DMINLGP

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

Loving God with all your mind

Written by: on January 30, 2015

From its start, Ethiopian Evangelical Christianity has exhibited strong emphases on key characteristics of evangelicalism such as “the need for a supernatural new birth, profess faith in the Bible as a revelation from God, encourage spreading the gospel through missions and personal evangelism, and emphasize the saving character of Jesus’ death and resurrection”(p.9). Denominations who practice these key elements actively tend to grow in numbers, which in turn is considered a sign of growth and influence. Ethiopian Protestant churches grew through times of persecution which drew them closer despite their differences. But, at the same time, churches are completely lacking a thoughtful engagement in the social, political and cultural life of their community. Their lack of influence in a broader culture is primarily theological, but there are cultural and political challenges as well. The cultural challenge is that Ethiopian Evangelical Christians are the minority; they are often influenced by herd instincts. Also, our country has been led by a single-party system that effectively marginalized other opposing parties. These challenges added to the Ethiopian evangelicals’ inattention to explore ways to challenge the oppressive regime in a nonviolent approach.

Coming from this cultural background, I find reading Mark A Noll’s book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind inspiring. Noll’s book is a brilliant analysis on the decline of intellectual life in modern American Evangelicals. Noll begins by asserting, “The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind” (p.3). He notes that evangelicals have extended much energy to “Feeding the hungry, living simply and banning the bomb” but “neglected sober analysis of nature, human society, and the arts ” (p.3-4). Looking at the historical background, Noll argues modern evangelical leaders are “the spiritual descendants of leaders and movements distinguished by probing, creative, fruitful attention to the mind” (p.4). Although “…all held that diligent, rigorous mental activity was a way to glorify God. None of them believed that intellectual activity was the only was to glorify God…” (p.4).

This reminds me of Jesus’ words in Matthew, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself ” (Mat. 12:30). What does it mean to love the Lord with all our mind? As Noll reminds us one way to love God with our minds means looking back in history and learning from leaders who loved God with their minds as they followed Christ in discipleship. This is one way we become aware of the areas we are doing well or may be falling short in living out our Lord’s commandment and following our evangelical tradition.

Therefore, I love the challenge Noll gives to Evangelicals throughout this book: to make an effort to think like a Christian. He says, “The much more important is what it means to think like a Christian about the nature and working of the physical world, the character of human social structures like government and the economy, the meaning of the past, the nature of artistic creation, and the circumstances attending our perception of the world outside ourselves ” (p.7). Noll says we must take seriously the larger world of intellect if we want “our minds to be shaped by the conventions of our modern universities and the assumptions of Madison Avenue, instead of by God and the servants of God” (p. 34).

I utterly agree with Noll that comprehensive thinking is absolutely essential, as “Luther held, because people needed to understand both the word of Scripture and the nature of the world in which the word would take root” (p.37). And I believe our intellectual life is not at odds with our faith, it is rather an arena in which to glorify God, and will impact our discipleship. When we understand this, we will be able to do our jobs, studies, and ministries not merely to pass time, but to honor God with our whole being. May the Lord help us love Him with all our mind!

 

 

 

About the Author

Telile Fikru Badecha

9 responses to “Loving God with all your mind”

  1. mm John Woodward says:

    Telile, thanks for bringing these books to bare on your Ethiopian background and culture. I really appreciate your cross-cultural perspective so much. I just read Carol’s post, where she brings us a similar question that you raise in how intellectual focus will play out in other cultures., especially in the global south. As you indicate about the Ethiopian Christians, “Their lack of influence in a broader culture is primarily theological, but there are cultural and political challenges as well.” I have to wonder if Ethiopia is similar to other places in the global south? The question that I think is so interesting to consider what the future of the global church will look like, because the stunning growth of the churches in the global south. With the many “non-Western” cultures giving rise to the church today, where there is less stress on Church history, or academic study, or church tradition, will this bring a return to an Church that is again less engaged in the world, in high learning and ultimately less influential in society? I am just trying to think of how these books might relate to a very different looking Church that is today emerging elsewhere in the world….and places like Ethiopia might be the place to look to see future! Thanks for helping my think beyond my own little world!

    • Telile Fikru Badecha says:

      John, I thank you for your thoughtful comments. While we celebrate what God is doing in the Global South in bulling His church, Like you say, I am very much concerned about churches’ less stress on academic study or church history/tradition. Believers are taken astray by prosperity gospel that preaches against poverty, persecution, self-denial and etc. Since the whole emphasis of the prosperity gospel is on “bodily blessings” not on “God’s Kingdom”, believers greatly challenged for not knowing how to build relationship with their neighbors who are adherents of other religions. I believe, with the rise of the Global South, the call for churches is to examine their theologies and approaches, so that they know how to engage in their world. Thanks again!

