Sunday, June 30, 2019

To Disagree Is Not to Hate


Trees on our church's lawn


(I'm reposting this for someone who asked.)

If I disagree with you on some biblical, theological position (like this one), does that mean I hate you? Of course not. To label someone a "hater," or accuse them of "hate language," just because they don't agree with whatever your position is, is uncivil and irrational.

For we who are followers of Jesus, we are called to agape love. This love is so radical it even instructs us to love our enemies. People in my church, and those who follow me on this blog, know I have been praying to love even those who are my enemies. Jesus' command to love tells me it is possible to love people who hate me and come against me. Surely, then, I can love people who disagree with me.

To feel anger is not to hate. Over our forty-four years of marriage, Linda and I have had moments of anger towards each other. But this does not entail that we hate each other. What we do with our feelings of anger can lead to hatred, which is not what God wants. When we are told to "be angry, but don't sin," this means anger does not equal hatred. To still love, even when in disagreement, even when angry, is a sign of spiritual maturity and freedom.

As a follower of Jesus I am not allowed to say these words to anyone - "I hate you." 

Conversely, saying "I agree with you" is not to love. Agreeing or disagreeing has nothing to do with love or hate. Love and hate concern how we respond when in disagreement, when feeling anger.

I learned a lot about disagreeing with others in  studying philosophy. Philosophy classes are arenas of formulating arguments and evaluating them. Every formulation is subject to evaluation. Evaluation produces tension and a conflict of ideas. This is good. 

Of all the philosophy professors I had, only one was unwelcoming of disagreement and dialogue. The rest were dispassionate and, as much as anyone can be (because no one can perfectly be), objective.

Philosophical disputing was welcoming and inviting. And, there was significant questioning and disagreeing.

Lying in the background of all this are the Platonic dialogues. Here is where the art of respectful disagreement was learned. All philosophers have been shaped by these forums.

Philosophy classes taught me how to disagree without hating. I learned that disagreement is not logically equivalent to hatred. Hatred, when it happens, is a sad add-on to disagreement. It was sad that Socrates was killed by the hatred of some who failed to understand him. The way Socrates handled this has been a model of disagreeing while not hating.

My philosophy professors expected disagreement and questioning. They made the classroom a safe place. I learned that a safe place is not a place where everyone agrees about everything. A safe place is a place where people can disagree and learn and grow in wisdom.

A safe place is a place where disagreement is accompanied by love and respect. An unsafe place is a place where disagreement breeds hatred.

A safe place is a place for civil discourse. An unsafe place is a place where you don't have a voice.

A safe place is a place where people come first to understand, and only after understanding is achieved, to evaluate. An unsafe place is where people judge without understanding.

A safe place is a place where you can be angry, but sin not.

Anger is not hatred. A parent can be angry with their child, and not hate them at the same time.

Anger is the emotion you feel when one of your expectations has not been met. Hatred is rooted in anger. Hatred is not the emotion, anger is. Hatred is a sinful expression or response or reaction rooted in anger. Anger is an emotion you feel. Hatred is expressed in something you do.

To disagree is not to hate.

To feel anger is not to hate.


***

My three books are:

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God

Leading the Presence-Driven Church

Encounters with the Holy Spirit (Co-edited with Janice Trigg)

I am writing... (because I believe God has called me to write)...

Transformation: How God Changes the Human Heart

Technology and Spiritual Formation

Linda and I will then co-write our book on Relationships

Welcoming and Sometimes Disaffirming

Image result for john piippo affirm
Worship at Redeemer

(I am re-posting this for X.)

I was asked the question, "Would a Muslim be welcome in your church?"

My answer is: "Yes!"

And Buddhists and Hindus and atheists, too.

I would be thrilled if people of differing beliefs came to my church.

"If a Muslim came and asked you to affirm their belief that Jesus was merely a prophet (and not God the Son), and that Jesus did not die on a cross (the Koran says this), would you affirm this?"

My answer is: "Of course not." And, BTW, the serious, practicing Muslim would not affirm my belief that Jesus died on a cross to atone for the sins of humanity.

What does it mean to "affirm" something, or someone?" From my Christian point of view, I want to affirm what God affirms. As far as I can tell, God does not affirm the following statement: Jesus was only a prophet, and Jesus did not die on a cross.

This being the case, why would I affirm this? And why would anyone expect me to affirm it?

Over the years, as a result of my college philosophy classes, several atheists have checked out my church. When they come, do I welcome them? Yes. I am thrilled they came! Does this mean that I affirm their core belief that There is no God? Of course not. And, I don't expect that, as atheists, they affirm my core belief that There is a God.

