Episode 118: The Power of Place

In this interview we sit down with Daniel Grothe and talk about his new book The Power of Place: Choosing Stability in a Rootless Age. Snag a copy of The Power of Place HERE.

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The question of “what is the good life” has bugged me for a long time… as I pay attention to people who are living good lives, all of them have lived lives of stability in place…

This was actually the first book I wanted to write… I think that wisdom looks like a rooted life in place… 

Summers in my childhood were spent in Idaho with my family… they worked the land hard and were tired at the end of the day… I don’t get to live exactly like that, but as a pastor I’ve tried to live that way…

With the Gerasene demoniac, this is the first time Jesus tells someone, “You can’t follow me…” Jesus sends him home… when Jesus finds him, he is on the fringes, he is place-less… Jesus heals him and sends him back into his life, to live settled… 

When we look at the Bible, see that place helps us find security… place helps us find identity… and place helps us learn skilled mastery… 

God is not the God of abstraction… he doesn’t bless us out in the ether somewhere, but he blesses us in place… the story of God ends with the new Jerusalem descending to earth which gives life and security to the nations… creation itself is re-placed, re-homed…

We need to remember that Jesus is Jesus OF NAZARETH… he comes to us in our particularity… he comes into the story to put together heaven and earth, flesh and spirit… 

Adam and Eve started wondering what they were missing out on, and it led to their looking outside of the limitations of the good life that God had given them… when we live at the edges, we miss out on the gift at the center…

When people leave our churches for silly reasons, I always think to myself, “You’re going to have a stranger bury you? I should be burying you… or if I go first, you should be at my funeral… you’re going to throw that away?”

Sometimes you can’t stay in a place… even then you can live by certain principles… Jeremiah 29:1-10 helps us… wherever you are, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which you’ve been sent into exile… God will bless you there… 

Online church is a great tool, but it’s not a congregation… it will never replace the body of Christ, the local congregation of the saints… 

Episode 115: The Resilient Pastor (Pt. 2)

IIn this episode (part two of two) we sit down with Glenn Packiam to talk with him about his forthcoming book The Resilient PastorLeading Your Church in a Rapidly Changing World. (Releases in February—order HERE.)

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The new paganism presents a real challenge… because if people are managing the practical needs of their lives by getting what they need through the new paganism, it makes the church’s appeal more difficult… what does the church offer that people don’t already have…?

This is one of the reasons why the gospel is racing through the global South and is waning in the West… the church is in decline in the West in part because we’re rich and have our needs met… 

Part of the reason it also may be in decline is that because we have positioned the gospel as only therapeutic, and once the practical need is satisfied, then the need for the gospel goes away… but perhaps the gospel is about MORE than the therapeutic… 

Another thing we are seeing is expressive individualism… it is the exaltation of the self as the source and goal of all goodness… my measure of what I am going to do is whether or not it will make “me” a “better me”…

People used to discover meaning in the world, but now we think that our job is to construct meaning in the world… this is why we hear people talk about “your truth” and “my truth”… it sounds nice in the suburbs, but it doesn’t work in Taliban-haunted Afghanistan…

What Christian spirituality has to do is claim the interiority while also showing how all the pieces of the world fit together… 

The aftermath of all of this is very messy… one person said, “I don’t believe in God, but I miss him…” and I think that describes so many people… 

I have an impulse in my heart to say that the church just needs to keep its doors open and trust that people will come… but Jesus is the one who goes out after the lost sheep… we need to go out and meet the culture where it is at…

We must never give up on the one thing that we have to offer that no one else does—the presence and power of God… 

We need to make room for the power of God… Paul says that one of the signs that the Gentiles belong to the kingdom is that the Spirit is at work… people don’t come to church for the coffee; they come for the presence and power of God, and that’s the one thing we’re carrying… 

Episode 114: The Resilient Pastor (Pt. 1)

In this episode (part one of two) we sit down with Glenn Packiam to talk with him about his forthcoming book The Resilient PastorLeading Your Church in a Rapidly Changing World. (Releases in February—order HERE.)

Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube Channel and follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to stay connected with us throughout the week!

In some ways the pandemic was the instigator of new changes… in other ways it accelerated some that were already in process… and in still other ways it revealed changes that had happened that maybe we had masked over… 

The tectonic plates that have shifted are Christianity and country… many of the things that we take for granted in Western civilization (like civil rights) have Christian roots… but now Christianity no longer has a prominent place… 

The big question for Western civilization is whether we can keep the fruit of a Christian culture when it is severed from its roots…

To say that we are in a “secular age” does not mean that we are post-religion, it means that we have decoupled the relationship between religion and the ordering of society…

Now we are seeing a surge in the gap left by that decoupling… one of the elements of that surge is a new pluralism in the West which is syncrestic and imperialistic… the new pluralism is where people say “I’ll take a dash of Buddhism and a dash of Hinduism and a little Christianity…”

In a way, the new pluralism is a response to religious fundamentalism… if embracing religions in their totality is seen to be evil, then taking a little of each is a way of hedging our bets…

One of the challenges here is that when I’m in conversations with people and they are leveraging a critique against the church, they don’t recognize that many of those critiques are dependent on what the church has taught…

There’s a greater burden now on the church to show that what it is teaching is good… that religion is good is no longer taken for granted… there’s an invitation of the Spirit here to show how what we believe is good for civil society…

Christianity at its best has always at its best has been able to name what is good about different religions and systems of thought while also showing how Christ corrects and completes them…

Another element of the surge is a new kind of paganism… in the old paganism, you used the gods as means to your own end… the new paganism is things like technology, commerce, and politics… it is a way to get what I want and make me feel better…  

Episode 112: An Interview with Tara Beth Leach – Radiant Church: Restoring the Credibility of our Witness

In this episode we sit down with pastor and author Tara Beth Leach to talk about her book Radiant Church: Restoring the Credibility of our Witness and what the church can do to recover a kingdom ethos. Grab a copy of her book here.
Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube Channel and follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to stay connected with us throughout the week! I am a daughter of evangelicalism… I wanted to be like Billy Graham when I grew up… the first time I walked into Willow Creek, I thought it was the epitome of what the church could be about… that’s just how I was formed…  It wasn’t until 2007 and 2008 that I began to look around and say, “Something isn’t right, here”… the first thing was women in ministry… so many women who were gifted to teach and preach didn’t have a role and they were leaving the church to take corporate jobs…  Later, seeing the church’s participation in Christian nationalism, racism, and success culture and the failure of many church leaders made me think that something wasn’t right…   It’s important that we love the church AND critique the church… we can be “all in” and still critique the church…  We have rooted ourselves in storylines that are not grounded in the grand narrative of Scripture… we have to go back and recover that narrative… our call to bear witness begins with Abraham where the Lord tells him that his descendants will shine like stars… we are those stars…  Let me be the first to confess that I am lured to success as much as anyone… I have always worked in the megachurch world, and it is so easy to pay attention to measurables like attendance and money… it’s easy to lose sight of the more important questions…   We have been hijacked by individualism in the church… it has distorted our witness… when faith becomes all about me, or all about a ticket to heaven, then we forsake the prayer that Jesus teaches, “on earth as it is in heaven” in which we participate as a PEOPLE…   We can’t talk about the missional crisis in the church until we talk about the formational crisis first… the gospel is about restoration, about the healing of all creation… the kingdom mission is about a partnership with the work that the triune God is doing to restore all creation…  We are called to be Great Commandment AND Great Commission people… justice and evangelism need to be reclaimed as the mission that we’ve been called to…   One practice we need to cultivate is a new kind of examen… we need to open ourselves to the Spirit by listening to our neighbors, women, people of color, and people that have been hurt by the church… not listening to prove a point but listening to receive…

Episode 111: An Interview with Lucy Peppiatt – Rediscovering Scripture’s Vision for Women (Pt. 2)

In this episode (part two of two) we sit down with theologian and New Testament scholar Lucy Peppiatt to talk about her book Rediscovering Scripture’s Vision for Women: Fresh Perspectives on Disputed Texts in which she unpacks why and how the biblical texts traditionally used to support the subordination of women to men might not be saying what we think they’re saying.

