Things Worth Noticing: 4/1/22
Dare to Be Strange, Mind Where Your Fingers are Pointing, and (Sorta) Listen to Some Hymns
If I were a more clever man, I’d kick this newsletter off with some kind of April Fool’s related hoax. But, after serving my children three bowls full of Lego for breakfast this morning, I’m all out of gags.
Without further ado, here are a few things worth noticing this Friday afternoon.
Strangers in Our Own Land
I just finished reading Elliot Clark’s Evangelism as Exiles. Clark, a former cross-cultural church planter who ministered in Central Asia, wrote this little book help Christians think about how we witness to an alien and hostile culture.
He couches the book in a light exposition of 1 Peter, illustrated by stories of his evangelistic work in Central Asia. The main themes he covers are exile (duh), hope, fear, respect, praise, Christian distinctiveness, and hospitality.
There’s nothing earth-shattering about this book, which I count a great virtue. Clark very simply paints a picture of gospel witness in a hostile world. And he does it with the grace and humility to show his readers that the “strangeness” of the evangelistic life is rather quite normal for believers in Christ.
The most arresting thought for me came in his section on hospitality. Hospitality, Clark says, is not just an evangelistic strategy. It’s part of the gospel offer itself:
This is the good news of home for displaced followers of Jesus. Christian hospitality isn't just what we do to show kindness to strangers or unbelievers. It's certainly not what we do to entertain guests or show off our home. Christian hospitality can't even be reduced to a sacrificial act of generosity and love, because in reality it's far more. Christian hospitality is the reward of the gospel. It's a foretaste in this life of a shared inheritance in the next. It's a seat at the table now, the shadow of a future feast where we'll recline at table in the kingdom.
That’s a good word, especially when you consider that the folks you’re witnessing to may never have experienced the blessing of a happy home. Or, they may be risking the happy home they do have in coming to faith. If we don’t show them that the Gospel comes with a house key, then we leave out a crucial part of the invitation.
One Finger Out, Three Fingers Back
Perhaps you’ve heard the line, “When you point a finger at someone, you’re left with three fingers pointing back at you.” I, for one, skate right by that problem by choosing to point my entire hand instead of just a finger, but I digress…
In the wildly popular podcast, The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, Mike Cosper and his team have pointed all kinds of fingers at all kinds of people in a mostly excellent podcast that ought to be required listening for evangelical church leaders.
In their latest “special” installment, the podcast focuses on recent revelations about sexual harassment at Christianity Today (CT), as well as the ongoing investigation and organizational/cultural changes being made at the magazine.
Did I mention that CT produces Rise and Fall? Well, now you know.
I’ve had my issues with the show—mostly with how listeners are led to believe that Driscoll and Mars Hill are the logical conclusion of Reformed theology and biblical complementarianism rather than an aberration. The solution to the Driscoll problem, the podcast all but says, is to go for a more egalitarian form of evangelicalism.
This episode plays the same song, especially in a particularly troubling section where CT President Timothy Dalrymple seems to suggest that complementarianism is a post hoc theological paradigm meant to justify the subjugation of women—much the same as antebellum attempts to grant the divine stamp of approval to slavery.
Let’s just say I disagree. Strongly.
Nevertheless, a move like this one is remarkable—both the internal investigation and the decision to own it on an episode of the podcast. Dalrymple et. al. acknowledge that whatever went on at CT may not have been their fault (it all happened under the old guard), but it is now their responsibility to prevent it from happening again.
This is a healthy stance for any organization to take.
So, whatever disagreements I may have with CT, I do say kudos to them for taking seriously those three fingers that point right back at them.
For Your Daily Soundtrack
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m always on the hunt for new music to play while I work. Because I find lyrics distracting while I’m trying to think and/or write, I look specifically for instrumental playlists.
I stumbled on this recent work from Reawaken Hymns. The album is a collection of backing tracks for 20 standards hymns (“This Is My Father’s World,” “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” etc.).
It’s pretty lame if you’re wanting to listen to music but perfect if you’re looking to create a soundscape (or something like that) in your office.
That’s all for this week. I pray none of you find your toilet bowls saran-wrapped or kitchen-sink spray nozzles rubber-banded for maximum soakage. If you do, well, I trust you’ll learn a valuable lesson.
Until next time,
P.S. Not a gag: click here if you’re interested to learn why I’ve “gone” catholic.