Welcome and love people, even enemies? Yes.

Affirm every belief people have? No. To do that is neither loving nor truthful.

Is it loving to welcome but not affirm? Of course. To love someone is not equivalent to affirming every belief they bring with them. That would be disingenuous. I have had a few atheists over the years tell me they respect the fact that I can be gracious towards them while not affirming their beliefs. One atheist looked me square in the eye and said, "I respect you for not affirming my atheism. That's why I am interested in you."

The atheist Christopher Hitchens said the same, and castigated both Christians and atheists who mindlessly and hypocritically affirmed everything, no matter what. (See The Faith of Christopher Hitchens: The Restless Soul of the World's Most Notorious Atheist.)

The philosopher skeptic David Hume said the same. There's the story of Hume getting up at 5 AM to travel to hear George Whitefield preach. Asked if he believed what the preacher preached, he replied, "No, but he does!"

No one affirms everything. Probably, people disaffirm more things than they affirm.

Much depends on a person's worldview. It is within a worldview that affirming and disaffirming find their place. Everyone has a worldview. Even the view that there are no worldviews is a worldview. The question becomes: Is my worldview true? That is, is my worldview the way things really are? This is not the special province of Christians. Everyone believes their worldview represents the way things really are.

Everyone affirms and disaffirms. It is unloving to expect, even force, someone who does not share your worldview to affirm it. But we can try to understand. And then, evaluate. And then, in a civil way, disaffirm. (Unlike life at American universities today, which mostly are disaffirming and not welcoming.)

"Could an atheist teach atheism in your church as something God affirms?" Of course not, for what seem to me to be obvious reasons.

"Could a Muslim be one of your youth leaders and teach your youth that Christ did not die on a cross?" Of course not.

"Would you, John, be allowed to be a youth leader at the Islamic Center of America, and tell Young Muslims that the Koran is wrong, and God is a Trinity of Persons, in One?" Definitely not!

The idea that we ought to love everyone, even our enemies, finds its most powerful formulation in Christianity.

The idea that we should affirm every belief is unloving, and pop-culture nonsense. If love meant affirming everything people believe, we would love no one, not even ourselves, not even God.


***

Leading the Presence-Driven Church (January 2018)

With Janice Trigg - Encounters with the Holy Spirit  (June 2019) 

Addressing Same-Sex Marriage

Flowers in our back yard

(I'm re-posting and re-editing this, to keep the discussion out there among followers of Jesus.)


"We must acknowledge that when some American citizens are fearful of expressing their religious views, something new has snaked its way into the village square:
an insidious intolerance for religion 
that has no place in a country
founded on religious freedom."


For Christian theists concerned about the way the same-sex marriage discussion has gone in America, I suggest there are two issues: one legal, the other religious.


The Legal Issue
Regarding the legal matter, the issue is about the definition of “marriage.” Might we in America have a civil discourse about this? The truth or falsity of the statement We should allow for same-sex marriage rests heavily on the meaning of the term “marriage.” Some of us, myself included, feel like many of our government leaders have rushed forward to change the meaning of marriage, without discussion. 

The term "marriage equality" changes the definition of marriage, without discussion. Of course if "marriage" is defined as a union between consenting adults, irregardless of their gender, than same-sex marriages should be legally allowed. But that has not been the legally prevailing definition of marriage. If marriage is defined as between a man and a woman, anything outside those parameters is irrelevant, and no injustice is involved in disallowing gay unions to be called marriages. As Ryan T. Anderson has written, "A truth acknowledged for millennia has been overruled by five unelected judges." (Anderson, Ryan T. Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom, Kindle Location 89) Without allowing for an extended, civil discourse. Any citizen ought to feel troubled by such an act of unrestrained power.


Read the editorial in CNN by Robert George (prof. of jurisprudence at Harvard and Princeton), Sherif Gergis (Princeton and Yale), and Ryan T. Anderson – “Gay Marriage, then Group Marriage?” They write:

“Of course, if marriage were simply about recognizing bonds of affection or romance, then two men or two women could form a marriage just as a man and woman can. But so could three or more in the increasingly common phenomenon of group (“polyamorous”) partnerships. In that case, to recognize opposite-sex unions but not same-sex or polyamorous ones would be unfair — a denial of equality.” Please read this entire editorial. 

For a more complete version see their recent, essentially non-religious book What is Marriage? Man and Woman – a Defense. As you read it jump off the cultural bandwagon and think your way through it.

The Religious Issue

There is a second debate going on, this one within religions, and within Christianity. (Irreligous people, of course, will be uninterested in this.) It is over the statement: Does the biblical text disaffirm same-sex unions? I believe it does. 

Stop here. I disagree with Christians who think that, somehow, the biblical text does not disaffirm same-sex unions. I can say this without hating anyone. Disagreement does not equal hatred. Even if I was not a Christian and was asked to look as objectively as I can at what the Bible says about same-sex unions, I would conclude: it does not affirm them; indeed, it speaks against them. One can surely admit this without hating anyone. Again, to disagree is not to hate.


If someone says they are a “Christian,” then I reason as follows.
1. We are obligated to follow God’s will.
2. God’s will is given to us in the Bible.
3. The Bible forbids same-sex unions.
4. Therefore, same-sex unions are against God’s will. 


On P1 (Premise 1): Virtually all Jesus-followers affirm this to be true.


On P2 – again, Jesus-followers will have little problem with this. There may be discussion on the nature of biblical authority. That is another, and important, discussion.
Note again: Let's say you are an atheist. As an atheist you see little or no authority in the Bible. But of course. Christian theism is not your worldview. The Bible means little or nothing to you as a life-guide, just as Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion means nothing to me as a life-guide (and yes, I read it, and made about 45 posts in response to it).

But if you are and claim to be a follower of Jesus, then it follows that you place a high premium on the words of the Bible. The Bible is our metanarrative (everybody has a metanarrative, even post-modern theorists who reject metanarratives). For those few billion people in this camp, we can and should have discussions over the meaning of the biblical texts, their interpretation, and the nature of their authority. And, again, we can discuss without hating one another. (A good book on explaining the biblical text as metanarrative is N.T. Wright, The Last Word.)


Re. P3 – this is where the intra-Christian discussion lies. If you want to go straight to the heart of this discussion I can suggest nothing better than Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views, by Dan O. Via and Robert Gagnon. See, e.g., these reviews, which I copy to defend the scholarship contained therein.
“Christians challenged by questions surrounding Scripture on same-sex relations will find an invaluable chart for navigating these confusing waters.” — Joel B. Green, Dean of the School of Theology and Professor of New Testament Interpretation, Asbury Theological Seminary (endorsement inside book)
“Gagnon’s brilliant condensation of his arguments should be a significant asset for clergy and laity, while Via opens new challenges.” — Catherine Clark Kroeger, Associate Professor of Classical and Ministry Studies, Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary (endorsement inside book)
“I know of no finer presentation of all the main issues.” — Graham Stanton, Lady Margaret’s Professor of Divinity, University of Cambridge (endorsement inside book)
“I know of no other work that so clearly illumines the biblical issues at the heart of the controversy.” — Stanley Hauerwas, Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Theological Ethics, Duke Divinity School (endorsement inside book)
“Presents a vigorous, illuminating debate about the implications of scripture for contemporary attitudes toward homosexuality. I strongly recommend this book.” –James F. Childress, Hollingsworth Professor of Ethics, University of Virginia

Via is pro-gay marriage, Gagnon is against gay marriage. Both are New Testament scholars. But note this. Via agrees that one cannot interpret the biblical text as supportive of same-sex marriage. So he gives us a principle that seems of God to him as a justification for allowing same-sex marriages today.

Note: I have extensively studied and been involved in this discussion since the 1970s. Yes, I have done all the contextual studies and word-studies relevant to the context, plus read everything available by Christians who disagree with me. (BTW - just because someone disagrees with me on this does not mean, in my mind, that they are not a Christian. Disagreement with a person's theology is not equivalent to judgment of a person.) 


For Gagnon’s more complete biblical argument against textual support of same-sex marriage see his The Bible and Homosexuality: Texts and Interpretation. Of this book reviews include:

“…In its learnedness, [Gagnon’s] book will…be in the vanguard of its position and cannot be ignored….” — Martti Nissinen, University of Helsinki, and author of Homoeroticism in the Biblical World (From the Jacket Flap)
“…the fullest and best presentation of the conservative position….expressing the case same-sex intercourse sympathetically and convincingly.” — I. Howard Marshall, Professor of New Testament, Emeritus, University of Aberdeen, Scotland (Blurb Inside Book)
“…the most thorough examination of the scriptural and theological…perspectives on same-sex relations….a tour de force.” — Marion L. Soards, Professor of New Testament, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary (From Jacket Flap)
“Gagnon has offered a learned, judicious, and comprehensive examination of the biblical testimony….fair and compassionate…a major resource….” — Brevard S. Childs, Sterling Professor of Divinity (Hebrew Bible), Emeritus, Yale Divinity School (From Inside Book)
“Gagnon’s book is an extremely valuable contribution to the current debate….I recommend this book wholeheartedly.” — C. E. B. Cranfield, Professor of Theology (New Testament), Emeritus, University of Durham (From Inside Book)
“Gagnon’s incisive logic, prudent judgment, and exhaustive research should make this book a dominant voice in the contemporary debate.” — Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, O.P., Professor of New Testament, Ecole Biblique, Jerusalem (From the Back Cover)
“I believe that this volume will become a classic in the ongoing discussion of the church’s…response to homosexuality.” — Duane F. Watson, Professor of New Testament, Malone College (From Inside Book)
“I know of no comparable study of the texts and interpretive debates that surround homosexual behavior.” — Max L. Stackhouse, Stephen Colwell Professor of Christian Ethics, Princeton Theological Seminary (From the Jacket Flap)
“No Christian concerned with homosexuality can afford to ignore this book.” — John Barton, Oriel and Laing Professor of the Interpretation of Holy Scripture, University of Oxford (From the Back Cover)
“This is a brilliant, original, and highly important work,…indispensable even for those who disagree with the author.” — James Barr, Distinguished Professor of Hebrew Bible, Emeritus, Vanderbilt University

We have rushed over the cliff without a civil discussion. (Five white Ivy-league lawyers decided on the meaning of "marriage" for our nation. What if there had been a national discussion, and then a national vote?)

I think the area we should be most concerned to address is the legal issue, and not the religious issue. This is because, overwhelmingly, we don’t legislate biblical morality. For example, biblically, gossip and gluttony are sins. Engaged in, they mitigate against human flourishing. But I don't think we should legislate against them. I don’t think we should make a law against gossip, or a law against gluttony. 

Continue to address the meaning of “marriage.” 
Don’t be intellectually seduced by the bandwagon fallacy.

***

Character (Now For Something Completely Different)

Glen Arbor, Michigan

When I was a boy I remember being encouraged by my parents and teachers to watch the first presidential debate on TV. I don't remember what it was about. Probably, I was bored. Children were told this was an historic event. So, my family and I settled down in our living room and watched John F. Kennedy debate Richard Nixon.

That was September 26, 1960. Today things are different.  

We should pray for parents who have to figure out how to shield their kids from this amoral political catastrophe. We should, as Scripture tells us, pray for our government leaders, especially that they would have moral integrity and character. And, we should focus our hearts and minds on something even more important than "the issues."

Let me present you with something completely different. A different world. An alternative kingdom. Another path. It's given to us by New York Times writer David Brooks, in The Road to Character.

Character. 

Brooks begins by making a distinction between two opposing sides of human nature, He calls the two sides Adam 1 and Adam 2.

Adam 1 wants to do things that strengthen his résumé. Adam 1 strives to have high personal status and win victories.

Adam 2, on the other hand, wants to embody certain moral qualities. Adam 2 longs to have character. Adam 2 has a non-self-promoting sense of right and wrong. Adam 2 not only wants to do good, but to be good.

Adam 1 self-promotes; Adam 2 sacrifices self in the service of others.

Adam 2 lives in service to a transcendent truth that is bigger than himself.

Adam 1 wants to conquer the world; Adam 2 wants to serve the world.

Brooks writes:

"While Adam 1 is creative and savors his own accomplishments, Adam 2 sometimes renounces worldly success and status for the sake of some sacred purpose. While Adam 1 asks how things work, Adam 2 asks why things exist, and what ultimately we are here for. While Adam 1 wants to venture forth, Adam 2 wants to return to his roots and savor the warmth of a family meal. While Adam 1’s motto is “Success,” Adam 2 experiences life as a moral drama. His motto is “Charity, love, and redemption.”" (Brooks, Kindle Locations 81-85)

Adam 1 lives by a utilitarian logic; viz., the logic of economics. Effort leads to reward. Pursue self-interest. Maximize your utility. Impress the world.

Adam 2 upside-downs the logic of Adam 1. Brooks writes:

"It’s a moral logic, not an economic one. You have to give to receive. You have to surrender to something outside yourself to gain strength within yourself. You have to conquer your desire to get what you crave. Success leads to the greatest failure, which is pride. Failure leads to the greatest success, which is humility and learning. In order to fulfill yourself, you have to forget yourself. In order to find yourself, you have to lose yourself.
To nurture your Adam 1 career, it makes sense to cultivate your strengths. To nurture your Adam 2 moral core, it is necessary to confront your weaknesses." (Kindle Locations 90-95)

Our narcissistic culture applauds and feeds Adam 1, while dismissing Adam 2. The media feeds on Adam 1 types. Adam 2 types were not made for consumption.

"We live," writes Brooks, "in a society that encourages us to think about how to have a great career but leaves many of us inarticulate about how to cultivate the inner life." We live to satisfy our desires at the expense of developing a deep, moral life. "We live in a culture that teaches us to promote and advertise ourselves and to master the skills required for success, but that gives little encouragement to humility, sympathy, and honest self-confrontation, which are necessary for building character."

Since our culture judges people by their abilities, and not their worth, Adam 2 increases, while Adam 2 decreases. Thus most people live with a self-satisfied moral mediocrity.

Adam 1 lives for "résumé virtues"; Adam 2 lives for "eulogy virtues." Brooks writes:

"The résumé virtues are the ones you list on your résumé, the skills that you bring to the job market and that contribute to external success. The eulogy virtues are deeper. They’re the virtues that get talked about at your funeral, the ones that exist at the core of your being— whether you are kind, brave, honest or faithful; what kind of relationships you formed." (K63)

A eulogy-virtuous person has been freed from Facebook self-promotion. "Sometimes you don’t even notice these people, because while they seem kind and cheerful, they are also reserved. They possess the self-effacing virtues of people who are inclined to be useful but don’t need to prove anything to the world: humility, restraint, reticence, temperance, respect, and soft self-discipline." (K160-162)


Adam 1 is morally dis-integrated.


Adam 2 has character. This is important, isn't it?

(God is still working on my own spiritual character development.)

Saturday, June 29, 2019

An Infilling Today, an Outpouring Tomorrow

(Me, photographing the sunset, Ludington beach, Michigan - photo by Josh Piippo)

Linda and I return to Monroe today. We've been at the HSRM Conference in Green Lake, Wisconsin.

I wanted to write a fresh blog post this morning but I can't. God poured so much freshness into me, and into us, that I just have to simmer in it. I am infilled.

Tomorrow morning, as I speak to my church family, it will be poured out. I will be outpoured.


SUMMER SEMINARY - Study Spirit Hermeneutics With Me


Spirit Hermeneutics: Reading Scripture in Light of Pentecost by [Keener, Craig S.]

An invitation to Study Biblical Interpretation 
with me this summer.

WHEN: June-July- August 2019

CLASS: Spirit Hermeneutics

A discussion of New Testament scholar Craig Keener's Spirit Hermeneutics: Reading Scripture in Light of Pentecost.

HOW:

June - purchase and read the book.

July/August - meet with me 4-5 times to discuss. Dates and location TBA.

Long-Distance - for any interested pastors: If you are a pastor or church leader and would like to study with me this summer, please contact me. We can schedule some conference calls in late July and August to discuss.

TEACHER:

John Piippo, PhD, Northwestern University
Visiting Professor, Faith Bible Seminary, New York City
Adjunct Professor, Payne Theological Seminary, Wilberforce, Ohio

Former professor at...
Northern Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div. and D.Min. programs)
Palmer Theological Seminary (D. Min. program)
Asia Theological College (Singapore)
Ecumenical Theological Seminary (Detroit)
Monroe County Community College (Adjunct Professor of Philosophy)
Pastor, Redeemer Fellowship Church, Monroe, MI

CONTACT ME at: johnpiippo@msn.com




Friday, June 28, 2019

Revival and the Transformation of Desire


It's Friday morning in Green Lake, Wisconsin. Linda and I are getting ready to head back to Monroe.

I'm feeling grateful, and blessed, as I think of what God has done at our HSRM conference.

Last night at the conference I gave a call to revival. I talked about desire. Jesus said, If you desire me, you will keep my commands. (My translation.)

James K. A. Smith writes:

"Have you ever played in a swimming pool and tried to hold a beach ball under the surface? Its tendency—you might even say its penchant and desire—is to rise to the surface. It is “restless” when it is held under the water. It keeps trying to sneak up from under your feet or hands, bursting toward the surface. It wants to be floating." (Smith, You Are What You Love) 

Desire cannot be contained. As the deer pants for the water...


You Are What You Desire. Matthew 6:21 says,

For where your treasure is, 
there will be your heart also.

Look at what a person treasures and desires, and you will find their heart.

The place where your treasure is, 
is the place you will most want to be, 
and end up being. (Message)

Your heart will always pursue 
what you value as your treasure. (Passion)

You can't force desire. A person either has it, or they don't. When it is there, you don't need will power. Desire eats will power for breakfast. Desire desires. In this it is unstoppable.

A. W. Tozer writes, "The difference between coldness of heart and warmth of heart is the difference between being in love and not being in love." (Tozer, A. W.. Rut, Rot, or Revival, p. 156)

In real revivals God brings a person's desires into alignment with His desires. I have seen this. I have become this.

J. Edwon Orr writes:  "Spiritual awakenings are exceedingly infectious, and proximity in time and place adds to the stimulation of desire for similar blessing." (Orr, J. Edwin. The Second Evangelical Awakening

The Ireland Revival of 1859 “created a thirsting desire for the Word of God, and it is their continual and increasing study to learn to read it for themselves. The spirit of inquiry is so great, that we have been induced to open the school two evenings during the week, for the purpose of communicating instruction.” (Ib.)

Martyn Lloyd-Jones said: “The inevitable and constant preliminary to revival has always been a thirst for God, a thirst, a living thirst for a knowledge of the living God, and a longing and a burning desire to see him acting, manifesting himself and his power, rising, and scattering his enemies.” (In Collin Hansen, A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories that Stretch and Stir)

Leonard Ravenhill writes that Charles Wesley seemed to be reaching on tiptoes when he said, ‘‘Nothing on earth do I desire, but Thy pure love within my heart!’’ (Ravenhill, Why Revival Tarries, p. 127)

In true revivals the Holy Spirit changes human hearts. The Spirit changes what the heart desires. In revival people desire righteousness more than unrighteousness, purity more than impurity, Jesus more than the stuff of this world.

This week at our conference I saw revivalism. The production of a desire that will not be stopped.

I see it happening in my people. On Sunday I'll share, and desire for holiness will be ignited. Why not, right? And why not in you? Why not you, as a revivalist who carries the flame of true desire to your churches and your families?

Many churches will be ignited this Sunday. Revival fires are burning. If you want to partner with me and others in my Revival Network contact me at johnpiippo@msn.com. No cost. Just joining together as living sacrifices.


Thursday, June 27, 2019

ENCOUNTERS WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT now on Kindle!


Encounters with the Holy Spirit by [Piippo, John]

Encounters with the Holy Spirit  (co-edited with Janice Trigg) is now available on Kindle - $3.99.

This book is a collection of essays on the Holy Spirit from Christian leaders who are active in Holy Spirit Renewal Ministries. It is the story of a conference that became a family. The chapters present a biblical and theological understanding of the Holy Spirit, with stories of experiencing and encountering the Spirit. 

Like both wings of an airplane are needed to get off the ground and soar, soaring with God’s Spirit requires good thinking about the Spirit and encounters and experiences with the Spirit. We believe you will discover both in this collection of essays. You will gain deeper understanding of the Holy Spirit’s ways.

We pray this will culminate in a life of greater experience with God. May the Holy Spirit encourage, strengthen, illuminate, and empower you as you read this book!



The Presence-Driven Church Discerns, Not Decides

Pine forest, near Bozeman, Montana

Our leadership team at Redeemer is a discerning group, rather than a deciding group. Our questions are,

God, what would you have us do?

What is God doing in our church family?

What is God saying to us?

I assume God already knows the answers to these questions. Our task is to discern what God is saying, doing, and leading us towards.

Discernment is in direct proportion to familiarity. The more intimate we are with the Lord, the more we hear his voice.

Not everyone in a church family discerns. All are not committed to their ongoing spiritual formation. As a result, such people are unskilled in discerning God's plans and purposes. Don't expect to hear from God if you are not spending much time with him.

Ruth Haley Barton writes:

"It is... important that we involve the right people. A prerequisite for community discernment is that the individuals involved are committed to the process of personal transformation. It is essential that these individuals are experienced in personal discernment as both habit and practice in their own decision-making. One very common leadership mistake is to think that we can take a group of undiscerning individuals and expect them to show up in a leadership setting and all of a sudden become discerning!" 
(Barton, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry, p. 198)


***
My three books are:


Leading the Presence-Driven Church

Encounters with the Holy Spirit (Co-edited with Janice Trigg)

I've begun working on three new books:

Transformation: How God Changes the Human Heart

Technology and Spiritual Formation

Relationships (co-writing with Linda)