Calling & A Meat Marination Stick

You’ll probably laugh about how much I thought about this story over the weekend! I read this NY Times piece on Thursday about a Christian lady who credits her invention of a meat marination stick to God. You should read it. And also watch the video of Mary describing her product. Go ahead, take a break, I’ll be here with my thoughts when you get back.

meat marination stick
Image Source: Cuisine Noir

Now if you’re like me, your first instinct when you hear someone say “God told me” is to tense up and wait for the crazy. And in fact, I likely read the entire article with a skeptical face. Sometime later in the evening, I realized I should know better by now. I’m always ranting and raving about how diverse our callings can be and about how we need to quit making secular/spiritual divides. I thought I’d already learned to appreciate how often God uses the material and the physical things of this world to shape, grow and bless us.

And I started thinking, What if God really gave her recipes? What if he really did give her a vision for this meat stick? Why not? I thought about heaven and considered the possibility that God uses material tools to create his feasts there even though I always picture it all appearing like magic. But what if God loves the process of cooking? What if he gave this lady a little gift from heaven to bless her family and church? Why not?

Maybe all that thinking is too crazy for you, but it totally reminded me again again that we tend to carry around assumptions and expectations about what makes a calling, or what work God is really trying to do, or how he wants people to serve each other. And these assumptions and expectations can blind us from seeing the work God is already doing in ours and other people’s lives. We can be so busy looking for what we think should be there, that we miss what really is. It’s another part of the reason, I really prefer to say that we recover our callings rather than discover them. Our callings are already present in our lives. Whether we can see them or not is the real question.

Have you had an experience like this?

The Definition of Hospitality

Hospitality

I married into a hospitable family. My husband’s parents has lots of stories to tell about the foreign exchanges students who lived with them growing up, the missionaries they’ve hosted, random kids they’ve taken in here and there. And it’s not just John’s parents but his entire extended family as well (the picture on the left is from a few years ago). A Crozier party isn’t a full-scale party unless there are some unexpected or even uninvited guests to be welcomed and squeezed in at the table. Hospitality is something that flows out of them and I find their example very inspiring.

Last Sunday at church we had an interesting discussion about how alike and how different Christians are from non-believers. We talked about the good and bad aspects of being similar to our culture and the good and bad aspects of being different from non-Christians. I was reminded that we have so much in common with every person we run into, and yet have such key differences in our lives (for example: hope).

I came home thinking that one of the things that highlights both our similarity and our difference from our culture is the call to hospitality. When you boil everything down, the willingness to engage with the other and seek common ground should be a defining mark of the Christian. It certainly was of Jesus. He engaged with anyone and everyone: women, children, Samaritans, Jews, Gentiles, healthy, sick, rich, poor – you name it.

In Transforming Conversion, Gordon Smith comes back to this theme of hospitality several times. I’ve blended some of his thoughts into a definition:

God calls us to welcome the other (Romans 15:7) in the radical hospitality of accepting the other, receiving the other, and not demanding that the other conform or change or be likable or agreeable before they are received. A crucial sign of this hospitality is that we listen to the other – which surely is an act of service . . . We listen to their story, to their joys and sorrows, to their longings and points of disillusionment . . . We respond to the other with a deep regard for persons – for who they are now, and for who they can and might become.

My in-laws welcome all kinds of people into their home without fear. If we as Christians can offer this kind of hospitality to those around us, it will allow us to highlight common ground among diverse people but it will also differentiate us by our listening and our love.

Being welcoming and really listening doesn’t have to mean large parties. You don’t have to have a perfect home and a perfect meal. It can be as simple as a conversation at the mall or work. It can mean finally meeting a neighbor you’ve never spoken to. Don’t let the idea of “hospitality” keep you from practicing it!

Thinking about Conversion

Thinking about ConversionI’ve been a Christian my whole life so “conversion” isn’t really something I know a lot about firsthand. I meant to start a series on Transforming Conversion by Gordon Smith last month but I’m actually happy I’m diving in now. Writing up my series on going Paleo showed me a bunch of parallels because it’s a process of conversion to a new way of eating. Going Paleo has actually helped me understand better what it takes for people to even contemplate beginning a journey into faith in Christ.

