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

Spaces for Creative Process

Written by: on April 18, 2013

The church can do meaningful ministries in and for the world and it can do them well!  My first pastorate took place in a rural Iowa town.  The population was about 26,000 and there were over 70 churches within 5 miles of the center of the town. The largest church was about 700 in attendance and the smaller ones ranged down to 30 or 40.  Most of the common denominations were represented.  The surrounding area was typical Iowan farm land.  Migrant workers traveled through the town because of a major north/south state highway that provided easy travel as the weather and seasons changed.  There were a fair amount of poor and some homeless people in town which meant there were a fair number of hungry people.  The churches did not have a good reputation for working together.  The ecumenical gatherings carefully avoided any challenging ministry for fear of conflict.  But, the one ministry in which almost all cooperated was the local food ministry to feed the poor.  There was always an abundance of good quality food available and it was generously distributed.  It was a testimony to how the church can make a difference in society.  It was well known in the community and people respected the churches for their participation and gracious attitude shown in that ministry.
The food ministry in that Iowa town provided a “place” where people exercised faith for food to provide to the hungry, where their faith was justified as they saw hungry people fed and given the Gospel when possible, and where Christian charity was demonstrated unconditionally.  It was not a perfect example of Jardine’s idea of Biblical space but it reflected some of his descriptors.  Looking back on the ministry, much more could have been done to develop the speech-based aspect of Biblical space to extend and develop fuller potential in that ministry.  Jardine’s book The Making and Unmaking of Technological Society: How Christianity Can Save Modernity from Itself describes how the church can develop Biblical spaces in which real change can take place in order to rescue society from the coming implosion due to the failure of Western democratic capitalistic culture.  His thesis is that Western society is facing a moral crisis of monumental proportions and that it is not able to understand the moral and technological issues it faces.  He continues by stating that Biblical Christianity has the capacity to understand our situation and it can save society from destroying itself by creating “Biblical Spaces” that reflect faith, hope, and unconditional love (pg. 14).
I thought his continuing discussion of the Christian work ethic as popularized by the reformers was particularly interesting.  I have embraced, perhaps blindly, and so it caught me up short.  I do appreciate the way he brings the idea of unconditional love into that discussion in order to offer another way to appreciate work.  I agree with him that Western society thinks it can fix anything with enough financial resources but that our societies do not have the moral boundaries within which to offer solutions.  
Jardine pegs Classical Liberals as utilitarian individualists and Neo-Liberals as expressive liberalists who, rather than valuing pragmatism, they value a lifestyle that looks and feels a certain way even if it means, and it does, the abandonment of morals.  This explains todays obsession with celebrities and the power of the media which feeds the image conscious with images to imitate.  The result is the reduction of “all social human relations to market model and subjects all aspects of human life to the market forces”  pg. 112.  This, he states, will lead to self-destruction pg. 129.  He argues that this coming self-destruction is shrouded by the fact that the last few hundred years has resulted in tremendous progress, especially in the technological realm.  This has provided us with gadgets that do things for us, that entertain us, and that help our medical health.  But, the very technology that is bounding forward unfettered is crossing moral boundaries at breakneck speed.  It is specifically to this crisis that he offers the solution found in Biblical Christianity.
He explains what he believes is a correct understanding of Biblical Christianity.  He says it presents the image of God concept as that which gives humans their creative ability and that ability is leveraged through speech.  He argues that the traditional creative abilities of God and man are based on a ‘static model’ where as God, in the creation, spoke creation into being in the context of a process which is ongoing.  Jardine believes that Christianity must, once again, focus on building ‘speech-based’ places which provide the community the opportunity to debate and determine the best courses of action in order to create new social constructs.  
I would liked Jardin to have expanded on the last section where he talks about creating “Biblical Speech-Based Spaces.”  It would have helped me to understand his theological and philosophical application in the practical everyday world.  However, he did stimulate my thinking for purposes of discipleship.  I am encouraged to think of discipleship more as creating space for critical and transparent dialogue where various voices are welcomed and where His voice is welcomed to continue His process of creation in us and through us.  The christian community often uses the words “formation” and “transformation” in the context of discipleship.  But, could it be that from God’s perspective it is simply the continuing process of creation!  Those who embrace the continuing dynamic process of creation are indeed transformed!  
I am also thinking about how other speech-based spaces can serve as incubators for leadership development and places where disciples can test their new faith, be affirmed, and strengthen their hope.  This is a process and I like Jardine emphasis on the creative process.  I do wonder about his theological underpinnings, but he has stirred my thinking and that is good!  I recommend this book! 

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