  2. mm Deve Persad says:

    Your Ethiopian perspective is always appreciated, Telile. The post-christian culture in which I live, is moving quickly toward evangelicals being a small minority whose voice is not welcome. We have much to learn from cultures where this has been the case. And yet, the challenge will be not shrink back within the confines of what we’re told our expression should be. Rather we must, though carefully, thoughtfully engage the issues of our society from our biblical framework. You said, “As Noll reminds us one way to love God with our minds means looking back in history and learning from leaders who loved God with their minds as they followed Christ in discipleship.” When you look back, who has inspired you or modelled the way to loving God with their mind?

  3. Telile…
    I don’t have any questions to offer after reading your post, I think instead I need to just ponder the insights and wisdom you have brought to our learning. You have eyesight that brings discernment and clarity.

    You asked, “When you look back, who has inspired you or modelled the way to loving God with their mind?” Rather than one person, it is the collaboration of people that have challenged me to engage in learning based out of what I did know so that I might be drawn toward what I did not. That process began in some regards outside of the church and then continued through seminary. It is no doubt one of the factors contributing to being in this DMin program. Presently our cohort models for me the way of loving God with their mind. 🙂

    • Telile Fikru Badecha says:

      Carol! I relate to your experience. Seminary has helped grow in my love for Scripture and the stories of leaders who have gone before us.
      I agree with you, “Presently our cohort models for me the way of loving God with their mind. 🙂
      Blessings!

  4. Telile Fikru Badecha says:

    Deve, you asked me “When you look back, who has inspired you or modelled the way to loving God with their mind?” As I shared in this post, I come from the church culture that gives less emphasis on the importance of intellectual life. However, growing up I had a deep desire to understand Scripture, so I asked God to send me a seminary. So when I went I was inspired by stories of great leaders and thinkers in Church history that increased my zeal for God’s word and theology. There is not doubt this process includes friends, like you, whose theology and wisdom continues to enrich my experience and knowledge of the word of God. Thank you for asking!

  5. Telile,

    Your posts are always refreshing and real. They always make my day. Thank you for sharing with us.

    Yes, your question is a very good one, “How do we love the Lord with all our mind?” This is a very important question for each of us to ponder and to live out. At least for me, one way that I can love God with my mind is to be unafraid to ask good questions, rather than to “just believe” because someone told me to believe it. I must be able to wrestle with the big questions in life and not be satisfied with shallow answers. In fact, sometimes, there are no answers. Faith is not about having all the answers; rather, it is about having questions but still believing. All too often, evangelicals are the people with all the answers, but the sad thing is that sometimes they do not have well-thought-through answers and that is what turns others off. To sometimes say, “I don’t know” is not a bad thing. For example, there is not always an answer for suffering. Sometimes the correct response to suffering is simply to listen to the person and love the person. My son suffers deeply with chronic depression. He loves God deeply, but he does not know why he has to suffer for long periods of time when others around him are not suffering. There is not an easy answer for this. The proper response to this is just to love him, to have him over for meals, and just to listen. That support and love is helping him get through the tough times, even though the suffering doesn’t stop.

    God help us to learn how to love God with our whole hearts, souls, and minds.

  6. Ashley says:

    Telile, I love how each week you are able to pick apart the points from our authors and apply them to your own situation and background. You make the books and the principles real, instead of simply words on a page. One day, I would love to hear your personal testimony…how you came to know Christ, how you felt called into ministry, and how you put education as a priority in your life. Maybe we can do that over a cup of tea in Hong Kong! 🙂

  7. Michael Badriaki says:

    Telile, the christian environment to describe in Ethiopia is very similar to the one in Uganda and the neighboring countries. Yet Christians are also among some of the most affected groups by the political, socioeconomic issues in the world. This is why as you put it “to think like a Christian. He says, ‘The much more important is what it means to think like a Christian about the nature and working of the physical world, the character of human social structures like government and the economy, the meaning of the past, the nature of artistic creation, and the circumstances attending our perception of the world outside ourselves’ is very timely.

    Thank you for the insights.

    Have a great week!

    I utterly agree with Noll that comprehensive thinking is absolutely essential, as “Luther held, because people needed to understand both the word of Scripture and the nature of the world in which the word would take root”

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