The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity – Praying for What Deeply Matters to Christ

Over the past few weeks I have posted some short video clips of interviews that ACT3 Network conducted in the fall of 2014. These video posts are on this blog site for you to enjoy and also to share with others. They foster the ACT3 Network vision of “empowering leaders and churches for unity in Christ’s mission.” In these videos you will see Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Christians, lay and ministerial, speak to the theme of unity and explain why it truly matters. In every way these interviews, and these faithful Christians, speak to the truth that I embrace with all my heart. If you love unity and pray for John 17:21 to become a greater reality among Christians in the world today then I think you will be edified and encouraged by these videos.

PCU invite 2015On Saturday, January 24, ACT3 Network and the Focolare (a Catholic global lay movement) are co-sponsoring  the Chicago area Week of Prayer for Christian Unity service in Carol Stream, Illinois. The service begins at 7:00 p.m. and will be at Lutheran Church of the Master in Carol Stream, IL. Information is available on the flyer that I have posted here at the right.

In preparation for that special prayer service I asked my videographer to prepare a montage of clips from our growing video interview library to show the congregation that night. I asked that this presentation be less than three minutes long. We clipped short parts of the larger body of our recorded work to prepare this single video. In some ways this is the “cream off the top” in very short context. I have placed this new video on our home page so that many more people will see it.

If you believe unity is really important share this video. I think it is worth a thousand words in its own way. And if you live in the Chicago area join us on January 24. If you live in another city find out if there is a unity prayer service in your region. You can start by asking your area diocese or some ecumenical group that might be responsible for such an event. There are many held during his special week all over the world.

Posted in ACT 3, Current Affairs, Missional-Ecumenism, My Christian Unity Story, The Church, Unity of the Church | 7 Comments/Likes

Lessons from Pope Francis for All Christian Leaders (5)

Unknown-1Several years ago Pope Benedict XVI tasked three trusted cardinals to investigate as deeply as necessary the Vatican’s internal culture. He wanted to know what prompted a Vatican butler to steal incriminating documents and then leak them to a journalist. Only two men know what is in the final report that came from this investigation: Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. So on December 22 Pope Francis responded to this internal investigation by addressing the Vatican Curia in a message that was direct, sharply stinging and very bold. In it he gave 15 Ailments of the Curia.

Over the last four days I have counted down each one of these “ailments” from number fifteen to number five. Today I share the last four.

No. 4 Planning too much

The pope said, “Preparing things well is necessary, but don’t fall into the temptation of trying to close or direct the freedom of the Holy Spirit.”

This charismatic Jesuit pope is a man who walks in the Spirit. He loves deeply and especially loves the gospel of forgiveness and joy. He knows the joy of freedom in the gospel from personal experience. He radiates grace and peace. He prays freely and with his closest friends in the same manner that you or I would if we trust others. His friends, some of whom are also my friends, tell me a consistent story of a man who is at peace, a man who lives in the Spirit and true freedom. Thus Pope Francis is a man who is always prepared for a meeting or event but never closed to the promptings and energies of the Holy Spirit working to accomplish the spontaneous and that which is the fresh, new thing.

As much as we talk about this in America we have built bureaucracies that hinder true freedom that are as impregnable in their own way as the culture of the Vatican. If you do not believe this try to graciously, lovingly and faithfully challenge the Christian subculture in which you find yourself. You had best grow deep in your own soul before you try or you will be dead almost overnight.

No. 3 Becoming spiritual and mentally hardened

“It’s dangerous to lose that human sensibility that lets you cry with those who are crying, and celebrate with those who are joyful.”

If anything marks a great deal of pastoral leadership I have witnessed over the last 23 years of travel and work across the entire church in this nation it is the “hardness” of so many hearts. Leaders have careers and not a “calling.” They are professional but not pastoral. They are doing the right things, in many instances, but in a way that has lost heart.

Paul says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15). Is this not a bare minimum for real pastoral care? Holding an office, showing up to work, preaching a good sermon; none of these constitute spiritual and mental softness before people. Be vulnerable and you can serve. Be reserved and secretive and you will touch no one at their deepest level.

