Winter Issue 10
but God does through us. The call to ministry is the call to minister with God, not a call to minister for God. It is a call to enter into the creating and saving work of the Creator." As such, ministry is something every Christian does in relation with God, and it is not limited to certain group of people.
How then can ordinary Christians live as ministers in the workplace? The majority of Christians have difficulty in finding the right balance between work and church because most churches place more emphasis on church life. Most churches bid people to come and hear the gospel in the holy confines of the church. This is because they assume that church is the only place to learn about God. In turn, most churches’ focus for ministry is not the church in dispersion but the church gathered. At this point, the gathered meeting of the church fails to adequately prepare for re-entry into the world. In addition, if the church limits God’s agency in this world to particular times and places that the vast majority of not-yet-Christians have no desire to attend, then ministry is effectively hobbled.
The only true picture of the church is a moving picture: a daily gathering and then dispersion. In this picture, the word diaspora – the church dispersed—is a useful companion to the word ecclesia—the church gathered. It is like the rhythm of the blood gathering for oxygenation in the heart in order to be pumped to the uttermost parts to fight diseases. Through diaspora and ecclesia, the real work of God is done.
However, nowadays the diaspora is undernourished and cannot function in the world. In this situation, as Michael Frost says in The Shaping of Things to Come, “God becomes mute to the vast majority of people” who cannot interpret the church culture. What then is the cause of this situation? Christians tend to assume that if members are sufficiently nurtured in the church they will reach out to others in the world. And yet, nurture takes place by liberating Christians to do ministry in the world; it comes as a by-product of being involved in ministry for the world. When Christians realize the principle, they can put emphasis on diaspora as well as ecclesia. Based on a balanced emphasis, Christian working people can find the right balance of working lives and church lives.
Until now, we have considered the matter of the churchaholism. Of course, I am not suggesting that it is meaningless for Christians to do ministry in the church. However, when Christians’ focus for ministry is only the church as gathered, they will lose the benefit of Christian working people infiltrating the workplace. If non-Christians will not come to us, Christians have to go to them. The real ministry of God is done by the church members in the world.
The majority of larger churches tend to hire competent leaders to run programs that attract members. These churches have a buffet of programs. In this situation, some congregations are forced to become churchaholics. The term churchaholics means Christians who spend a lot of time and energy on things to do with church. Most churchaholics are apt to serve beyond their capacity, and, thus, they have a difficulty maintaining a balance between their working lives and church lives.
We can imagine how conflicted Christians feel in this dilemma. Even as many church activities fill their nights and weekends, churchaholics still feel guilty for missing the other activities in the church. At the same time, within the workplace, they have little remaining energy to have quality relationships with workfellows, and they lose opportunities to lead colleagues to Jesus.
The concept of the churchaholic evokes the two women: Mary and Martha. Martha was distracted by preparation. Notice that what Martha was doing was not evil, as church activities are not evil. Rather, what Martha was doing was good. Nevertheless, Jesus says that what Mary had chosen was better. Although what people are doing may be good, the good could be bad when there is something better. So then, what is the problem of Martha?
Like Martha, there is something within churchaholics that loves activity. It can be defined as desire for achievement. This desire gradually begins to take an addictive turn. At this time, churchaholics believe that what they achieve is who they are and that it determines their value. That is the illusion of achievement. They begin to believe in ‘what they have done’ instead of ‘God’. In turn, achievements provide for them a false presence of God. In this way, achievements can be a powerful idol.
Especially, ministry can be a haven for the workaholic. In most jobs overwork feels sinful, but when serving in ministry overwork can feel deceptively holy. In this sense ministry can attract workaholics, those who find their worth in their work and cannot escape it. Ministry can give them a reason to wrongly justify their addiction. Given this fact, in order to overcome churchaholism Christians should find their worth in the quality of who they are, not in what they are doing in the church.
The next step to overcome churchaholism is to correct a false doctrine about ministry. When people speak of ministry they usually refer to doing church activities. However, the biblical answer to the question, “What is ministry?” is much more inclusive. According to Darrell Johnson, “Ministry is not something we do for God
AGING MATTERS...EVEN TO MUTANTS
by Gustavo Santos
Charles’ efforts to make the old wolverine careusing phrases like, “This is what life looks like, people who love each other, a home. Feel it… You still have time,” nothing else flows from his heart, except what is written in the superheroes’ code book. There is no radical transformation and no sudden fatherhood feelings blooming from his hairy chest. The assistance the girl receives is of the same kind given to any other battle’s comrade. No excuses, no apologies (very weird for a Canadian citizen).
But this is the grand finale that would make any Gordon Smith’s disciple proud. Logan’s final breath is offered as a sacrifice to bless the younger generation of cute mutants. When he notices that the bad guys are separating the kids from the dream of a happy life in—surprise, surprise—Canada, Logan decides to intervene. His body is not healing as fast as it should and the final battle leaves too many serious wounds. Laying down in the forest, his eyes are fixed at some point in the sky. Panting, he says his final words, “It’s like… it’s like…” as he was trying to describe something he was seeing. And then he dies. So it seems that what is true for the vocational life of those in their 60’s can also be true for those in their 150’s. Maybe it is more important to leave blessed people than to leave a legacy.
