Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Mapping theories to a healthy arrival

Written by: on February 10, 2020

Dr. Clark’s project provides a critical thesis that “deployed its own ‘map-making method as a kind of heuristic concept map to trace correspondence between church acts and beliefs. This ‘map-making’ ensures that the thesis provides evaluation and resourcing for deployment to current and related Evangelical contexts. Second, the thesis proposes that, contrary to methodological worries by others, it is possible to talk about and make an account of the two broad domains of Evangelicalism and capitalism. Third, in order to provide a reading of ecclesial life, the main accounts for this thesis draw upon and deploy the ‘binocular dialectic’ and method of Martyn Percy, by reading theology with social science. This ‘binocular method establishes the thesis in two parts. Part one is an account of Evangelicalism and capitalism constructed from social science sources; part two follows with theological explication of this account.[1]

This challenge, considering the effects of Evangelicalism and capitalism is ever-present where we serve. At nearly any congregational opportunity to pray, one will find at the altar a third-generation poverty demographic where one would often hear “I need…” Loss of family members due to violence, homelessness, food scarcity, and fear of never having enough is not commonly experienced by the middle class or the wealthy when it comes to basic needs.

Dr. Clark notes, “For Evangelicals, the Christian life is readily understood as being one centred on the pursuit of Jesus Christ. The things of this life, along with all material existence, are to be willingly submitted in faithful service to Christ and His mission through us, to be Christ-made.”[2] And, for those who come to the altar in this community it is more than likely a mixed motivation: full-surrender, both-and, or just filling needs. Jesus is being called upon for the ‘dispensing of religious goods and services.’[3] This is quite true. And, yet, with a view from those in need how are we to truly judge a person’s motive, except for possibly having a long-term relationship.

When I first understood Jesus’s love for me and wanting me to know I’m not alone it was an answer to prayer that solidified that for me. “Lord if you are really real, I need a job.” That prayer resulted in the understanding of a perceived need in the neighborhood which I could solve and a career in that industry for a couple decades. The opposite of seeking to have faith in Jesus and mere consumer is also very true.

Swoboda wrote, “At the beginning of the twenty-first century, prosperity theologies have simultaneously received a warm reception by some and a critical cold shoulder by others. With emotive responses provoked on both sides, what cannot be ignored is the influence prosperity thinking has and will have, on the global church. Yet, little to no attention has been devoted to the intersection between prosperity theology and the issues surrounding the ecological crisis, such as climate change, environmental degradation, human greed, and wanton consumerism.”[4]  Does such an intersection exist? This article explores this question by contrasting prosperity theology’s divine economy and agrarianism’s great economy. In sum, it suggests that the uncritical reception of prosperity teachings though they speak pointedly to real, felt human needs can ultimately create ecologically harm, if not anti-ecological, modes of thinking and living within its systems. This is to say that the environment of what one calls church can create habits, based upon assumptions of one’s rights, which may cause more harm than actually being a benefit to the individual or the community.

In this discussion, I am concerned with our concept of church and its leaders. Let me begin this portion of this paper with some unique images that the church has been named during my journey. They have provided us images, metaphors of the church’s that are unique in the heart of its leaders. I have heard the church called a family, hospital, school, local church, catholic, group of believers, airport, mission station, worship center, and a myriad of others.

These congregational images I write about are some of the functions of the church. Regardless of their unique image and purpose, those who held these images I am seeking to believe that they sought to worship and serve the one true God, as best they knew. At times, it seemed that these images were a cultural attempt or thoughtful rendition for the local congregation. My working image of “church” is, “A local community of people seeking God; uniquely engaging others for a transformed life.” God’s image is unfolded in compassion that often does come out in “all these things all these things will be added to you.”[5]

God’s compassionate nature is not something separate from Himself. He is compassion. “…once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people.”[6] Therefore, if we are leaning into God with all of our hearts, minds, and strength, to the best of our ability, then when we receive His compassion we cannot help but give that gift away to those who are near or far from Him. That is an orthopraxy of the Christian Church, and that even to one’s enemy.

Jones writes, “Where those of us who breathe the air of individualistic cultures tend to speak in the singular, “I,” biblical language speaks often in the plural.”[7] The Church of Jesus Christ is to be a joyous community: the community that rejoices in God’s gracious, compassionate salvation. The church is the community that opens up, through that grace, to proclaim Christ’s peace to those “who were far off” and to “those who were near.”[8]

Christ is “the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”[9] The image of the church as the body of Christ is an organic community. “Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.”[10] As we look across the preverbal landscape of cellulose talking heads of the news, we find little compassion in our world. This is the church’s opportunity to be and to do what it is and called to do.

As I explore the theory of ecclesiology, how leaders and their context influence this theory, we seek to continue to learn to live faithfully in the light of two competing realities. First, the visible church matters, and second, in a world of sin, there is no pristine church. The first reality is doctrinal.[11]

            [1] Jason Paul Clark, Evangelicalism And Capitalism A Reparative Account And Diagnosis Of Pathogeneses In The Relationship,” Middlesex University Supervised at London School of Theology, ii.

June 2018 ii

            [2] Ibid., 3.

            [3] Ibid., 4.