No. 2 Working too hard

Now, to be honest, this one slays me with a thousand cuts. I have never been accused, so far as I know, of being lazy. I have been accused, by my wife and best friends, of never letting up. In recent years I have learned a bit but I have so far to go. I do not have a clear “stop” switch at times and it has cost me a deeper relationship with God and his peace. I continue to strive to correct this ailment in myself.

I must say that this cuts two ways. I see a lot of “lazy” leaders who think they work hard. They may put in some hours but they do not know what hard work really is from what I can see. But the reverse is a deadly trap and I have fallen into it.

No. 1 Feeling immortal, immune or indispensable

This is one of those statements that reminds me of the old line that “If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck then it is a duck.” I do not feel this way about myself but I “sense” it often in church leaders. The more important their external role appears to be the more they become the indispensable person!

Our church culture has fostered this by building churches around strong and gifted leaders. We empower them to feel they are indispensable. Then when something happens to them the church begins to fall apart.

Last Sunday evening, as I talked to my pastor friend who was pushed out of the ministry for no good reason, we began to converse about a church in an area of metro-Chicago that has experienced profound numerical growth. I said, “While I am sure they have reached some non-Christians I believe most of the growth is from other churches.” My friend then said, “I meet people almost every week who come from (he named three churches) before they ended up at this growing church.” These three churches were all thriving, growing churches a decade ago. In a short span of time they have all been racked with division and loss. One had a pastor who lost a child to suicide. When he did not “recover fast enough” people grumbled and his work was eventually done. The church has never recovered. The second was a strong, conservative flagship congregation in the region. Forty years ago it had an influx of life and people under the preaching of a highly regarded man who became a professor of homiletics. After serviving a “take-over” by a gigantic church his congregation is on “life-support” today with some hope of slow recovery. The final church of the three was a church I knew well and preached for several decades ago. It gave birth to one of America’s best known churches. The pastor dealt with deep depression and got help. For a season the church was sympathetic but over time it did not work. The people left and this once thriving church is nothing like it was twenty years ago. In all three of these churches the problems were not doctrine, moral failure or really bad pastors. The problems were rooted in the DNA of the church. Leaders felt their opinions mattered most. People were not able to process struggle in the lives of leaders and they failed.

I could narrate these kinds of stories again and again. I believe they all paint a sad portrait of immense breakdown. We have entered a kind of “Babylonian captivity” in church culture. The pastors who thrive in this cultural context either become indispensable or they become joyful servants who do not care what others think about them at all. In either case we all suffer during this period of spiritual “captivity.” I am personally resolved to support my pastor and church unless moral breakdown, or outright denial of Christ, became the accepted norm. I do not think the other options are good ones at all.

Posted in American Evangelicalism, Current Affairs, Leadership, Love, Pastoral Renewal, Personal, Renewal, Roman Catholicism, The Christian Minister/Ministry, The Church | 6 Comments/Likes

Lessons from Pope Francis for All Christian Leaders (4)

The “seven deadly sins” are a classical way that the church has defined those particular sins that most clearly kill the work of grace. Pope Francis recently rebuked the leaders of the Roman Curia (12/22/14), the governing leadership team of the Roman Catholic Church, and gave them 15 Ailments that indicted the bureaucracy of the church for its spiritual hypocrisy. These ailments are worthy of more careful consideration whether we are Catholic or not. I am counting these down, with my own comments. Today we see three more of the 15 Ailments.

Unknown-1No. 7 Being rivals or boastful.

Church leaders can easily begin to think that they are the indispensable ones in the church. I read a story a few weeks ago that underscores this for me. A lay Catholic was witnessing and sharing their faith in Christ powerfully and a leader rebuked him for taking the lead in such matters. He was asked, “Under what authority do you do this without the priesthood?” He answered, “Under the authority of some 2,860 bishops of the Catholic Church who clearly commissioned the laity to do this work at Vatican II.” Good answer. Pope Francis understands mission and evangelization as the work of “the people” (which is the true meaning of the word laity). He also understands that bishops and leaders of the church can stand in the way of the work of the Holy Spirit. He is the product of a rich and robust charismatic and ecumenical context in Argentina and he has carried this thinking into his reformation of the Curia.