I am almost embarrassed to confess the shallowness of my reflections. Most of my friends are talking about things that pass way over my head. But this is my takeaway after Logan, and this is what is there for me: for the first time I was able to articulate that I always wanted to be old. Not that I am looking forward to losing sharpness or physical independence, but I realized that I have a stronger desire for the things we gain when we grow older than for the things we gain when we are young. I guess I prefer wisdom to efficiency. And the old mutant has helped me to see that.
In my culture, there are few things that feel more subversive to a student than going to the movies on a Friday afternoon. The thrill of dropping your bag full of books and leaving all your school preoccupations behind you to do something that is not expected on a work day is priceless. Now, it is true that this description would more likely fit a teenager in high school, but I think it could still be true for students of theology. Anyway, last Friday my partner-in-crime wife and I went to watch the first day of James Mangold’s Logan. Here are some reflections.
The year is 2029, and Logan is living with Caliban and Professor X, close to the Mexican border, working as a limousine driver to pay the bills. Besides the complete ordinariness of his life, what instantly caught my attention was his relationship with Professor X. Both are old, losing the sharpness of their powers, and they spend their days taking care of each other. Everybody else from the team is apparently gone and they only have one another. All the money Logan makes presumably goes to pay the limo’s lease, food, and to bribe a guy in the local hospital who provides medicine to Charles. The pills keep him “controlled” and away from seizures that, seriously, can kill a lot of people if out of control. Logan guards Charles’ frailty and Charles plays the role of Logan’s conscience, reminding what is important in life. No superpowers here.
At some point in their ordinary life, a child appears. The girl is, technically (let the reader understand), Logan’s daughter. And here is another golden star: the film does not lie about human—or should I say in this case, mutant—condition. Logan’s soul has been forged in pain and confusion. There has not been much room for love or sweet affections in his life. Thus, regardless of
A MARK HEARD HAGIOGRAPHY
by Alex Strohschein
In an era where society idealistically promises one can always achieve their dreams and in which the local Christian radio station pledges to be “always uplifting, always encouraging,” Heard wrote with stark honesty about his own letdowns, brooding with his vivid imagery, “Baby, I told myself / I'd follow my deepest dreams / Knowing if I did my best / Success would always follow me / It was another good lie / Coming down like a freezing rain / From a hot blue sky / Another good lie / Coming in like a crosstown hurricane on fire.”
In an earlier article I lamented the lack of creative Christian reflection on the modern city. Heard answered this call, referring to the “steel stalagmites” of skyscrapers that tower over the “surplus souls budging in droves / trance-dancing to the murmur of the city,” oblivious to the supernatural but still serving “Icons with eyes that can't see, ears that don't hear / And nerves that never wince with the pain we're feeling.”
Heard’s lyrics are memorable, sometimes serving as profound or clever aphorisms and observations. He sings “Imagine your supply of love depends on your demand / Funny how the look of love depends on where you stand” and “One of us is palms and tropics / Want to make the winter warm / While the other one’s poems and topics / Wants to thaw the chilly hearts.”
One of the most fascinating artifacts from Heard’s legacy is “Life in the Industry: A Musician’s Diary,” originally published in Image. It features Heard’s sardonic commentary on the state of contemporary Christian music. Heard amusingly reveals a 1990 incident where he was to produce a song to break an artist into the Christian music industry. Knowing that popular Christian songs were sappy and sentimental, he instructed the artist and accompanying musicians to “play stupider” and the strategy paid off as it became a Christian hit (Randy Stonehill’s song “Faithful").
Phil Madeira is currently working on a forthcoming tribute album to be released in June 2017 which will feature stellar acts like Buddy Miller, Lily & Madeleine, Rodney Crowell, and Over the Rhine performing Mark’s songs. Heard’s last three albums have been the soundtrack to my life during my post-secondary years; I cannot recommend them enough.
In the pages of this prestigious publication I previously asked why we don’t listen to old contemporary Christian music. Now I want to bring forth a songwriter who belongs to that earlier era of CCM who has largely been forgotten by younger generations (in a completely unofficial poll in the Mark Heard Facebook group, 56% of 223 respondents identified as 50+ while only four were 30 or younger). On July 4, 1992, Heard suffered a heart attack while on stage at the Cornerstone Music Festival. He finished his set before going to the hospital. He died of a subsequent heart attack six weeks later at the age of 40.
Heard released a string of CCM albums in the 1970s and 1980s, but it’s his final three albums that stand out: Dry Bones Dance, Second Hand and Satellite Sky are lively folk-rock gems suffused with Heard’s poetic lyrics. A writer at Paste Magazine has written that the release of these three albums “heralded the arrival of an artist at his peak—a challenger for the title of poet laureate of American music—joining the pantheon that includes Dylan, Cohen, Guthrie and Townes Van Zandt. Arguably, no artist has crafted three consecutive albums with both the lyrical radiance and the musical vibrancy to rival Dry Bones Dance, Second Hand, and Satellite Sky.”
