderer: 21 September 2019

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.

 

article_5d72a06785e29“Catholicism Made Me Protestant” – After college I worked in a Roman Catholic books and church supply store for about nine months. As I learned to navigate the store and its contents, I also went on a journey of exploring the historic roots of the Christian faith. More than once since those days, I have searched out Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy as possibilities of getting to the bottom of the nature of authority within the church. Each time I have gained deeper appreciation for voices from earlier eras of the history of the church, while also returning to my Protestant roots stronger for the exploration.  Onsi A. Kamel offers an essay at First Things that echoed some aspects of my own search: “Catholicism had taught me to think like a Protestant, because, as it turned out, the Reformers had thought like catholics. Like their pope-aligned opponents, they had asked questions about justification, the authority of tradition, the mode of Christ’s self-gift in the Eucharist, the nature of apostolic succession, and the Church’s wielding of the keys. Like their opponents, Protestants had appealed to Scripture and tradition. In time, I came to find their answers not only plausible, but more faithful to Scripture than the Catholic answers, and at least as well-represented in the traditions of the Church.”

 

Judgment Day Florence Cathedral“Is the ‘final judgment’ really final?” – It would be difficult to not hear some rumblings about David Bentley Hart’s new book, That All Shall Be Saved: Heaven, Hell, and Universal Salvation. Hart is a rough and tumble essayist and author, whose recent translation of the New Testament spurred a critical exchange between Hart and N. T. Wright, as well as some appreciative yet critical comments from Alan Jacobs about one of Hart’s bad intellectual habits. This latest book has already generated a lot of conversations, but is essentially an argument against the church’s reliance on a form of Augustine’s thinking and for a form of Gregory of Nyssa’s thinking on salvation and hell. The Christian Century provides this excerpt from Hart’s book for engagement. Douglas Farrow’s review in First Things is not all that appreciative of Hart’s thinking in the book, but engaging with Hart’s theological project at some level is necessary work for pastors and Christian leaders.

 

Willow Creek jd word cloud“Willow Creek, What’s a Pastor?” – I have been on a journey of recovery in pastoral ministry for the last year or two. It has led me toward rediscovering what it means to be a pastor by listening to voices like Eugene Peterson and John Chrysostom, as well as exploring the dark side of leadership and what keeps ministry resilient. After serving within it for the past fifteen plus years, I am questioning nearly every aspect of non-denominational, evangelical, megachuch Christianity in North America. The flagship church for that is Willow Creek, who is now searching for a new Senior Pastor. I have some sadness for how Willow has taken so much flak in these days, but not enough sadness to avoid pointing out that most of the historically essential work of the pastor is really not present in the job description they have put forward for this role. Scot McKnight says it with much better clarity than me in this article.

 

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?“When Philip K. Dick turned to Christianity” – Most fans of science fiction know that the movies Blade Runner (1982) and the recent sequel, Blade Runner 2049 (2017) were inspired by Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? I was surprised to read this article in Salon a few months back about Dick’s turn toward Christianity shortly before his surge to fame within 1960s counterculture. While he didn’t stick with the church in its institutional form, his turn toward faith did, apparently, shape his later outlook and writings.

 

0_omPrFdurOKV3rsyv“A Radical Guide to Spending Less Time on Your Phone” – Those closest to me know that I’ve been on a multi-year journey to shed much of my closeness to my smartphone, some forms of technology, and social media. The most recent version of that is a project I affectionately call “the dumbest smartphone in the universe,” which is an attempt to radically simplify the apps available on my smartphone. Someday, maybe I’ll blog about it, but in the meantime read Ryan Holiday’s article which echoes many of the changes I’ve made.

 

William Blake“A blockbuster show at Tate Britain gives William Blake his due” – Two summers ago, my wife and I had the chance to get away to London for a week as part of celebrating twenty years of marriage. While there, we returned to places we had visited years ago when we both participated in a summer study program. Seeing works of revered artists in Tate Britain and Tate Modern was a highlight. While we saw many of William Blake’s drawings and etchings, this new show sounds like a delightful look at his work.

 

Music: Daniel Lanois, “The Maker,” from Acadie.