No. 6 Having “spiritual Alzheimer’s.”

I read a statistic the other day that sobered me. I am 65 years old. If I live to age 85 I have almost a 50% change of getting Alzheimer’s disease. Makes me not totally sure I want to live to 85 but that is beside the point. (I do not determine the length of my life so I will seek to adjust to what aging brings by faith in God alone.)

The pope used a powerful medical term to make a point. Alzheimer’s is a chronic neurodegenerative disease that usually starts slowly and gets worse over time. The most common early symptom is difficulty in remembering recent events (short term memory loss). As the disease advances the person has a host of problems that go from bad to worse.   Pope Francis uses this powerfully suggestive medical term to refer to the things of the Spirit. Leaders can have a form of “spiritual Alzheimer’s” that becomes a chronic illness that causes them to forget who they are and what they have been called to do. When such an illness has set in their is little to be done to change the situation unless there is a complete and total transformation by grace.

No. 5 Working without coordination, like an orchestra that produces noise.

This metaphor works so well for me personally. So much of what I’ve seen in the church, all of it actually, is that leaders work without coronation and the result is religious noise, not beautiful music. People go from being confused to being abused. The leaders just keep telling themselves, and the people, we have this under control but the truth is there is no humility, the reality of which is necessary for their to be coordination.

Over dinner last Sunday evening my friend that I referred to above, who was pushed out of his pastoral role for no good reason, shared an interesting story with me. A black congregation and a while congregation considered merging their churches. The two pastors had a good friendship and this made it possible. As they got closer to the merger the black pastor said that there was only one agreement the two men had to reach to merge their work. The black pastor would need to be the “senior pastor” in the new church. He said, “My people know me as their senior pastor and if this changes this will not work. I do not need to lord this over anyone but I know my church and this is the only way it will work.” The white pastor said, “I cannot surrender my role as a senior pastor so we cannot do this.”

Regardless of what you think about the titles and roles the point is fairly obvious. One pastor would not surrender his role in order to serve and work in coordination with the reality of the other pastor and his role before his people. Some will criticize the black pastor but he knew the culture and reality of his congregation well. I believe I would have gladly given up a title in order to serve my brother and to make the merger work so the world could see what unity looked like in a “new” congregation. But roles were more important than the beauty of love and unity.

 

Posted in ACT 3, American Evangelicalism, Church Tradition, Current Affairs, Leadership, Personal, Renewal, Roman Catholicism, The Church, The Future | 6 Comments/Likes

Lessons from Pope Francis for All Christian Leaders (3)

UnknownVatican watchers reported (AP), after Pope Francis spoke to the Roman Curia on December 22, that “they had never heard such a powerful, violent speech from a pope and suggested that it was informed by the results of a secret investigation ordered by Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI in the aftermath of leaks of his 2012 papers.”

I believe the ordinary reader does not realize that Pope Benedict XVI was earnestly seeking to reform the Curia for some years. This report grows out of those efforts that he began. Many journalists, with little knowledge of either Pope Benedict or of how the Vatican really works, do not give him the credit that he is due for what he began in earnest. Some have speculated that one reason he stepped down was so that what he began to reform could be carried out by a new “reformer” pope! It seems apparent this reformation is now underway. In Pope Francis we have a pastor of courage and humility who has waded into a mess and seems determined to make a real difference. If you read my post on Monday you saw how Austen Ivereigh, the biographer of the best biography of Pope Francis, The Great Reformer, suggests that there are two legacies of his leadership that will alter the direction of the Catholic Church: (1) Reforming the Curia and thus radically altering the pastoral and moral direction of the Catholic Church, and; (2) An intense personal love for evangelicals that will alter how future relationships between Catholics and evangelical Protestants/charismatic’s develop globally. The first one is addressed by the 15 Ailments that Pope Francis cited in his December 22 address.