A tireless producer, Heard was admired by his peers. Upon his death a two-disc compilation of covers was released, featuring the likes of Bill Mallonee & the Vigilantes of Love, and Regent College’s own Carolyn Arends. Canadian folk legend Bruce Cockburn, who wrote “Closer to the Light” in tribute to Heard and Pierce Pettis (who performed at Regent two summers ago), always opens his albums and concerts with a Mark Heard cover.
In a 2014 episode of the Christian Humanist Podcast, the panel discussed Heard’s work. They rightly reflected on Heard’s sincerity. Naturally one cannot experience Heard’s music without listening to it, but there is a sheer earnestness in his voice as he cries out “I've seen through the walls of this kingdom of dust / Felt the crucial revelation / But the broad streets of the heart and the day-to-day meet / At a blind intersection / I don't want to be lonely, I don't want to feel pain / I don't want to draw straws with the sons of Cain / You can take it as a prayer if you'll remember my name / You can take it as the penance of a profane saint.”
TENDERNESS VS. HONESTY
by Erik Delange
honesty it is tenderness that ought to be operating at the deepest level in a loving relationship.
Many advocates of authenticity do so in reaction to what they see as wanton hypocrisy in the church and elsewhere. Holden Caulfield called these types of people “phonies,” Jesus called them “whitewashed tombs.” In 2 Timothy, Paul describes this sentiment further, saying there are those who are “holding to the outward form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid them!” (NRSV).
Yet in embracing honesty and authenticity one cannot ignore the Christian call to kindness. Indeed, kindness is one of the fruits of the Spirit, whereas honesty or authenticity would perhaps be relegated to a subcategory of “goodness.” Furthermore, Paul in Philippians writes “let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near” (NIV).
And so how does one resolve this long-standing tension between authenticity and kindness which dates all the way back not only to 1970s easy rock but to 30AD? Why by looking at the person of Jesus Christ of course. In Matthew 23, we see a picture of man completely unafraid to call out hypocrites and declare boldly his positions on things and yet in that same passage we are given the picture of a man who is eminently kind and gentle, even maternal, declaring how he longs to gather his rebellious people to himself like a hen gathers her chickens (Matt 23:37).
It appears that what Billy Joel and Paul Simon were both looking for was not merely more tenderness or more honesty, but Christianity, which holds both extremes in perfect tension.
The other day I was having a conversation with a friend about whether Kindness or Authenticity was more important in the Christian life. I was on the side of authenticity and she seemed to think kindness was far too underrated. The conversation reminded me of a longstanding and little-known debate between Paul Simon and Billy Joel.
Many of us know the song “Honesty” by Billy Joel from his 1978 album 52nd Street, in which he declares that tenderness “isn’t hard to find” but “if you search for truthfulness, you might just as well be blind.” “Honesty,” sings Joel, “is such a lonely word/Everyone is so untrue.” He sings further, “Honesty is hardly ever heard/but mostly what I need from you.” And so for Billy Joel, it’s Honesty over and against Tenderness which deserves our attention and appreciation.
Few people know that 5 years earlier on that very same record label (Capitol Records) Paul Simon released a song called “Tenderness.” On his 1973 album, There Goes Rhymin’ Simon, he argues the very opposite to Joel. Given that they are on the same record label and addressing the same dichotomy (tenderness vs honesty) with the same terminology leads me to believe that the better known “Honesty” could actually be a direct response to Paul Simon’s “Tenderness.”
In “Tenderness,” Simon writes “Honesty is such a waste of energy,” and further, “You don’t have to lie to me/Just give me some tenderness beneath your honesty,” hereby completely disagreeing with Joel. For Simon, “right and wrong never helped us get along,” so instead of
POEM OF THE WEEK:
by Tom Douce
Someday Woman, can you love the unknown?
Someday, woman, I’ll love your patella bone.
Hopefully both, but I might be modest
until your knees are my own.
Someday Woman, for what do you pray?
Was that too crudely religious to say?
My diffidence, woman, someday I may shed.
I’m praying for you every day.
Someday Woman, do you think about hope?
Do you sculpt out of beans representing the Pope?
If not, I’ll admire your other facets.
Still I pray Christ’s pattern shapes how you cope.
Someday Woman, have I dated all wrong?
Do you wish I weren’t cautious and taking so long?
My wit fails to wake and these hearts don’t quite dance.
Someday, woman, to you I’ll belong.
Someday Woman, what if it won’t transpire?
And we hope a false hope till we fully expire?
Maybe I’m your delusion just writing a poem!
May the God of true hope shape the ways we desire.
Someday Woman, suppose love leaks force?
And one, disillusioned, considers divorce?
Let’s look to our Rhymer, our Power, our Peace.
He means to transform us to love like our Source.
Someday Woman, do you even have kneecaps?
If not, I’ll stuff poems of love in the gaps,
that my words might protect the things that propel you,
or if you lack legs, help transcend your mishaps.