Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Social Justice, Leadership, and Holiness

I've made some progress on "The Next Chapter," my self-made reading challenge. Here's an update:

I finished The Theology of the Gospel of Luke by Joel B. Green from the New Testament Theology series from Cambridge University Press. It took me a while to complete because I read two other books between when I started and finished. It was a great little book - a lot of important insight on Jesus (Christology) and salvation (soteriology) from the Gospel of Luke in just 150 pages.

After reading this book, I am utterly convinced that it is impossible to be a Christian and reject social justice as a part of the ministry of both the church and the individual Christian. Although the book explores many other themes in the third Gospel's account, it makes it clear that the reversal of roles was a major aspect of Jesus' ministry. At the center of this theme is Luke 4:18-19, which declares that the first and primary objective of Jesus' ministry is to preach good news to the poor. The poor, for Luke, was not just the economically challenged, however. In Luke, "the poor" means those who are impoverished emotionally, spiritually, financially, and especially socially. Jesus ministered among those whom society ignored or tossed aside. Salvation, then, is about more than freedom from sins. In the Gospel of Luke, salvation is about being welcomed and loved.

This means something for us today, too. "The community of disciples...follow a different way, the way of the Lord, the way of one who gave himself not in seeking honor but in giving it to the poor, the outcast, the marginalized, the lost, on account of his single-minded commitment to the redemptive purpose of God" (Green 119). This means that we cannot hold social justice in one hand and try to separate evangelism into the other - the two go together for disciples because they went together for Jesus.

I'm about 2/3 the way through Relational Leadership: What I Learned from a Fisherman about Leading a Church by Kerry W. Willis. It's an incredibly quick and worthwhile read. Although Willis employs somewhat cheesy one-liner wisdom statements throughout, the overall message of the book is helpful. If nothing else, it forces the leader/reader to think about relationships as the most important aspect of leadership. The book doesn't go too deep into theology or biblical exegesis, which is fitting for a person who wants some quick and practical Christian leadership guidance. It's not meant to be a systematic theology for Christian leadership, however it does contain theological foundations for most of the principles in the book. I'm excited to finish the book and allow some of the good, relational lessons to manifest themselves in my leadership both at JCCC and Faith Church. Some of the chapters are more explicitly Christian or church related, but as a whole it could be helpful for both Christian and non-Christian leaders in any context. From personal experience, I have found that leadership principles based in good Christian theology are effective regardless of the faith positions of particular employers or employees.

Finally, I started (re)reading A Century of Holiness Theology Theology: The Doctrine of Entire Sanctification in the Church of the Nazarene: 1905 - 2004 by Mark Quanstrom. This was a required textbook in my Doctrine of Holiness class at Olivet; Quanstrom was the professor. While I definitely read some of it in college, I didn't read it thoroughly. I started reading it again now as my first step in preparing for a workshop I am to be giving/facilitating at General Assembly 2013 in conjunction with the release of Conversations on Holiness.

I'm only about thirty pages in, but have already learned a lot. It is really interesting to reread this text after my entire seminary education. I am jotting down notes and questions as I read to help me study and reflect on the doctrine. Several questions and reflections have already flooded my brain and my pages. One of these questions is based on the fact that when the Church of the Nazarene was founded when several holiness denominations came together in Pilot Point, Texas in 1908 they declared that the message of holiness unified them, even though they believed many different things in other areas of theology. So here is my (two-part) question: Do we still function in the denomination with this understanding - in holiness unity, and others liberality? If so, should we continue in this way?

Would it be helpful if the denomination became more spelled-out in its beliefs on baptism, for example? What about its understanding of creation? Would specifying particular doctrines on these issues and others like them be more unifying for the denomination or less? 

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