As I countdown the pope’s list of 15 Ailments of the Curia I will only take one of them today. I do so because I find that this one needs more explanation and because it deeply intrigues me. I am applying each of those 15 Ailments, with modest reflection, to the entire visible church. This includes the evangelical church which I know best, at least from my white, North American perspective.

No. 8 Suffering from “existential schizophrenia.”

The two words that he uses here need some definition if this challenge is to be rightly understood.

First, the word “existential.” Philosophers have never agreed on a single definition of this oft-used word. Most agree the father of existentialism was Kierkegaard. Some have said that existentialism is a general approach used to reject certain systematic philosophies rather than as a systematic philosophy itself. I can live with that understanding. But I do not believe this is what the pope had in mind.

I am quite sure Pope Francis had in mind the idea that existence precedes essence.  By this I mean that the most important consideration for us as individuals is that we are independently acting and responsible, conscious beings (“existence”). If this is true then labels, roles, stereotypes, definitions, or other preconceived categories that attempt to fit individuals into a category miss the “essence”) of who we are before God. The actual life of the individual is what constitutes what should be called their “true essence” instead of there being a person who is arbitrarily attributed an essence that others use to define them.

Second, Pope Francis links this word “existential” with the more common used word “schizophrenia.” Schizophrenia is technically labeled a mental disorder that is generally characterized by abnormal social behavior and the failure to recognize what is truly real. A list of common symptoms includes false beliefs, confused thinking and even auditory hallucinations.

Here is the sentence the pope used when he listed this ailment: “It’s the sickness of those who live a double life, fruit of hypocrisy [something seems off in the translation to English here to me] that is typical of mediocre and progressive spiritual emptiness that academic degrees cannot fill.”

I think that the pope is saying something like the following:

We have so looked past the true personhood of others that we have created, especially among many church leaders, a disturbing schizophrenia that fails to recognize what is truly real about others, namely those we are called to serve. If church leaders think and live this way they are led to subtly deny true beliefs and embrace false ideas. Their thinking will become confused and people will be groups they use to advance their own agenda.

Last Sunday I posted a Facebook entry about sharing a meal with a pastor friend who was pushed out of his role in a local church and commented on the damage done to the man and his family as a result. I was amazed at the intensity and amount of response this short note received. Within less than twenty-four hours at least 150 people had responded to this post and it was made on a Sunday, a slow day on Facebook. I think this underscores that many are aware of problems in the church that have deeply impacted both their leaders and the way good leaders are being treated by the people. This is what happens when “existential schizophrenia” becomes the new norm.

 

Posted in ACT 3, American Evangelicalism, Church Tradition, Current Affairs, Leadership, Personal, Renewal, Roman Catholicism, The Christian Minister/Ministry, The Church, The Future | 13 Comments/Likes

Lessons from Pope Francis for All Christian Leaders (2)

pope-francis-600Yesterday I reported on the comments that Pope Francis made to the Roman Catholic Curia just prior to Christmas. He enumerated fifteen ailments he saw in the curia. (The term curia is foreign to many evangelicals. The curia consists of those officials who assist in the governance of the Catholic Church. The Roman Curia is the central government of the global Catholic Church.) Other denominations have something like the curia but the origins of this term are generally believed to be found in Latin (Roman) Western developments. For example, every diocese (even in many non-Catholic contexts) has the equivalent of a curia. This governing council can be made up of priests, ministers, financial officers and other lay officers who help govern. Every institutional church form has something like a curia even if we call it the elders or deacons of the church.

The point of all this is to show you that the pope’s strong statements can be applied to all who govern and lead the church, including lay leaders in evangelical contexts. For this reason I am counting down these fifteen ailments and applying them to every context where I think his words speak with power and clarity.

No. 12 Having a funereal face.

