DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Doing Church

Written by: on June 6, 2019

Ian Markham and Joshua Daniel’s Reasonable Radical is a book about Martyn Percy and his lived theology and experiences as the Dean for the Christ Church Oxford. Divided into two main parts, Markham and Daniel’s reflective work offers articles from academics and church leaders in the first half and writings from Percy in the second half. I am very interested in exploring Percy’s ecclesiological positions on why the Anglican church, and for my dissertation, why the Evangelical church, continues to struggle in preparing their congregants to both understand and withstand the problem of spiritual warfare. This post will seek mine for the ideas from the editorialists and Percy about how to “do church” and see where they might add valuable insights and depth to my research into why nefarious principalities and powers have so much influence over the evangelical church and its members.

First, I deeply connected with the Markham and Daniel’s reflections on Percy because he is a “it depends” type of ministry leader that I would call a situational theologist. In other words, from my lived experiences, I see Percy as someone who looks at the challenge before him, considers the context, envisions the maze of possible solutions, and then sees the end state. Whether it is spiritual gift or learned skill, he sees through the chaos and applies the right mix of theological-secular insights to provide God honoring solutions to the leadership problem at hand. Percy clarifies and expands on my situational idea and calls it a vocation of the “Contextual Theologian.”[1] He says contextual theology, like grounded ecclesiology, studies the “real church as it is encountered” rather than the ideal church as it is constructed.[2] He describes contextual theologians as sympathetic, realist, practical, adaptive, and receptive. These characteristics sound a lot like the LGP8 leadership traits we have been learning and integrating into our PLDPs over the past two years.

Second, how does Reasonable Radical connect to my dissertation research? The name alone connects to some degree because anytime someone begins talking about the devil, warfare, principalities, and powers most people think they are radical. The reasonable side of a radical topic is realized when the other person(s) connects, discerns, and understands the threat to them personally and their church members corporately. For me, a reasoned radical is willing to look past their conditioned responses of denial, marginalization, normalizing of mayhem, and the feelings of “that’s just the way it is.” Percy is not afraid to recognize that the church continues to evolve and is being shaped by forces, “some good, some not so good” that contribute to today’s version of doing church.[3]

Third, I like Percy’s “confessions” because he promotes the idea of using a “binocular” approach when applying critical thinking.[4] I have used binoculars in one form or another since I was a young boy. I remember the toy store type that magnified what I was trying to look at, but it was still blurry. I bought some cheap binoculars to view wildlife on the hills of the Air Force Academy where my Dad was stationed but I could only make out forms without detail. And then one day, my Dad gave me his pair of high-quality binoculars. The difference was amazing! The clarity, focus, and field of vision with the new magnifying lens helped me see, identify, and discriminate between the real and imagined. I think this is the analogy Percy is employing when he talks about using a binocular perspective on how one tries to “read and interpret ecclesial life.”[5] I pray for bino-vision as I look deeper into the problem of spiritual warfare.

There are not a lot of reviews on this book yet since it was published in 2018. Nevertheless, what I did find was very positive towards the Markham-Daniel theological interpretations of Percy’s contribution to a theo-socio type of lived spirituality. For example, Robert Banks, an Australian theologian and Adjunct Professor for Fuller Theological Seminary says that Percy is “wise in recognizing the varieties of spiritual experience” in church and he is someone who is “not afraid to engage with what some would regard as ‘secular’ learning.”[6] I appreciate how Percy connects science and theology while remaining faithful to his personal convictions. Another reviewer from Amazon, Gareth Jones is a professor at HKSKH Ming Hua Theological College in Hong Kong. He said this about Percy’s work, “If the church is permanently in crisis, necessarily so in light of its eschatological character, then it requires lucid and shrewd interpreters like Martyn Percy to mediate its critical engagement with society.”[7] Wow! I love that statement. Like Dr. Jason Clark says, dig deep, read around, search for how these books connect to other books and to other authors and you will discover the “wonder” of why he helped create and lead the LGP program. I also was drawn to Percy’s 5-fold leadership process of noticing, reading, interpreting, reframing, and returning.[8] His 5-point checklist fits my idea of him as a situational theologist who is always watching and balancing the needs of the people and the organization he serves.

In summary, this is quite a deep book that I will spend more time digging into as I work on my dissertation this fall. His work on contextual theology, binocular interpretations, ideas on spiritual inclusiveness, and how he creates a safe and open space to explore a theological-social science approach to doing church is very inspiring and encouraging.

Stand firm,

Mike

[1] Ian S. Markham and Joshua Daniel, Eds. Reasonable Radical?: Reading the Writings of Martyn Percy. (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2018) Location 1801.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Anthony Bash. “Reasonable Radical? Reading the Writings of Martyn Percy.” Journal for the Study of Spirituality 9, no. 1 (2019): 74.
[4] Markham and Daniel, Reasonable Radical, 8672.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Anthony Bash. “Reasonable Radical? Reading the Writings of Martyn Percy.” Journal for the Study of Spirituality 9, no. 1 (2019): 74.
[7] Gareth S. Jones, https://hkskhminghua.wordpress.com/2018/06/05/meet-the-faculty-professor-gareth-jones/
[8] Markham and Daniel, Reasonable Radical, 8635.

About the Author

mm

Mike

5 responses to “Doing Church”

  1. mm Jay Forseth says:

    Mike!

    Thanks for introducing me to “situational theologist” and “binocular interpretations”. You are stretching my vocabulary and you are smarter than I will ever be.

    Any talk of “bingo vision” as you described it reminds me of hunting big game, but even more important, as in spotting spiritual warfare.

    We all appreciate your help these years on reminding us of the enemy’s snares. Thank you brother, I think we heard after your Prezi how you have been effective and it is sinking in for even more of us…

    Well done!

  2. Thanks, Mike, I really appreciate the insights that you underlined, particularly the idea of a “situational theologian.” That is a helpful construct for me.

    Can you say more about binoculars? I’m not one who has used them and I did not read that part of the book. Do binoculars do something other that help us see things that are far away? Is that the main point?

    Thanks 🙂

    Standing firm,
    Jenn

  3. Hi Mike,

    I thought for sure you would quote Percy’s account of exorcism! 🙂

    Markham states, “[Percy] describes an exorcism that he performs, where a child complains of seeing an elderly man wandering around the upstairs of the house. While admitting the ‘potential social, psychological, and psychotherapeutic angles that could be explored’, he nevertheless sprinkles holy water, says the Lord’s Prayer with appropriate collects, and then has a cup of tea with the family before going home.” (Kindle, loc 338).

    I really like how he demystifies the experience and integrates it into reality. He appropriately deals with the demon, then has a cup of tea with the family. A good model!

  4. Great post Mike! I enjoyed the book as well and would have dove in deeper if I had more time. I enjoyed you highlighting the need for “bino-vision” in how we look at critical thinking and especially our topics of research. I hope we get to meet Percy in Oxford, he seems like a fascinating guy who I think I would like, but he does seem to be in the middle of some sticky stuff.

  5. mm Kyle Chalko says:

    You’re right on Mike. Its crazy to think about a whole book explaining what percy has said has been published, and while hes still very much alive. Situational theologian is a great term. I tihnk Percy will be added to my list of authors to return to consistently.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *