DMINLGP

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

Haunted

Written by: on February 17, 2017

James K. A. Smith’s enlightening book, How Not to Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor is a fascinating book.  Smith’s aim is to synthesize the exhaustive work of Charles Taylors nine-hundred plus manuscript dealing with the secular age.  Smith makes Taylor’s deep mind approachable.

For Smith, Taylor is a cartographer of this present age or rather how we got to this present age.  Taylor’s theory of secularization does not just pop up on the scene in the 20th century, but rather according to Smith, Taylor’s theory of the secularization of society started in the age of reformation in the 16th century.  It was there that Europe and the Americas (particularly North America) started its slow march into the secular world in which we live where we are “ensconced in immanence” and where the secular world is haunted by “transcendence.”  Smith proves Taylor’s point when he quotes the famous Julian Barnes as saying, “I don’t believe in God, but I do miss him (Smith, p. 5).”

REFLECTION

If Taylor is right about the secular age being consummated some five-hundred before its full birth, then what does it say about the decisions we make for the Christian church in the modern era.  As we have recently worked through Noll’s works on thinking, it puts it in an entirely new light.  How we think and approach the Christian work today could have monumental consequences for future generations. This is a sobering reality that engulfed me as I have worked my way through both text.

However, it is not merely the “five-hundred years moment” that worries me. If secularist live in a haunted age, I am haunted as well as a Christian.  Smith uses Julian Barnes work as another example.  Barnes in his work, Nothing to be Frightened Of, describes Christianity or religion this way:

“The notion of redefining deity into something that works for you (is) nothing short of grotesque (Barnes, p 46)…there seems to be little point in religion which is merely a weekly social event (apart, of course, from the normal pleasures of a weekly social event), as opposed to one which tells you exactly how to live, which colours and stains everything (p. 64)…what’s the point of faith unless you and it are serious….seriously serious….unless your religion fills, directs, stains and sustains your life (p. 81)?”

I am haunted that the American church (particularly Evangelical) is not delivering a faith that is seriously serious.  I am haunted that my walk with Christ and the Christ I preach is not staining everything which was Noll’s point in The Life and Mind of Christ. I am haunted by the consequences of preaching a message of the cross that demands nothing more than a mere glance at the one upon it.

CONCLUSION

As I stepped away from this week’s swim through Taylor’s mind, I am more convinced that Christianity shares some of the blame for secularism.  I am also concerned about the state of Christianity and the future by the decisions we are making today.  We must reconnect the church to the mission. We must once again preach a message of the cross that stains everything.

About the Author

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Jason Kennedy

I am a pastor of a thriving church in Grapevine, Texas. With two little girls (5,8), and a wife that is a medical doctor (family practice), life is non-stop.

15 responses to “Haunted”

  1. Hey Jason. This blog reminds me of the Bonhoeffer cheap grace quote. Besides preaching a message about how the cross should stain everything, how else can we reconnect the church with mission in our current immanent frame?

  2. AP,

    Thanks. I think you have to get outside the doors. This is something we preach but rarely do. Over the next year or two, I am going to move us from an attractional (ish) model to more of a missional model. We will look for partnerships all around our community in order to reconnect with mission. Faith has to be lived out. If you read the last part of James 1, he says pure religion is helping the helpless, taming the tongue and abstaining from worldliness. Pentecostals are great at number 3, but oddly not great at number 1. James is basically saying that faith is lived outside…it should be incarnational. I think if we can connect our people to this, then we have the opportunity to re-engage Millennials (which is my dissertation) because of their love for societal change.
    We have to move past the platitudes and cliches and truly practice.

  3. Sounds good. Let’s do it!

  4. mm Rose Anding says:

    Thanks Jason,
    you made some excellent points in your blog,
    how Christianity shares some of the blame for secularism.The question is Why? Tragically, many people today are not following the code as laid out in God’s Word, the Bible. Yes, we may be braced for the more obvious sins of life. Yet we may be completely oblivious to the more subtle sins of deception and false teaching that are so prevalent in the so-called new spirituality today—and even in many of our churches.