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With Genesis 2, people will say that because the woman was made after the man, she is subordinated to him… but I don’t think that’s warranted by the text… 

But with Genesis 3:16, it’s very interesting… human beings have eaten of the fruit, and God speaks over them the world that they have now created for themselves… God is revealing to them what they are going to have to live with… 

There are traditions that would say that God is speaking curses over them, but I see it as God saying, “This is what I told you would happen…” So his words to the woman encapsulate the dysfunctional relationship that now ensues between the man and the woman… 

Household codes were a normal part of the ancient world, and were normally addressed to men… Paul is making any great and different claim by calling the male of the household the “head”… it is descriptive not prescriptive… 

But what is fascinating about the Christian household is that the texts address the woman directly… women, slaves, and children are all addressed, along with the men… this is really powerful, subversive teaching…  

The apostles are saying to the men that their wives are their only sexual partner, which is radical for the ancient world… the men are called to a much higher standard than any other men of their time… they are called to a monogamous, loving relationship with their wives, in front of everyone… 

We might have wanted Paul to go further in overturning oppressive systems, but when we look at his letters, we can see that the seeds of revolution are planted… 

Ephesus was a place where the cult of Artemis was central… many wealthy women in Ephesus were priestesses in the cult, and it seems that some converted and came into the church, and became the false teachers…  

Once you realize this, you can construct a picture [of what Paul was addressing in 1 Timothy 2]… it helps make sense of Paul’s words…

Episode 110: An Interview with Lucy Peppiatt – Rediscovering Scripture’s Vision for Women (Pt. 1)

In this episode (part one of two) we sit down with theologian and New Testament scholar Lucy Peppiatt to talk about her book Rediscovering Scripture’s Vision for Women: Fresh Perspectives on Disputed Texts in which she unpacks why and how the biblical texts traditionally used to support the subordination of women to men might not be saying what we think they’re saying.

Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube Channel and follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to stay connected with us throughout the week!

In my twenties I made a commitment to Jesus and married an Anglican clergyman… I was busy with church and kids but felt like God was calling me into a ministry and teaching… and loved it… as I sought more training in theology, I found that I loved that too… I did a masters and halfway through was encouraged to do a PhD…  

Instead of “complementarian” I use the term “mutualist”… I was drawn to this term because when I first heard the term “complementarian” I assumed it meant someone who believed that male and female complemented each other perfectly…  

When I later learned what “complementarian” meant, I realized it assumed a power structure between men and women and that is not what I thought… I think men and women are different and those differences are good, but I don’t think “complementarian” best describes what I think… 

These issues are not cosmetic for the church, but they strike to the core of the church’s understanding of salvation…  

My experience of coming to know God in my twenties was uncompromisingly affirming… it built me up as a person… encountering the love of God was really life-changing… when I discovered [subordinationist theology] I realized that kind of setup of relationships hinders or blocks the revelation of God to a woman of who she is in Christ… 

I think that it prevents her from understanding that before Christ she can come into the fullness of who she is, without needing a man to mediate that to her… it’s a distortion of the gospel because it is a distortion of what Christ says to a woman… 

Genesis 1, 2, and 3 are seminal texts… we know based on Genesis 1 that male and female together are made in the image of God…  

Old Testament scholars make a very clear case for the phrase “helper suitable” connoting strength and mutuality… for the Hebrew phrase to be translated “helpmeet” when the word itself [Hebrew: ezer] has been used for God, it is disingenuous…

When the man cries out “this is flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone”, he is saying that she is his perfect counterpart who will be with him and is his substance and equal… that she comes from his side denotes equality and mutuality…

Episode 108: An Interview with Winn Collier – A Burning in My Bones

In this episode we sit down with Winn Collier, Director of the Eugene Peterson Center for Christian Imagination at Western Theological Seminary and to talk with him about the release of his book, A Burning in My Bones: The Authorized Biography of Eugene Peterson. Grab a copy here.