[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 Weekend Wanderer: 1 June 2019

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.

religious freedom“Rethinking the History of Religious Freedom” – Church historian Robert Louis Wilken offers this helpful essay on religious freedom at First Things. “What is missing in these accounts is the contribution of Christianity. Many believe that Christianity is inescapably intolerant, and that only with the decline of religious faith in western society did liberty of conscience take root. But a more careful examination of the historical record shows that Christian thinkers provided the intellectual framework that made possible the rise of religious freedom.”

 

catechesis.jpeg“Catechesis for a Secular Age by Timothy Keller with James K. A. Smith” – Catechesis  is the process of introducing new converts or those preparing for baptism or confirmation to the essential teaching of Christ and the apostles, usually with the help of a catechism. There has been increasing attention given to the need for catechesis within the church across a wide spectrum of traditions or denominations. In this 2017 article, Jamie Smith interviews Tim Keller about the need for catechesis in what Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor has dubbed “a secular age.”

 

can we believe“Can We Believe?: A personal reflection on why we shouldn’t abandon the faith that has nourished Western civilization” – Speaking of a secular age, here is Andrew Klavan’s personal reflection on the inadequacy of the Enlightenment narrative and the need for something beyond that like Christian faith. This meandering journey takes him into the prevalence of unbelief in the contemporary era and into the necessity of belief for the fabric of morality and society. Along the way, Klavan touches upon the work of Jordan Peterson, Douglas Murray, Marcello Pera, Steven Pinker, Yuval Noah Harari, and many more. He writes: “The point of this essay is not to argue the truth of Christianity. I argue only this: the modern intellectual’s difficulty in believing is largely an effect created by the overwhelming dominance of the Enlightenment Narrative, and that narrative is simplistic and incomplete.”

 

books“Thirty Years, Thirty Books | Fiction: The Pleasures of Obsolescence” – As part of their celebration of the one-hundredth issue and thirtieth anniversary of Image Magazine, the editors asked a poet, novelist, and essayist to offer their top ten works in their area over the past thirty years. Melissa Range offers a list related to poetry in “Poetry: A Word We Have Not Heard.” Christopher Beha offers his list of novels in “Fiction: The Pleasures of Obsolescence.”  Morgan Meis offers a list of essays in “Love, Hate, and Digestion: A Miscellany.”

 

54258“Farewell Franchise Ministry” – There are moments as a pastor where you feel out of sync with the surrounding ministry culture. Multisite is one of those areas for me where incarnational theology seems at odds with the prevailing model of multisite through video venues. We have been discussing at Eastbrook whether it’s possible to move into a more incarnational family of churches model within urban environments; something we affectionately refer to as missional multisite, although I don’t really love that terminology any longer. I know there are churches that have done so, and now here is another.

 

New_Life_Church_Aerial_Photo“Megachurches Discovering Liturgy & Traditional Christianity?” – In light of the previous article, Gene Veith’s recent post about evangelical megachurches moving toward liturgy and Christian tradition makes sense. Veith’s post is a response to Anna Keating’s article for America, entitled Why Evangelical megachurches are embracing (some) Catholic traditions. Veith corrects some misunderstandings of Keating’s article, while providing some background on why churches like New Life Church, The Village Church, and Willow Creek are now integrating ancient Christian practices and liturgy into their church life.

 

Music: Nils Frahm, “All Melody,” from the album All Melody.

[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 Weekend Wanderer: 2 March 2019

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.

5491.thumb“The Future of Church-Race Relations” – I mentioned this interview of Jemar Tisby by Wesley Hill in passing last weekend, but returned to it again this week. I just cannot recommend it enough. Speaking of his book, The Color of Compromise, Tisby says in this interview: “Part of the genesis of this book was going to spaces where very well-meaning Christians would say, ‘Yes, we’re for racial reconciliation, yes we’re for diversity,’ but then not much would change….We have to take this as a foundational problem in the church and in the nation. I hope that the book will help to convey the urgency of the racial issues in America.” I couldn’t agree more.