The one sent by God (apostle) “must be polite, serene, enthusiastic and happy.” This person, said Pope Francis, must radiate and “transmit joy wherever he goes.” Here is one of the pope’s central themes – the gospel is a word of profound joy and any kind of Christianity, especially among the leaders, that acts as if God is dead is genuinely harmful. If God is alive, and Jesus is the good news, then we should be people of incredible joy in a world torn apart by hurt and pain.

Evangelical Christians generally express joy better than other Christians. at least from what I’ve seen. But I have noticed a growing decline of deep joy among evangelicals during my lifetime. We are overwhelmed with material stuff and the slightest decline in our economy creates problems that we cannot face with abiding joy. Is it me or does a lot of the “joy” that we see in our churches and ministries look and feel like it is the result of the gospel or the style of expression that we have adopted outwardly?

No. 11 Being indifferent to others. 

Again, many evangelicals, especially younger evangelicals, are stepping up to meet this crisis. There concerns are often met by the indifference of older leaders but I welcome the intense desire of the younger leaders to engage with the poor, with immigrants, and those directly impacted by systemic racism. From the environment to the crisis of injustice in sentencing people within our broken prison system, younger leaders are anything but indifferent, or so it seems to me. I pray this spirit will grow and shed light on all that the church does, especially through its leaders.

No. 10 Glorifying one’s bosses. 

Pope Francis said about this point, “It’s the sickness of those who court their superiors, hoping for their benevolence.”

I think we could call this, in popular American parlance, “sucking up to your superiors to get something from them that you want.”

Does anyone doubt that this is a real problem in many of our church and ministry contexts? This is, without doubt, a perennial problem in all church circles. It is especially prevalent among strong (highly regarded) leaders. We have built empires and then assistant pastors and lay leaders have learned well how to get and retain power by “sucking up” to the senior leader(s). Woe be to the person who challenges this corrupt system.

No. 9 Committing the “terrorism of gossip.”

What an apt and disarming turn-of-words we see in this point. It seems to me that Pope Francis wanted Vatican leaders to see that just as terrorists seek to gain and control outcomes through inducing fear leaders do the same through gossip and slander. They create a reign of spiritual and emotional terror that intimidates and destroys people, the sheep. Spiritual freedom is stolen by gossip and pastors “lord it over” their flocks by using it. The senior pastor is very often not accountable and his staff is often made up of “yes” men. Our role model pastor, or spiritual leader, is rarely a truly humble person who is not self-aggrandizing. The fastest way to control a church, or a decision making process in a community, is to gossip. Destroy the other person’s credibility and you gain or keep power. This is why gossip is treated as such a deeply serious problem in the New Testament epistles. Rare is the church that takes this sin as seriously as it should.

 

Posted in Current Affairs, Leadership, Love, Personal, Roman Catholicism, Spirituality, The Christian Minister/Ministry, The Church, The Future | 5 Comments/Likes

Lessons from Pope Francis for All Christian Leaders (1)

pope-francis-600Just three days before Christmas Pope Francis delivered a message to the Curia that was described by the Associated Press as “blistering.” It was frank and called upon the leaders of the church to repent! I’ve never seen anything quite like it in my lifetime. It was a full-scale indictment of the Vatican bureaucracy; i.e. those priests and cardinals who serve the papacy by being assistants and associates in Rome. In essence Francis said that these men too often use their Vatican careers to grab power and to live far too extravagantly. In so doing he argued that they have not become “joyful men of God.”

What is most remarkable about this talk is that this is normally a time for general Christmas good will at the Vatican. The Curia is the central administration of the Holy See which governs the 1.2 billion member church. Francis called on these men to deliver radical reform. What is truly needed, he said, is “spiritual reform.” To clearly express what he had in mind he listed fifteen “Ailments of the Curia.”

These fifteen ailments afflict the church in the West in general. They also afflict much of evangelicalism in particular. In this vein I would like to do a countdown of Pope Francis’ Fifteen Ailments and ask you for several days to apply these to our own spiritual reformation.

No. 15 Seeking worldly profit and showing off. 