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When I was a young, struggling pastor, someone handed me Eugene Peterson’s Working the Angles… I needed that book… I didn’t have language for what it meant to be a pastor, and Eugene gave me the starting of that language… 

A lot of people don’t understand Eugene… they think that even though he grew up Pentecostal, he left it in a huff… but that wasn’t true… he was invited into the Presbyterian world and at the end of the day it was more about what was in front of him… 

For someone who had as deep an ecclesiology as he did, he was profoundly un-enamored with any kind of ideal about any church tradition… when people asked why he was Presbyterian, he would say, “Because God put me here and I made a promise…” 

Eugene asked God to make him a saint… but a saint for him wasn’t someone who had achieved a nirvana-like experience but rather someone who in their very human body was so ravished by the love of Christ that their interior and exterior were becoming congruent… 

Eugene had a burning longing for holiness, for God… and at the same time he understood that a saint was someone who was becoming more and more human… that was the source of his gravitas… 

He insisted in a hundred different ways that all of our ideals have got to die… our pictures of the world are not the real world… until we let Jesus illuminate the actual realities of our life, we will just be fighting against God… 

There are a lot of things that Eugene stands for which we hear in an abstracted kind of way… but Eugene didn’t believe in abstract principles… he was interested in particular people in particular situations… he always started with, “Tell me what God is doing in your life…” 

When you ask the question, “What does Eugene Peterson contribute to the pastoral imagination?”, I think the answer is, “God…” 

We are so desperate to have God at the very core of our being again… all the upheaval we are seeing in our culture… and all the questions we are holding about the future… what the future holds is God… Eugene relentlessly pointed to the Triune God…

Episode 106: An Interview with Dr. Chris Green – Sanctifying Interpretation

In this episode we sit down with Dr. Chris Green to talk about his book, Sanctifying Interpretation, and how God uses the ‘troubling texts’ of Scripture to make us holy. Grab a copy of it here, and/or read Andrew’s review of it here.

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My relationship with Scripture began in church… we went to church 4-5 times per week and the sermons were almost always from the Old Testament… the readings of the Old Testament were almost always typological… 

From the time of my childhood, the Old Testament texts—especially the troubling ones—have been the ones that have drawn me…  

I believe that God is like Jesus… if that is true, then all of Scripture is written by Jesus… so we should look at his teaching to see what the rest of Scripture is… 

When you look at the Gospel portraits of Jesus, you see that he is incredibly difficult… we have this notion that Jesus was a simple teacher… but that’s not true… Jesus in the Gospels almost never says anything that anyone understands, and when they do think they understand it they try to kill him… that’s true to what the Old Testament is… 

Before I wrote this book, I was convinced that you couldn’t talk about reading Scripture without first talking about what it means to be human and what it means to be the people of God… human beings have a calling: to be interpreters and mediators, and we mediate by interpreting… we are priests in that way… 

This, I believe, is the only way to understand why God would give us the Bible in the first place: it must be that he means for us to have to grapple with texts… Jesus never writes anything himself; he inspires others to write his story—and this is how Jesus writes and teaches… 

The reason that interpretation is difficult is because the process of becoming holy people is difficult…  

When we’re reading troubling texts, the first and most important thing is to pay attention to the fact that we are troubled, to lean into it, and to ask why we are troubled…  

Everyone says that the Old Testament is full of judgment… but if you actually go back and read the texts, what you see is that without exception, the judgments fail to work… no judgment short of the judgment that falls on Christ actually solves the human situation…  