In Smith’s book, he talks about how unhelpful it is to talk about conversion experiences like it they are one-time events where someone prays the sinner’s prayer. In evangelical circles we’re taught evangelism “techniques” where just getting someone to pray the prayer is the goal (not always but I’d say it’s a widely held assumption that the most successful witnessing will end in a “repeat after me” prayer). The point is we don’t focus on the process. And it is a process. Usually a LONG process. Smith notes that a British study in the 1990s concluded that the average conversion process was four years long!

I heard about Paleo more than three years before I really started contemplating it seriously. The first time it was explained to me, I thought, “No way!” because it sounded so restrictive and so foreign to the way I was eating at that time. The person who explained it to me didn’t pressure me to start eating that way right now. He just told me what he was doing. It was an introduction to an alternate way of living but there were no strings attached. I could walk away from the idea (and I did for awhile), but at least I was now aware of it when it cropped up again in other times and places.

Smith quotes J.I. Packer that conversion:

“is best understood if viewed as a complex process that for adults ordinarily involves the following: thinking and re-thinking; doubting and overcoming doubts; soul-searching and self-admonition; struggle against feelings of guilt and shame; and concern as to what realistic following of Christ might mean.”

The most interesting phrase for me is “what realistic following of Christ might mean.” Smith rejects “The revivalist propensity toward making it easy and simple, uncomplicated and not costly” to convert to Christianity and calls us, “to turn from the inclination to be minimalists when it comes to what a person needs to know in order to come to faith.” It is complicated and it does cost us something so it’s important to have a firm understanding of what you’re getting yourself into.

Using the Paleo example: changing our eating habits was neither easy, simple or cheap. It required a lot of research, extra time for meal planning and shopping, extra time prepping meals and complicated our relationship while we figured things out. And as soon as you start something like this, you get push back from those around you who are not doing what you’re doing. Seriously, I’m starting to see how hard it is to “convert” to something that most people don’t believe in.

This reminds me why friends who walk with you on your journey are so vital. I’ve found a few Paleo friends. This has been helpful in being able to swap notes/recipes and feel normal as we start walking against the cultural stream. You need friend with the same beliefs because other people will feel threatened by your change. You’ll get “conventional wisdom” thrown at you repeatedly with “the facts” which based on your new research and experience, you’re finding out aren’t really “the facts” at all.

Having a few friends who can encourage you is essential so that you don’t feel isolated or start doubting what you have learned. It’s easy to think you might be wrong when it feels like “how could so many other people not know this?” or more scarily “how could so many doctors not see this?”

However, I find in myself a great reluctance to start delving into the details of everything that’s wrong with gluten or high fructose corn syrup or vegetable oils. I recognize that no one is really asking to listen to a detailed lecture and giving one isn’t going to change their minds. Plus, I don’t want to turn into a zealot. The most I hope to do is intrigue people to explore the idea for themselves. Which makes me wonder if that kind of attitude has any crossover value into the world of “witnessing and evangelizing.”

Even though we’ve been eating 80% Paleo for a long time, I would shrink from saying “I’m Paleo” as a status yet. Maybe I will feel comfortable with that in the future but for now I feel like there are still too many non-Paleo items in our diet for us to be “legit.” This makes me wonder if there are many people who are seeking Christ, yet fear to claim the title of “Christian” because their life still doesn’t quite line up with what they have heard is expected of them. We’re often so concerned about “Are you or aren’t you a Christian?” and I’m wondering if this is really the right question to be asking. This is where the parallel breaks down, of course, because while a full commitment to Paleo is not required of me from some higher authority, eventually you have to come to terms with the fact that Christ wants you to love him with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind and if you love him you will obey his commands. Jesus does ask for all of you.

However, I think the point about status is something that we in the church should consider. Smith writes:

“The language of revivalism has left us with a vacuum here because of its focus on conversion as punctiliar: a person either is or is not a Christian, in or out. We do not know how to speak meaningfully about those who are coming to faith.”

“We need to be able to speak with simplicity and frankness about how a person can come to faith in Christ, but we also need to be able to live with the complexity of it all, with the ambiguity of religious experience, with the fact that many are ‘on the way’ and that their coming to faith may take months or even years. The church needs to be a place where this transitional status is okay, a safe place for those who have no previous Christian identity or orientation as well as for those who have been raised in the church and who are, through the grace of God, coming to an adult affirmation of their faith.”

How can we welcome people to explore first without requiring, expecting or assuming an upfront commitment? If we learn best by doing, can we encourage participation by everyone regardless of their “in” or “out” status? What kind of implications does this have for us?

 

What is the Birkman Method?

Maybe you popped over to the website when I first mentioned I was becoming a Certified Birkman Consultant but maybe you didn’t. I wanted to just give you a brief overview of the Birkman Method today because it will probably take me awhile to get my website updated to include all the services I am so excited to offer.

Birkman MethodWhat is the Birkman Method?

The Birkman Method is a behavioral assessment (not a personality test) that simply shows you what you do. What makes it unique is that this assessment shows you:

  • Your usual behavior (your positive style/your visible strengths)
  • Your motivational needs (which can be quite different than your usual style and may be invisible to others) and
  • Your likely stress behaviors when your needs remain unmet

Personality tests and other assessments tend to stop at the first one: they describe you and that’s it. Maybe they describe a few of your potentially negative stress behaviors as well but they’re missing a key piece of the puzzle: what your actual needs are.

This kind of information is extremely valuable for your own self-awareness, for your personal relationships and for finding your ideal work environment. The Birkman Method can give you neutral language to discuss areas of conflict and differences of style with your spouse, child, manager, colleagues or teammates. Without judgment, the reports give you information about how to get the help you need to operate mostly out of your strengths (usual behavior) and minimize and manage your stress behaviors.

I often find it just as helpful to understand what an assessment does not promise to do.

The Birkman Method WILL NOT:

  • Tell you WHY you behave the way you do
  • Make a clinical diagnosis
  • Measure emotional maturity or mental health

This tool has been around for 60+ years and was developed by a former WWII Bomber pilot named Roger Birkman. He’s 94 years old and apparently was still coming into the office until just a few months ago! The assessment has an 94-96% accuracy level for validity and reliability of the results and the company has ongoing longevity studies that show your results are unlikely to change much over time (barring highly traumatic experiences). That means you really only need to take it once. I took it for the first time at 17 or 18 years old (about the youngest recommended age for taking it) and I still find my results are a very accurate reflection of what I do.

What do I want to do with it?

As you might guess, I love the Birkman Method for its insight into motivational needs, occupational interests and the level of self-awareness it can bring to your relationships and work. I am picturing using this method and the wide variety of reports it delivers with:

  • College students wondering what to do with their lives
  • Engaged or married couples who would like some extra tools for building a great relationship
  • Teams that need or want a boost reaching their potential in working together
  • Managers and employees who want or need to improve communication and working relationships
  • Anyone working through career frustration and transition

I see this tool as providing a safe space for helping people address behavioral differences neutrally and also break down some of the generational, cultural and gender stereotypes we often run up against. In an interview with Dr. Birkman, he summarized his desire for the Birkman Method as a way for people to learn to accept and love themselves, see God’s love and purpose in how he made them, and then celebrate the diversity and potential in everybody else they meet (you can watch that interview on youtube – warning: it made me tear up in a couple spots).

How do you take it?

Contact me! Right now, you can just shoot me an email if you’re interested in taking this (or use the contact button above). We can discuss cost (I’m still figuring out all the pricing options!) and then it’s as easy as sending you a link to a questionnaire and scheduling a feedback session (in person, over the phone or on skype) to review and discuss your reports. The questionnaire takes about 45 minutes if I remember correctly and provides you with a hefty report (seriously, people we’re talking 50+ pages of different report options).

Soon, I will hopefully have a link to the questionnaire right on the website and have an info page with the different options available.

UPDATE 6/11/15: If you’re ready to get your Birkman report, here are your choices!

  • Sale On!
  • Sale On!
  • Sale On!

 

 

But . . . I need more nuance!!

I was having a Facebook discussion with a good friend this past weekend and I mentioned that sometimes I feel like I’m always the one saying “But . . . ” when I hear black-and-white statements. Anyone else ever have this problem? I immediately think of scenarios when Statement X wouldn’t apply or think about all the times when life just doesn’t play out that simply. It seems we’re naturally attracted to the binary. It’s beautiful, it’s clear and it gets rid of all those pesky nuances and ambiguities in real life.