My long held impression is that evangelical churches, and mega-church stars (with some wonderful exceptions), have been showing off for decades. What amazes me is that so many of our popular leaders still defend this practice in the light of who Jesus is and what he taught us about living the Christ-life. When I recently saw a list of the salaries of some of our best known public figures I was shocked. Many of our “stars” are millionaires. The lifestyle of the rich and famous has nothing on evangelicals.

No. 14 Forming “closed circles” that seek to be stronger than the whole.

By this the pope said, “This sickness always starts with good intentions, but as time goes by, it enslaves its members by becoming a cancer that threatens the harmony of the body and causes so much bad – scandals – especially to our younger brothers.”

In the light of evangelical leadership scandals of 2014 this warning clearly applies to our churches and leaders as well. Our informal “curia” is sickened by “closed circles” of power and manipulation that create a superstar following for our favorite pastors and authors. Only after multitudes have been destroyed are these leaders finally brought down but many get up and go again. Just listen to how you will hear this when people say, “I go to –––––––– church.” The name they use is the name of the pastor of their church as if their church belongs to their pastor!

No. 13 Wanting More

“When the apostle (by which he means the cardinals) tries to fill an existential emptiness in his heart by accumulating material goods, not because he needs them but because he’ll fell more secure.”

This goes right along with number 14. Whether it is “health and wealth prosperity” or the gospel of “more and more” we fall into this trap routinely. And we have great defenders of it galore. I confess that I continue to fight this every day. Some years ago I learned during Lent just how true this was in a major area of my life and had to do some serious repenting during those weeks. This pope reminds us that we are not called to the opulence of kings if we are Christian servants. Money is not evil, nor is wealth, but there is no place for such opulence among those who are called to serve the church and the poor as their mission.

Posted in American Evangelicalism, Current Affairs, Leadership, Personal, Roman Catholicism, The Christian Minister/Ministry, The Church | 1 Comment/Like

Pope Francis: The Great Reformer?

Over recent days I have been reading Austen Ivereigh’s new biography, The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2014). This is a magnificent book. It is clearly the best biography we have of this man, at least so far. The work is very engaging and looks carefully at the circumstances and influences that shaped Jorge Bergoglio’s life journey. It highlights the simple truth that he has an unfailing faith in the love and mercy of Jesus Christ above everything else.

Ivereigh tells the story of a Jesuit priest who is “normal” in every way and, at the same time, clearly rooted in God’s love for all people, not just for ideas and leadership. What Ivereigh does here is depict Bergoglio as an extraordinary figure in the “normal” everyday way in which he lives a life of deep joy. This is a sensitive and adept study and one that should be read by anyone interested in understanding the “radical pope” (“radical” means here that he gets to the root of the matter) who is misunderstood by both left and right in the everyday way that people are trying to figure out this global leader we now know as Pope Francis.

Austen Ivereigh is a British writer, journalist and commentator on religious and political affairs. He is a former adviser to English cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor and holds a doctorate from Oxford University on the Church and politics in Argentina. Ivereigh is also a sought-after Catholic commentator on British media.

The finest overview that I’ve seen about Pope Francis, at least without reading the entire book, can be seen in the interview Austen Ivereigh gave in response to the release of this magnificent book. Note that there are two “legacy” markers the biographer says Pope Francis will be likely to leave. The first was expected within the conclave. The second was not, or so I believe. I am thrilled with both but the second brought tears of joy to my heart and eyes. Why? Pope Francis is clearly a “missional-ecumenist” who loves the gospel and knows and loves evangelicals. He doesn’t just love ecumenism as a formal work of the church, as did previous popes who were good men. He has done missional-ecumenism on the margins in the streets and parishes of Latin America. He clearly took this spirit to Rome. 2015 dawns as an exciting year for missional-ecumenism. I believe the Holy Spirit is on the move in new expressions of unity in Christ’s mission. I fully expect to see more and more amazing doors open for the gospel when it is rooted in deep unity in our shared fellowship.