Everyone needs to read Scripture… but we need to stop talking about it and actually read it, and read it well… we need to defamiliarize ourselves with our “readings” of Scripture and go back and read them with fresh eyes…

Episode 103: An Interview with Dr. Simeon Zahl – The Holy Spirit and Christian Experience

In this episode we sit down with Dr. Simeon Zahl to talk about how a robust theology of the Holy Spirit can give us better language for talking about the role of experience in the life of a Christian. Grab a copy of his book, The Holy Spirit and Christian Experience here.
Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube Channel and follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to stay connected with us throughout the week! The main thing that drove me to write this book was that Protestant theology had gotten into a false dichotomy: either suspicion about experience or being uncritically accepting of it… I just think we need a better way of accounting for the experiential dimensions of the Spirit’s work…  I grew up with good Lutheran theology, but when I was in college at Harvard I got involved in the Alpha course… and at the Holy Spirit weekend, a lot of people had experiences of the Holy Spirit that were life-changing… I had been taught that I needed to make a choice between my Lutheran theology and the charismatic experience, but Alpha showed me that wasn’t the case…  People mean different things when they talk about ‘experience’… but fundamentally, everything is experience… you can’t get rid of it… the thing to do is to try to think well about it…   The main way the Scripture leads us to think about experience is through the doctrine of the Holy Spirit… the Spirit is the right way of talking about God’s action in the world…   There’s a story that’s told in the theological academy that the doctrine of justification by faith is a cold, legal, rationalistic form of Christianity… but when you read [the Reformers], you see that it’s all about a kind of experience that you’re being led to… an experience of moving from terror to joy…   Biblically and theologically, the Spirit is involved in three areas of life: salvation, sanctification, and the mission of the church… these things are not abstract… they are about having our desires transformed so that we desire the things of God…   There’s a way of talking about the Spirit where when you’re stuck in behavior patterns you can’t change then it must be a sign that you’re not a Christian… that always bothered me… what do we do when there isn’t striking transformation?  Luther is helpful here… he says you are both a sinner and a saint, which creates room to admit what is true… the gospel creates a firewall against despair… when our attention is on God, things go back into their proper shape…  We need to beware where we are preaching an idea or a concept that hasn’t been filtered through experience… it will create a disconnect for people…

Episode 102: An Interview with Rich Villodas – A Deeply Formed Life

In this episode we sit down with pastor and author Rich Villodas to discuss his book, The Deeply Formed Life.

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The five values of our congregation are contemplative rhythms, racial reconciliation, interior examination, sexual wholeness, or missional presence… we’re trying to offer these values to the world and to the church as a paradigm of faithfulness to Jesus…  

Contemplative rhythms are not just about slowing down our pace, but also giving ourselves over to God so that we can address the issues of our day from a deeper kind of wisdom…  

We need to resist formational compartmentalization… the evangelical tradition prioritizes right thinking, the Pentecostal tradition prioritizes right experience, and the progressive tradition prioritizes right action… I want to hold them all together… 

The foundation of engaging matters of race is thinking about the gospel differently… if I limit the gospel to a post-mortem status, I’ll miss it… I’ve found myself this past year regularly coming back to the question, “What do we mean when we say ‘the gospel’?” 

I’ve found myself also this past year reframing for people what racism really is… it’s not just an individual thing… we need to look at it from an individual, interpersonal, and institutional perspective…  

We need to think about how our family of origin shaped us with respect to race… to have people reflect on that and name it is painful… but we need to go back to the scene of the crime—where the malformation first took place… 

We also need to practice listening to other people’s experiences “in the bond of peace”… those who have had the privileges of social power must take the lead to listen first and most often…  

I am very hopeful for the church… I’m in conversation with so many pastors who are showing leadership, creativity, and innovation… a willingness to try new things amidst a new reality, and doing it with joy…  

I’m also encouraged by so many people who are investigating the claims of Christ… I’m hearing so many stories about how the pandemic, our current political climate, and the racial hostilities of the past year are pulling people to something deeper and higher…