 

Joseph Kim“How I Escaped from North Korea” – This testimonial from Joseph Kim gives an inside look at the challenges of life in North Korea, and the powerful role of Chinese Church in shining the light of Christ within that land. “In some ways, I imagine growing up in North Korea is like growing up anywhere else. I had a father and mother who rarely failed to show me love, and my older sister looked after me constantly. I caught dragonflies with friends and waited with excitement for cartoons to come on TV. Then, in 1995, the worst of the Great Famine descended on the land, and the privileges of my childhood were stripped away…”

 

tim-keller“Tim Keller on Changing the Culture without Being Colonized by It” – In this brief video, Tim Keller talks about the difference between pre-Christian, Christendom, and post-Christian contexts. “The West has taken over a lot of Christian ideas but taken them to an extreme. So, for example, the importance of human rights and doing justice has been turned into an extreme individualism. Because of these overlaps, a Christian can easily fall into getting co-opted by that individualism.”

 

89653“United Methodists Vote to Keep Traditional Marriage Stance” – “After days of passionate debate, deliberation, and prayer—and years of tension within the denomination—The United Methodist Church (UMC) voted Tuesday to maintain its traditional stance against same-sex marriage and non-celibate gay clergy, bolstered by a growing conservative contingent from Africa.” You can also read a more detailed log of what was actually up for debate and what was actually passed at the 2019 General Convention at John Lomperis’ blog.

 

anger“Anger Can Be Contagious – Here’s How To Stop The Spread” – Allison Aubrey explores the power of anger and how easy it spreads. “Even if you’re not aware of it, it’s likely that your emotions will influence someone around you today. This can happen during our most basic exchanges, say on your commute to work. ‘If someone smiles at you, you smile back at them,’ says sociologist Nicholas Christakis of Yale University. ‘That’s a very fleeting contagion of emotion from one person to another.’ But it doesn’t stop there. Emotions can spread through social networks almost like the flu or a cold. And, the extent to which emotions can cascade is eye-opening.”

 

moral outrage“The Case for Being Skeptical of Moral Outrage” – On that same theme, Scott Koenig talks about healthy skepticism related to moral outrage. “Moral outrage is the powerful impulse we feel to condemn bad behavior, and it serves the important role of holding wrongdoers accountable and reinforcing social norms. Yet moral outrage, at least on Twitter and other similar platforms, appears no more effective at reinforcing social norms than it is at driving people to theatrically overreact to the behavior of strangers. After all, it’s hard to see how things like doxxing minors or throwing shaving blades down the toilet, in protest of an earnest Gillette ad on “toxic masculinity,” help uphold ethical standards.”

 

89493“Get Close to Refugees, and Let Love Grow” – Kelley Nikondeha reviews two new books on connecting with refugees, You Welcomed Me: Loving Refugees and Immigrants Because God First Loved Us by Kent Annan and Once We Were Strangers: What Friendship with a Syrian Refugee Taught Me about Loving My Neighbor by Shawn Smucker. She writes: “We not only need but also want to have better conversations about immigrants. We want to hear the clear instruction of Scripture regarding refugees. We want the opportunity to wrestle together about how to welcome strangers, even as we remain vigilant about possible dangers.”

 

Bill Hybels

“Willow Creek Investigation: Allegations Against Bill Hybels Are Credible” – Here’s an update at Christianity Today on a story that I’ve been following in regards to Bill Hybels and Willow Creek. “An independent investigation has concluded that the sexual harassment allegations that led to Bill Hybels’s resignation last year are credible, based on a six-month investigation into the claims against the senior pastor and into Willow Creek Community Church (WCCC) and the Willow Creek Association (WCA).” You can read the entire 17-page report here.

 

mix tape“It’s cool to spool again as the cassette returns on a wave of nostalgia” – Those of us who are old enough may remember making mix tapes for friends back in the day. Well, the word on the street is that cassettes are making a comeback. “The cassette, long consigned to the bargain bin of musical history, is staging a humble comeback. Sales have soared in the last year – up 125% in 2018 on the year before – amounting to more than 50,000 cassette albums bought in the UK, the highest volume in 15 years.” Is this for real? Maybe.

 

Music: Ólafur Arnalds performing on NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Concert.

[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 Weekend Wanderer: 22 September 2018

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.

 

melani mcalister“Look Outside America for Fresh Insight on American Evangelicals” – “Melani McAlister, a professor of American studies at George Washington University, wants to tell a broader story by looking outside American borders. Studying American evangelical missionary and humanitarian activity in Egypt, South Africa, Congo, and South Sudan, she says, reveals a movement that has always seen itself as part of a global communion. In her book, The Kingdom of God Has No Borders, McAlister applies this international lens to the past half-century of American evangelical history.”

 

puerto rico maria“The State of the Puerto Rican Church, One Year After Maria” – Gadiel Ríos reports on the challenges to the church in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, and how this disaster is entirely changing the way churches do ministry. ” The church in Puerto Rico and the spiritual lives of its citizens have not been spared of all of this pain and desolation, but their story is still one of grace and love overcoming loss and suffering.”

 

Screen Shot 2018-09-19 at 10.19.57 AM“Leave no dark corner: China is building a digital dictatorship to exert control over its 1.4 billion citizens. For some, ‘social credit’ will bring privileges — for others, punishment” – If you like dystopian literature or film, Matthew Carney’s exploration of China’s in-depth digital tracking of its citizenry may intrigue you. But it also may disturb you. As others have noted, privacy may be a thing of the past, but it reaches a very new level when one’s government agenda includes this: “a vast network of 200 million CCTV cameras across China ensures there’s no dark corner in which to hide.”

 

beth moore“The Tiny Blond Bible Teacher Taking on the Evangelical Political Machine” – Emma Green interviews evangelical Bible teacher Beth Moore about her recent venture into tense conversations within evangelicalism about politics. “On a chilly Texas evening recently, Moore and I sat in rocking chairs on her porch. It was the first time she had invited a reporter to visit her home, on the outskirts of Houston. Moore, who is 61, was the consummate hostess, fussing about feeding me and making sure I was warm enough beside the mesquite-wood fire. But as we settled into conversation, her demeanor changed. She fixed her perfectly mascaraed eyes on me. ‘The old way is over,’ she said. ‘The stakes are too high now.'”

 

webRNS-Abuse-Research-46-091818“Survey shows more pastors preach about abuse in #MeToo age” – “Half of Protestant pastors say they preach to their churches about domestic and sexual violence, an increase from four years ago, when only a third said they raised the issue, a new survey shows. LifeWay Research took a detailed look at Protestant clergy’s attitudes toward abuse and harassment and what they’ve done about it, surveying 1,000 pastors by phone during the summer of 2018 as the #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements dominated the news.”

 

Gettys3“Towards a Deeper Song: Why Keith and Kristyn Getty Are Helping the Church to Sing (Again)” – “Often credited with re-inventing the traditional hymn-form, they are passionate about the importance of congregational singing and how we learn truth through song. This year alone, their journey has taken them from the Global Hymn Sing to the UK Houses of Parliament and recently to their own Sing! Conference in Nashville. A few days before the conference, Keith shared more about Getty Music’s vision and why we must never stop singing.”

 

iraqi-refugees“Evangelical Leaders Denounce Trump Administration Refugee Cap, Call for Increase” – “National leaders from the Evangelical Immigration Table sent a letter asking the Trump administration to admit more refugees…The announced new cap is even lower than this year’s historic low of 45,000 for this FY 2018, and the U.S. is on track to take in fewer than 22,000 refugees this fiscal year, also a record low.” This statement was fashioned by conservative evangelicals, including Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President of National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, who says: “America has long been a beacon of freedom and safety for those fleeing persecution, including many persecuted for their Christian faith, but the proposed cap of just 30,000 refugees would mean stepping back from our historic role of global leadership. We can both be a secure nation and a compassionate nation, leading the world in resettling the most vulnerable refugees who have been identified and vetted abroad and ensuring due process for those who reach our country to request asylum.”

 

closed“Let’s bring back the Sabbath as a radical act against ‘total work’William R. Black, a professor of history and religion, offers an interesting critique of our fast-paced, work-oriented culture. He writes: “We usually encounter the Sabbath as an inconvenience, or at best a nice idea increasingly at odds with reality. But observing this weekly day of rest can actually be a radical act. Indeed, what makes it so obsolete and impractical is precisely what makes it so dangerous.”

 

Bill Hybels“Here’s Who Willow Creek Chose to Investigate Bill Hybels” – This past week Willow Creek Community Church announced the leadership of the investigative team looking at the allegations against Bill Hybels reported earlier this year. “The new Willow Creek Independent Advisory Group (IAG) is co-chaired by Jo Anne Lyon, general superintendent emerita and current ambassador of The Wesleyan Church, and Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals. The other two members are Margaret Diddams, provost of Wheaton College and a professor of psychology, and Gary Walter, past president of the Evangelical Covenant Church in Chicago, Illinois.”

 

failure“6 Warning Signs You’re Risking A Moral Failure – And How To Avoid A Fall” – On that note, over at the Vanderbloemen Search Group’s blog, Jay Mitchell writes for those in ministry about six warning signs that may lead you into a moral failure. He follows that with three suggestions about how to safeguard yourself against such a failure. In the current climate of moral failures, both inside the church and outside the church, ministers cannot fail to pay attention to this topic.

 

blue“The Bible described it as the perfect, pure blue. And then for nearly 2,000 years, everyone forgot what it looked like” – This is not your typical exploration of Scripture. “Forty-nine times the Bible mentions a perfect, pure blue, a color so magnificent and transcendent that it was all but impossible to describe. Yet, for most of the last 2,000 years, nobody has known exactly what ‘biblical blue’ — called tekhelet in Hebrew — actually looked like or how it could be re-created.” [Thanks to Micah Mattix for sharing this in the Daily Prufrock.]

[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 Weekend Wanderer: 11 August 2018

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.

 

Chabros“God at the Margins (Part 1 of 3)” – My dear friends, Michal and John Chabo, share their story of God’s faithfulness in the midst of the challenging environment of Syria. You do not want to miss this amazing story from these two wonderful men. You will also enjoy finding out more about their work with Chabros Music, including leading worship at many churches and telling their story as an encouragement to others.

 

HybelsThe ongoing saga at Willow Creek Community Church continued to heat up with the August 5 New York Times article “He’s a Superstar Pastor. She Worked for Him and Says He Groped Her Repeatedly.” Shortly before this, Lead Teaching Pastor Steve Carter announced his immediate resignation in protest of the way the women who have come forward have been treated (read his “A Diverging Path”). Then, on Wednesday night, Lead Pastor Heather Larson announced her immediate resignation, and that the entire Willow Creek Board of Elders would be steeping down. If you don’t know the entire story about what has come forth in regards to former Senior Pastor Bill Hybels and the way in which leadership of Willow Creek handled accusations of sexual misconduct, take a look at Scot McKnight’s recent post in this regard. You may also benefit from reading Mel Lawrenz’s reflections on what this speaks into the lives of leaders.

 

Indianapolis“These 15 U.S. Cities Have the Most Churches” – While this article was created by basically dividing city populations by the number of church buildings that exist there and not something more complicated, it is still interesting to take a look at this list of fifteen cities that have the most church buildings in the US. You will probably be surprised by number 2. [Thanks to Warren Bird for sharing this article.]

 

83011“Rwanda Restricts Fasting as 8,000 Churches Closed” – This is not what you’d typically expect to see within a news headline, but the government of Rwanda has been addressing lack of training and safety concerns in churches and mosques in recent months. “About 8,000 official and unofficial churches, as well as 100 mosques, have been closed in Rwanda for failing to comply with health, safety, and noise regulations. This includes 4 in 10 congregations belonging to a nationwide association of 3,300 Pentecostal churches.”

 

savs-504074-unsplash-e1525470662382-770x400“A Letter from the Angry Black Woman in Your Pew”Lysaundra Campbell at The Witness speaks out: “This is not a time for performative theological discussions that do not result in action. We do not need a conference, panel discussion, or one-time awareness training about gender-based violence. If our conferences, panels, and pulpits are cultivating a culture that mirrors the broader society and diminishes the value of black women and girls through racism and sexism, we have a much deeper heart issue.”

 

EvangelicalImmigrationTableLOGO“Citing Religious Liberty, Evangelical Leaders Urge Trump Administration to Support Refugee Resettlement” – Evangelical Christian leaders have sent a letter asking the Trump administration to raise the refugee ceiling, citing religious liberty and our nation’s history of offering safe haven to people fleeing religious persecution. Signatories express deep concern that further cuts to the U.S. refugee resettlement program would harm religious freedom internationally. The letter was sent to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen and Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback.

 

82941“The Truth About the Catholic Church and Slavery” – Rodney Stark takes on one of the most-debated issues in relation to the culpability of the Roman Catholic Church in relation to the international slave trade. The claim that Christians were actively involved in promulgating slavery is beyond debate. However, Stark suggest that the role of the institutional church and its teaching came against that much more clearly and much earlier than often claimed.

 

Insert-ghost-“Ghosts on the Shore” – “Japanese awareness of ghosts – yūrei – goes back centuries, rooted in ideas of justice and injustice, and in a fear of unfinished business. If a person’s spirit is looked after at death, by a family providing a proper funeral, praying for that person, and visiting the grave, then the deceased is able to pass peacefully into the next world. From there, the dead look out for their still-living relatives, providing help and protection. Every year, in summer, they return to this world, welcomed by their families at the festival of Obon with food and drink, fireworks and dancing.” [Thanks to Micah Mattix and Prufrock News for sharing this.]

 

[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.]

Leadership Summit 09 – Summary Page

Because some folks have continued to ask about this, here is a summary post through which you can access all of my notes from the Leadership Summit 2009.

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Revealing?: reflections on Willow’s “Follow Me”

Follow-Me-Cover

I’ve finally taken the chance to review the second book associated with Willow Creek’s Reveal study entitled Follow Me. Better late than never, they say, so I’m sending off some of my reflections here at the blog.

Building off of the research from Reveal, this next part of the study looks at spiritual growth, what people are looking for from churches for growth, and provides some critical insights on how church leaders can catalyze and lead toward spiritual growth in their churches.

Reveal offered a four-fold framework , or spiritual growth continuum, for understanding where people are at in their faith: 1) exploring Christ, 2) growing in Christ, 3) close to Christ, and 4) Christ-centered.

In Follow Me, the study outlines three movements of spiritual growth that stretch across the continuum of faith (pp. 28-30): 1) early spiritual growth, 2) intermediate spiritual growth, and 3) advanced spiritual growth. The study then analyzed four categories of spiritual catalysts within the stages of growth (pp. 31-46), which they outlined as: 1) spiritual beliefs and attitudes (e.g., authority of the Bible, Triune God, salvation by grace) , 2) organized church activities (e.g., weekend services, serving within the church, small groups), 3) personal spiritual practices (e.g., reflection on Scripture, solitude, prayer), and 4) spiritual activities with others (e.g., informal spiritual friendships, serving those in need ‘on my own’).

So, this all sets the stage for the study to look into what helps people move from one stage of spiritual growth to another, or to see what are key catalysts for spiritual growth. While it is interesting to dig into the spiritual catalysts for each stage or movement of spiritual growth, it is even more interesting – even unsurprising – to find that the only common spiritual catalyst that reaches across all three movements of spiritual growth is “Reflection on Scripture” (pp. 114ff).

Everywhere we turned the data revealed the same truth: spending time in the Bible is hands down the highest impact personal spiritual practice. More specifically, ‘I reflect on the meaning of Scripture in my life’ is the spiritual practice that is most predictive of growth for all three spiritual movements.  (p. 114)

In some ways, this should not be surprising to us. As the writer of Hebrews says:

The word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Heb 4:12)

But, we should be thoughtful as we reflect on what is being said here in Follow Me.  The call is not simply to say to people in our churches: “Go read the Bible. That’s it. Just do it.” This is not helpful.

What we should be doing is giving thoughtful consideration to how we are encouraging and equipping our people to regularly (that means in an ongoing and disciplined way) reflect (meditatively read with connection to life) on the Scripture in ways that provide continuity with what we are communicating in services (e.g., sermons, prayer, worship songs) and other venues (e.g., small groups, classes).

In this vein, I appreciated how Willow is doing their utmost to “extend the impact of our weekend services. We wanted to help people integrate what they were learning on the weekends into their Monday-through-Friday lives” (p. 123). Whether that is in the form of a journal for reflection they handed out, or having a thorough cataloguing of resources that people can access, they are trying to make the Scripture-focused impact overflow into peoples’ daily living.

Much more could be said about this fascinating book, whether it is changes from a seeker-driven church to a more radical disciple-making church, or retooling the mid-week service into a class structure that is driven to help people in each of the three movements of spiritual growth.

It is definitely worth the read, the reflection, and learning for ministry application in your own setting.