Serving our community

Amy Sherman

Sociologist and researcher, Amy Sherman has said that Christians tend to have three models for interacting with society: fortification, accommodation, and domination. To put that another way: We hunker down amongst ourselves, water down our witness, or beat down our opponents. For many reasons, those aren’t New Testament models.” 

In short the withdrawal-compromise-argumentative/condemning approach to sharing the gospel will not work.

Phillip Yancey suggests:

We need to create pioneer settlements that show the world a different, grace-based way of living…A few generations ago, Billy Graham would fill the largest stadium in any city, stand up, and say “the Bible says,” and have the audience nod along. Today, belief in the Bible can’t be taken for granted, so appeals to the Bible won’t have the same power. The new paradigm, in this culture, is that you reach out with acts of mercy that touch people’s hearts, and hopefully they want to know why.

The gospel “demonstrated” leads to the gospel “proclaimed.” 

Imagine if we organized ourselves in our neighborhood, city and world as people existing for the sake of outsiders…The more we act like Jesus, not beating people down but showing a better way to live, the more outsiders will look back and say, “Those Christians are different.”

Today I worry that we are losing the meaning of the word: Evangelical or even Christian, as the primary models of these words seen in popular media, are not reflecting this. 

Book Review: WITH: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God by Sky Jethani

WITH looks at many of the ways we tend to relate to God, highlighting a number of approaches that often ignore the core of our historic biblical faith.

Sky Jethani suggests the approach or posture to live and walk with God for His own sake, rather than for the advantages we can secure or as a strategy for coping with the fear and unpredictability of life.

Skye describes four common postures in our relationship with God:

  1. Life From God: where people want God’s blessings and gifts without real interest in God himself. The self is the center to which God is ready to be summoned as a cosmic butler to provide comfort, blessing, and validation.
  2. Life Over God: where people seek to discern proven principles and formulas for how God works. These principles and formulas can then be mastered to produce maximum benefit.
  3. Life For God: where people are concerned with how best to serve God. God is often thought—implicitly or explicitly—to require heroic acts of self-sacrifice and service in order to achieve significance and approval.
  4. Life Under God: where people conceive of God in simple cause and effect terms. Obedience = blessing; disobedience = punishment. Proper moral behavior is thought to fundamentally be the key to properly understanding and relating to God.

And yet in each of these four described postures, the desire for God himself is substituted for some lesser thing. Whether mission, blessing, principles, or morality—none of which are harmful or destructive in and of themselves—unless they take the place of God as the actual object of our desire. Each of the four approaches represents an attempt to figure out how God works, what God wants, and how best to respond, but according to Jethani, each response is rooted in the fear of an unpredictable and unmanageable world that we cannot control.

Jethani suggests we move beyond our need for control, beyond our tendencies to be dominated by our fear and uncertainty, to a place where we can confidently live with God, secure in our identity as beloved children, freed from the need to perform, and the desire for the material benefits God can provide. Jethani helpfully summarizes his argument:

The Life With God posture is predicated on the view that relationship is at the core of the cosmos: God the Father with God the Son with God the Holy Spirit. And so we should not be surprised to discover that when God desired to restore his broken relationship with people, he sent his Son to dwell with us. His plan to restore his creation was not to send a list of rules and rituals to follow (Life Under God), nor was it the implementation of useful principles (Life Over God). He did not send a genie to grant us our desires (Life From God), nor did he give us a task to accomplish (Life For God). Instead, God himself came to be with us—to walk with us once again as he had done in Eden in the beginning. Jesus entered into our dark existence to share our broken world and to illuminate a different way forward. His coming was a sudden and glorious catastrophe of good.

Here are some great recent mini video illustrations of these principles:

The Treasure: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God
The Jerks: Life from or Life For God vs Life With God
The Mountain

Learning Preferences

I just came across this ancient painting which I think is a wonderful reminder that with all our supposed innovation, much of the educational process has remained recognizably unchanged for centuries.



A 700 year old painting of a medieval lecturer and his class by Laurentius de Voltolina from the 14th century, now in the German Nat’l. Museum in Berlin.




Continue reading “Learning Preferences”

Thoughts on Creativity

We’re encouraged to not count our days… but to make our days count!

Among God’s most precious gifts to us is the creative capacity He’s placed in each person. The fifth word of Genesis reveals God as Creator. We learn later (in Genesis 1:27) that as creator, he has embedded His imago dei (the Image of God–His nature & character) into each one of us. The result is that every individual, in deeply personal ways, is offered a reflection of the precious, God-breathed creativity that ignited and fills all of creation. Creativity is deeply embedded in each person, resulting in endless variation and possibility. To create and to be creative lies at the heart of human flourishing. 

I believe for us to be intentional in our actions and conversant in an understanding and theology of the Image of God today is as important (and perhaps as risky) as proclaiming the theology of Salvation by Faith was in the days of the reformation. Both are still just as true today, but no longer will the authorities and the organized church come after you for the latter.

Collaborating as Community

Creative engagement is rooted in community… actually knowing and loving our neighbors.

Collaboration consistently ranks among the most rewarding and significant of human activities.
 People join together, searching for that which is beautiful and inspiring. Consider the activities throughout the world that involve singing and playing music together, painting murals together, feasts and eating together, festivals, celebrations, but also our work together to address shared problems and needs.

Over the decades I’ve I cherished the opportunity to work on collaborations to build community parks, hiking trails, playgrounds, treehouses, climbing walls and community food gardens; or where communities faced natural hazards or grinding poverty and high child mortality, to collaborate on building water tanks and developing clean water systems, micro-enterprise start-ups, improved food security; to train health workers and establish community-based Health Centers and Community Emergency Response Teams. These activities were simply an outgrowth of our conviction that God has good intentions for all, today. They are part-and-parcel of His good news!

Working in community builds wisdom and unity, as our unified (but not uniform)creative voices offer evidence of our shared convictions and hope.

And I pray everyday that I would be looking for God’s fingerprints in the lives and world around me, that as Jesus said, “I want to only do what God is doing.” God’s on the move and at work at every level of society and creation. He delights to hide things. We’re to delight in seeking them out… in learning new things and perspectives, in recognizing, fanning it into flame and trying to reflect the Image of God–His beauty, His nature and character.