    This is why it is important to know the foundations of our Christian faith. We are, for all practical purposes, studying theology! The Christian writer, C.S. Lewis, gave this warning, years ago: “If you do not listen to theology, that will not mean that you have no ideas about God. It will mean that you have a lot of wrong ones. We have fail to follow the mission of God for the church.
    Thanks An Interesting blog. Rose Maria

    • Jason KENNEDY says:

      Thanks Rose. You are exactly right. The “why” can be attributed to wandering towards the wrong mission. We chase political platforms, pet projects and even church growth and forget about the true mission.

      Jason

  5. mm Marc Andresen says:

    Jason,

    I resonate with a number of the quotations you cite, and with your own thoughts.

    “…then what does it say about the decisions we make for the Christian church in the modern era…” I wonder what decisions we made thirty years ago that contributed to our present state. I, too, am concerned about the state of Christianity and wonder what will be left of the Church in fifty to a hundred years.

    You quoted Barnes, “The notion of redefining deity into something that works for you (is) nothing short of grotesque…”

    He has a point. How would you answer Barnes?

    You wrote, “I am more convinced that Christianity shares some of the blame for secularism.”

    Do you think there is any “fix” for this situation?

    • Jason KENNEDY says:

      Marc,

      My answer to Barnes would be to point him to the Biblical definition of Christianity. I would push him to view it from the source. I am not sure of the fix. I do think getting back to being Missions and incarnational is perhaps a key.

  6. mm Phil Goldsberry says:

    Jason:

    Your conclusion on secularization is astute and painful. The church has definitely participated in the decline. But, can the church participate in the de-secularization and reengaging of the transcendence of the one true God?

    I believe in the power of the pulpit in preaching….but what should that message be? I know that is pretty open ended….but what are a few key essentials that need to be reinforced into the heart of people today?

    Phil

    • Jason KENNEDY says:

      Phil,
      I do believe there is hope. I think a key is to focus our people back on the mission of the church. I also think a key for the church is to admit its mistakes in the past as well.
      Jason

  7. Jason,
    Thanks for your insightful post.

    The words staining is what jumped out at me. Using our intellect to present the gospel in a staining way in a secular world. Is that possible? Is it just technology that makes that work? Or is it something that is more humble? Is it the power of the Holy Spirit? The sticking or staining factor? Is it time for another moment in our countries time for God?

    Thanks for making my brain work.

    Your building was amazing and my brain is dead. So you have done a really miraculous work to make me think right now!!!

    God Bless

    Kevin

    • Jason KENNEDY says:

      Kevin,
      Thank you for your kind words. I think staining is creating a shift in people’s minds. We have created an event form of Christianity. We must continue to show people how it is lived everywhere. Noll’s second book points us in that direction.
      Jason

  8. Pablo Morales says:

    Jason,
    You speak with the heart of a pastor. Smith quotes a few people who wonder about meaning in life and ask, “is this all there is?”. Sometimes I feel that way about church ministry. Is this all there is? Another sermon, another week, another year passing by? As you, I eager to see the body of Christ grow deeper and more passionate about God’s heart. I guess that the haunting that you talk about it is also a form of drive. It is a thirst we carry to see the church healthier tomorrow than what it is today. So yes! Let’s keep the church connected to the mission and let’s preach the Christ who wants to stain everything for the glory of the Father. Thank you for a heartfelt blog.
    Pablo

  9. Aaron Cole says:

    Jason,

    Great thoughts! I really connected with your conclusion in feeling and fact. I have found myself pondering the same. Any thoughts, tweaks, changes as local Pastor that you see or think could make a difference or are you a bit numb?

    Aaron

    • Jason KENNEDY says:

      AC,
      I am going through the process now (largely spurred on by my dissertation). I believe that becoming Missions land incarnational in our community is critical. Sweet’s book, So Beautiful is helpingbthink through this shift.
      Jason

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