My desire for more nuance happens most often in church. So often messages get simplified right when I want to see them spun out and examined from all angles. I know it’s often not practical or possible within the constraints of a short three point sermon. Wishing we could explore all the tangents and details that possibly relate is probably one of the consequences of being a non-linear thinker. And a Third Culture Kid. And a twin. I grew up in a world where there was always another side (or 3 or 5) to every issue, differing views that I had to acknowledge more often than I wanted to.

In our Sunday school class at church, we’re going through Ecclesiastes. It’s a fascinating book that has a lot to say about work and meaning in life. Our pastor’s doing a great job with it, so don’t take this as criticism. It’s just that Ecclesiastes is such a great example of the balance we never attain. You can take a blanket statement from one passage and find an exact opposite one in another passage. In one breath, the writer says all work is meaningless and in the next he says there is nothing better than for a man to find enjoyment in his work.

And that’s exactly where this gets so tricky. When we get to the application part, there often isn’t just one application for everyone. One half of the class might need to be told contentment is an attitude to be cultivated rather than thinking just getting a new job will solve your problems. But the other half might need to hear that their contentment is really complacency; an excuse that is keeping them from the action they should take. Maybe they’re supposed to be out there looking for new opportunities.

Speaking to the tension seems next to impossible. Speakers have to decide what to emphasize, based on what they think the audience needs. Their perception of the needs will come from their personal experience, background and personality. This is totally natural. It just means I’m often the one sitting in the audience saying, “But what about the other position?” Occasionally, speakers do acknowledge that “on the other hand, some of you might . . .” but it’s difficult to truly address all the nuances when you’re speaking to a large group of unique individuals. You don’t want to confuse people with conflicting messages right?

I think this is why small group settings and individual mentoring are so important. In a smaller group, we can take principles and discuss them in the context of particulars. We can discuss angles and perspectives in the midst of our real daily situations and wrestle with the fact that we’re all at different places facing different spiritual challenges.

While small group settings can do some good in balancing between extremes, I feel like it’s something we could spend more time acknowledging in the large group settings as well. So much of faith is about learning to hold two extremes in balance. The Lion and the Lamb. Grace and Truth. Mercy and Justice. Love and Judgment. Comfort and Call. Head and Heart. Being created “very good” in the image of God and being sinful with “hearts that are deceitful above all things.”

We all fluctuate, at one time needing one message, at another time the exact opposite. Sorting out which one we need to hear can be difficult – it’s so easy to only hear what we want to hear. That’s why we so desperately need a discerning community, one that can declare truth and then also explore all the nuances. One that can course-correct when we tip the scales too far in only one direction. Ecclesiastes 7:18 even says, “It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes.” Sometimes it feels like an agonizing tight-rope walk that we’ll never get right.

Do you relate? Have a story to share? What are your thoughts on this?

A Year of Biblical Womanhood Review Wrap-Up

ReviewI’m going to wrap up my review of Rachel Held Evan’s book A Year of Biblical Womanhood with some of the quotes that made me think. Quite a few of these quotes open up whole cans of worms that I may explore in future blog posts but I can’t get all my thoughts straight just yet.

Violence:

Evans doesn’t shy away from dealing with some of the more difficult stories and passages dealing with women in Bible. At one point in the book, she and a friend hold a simple ceremony to commemorate some of the women victims of violence we read about in the Bible (the concubine for Judges 19, Hagar, Tamar in David’s household etc). She writes,

“Kristine and I talked for a while after the ceremony was over – about our doubts, about our fears, and about how sometimes taking the Bible seriously means confronting the parts we don’t like or understand and sitting with them for a while . . . perhaps even a lifetime.”

These are ugly, horrific stories and I appreciated Evans pointing out that they’re allowed to be just that. Sometimes I think we gloss over these narratives because we’re so uncomfortable with them being there, as if we need our Bibles sanitized and white-washed. Our discomfort should prompt us to wrestle with these stories rather than ignore them – even if we never do feel like we understand them.

Help-meet:

Ahava, Evan’s Jewish friend explains the word “help-meet” to her as the Jews define it:

“For the record, in Bereshit (Genesis by you) where it talks about the ‘helpmeet,’ the Hebrew is not just Ezer, but Ezer k’gnedo, which means ‘the help that opposes.’ The Rabbis explain this term like two posts of equal weight leaned against one another. They stand because of equal force.”

Modesty:

Evans looks at the various passages that warn women about dressing modestly and notes that, “it seems that most of the Bible’s instructions regarding modesty find their context in warnings about materialism, not sexuality.”

