so here i am in lancaster, pennsylvania on a research and reading week. i’m spending some time with walt mueller and derek melleby talking about culture, ministry to young adults, discernment, worldview and more. the hope is to start to put a framework around some of the thinking i want to do in able to bring back some structure and best practices to harderwyk.
driving around the outskirts of the town on the way to my hotel, this is nothing like i would have imagined. i had a much more rural and pastoral image in mind instead of the hustle and bustle that i’ve seen. now maybe that’s just the route i took to get here, but when i thought of lancaster, pennsylvania what DIDN’T come to mind was outlet malls, music halls [with the beach boys performing last night], strip malls on every corner and a huge amount of over-commercialization.
i imagined something simpler, something more relaxing and something that would bring peace to my soul from the surrounding area. was i expecting too much?
in our crazy, encroached, pressured and tempting world, people like the Amish and places like I imagined Lancaster to be, seem like a touchpoint to the past and an idyllic way of living, at least for a short time. but that’s not the case here and it’s not the case really in this world.
oh we can take a retreat, vacation or sabbatical and intentionally find places of quiet rest, but in general, the world is moving and sin and culture will always be pushing against grace and biblical truth. so what do we do?
over the last week i’ve read the book “prodigal God” by tim keller and am 1/3rd of the way through listening to eric metaxas’ book “bonhoeffer: pastor, martyr, prophet, spy”. both of these books are running around in my head and though the picture isn’t clear yet, the phrase “gracious, generous engagement” is running through my mind.
this phrase might be the way that we begin the journey of working on the areas i’m dreaming about on my sabbatical: reclaiming young adults, helping parents become faith agents and encouraging the church to be an adoptive and inclusive body. this might be the attitude and action we do to push back against the encroachment and take back things for God that were given to us and we’ve let go.
as i listen to the book on dietrich bonhoeffer, his time and ours aren’t that different. no, we don’t have an imposing nazi regime breathing down our necks, but we do have a time of flimsy theology, weak faith, cultural morass and many who feel like the church is outdated, outmoded and must change to be tolerant and accepting of any and everything.
the way i would have looked at this in the past, would be to dig in my heals, marshal my thinking in fundamentalist/ultra-conservative ways and turn everything black and white. you’re either on the side of truth or your on the side of sin. but i’m starting to think that there might be a better way, a more Christ-like way and one that takes a different position between dogma and grace. we have the truth of scripture and the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ but when we look at how we’ve preached it and presented it, we might have lost the attitude and candor of the way Christ presented his message. he didn’t tolerate sin, but he didn’t bash, hurt and demean people who either didn’t want to listen, didn’t want to accept or who were outright hostile towards him.
he showed a better way of engaging that was gracious and generous and it’s a way we need to develop in ourselves and our relationships!
there are big issues in this world that christians will have to wrestle with in our lives and in the lives of those we love and come in contact with: abortion, alcoholism, homosexuality, justice for the poor, racism, divorce, adoption, gay marriage and many more. these issues involve people, lives and many tremendously difficult circumstances with people we truly love. and in the bigger picture of our nation and our culture, my guess is that they won’t go away or go our way. we already live in a society with abortion on demand, homosexual marriage will eventually become available everywhere and many other issues will come and enter into our national experience that go against what we believe to be true based on God’s word.
so do we keep fighting in the way that makes us become like the westboro baptist church and completely remove us from any ability to speak into issues, or do we find a better, more gracious and generous ways to engage this culture and our country in a dialog that speaks the truth from God’s word and keep the doors open to listen, learn and be available to anyone who wants to work together to talk about these things.
i’m inspired by the life of bonhoeffer and how he realized the cost of what it means to be a disciple [my next book purchase needs to be “the cost of discipleship” by bonhoeffer] and i’m inspired that he could be a man of deep relationship with Jesus, hold unswervingly to the truth of the bible but yet still be able to listen too those who were completely opposed to that truth and be loving and gracious to them. i have a LOT more thinking, reading and discussions to have on this!
i want to be that kind of generous man and i want to think in these ways as we work with our children, students and young adults to help them take hold of God’s truth and graciously carry it into their lives in God’s world no matter where they go.