“Christian ethics ultimately probes our deepest sensibilities as humans an how we, as followers of Christ, go about seeking “the good” for others as well as for ourselves.”
I was recently in a room of about thirty Wesleyan pastors. The attendance was that of our leading practitioners in the practices of faith-based justice and compassion ministry. We were together to update, evaluate, and speculate how we are doing denominationally on the issue of justice and compassion based ministry. Because of our current text, “The Matrix of Christian Ethics: Integrating Philosophy and Moral Theology in a Postmodern Context,” I mentioned, due to the fact of everything we were talking about in that room was directly related to what I was reading, that I think as a denomination we are unaware of our true ethics behind why we ought to be engaging in faith-based justice and compassion ministry. I said, “I think we need to develop a deeper ethic.”
The response was one of that which usually only comes after my jokes. The sound of crickets suddenly became deafening. You might have thought I said something in Japanese. As I looked around the room all I received were blank stares. So I continued on … “I think as much as we develop our theology of justice we need to develop better understanding of Christian ethics or maybe work on articulating our Wesleyan Christian ethic.” Again, crickets.
Now usually I am a pretty insecure guy. I usually would of thought, “Oh man, I must not have any idea what I am talking about and somehow showed up in the wrong room for the wrong conversation. But because of the reality of Nullens’ and Michener’s overview, along with the direction much of my dissertation work has taken, I knew that I knew what I was talking about and was only left to realize that pretty much no one in the room was aware of or operating out of an awareness of Christian ethics and its relationship to the conversation we were having.
Now I must say, had it not been for this text and my dissertation work in this season, I would have been exactly in the others’ seats with the same expression on my face. But that only makes my point of ALARM that much greater when I think of the Church and the leading leaders of the Church and the level of thought, or lack there of, that we can lead with. To me we are missing so much of the language we need in our conversations as the Church because we are not thinking and operating out of any kind of depth in our thought. We have microwaved evangelism and discipleship, we have over spiritualized salvation and sanctification, we have produced the great productions of worship services, but somehow we have removed our conversations and contemplations from the crock pot of “probing our deepest sensibilities … in seeking ‘the good’ of others as well as for ourselves.”
I am finding in my dissertation work that not only in our Christian practice but in our leadership practice as well, we are skimming. James MacGregor Burns writes in his work, “Leadership,” the following:
“Leadership is one of the most observed and least understood phenomena on earth. … It was not always so. For two millennia at least, leaders of thought did grapple with the vexing problems of the rulers vs. the ruled. Long before modern sociology, Plato analyzed not only philosopher-kings but he influences on rulers of upbringing, social and economic institution, and response of followers. Long before today’s calls for moral leadership and ‘profiles in courage,’ Confucian thinkers were examining the concept of leadership in moral teaching and by example. Long before Gandhi, Christ thinkers were preaching nonviolence. Long before modern biography, Plutarch was witting brilliantly about the lives of a host of Roman and Greek rulers and orators, arguing that philosophers ‘ought to converse especially with men in power,’ and examining questions such as whether ‘an old man should engage in public affairs.”
We are in a day and age that can’t afford skimming. The Church, our leadership, our “why” we do what we do has to come from a deeper place and we (maybe by default) have to be a part of raising the banner and the bar. We must bring a deeper level of thought and probing into the most fundamental beliefs about the human capacity and the human condition and how on this earth we reconcile the difference. I am so thankful for this LGP5 experience as it has afforded me (while I can’t technically afford it:) the time and space to discover, contemplate, and probe such thoughts, considerations, and possibilities.
 Patrick Nullens and Ronald T. Michener, The Matrix of Christian Ethics: Integrating Philosophy and Moral Theology in a Postmodern Context (Colorado Springs: IVP Books, 2010), 2.
 James M. Burns, Leadership (Harper Perennial Political Classics) (New York, NY: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2010), 2.