Overall, I really enjoyed the book. The project may seem gimmicky and silly, but she learns valuable lessons about herself, about womanhood, about God and the Bible. She was respectful of all the people she interviewed and I appreciated her take on the New Testament passages that deal with submission and silence – subjects that seem to be so touchy in the North American Evangelical world – as you can tell if you start reading more reviews of this book!

If you’ve read it as well – what were some of the quotes that made you pause and think?

A Year of Biblical Womanhood: The Proverbs 31 Woman

A Year of Biblical WomanhoodI finally got to read A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans a couple weeks and am just now going back through to take some notes and share some thoughts.

First off, I really enjoyed it. The first read-through was fast and just as funny as I had heard. I laughed out loud multiple times, read funny bits to John and went “hmm” a couple times.  And after I finished, I wondered what some of those angry reviewers were ranting about (there was a lot of hyperventilating when it first came out). Maybe I’ve been reading so much on these topics (gender roles, egalitarian vs. complementarian etc) that none of it seemed that new or shocking. So I’m not going to wade into the mess of debate around those topics and instead just share some of the parts I liked best.

One of Evan’s main points in starting this project was that we are all selective about the Bible in some ways and we need to be aware of that, especially when we say something is “Biblical” or not. Whether we try to or not, we easily dismiss certain things as “cultural” while embracing other things as timeless commands. I have relatives who take the command about women covering their heads seriously (1 Corinthians 11:6) and yet my family does not, even though this command is in a passage often referenced in my circles when discussing gender roles in marriage (1 Cor 11:3). Evans wants us to think this through more carefully, because using the word “biblical” in front of “womanhood” can mean some pretty different things depending on who you’re talking to. It isn’t as cut-and-dried as we tend to assume it is in our own small little communities.

In a funny way, her checklists for what rules she tries to put into practice each month prove this point. Many reviewers quibbled with what parts of the Bible she decided to take literally and which she didn’t, showing just how easy it is for us to interpret things differently. These different attempts to live out various passages highlight the fact that many of us take descriptive passages as prescriptive and vice versa.

One of the prime examples of this was how many Christians turn the poem about the “Wife of Noble Character” in Proverbs 31 into a template for what Christian women should live up to. Evans describes her college experience with guys looking for a “Proverbs31 woman” and girls taking Bible studies on being a “Proverbs 31 wife.” I hadn’t run into this until recently when we dedicated Canon and our pastor prayed for John to be a good leader and for me to be like the Proverbs 31 wife. Then a friend posted about her fears of having a girl because she’s never felt she lived up to the Proverbs 31 description. Reading the poem as a standard to live up does make it feel like quite the heavy burden!

As it turns out, the Proverbs 31 poem was never meant to be a “to do” list. One of the most interesting parts of the book for me, was Evan’s interactions with an Orthodox Jewish woman named Ahava, who shared that,

“Every week at the Shabbat table, my husband sings the Proverbs 31 poem to me. It’s special because I know that no matter what I do or don’t do, he praises me for blessing the family with my energy and creativity. All women can do that in their own way.”

The only instruction found in the poem is directed at men. They are to honor their wives for what they do. And that’s exactly what this poem is used for in Jewish culture: as a celebration of valorous women. I felt like the whole book was worth reading just for the exploration of this passage.

Stay tuned – I have a couple more posts about this book! If you’ve read it, I’d love to hear about your favourite part.

You Lost Me. Live! for Parents: Highlights

Millennials, ChurchI’m taking a quick break from our “What’s Wrong with Work Today” series to highlight an event I got to go to last night. David Kinnaman, President of the Barna Group spoke at a You Lost Me. Live! event at Kings High School. It was geared towards parents of Millennials and they did an excellent job. I read the book almost a year ago and thought Kinnaman was spot on in his analysis of the reasons Millennials are leaving the church.

He explains that young people don’t leave church for the same reasons, and that leaving church does not necessarily mean leaving their faith. He breaks these different groups into three categories: Nomads, Prodigals and Exiles. In the latter half of the book, he looks at the top six reasons Millennials give as to why they leave the church and what we as the church can do to break down these barriers. If you have not read this book and you’re a pastor, parent or a Millennial yourself – please read it!

Here are a few quotes that I took away last night:

“We don’t have to like the trends, but we have to deal with them” – I loved this. Sometimes, I think all we want to do is complain about what’s happening rather than accepting the facts and moving on to a discussion of how we can engage and address the issues in our culture today.

“Typical churches reach married couples with children much better than single professionals” – Millennials are waiting much much longer than the last few generations to get married and have kids. Most churches are primarily set up to reach families. Programs, sermons, events are often family-oriented and it’s assumed that everyone is on the path to marriage and children. Many Millennials aren’t on that road yet and we lose them because of this.

“Millennials want to be part of coming to the conclusion themselves” – We don’t want parents or leaders to “solve” things for us or just hand down answers. Kinnaman writes in his book:

They are used to “having a say” in everything related to their lives. As we noted earlier, communication, fueled by technology, is moving from passive to interactive. Yet the structure of young adult development in most churches and parishes is classroom-style instruction. It is passive, one-sided communication – or at least that’s the perception most young people have of their religious education. They find little appetite within their faith communities for dialogue and interaction.

Our posture towards students and young adults should be more Socratic, more process-oriented, more willing to live with their questions and seek answers together. We need guides who know how to strike a better balance between talking and listening.

Hear this from a Millennial: YES PLEASE!

“We know from the research that they’re stunningly like the faith of their parents” – Confirmed in several other books I’ve read. If Millennials aren’t “on fire” for Jesus, a good possibility is that they haven’t seen parents or other adult role models “on fire” either. In Almost Christian, Kenda Creasy Dean,

“Since the religious and spiritual choices of American teenagers echo, with astonishing clarity, the religious and spiritual choices of the adults who love them, lackadaisical faith is not young people’s issues, but ours.”

“Parents, part of your job in the church is to befriend other parents’ kids! You need to be the other adult in their lives” – Having at least one other adult at church who takes an interest in them is a major factor in kids keeping their faith. I can testify to the value of other adults in the community taking in an interest in our lives. I was incredibly blessed to grow up in a community where many other Christian adults regularly interacted with my siblings and me. Even today, a major reason that I value my church experience is because older adults in their 30s, 40s and 50s have taken the time to befriend and mentor me!

Kinnaman noted that Exiles tend to become Nomads and Prodigals because we in the church are not paying attention to their initial questions. By the time, we pay attention it’s often too late to engage well. We have to get better at listening to questions without fear, without condemnation and without jumping down people’s throats with the “right” answer on the first opportunity.

At the end of the evening, Kinnaman shared from Daniel. He explained that Babylon is a great example of what Christian Millennials are facing in this generation. Daniel was removed from his home culture to a foreign world, had to learn the language and literature of ultra-pagan Babylon, was renamed with a Babylonian deity’s name, was groomed for leadership in a secular government. We could imagine his parents also probably feared for his faith as he became immersed in this godless society. Kinnaman reminded parents to have hope because Daniel was able to remain faithful as an exile and God took his people into exile for the purpose of purifying and renewing them.

Last note: one person (a youth pastor) asked Kinnaman a question about how he can help his graduating seniors connect their calling with what job they’ll do later. I think that was a great question and I have a few thoughts on it:

First, Kinnaman made the great point that it’s so important to help them understand that God is going to use them and that they do have a calling in the first place. Secondly, I think youth pastors should take the time to preach/teach on the theology of work with their seniors. The more they can  understand about how God views work in the Bible, the better! Thirdly, I think it’s extremely important that students recognize that they can do God’s work in whatever job they do. The secular/sacred divide needs to be broken down. And to end with a shameless plug: My whole book is basically geared directly at this question. So if you have a youth pastor friend, you should tell them to read it or contact me because I would love to come speak!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

The Church at Work

I finally finished reading Work Matters by Tom Nelson. I highly recommend reading this book if you want to understand more about how your faith and your work connect. I also highly recommend giving a copy to your pastor if you’ve never heard him preach a sermon on the theology of work. I really appreciated what Nelson writes at the end of the book, in a chapter called “The Church at Work.”

The Church at Work“God designed the local church to be a transformed people scattered in their various vocational callings through the week. One of the highest stewardships for local church leadership is to encourage and equip apprentices of Jesus for their work. Yet this stewardship rarely gets the attention and commitment it requires.”

“To move forward, a faith community will need to (1) become more intentional about teaching a robust theology of vocation, (2) begin celebrating the diversity of vocations, (3) equip for vocational faithfulness, and (4) collaborate with other like-minded local churches that also recognize the church at work as a primary conduit of gospel faithfulness.”

Nelson goes on to note that, “this requires those who preach and teach to provide the congregation with a rich and regular diet of biblical truth in regard to vocation, and to also increasingly be sensitive to any residual language that reinforces a Sunday-to-Monday gap.” He lists specific phrases like “a secular job” and “full-time ministry.” Amen! Sometimes I think I’m just begin too picky about word choice, but using the right words is truly important. Nelson writes, “All too often our theology says one thing and our language communicates another.”

On the same topic, the most recent Christianity Today features an article (“The Cutting Edge of Marketplace Ministries“) about how business, faith and church come together through various marketplace ministries. The part that got me really excited was near the end:

Since 2008, Stephen Grabill of the Acton Institute and Scott Rae of Biola University’s Talbot School of Theology have helped lead a multiyear initiative that helps seminaries train pastors to understand and promote a holistic view of work and vocation.

At Talbot, for example, students take a required course on the theology of vocation, and they are required to interview marketplace professionals at their workplaces. Rae says, “Our goal is to equip pastors to affirm work as an arena of service to God that isn’t ‘second-tier’ and to begin developing a strong theology of work.”

When clergy fail to affirm the value of marketplace vocations, Rae laments, laypeople end up “feeling like they are doing something ‘less than’ for God’s kingdom in their workplaces, as compared to preachers and missionaries. We have unwittingly recreated a hierarchy of callings/vocations.”

We need to talk more about work means in church so that we can learn what it means to be the church at work. I’m encouraged to see churches, seminaries, businessmen and pastors addressing this need.

Don’t Tell Them Not to Read It!

I read Rachel Held Evan’s blog. I enjoy her writing, her humour, her challenging questions and the grace with which she handles differences among us. She just published her second book called A Year of Biblical Womanhood and the Christian blogging world is whirling with reviews and reviews of reviews. I haven’t read the book although I plan to, but all this reminded me of one of my major pet peeves:

People who warn you against reading something.

Danger - Do Not Read This Book!

Seriously?

To put it bluntly, I think that’s the stupidest thing you can say. Here’s why:

1. The minute something is forbidden, it becomes more tempting. I know we’re supposed to be more mature than that, after all we’re not toddlers who have been told not to touch the hot stove. But let’s be honest, don’t you immediately feel the urge to flip through that book to see why you shouldn’t read it? If you’re trying to make sure someone does not read a controversial book, what you should really do is brush it off casually and suggest that it’s boring or not worth reading. Don’t warn people about its dangers! That will just encourage them to read it!

2. You reveal your own insecurities or fears. If you feel threatened by the material in a book, it might mean you have some doubts or questions you haven’t adequately addressed in your own life. Instead of just avoiding “dangerous” ideas – maybe it’s time to tackle them until you know where you stand. If you’re not confident about handling questions on your own, get help from a mentor.

3. It’s insulting to the person you warn. Do you think they’re not smart enough to recognize the problems or “dangers” in the book? Does reading a book mean you agree with everything in it? Does reading a book automatically change your mind? No! If only! Think about what perfect Christians we would be if simply reading the Bible immediately changed our hearts, attitudes and behaviours!

If you’re worried about someone being influenced by bad ideas, the best thing you can do is encourage them to read the book carefully. Tell them to take notes, underline sentences, write down questions and highlight points to discuss. When they’re done reading it, go out for coffee and have a good long discussion about everything they documented. Do some research together. Dig into what you really believe together. Figure out where you agree and disagree with the author and maybe even each other (gasp!). You might be surprised about how much you learn BECAUSE of that “dangerous” book.

I would argue that Rachel Held Evans wrote this book to start a conversation, not to declare that she has the final answer to “biblical womanhood.” In fact, she says as much here. Reading something does not mean you agree wholeheartedly with an author. The point is to engage their ideas thoughtfully and form your own opinion. If an author is telling lies, it will teach us to recognize them. If an author is using bad arguments, poor logic or falsified data, that should teach us to reason, research and fact-check properly. Frankly, we should be doing that with everything we read, whether it comes from a “dangerous” source or your favourite author!

Please read dangerous books. Read them with your friends and mentors. Talk about them. I promise you it will be good for your spiritual growth.