            [4] Swoboda, A. J. 2015. “Posterity or Prosperity? Critiquing and Refiguring Prosperity Theologies in an Ecological Age.” Pneuma: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies 37 (3): 394–411. doi:10.1163/15700747-03703002.

            [5] Matthew 6:33.

            [6] 1 Peter 2:10.

            [7] Beth Felker, Jones, “Practicing Christian Doctrine: An Introduction to Thinking and Living Theologically,” (Kindle Locations 3719-3720). Baker Publishing Group, Kindle Edition.

            [8] Ibid., (Kindle Locations 3709-3711).

            [9] Ephesians 1: 22– 23.

            [10] Beth Felker, Jones, “Practicing Christian Doctrine: An Introduction to Thinking and Living Theologically,” (Kindle Locations 3724-3726). Baker Publishing Group, Kindle Edition.

            [11] Ibid., (Kindle Locations 3907-3908).

About the Author

Steve Wingate

11 responses to “Mapping theories to a healthy arrival”

  1. Joe Castillo says:

    The presence of Jesus Christ for the Salvation of the world intervenes and occurs in and through the Church of the Trinitarian God. Through the Apostles and the Church, Jesus establishes his mission, his mission, which will last until his Second Coming at the end of time. Showing the resurrected Lord to his disciples, he gave full legitimacy to this mission of the Church, for the eternal salvation of men of all times: “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, so I send you (…) Receive the Holy Spirit ”(Jn 20,21). Good job Steve

    • Steve Wingate says:

      I appreciate your encouragement. It is tough for me to find connections to what I am seeking to focus on yet with the help of Jason and you all I’m able to process better and find connections even if it is at a later time.

  2. Darcy Hansen says:

    Jason noted how incorporating the prosperity gospel in his work was beyond the scope of content, so I appreciated how you wove that in with Swoboda’s writing. How do you see the prosperity gospel impacting those in your ministry context?

    • Steve Wingate says:

      Good question Darcy. Actually, if you were to join one of our bible studies in one subsidized apartment units I believe you would hear that God is in absolute control in every detail. So, God is either at fault or gets the glory. Second, you would hear nothing directly in regards to prosperity as we normally think about it. It’s mixed, God is in control yet fear that they will not get enough… and shame that they have to choose between items that cost $.02 more. Prosperity would not getting shot

  3. Greg Reich says:

    “This is to say that the environment of what one calls church can create habits, based upon assumptions of one’s rights, which may cause more harm than actually being a benefit to the individual or the community.”
    How do you see the insistence of personal rights within Christianity hinder our ability to grow in community? Do you think the self centeredness of the prosperity gospel is an extension of demanding our rights from God?

    • Steve Wingate says:

      Prosperity is certainly an expectation in Scripture.

      One of my wife’s favorite verses is Jer 29:11. Yet, we know that prosperity here was to be experienced through them to the next generation. She likes that for our grandkids sake.

      To make this brief, John 10:10 has an additional prosperity theme. And, yet, if I look at this kind of sort of through the eyes our Savior it is for the sake of others. Matthew 6:33 is another case where we can expect God to care for us, even our earthly needs, even though he is Sovereign in how that happens.

  4. Dylan Branson says:

    Part of the rub when it comes to evangelism and prosperity is the “Gideon’s fleece” conundrum. “Lord, if you do x, then I’ll know you’re real.” I remember when I was applying to different universities and had to make my choice, I used the same thing: “Lord, if I’m supposed to go to this university, send me a letter of some sort from it on this day” (and it actually happened). We lay out our fleeces in hopes of capturing an essence of assurance from God.

    How can we move away from a theology that uses God as a means to an end for fulfilling our base needs?

  5. John McLarty says:

    Jason ends by calling the Christian community back to the practices of worship and discipleship. It seems both simple and complicated, just as your call to orthopraxy and compassion. As a Christian leader, what have you seen (or done) that inspires a spirit of corporate repentance and rekindled desire for God?

  6. Steve Wingate says:

    I fear that I have not done much, probably because I see much more and desire to be much more bold about sharing my faith in Jesus and his Church.

    I continue to share about the compassion that flows from God for everyone whether they believe in him or not. (prevenient grace).

    When I was in my most previous pastorate it was an accidental joy to begin monthly prayer meetings which rotated between the three congregations I pastored. They became much more than checking the box, “I went to Sunday night service.”

  7. Shawn Cramer says:

    As insightful as the content of Dr. Clark’s dissertation was, I found his voice and explicit map-making and development of his argument helpful. What explicit maps do you find yourself using to help co-vocational ministers?

  8. Chris Pollock says:

    Hi Steve, yes I see the juxtapositioning between consumerism and Christianity. Dependency and need.

    I also see the disbelief. Somehow, in the asking ‘hope’ is kept alive. Hope, that is, for an answer. How long will we hold on, waiting for an answer. Prayer can be a market place for the consumer. And, outside the market, I know that I can be found there begging, while it seems everyone else is inside acquiring everything they could ever need and more.

    Could it be that this ‘market’ mentality has us enslaved, even spiritually? Even, perceiving faith in ways that are counter-to-Shalom (life the way God intends for it to be).

    Thank you for helping, leading along toward grasping what it is that is going on. Wanting to break free, breach this into some other way even, for those we stand with who are praying prayers of survival…survival, in this…and, the prayers continue!

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