Posted in ACT 3, American Evangelicalism, Current Affairs, Evangelism, Faith, Missional-Ecumenism, Personal, Protestantism, Roman Catholicism, The Church, The Future, Unity of the Church | 8 Comments/Likes

Charles Raith (1)

Yesterday, I introduced you to my good friend Dr. Charles (Chad) Raith. Here is a magnificent interview that he gave to ACT3 just a few months ago. In this video you will quickly see why I treasure this friend as well as his keen insights and Christlike spirit.

 

Posted in ACT 3, Missional-Ecumenism, My Christian Unity Story, Personal, The Church, The Future, Unity of the Church | 1 Comment/Like

Can the Church Become a True Light on a Hill?

Some years ago I met a bright young student at Beeson Divinity School who shared a conversation with me about Christian unity and his desire for serious preparation to pursue an academic career as a teacher. I only remember that conversation now (I have had so many like this one over the years) because this young man reminded me of our conversation just a few years ago when we reconnected in Waco, Texas, at a small group meeting at Baylor University. resizeThis young man, Dr. Charles (Chad) Raith, is now the assistant professor of religion and philosophy at John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. Dr. Raith completed his B.S. degree at Georgia Tech, received an M.Div. at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, and then his M. Th. at Regent College (Vancouver, B.C.). He then chose to do his Ph.D. at Ave Maria University in Florida, obviously a Catholic school. His doctoral research was focused on how John Calvin used Thomas Aquinas in his commentary on Paul to the Romans. He became the first Protestant to complete a doctorate at this conservative Catholic school.

Chad Raith is one of the finest young ecumenical scholars that I know in the evangelical world. He is also making a huge contribution to teaching and moulding students in both mind and spirit. If I had a young student who wanted a college mentor in theology and philosophy who would care about him or her in a deeply personal way I would connect them with Dr. Chad Raith.

Chad has also been an active part of my work with the Lausanne Catholic-Evangelical Conversation over the past two years. In addition, he has spoken for ACT3 in a Chicago event that we had in 2013. Our lives are now powerfully linked by a common concern for the future of the church and its unity. Recently we shared an email exchange in which Chad wrote to me about something that he has been working on as an author, namely a commentary on the biblical book of Job. What he said was so good that I asked him if I could quote his letter.

Dr. Raith wrote:

I’ve doing quite a bit of work lately on the Book of Job. I’ve been asked to write the commentary on Job for the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible. I’m struck by the sheer hopelessness and the sense of meaningless that many contemporary people feel about the world they live in – modern interpretations of Job are quite revealing! And I’m all the more convinced that our disunity does nothing more than contribute to the sense of disorderdness and disorientation that many people feel. A fractured body of Christ becomes just another indication of the general lack of coherence and meaning in this world – a world in which there’s no God who has spoken into the world, who has incarnated himself in the world, and is working to bring this world to himself in love. For the modern Job, we’re just a bunch of blind sufferers groping to find meaning in a universe without it. The church can be a light on such a dark hill – but not if we keep trying to put out each other’s lamps! But you and I believe that this is what we do through our disunity.

Thanks Chad. Well said my friend. My great hope in the New Year is that we who influence leaders in the Christian Church will light lamps for Christian unity rather than perpetually “put out each other’s lamps.”

Posted in ACT 3, American Evangelicalism, Missional-Ecumenism, The Future, Unity of the Church | 11 Comments/Likes

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2015

PCU invite 2015 copyOne of the most important events each year, an event which is now over one hundred years old and counting, is the International Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Around the globe Christians from all churches and denominational expressions come together to pray as one for the healing of the church and her myriad divisions. This year the Chicago event for this special week will be held in Carol Stream (IL) and is hosted by ACT3 Network. I will be sharing more information in the coming days but please mark your calendar and plan to join us at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, January 24. You do not need to sign up. Just mark the date and plan to come.

 

 

Posted in ACT 3, Missional-Ecumenism, Prayer, Unity of the Church | 17 Comments/Likes