DMINLGP

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

Shalom

Written by: on April 17, 2015

“To be Christian is to be obliged to engage the world, pursuing God’s restorative purposes over all of life, individual and corporate, public and private. This is the mandate of creation.”[1] How to change the word is a question that man has been trying to answer since the time of Adam and Eve. Hunter, in his book, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World” seeks to answer why Christians have failed in their efforts to make the world a better place, and then looks at how we can live in a manner that will make a difference.

“Christianity is not, first and foremost, about establishing righteousness or creating good values or securing justice or making peace in the world… For Christians, these are all secondary to the primary good of God himself and the primary task of worshipping him and honoring him in all they do.”[2] Hunter asserts that the rules of the world cannot be changed, and that Christians cannot create a perfect world. The models for change that have been attempted throughout history are flawed, as power is at the root and breeds idealism, individualism, and pietism.   He asserts that change can only be accomplished through faithful presence. Faithful presence involves cooperation between individuals and institutions. Instead of desiring to change the world, we must desire to honor the Creator and love one another. It seems so simple. Yet, we work so hard to impact the world through activism even though history has demonstrated that it doesn’t effect large scale, sustainable change.

“By enacting shalom and seeking it on behalf of all others through the practice of faithful presence, it is possible, just possible, that they will help to make the world a little bit better.”[3]
The concept of shalom has been one that I have been researching throughout this semester. It is the Hebrew spelling of the general Semitic term for “peace, wholeness, well-being.” It describes the ideal human state, both individual and communal, the ultimate gift from God.[4] We live in constant tension, so the idea of enacting shalom in our own lives and communities seems like an unreachable goal. Our culture seems to equate the pursuit of shalom with selfishness. For many individuals, peace is most closely associated with vacation. Unspoken pressures constantly drive us forward. We rarely take the time to consider what shalom, or well-being of the world, should look like.

Hunter’s book forced me to consider my own passion and pursuit to make a difference in this world. In my drive to identify my calling and to serve others, I have been guilty of neglecting relationships with others. I focus my energy and drive on the cause or mission. Thus, I become less effective and productive. When I neglect relationships with others, my sphere of influence shrinks. When I move too fast, I often fail to listen to the direction and leading of the Holy Spirit. My good intentions will not change the world. Hunter doesn’t offer a single answer or model that I can follow to make a change within the world. Instead, he reminds us that we can most adequately face “the challenges of the present moment by maintaining the faithful presence within.”[5]

I found Hunter’s book to be inspiring, but I believe he discounts the impact that activism can have on the world and the fact that God does call some into this role.  His book is a great reminder that we must stay grounded in our faith and responsive to the direction of the Holy Spirit.  It is only then that we can truly create the impact on the world that God ordains through our work.  Without faithful presence, we will have no impact within our sphere of influence.  Through faithful presence, we live and propagate shalom.  “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me…”

[1] Hunter, James Davison (2010-03-31). To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World (p. 4). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

[2] Hunter, James Davison (2010-03-31). To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World (pp. 285-286). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

[3] Hunter, James Davison (2010-03-31). To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World (pp. 285-286). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

[4] Mark Allan Powell, ed., “Shalom,” The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary (Revised and Updated) (New York: HarperCollins, 2011), 942.

[5] Hunter, James Davison (2010-03-31). To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World (p. 276). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

 

About the Author

Dawnel Volzke

Christ follower, wife, mom, teacher, student, professional...my passion is to serve Christ and my calling is to help organizations become great at fulfilling their mission.

10 responses to “Shalom”

  1. mm Brian Yost says:

    Dawnel,
    I love the balance you bring to this discussion. While identifying the need for the personal practice of shalom and seeking God’s presence, you also bring up a very important point; “I found Hunter’s book to be inspiring, but I believe he discounts the impact that activism can have on the world and the fact that God does call some into this role.”
    In seeking God’s presence and being led by him, he calls us into different roles, different ways to live out our faith and reflect his son. In the same way some are called to be pastors others are called to be teachers, business leaders, community leaders, and even activist or politicians. It seems that the key is to be close enough to God to hear his heart and serve him in whatever role he calls us into.

    • Dawnel Volzke says:

      Amen Brian, I think this is true throughout our lives. People rarely receive a calling when they graduate from college, and then never change direction. There are seasons in which we are called to serve Him differently. This is why it is so important that we continuously seek His direction.

  2. mm Nick Martineau says:

    Thanks Dawnel…Living in the tension seems to be the key. Whether it’s activism or any project I find myself doing I tend to neglect the relationships in order to get my project complete. Hunter reminds us that any project that calls us towards neglecting relationships is not worth it but I appreciate how you remind us that it is possible to value relationships and still take activism seriously. Thanks.

    • Dawnel Volzke says:

      Thanks Nick. It sounds so easy, but isn’t. There are always pressures to perform better and faster. The world allows little room for relationship building. I find that I must be very intentional to pay attention to this aspect of my work. In doing so, I am blessed by the wonderful people who God places in my path.

  3. Phillip Struckmeyer says:

    Dawnel, Thanks for writing this for all of us: “In my drive to identify my calling and to serve others, I have been guilty of neglecting relationships with others. I focus my energy and drive on the cause or mission. Thus, I become less effective and productive. When I neglect relationships with others, my sphere of influence shrinks. When I move too fast, I often fail to listen to the direction and leading of the Holy Spirit. My good intentions will not change the world. ” I think we are all guilty of getting caught up on the work God is calling us to do as opposed to getting caught up on God in the work he has called us to do. I do think, thinking about shalom has some answers for our search and the kind of lives we are all trying to live for God in this world. Good post and thanks for your honesty . . . again.

    • Dawnel Volzke says:

      Phil, Mary and Dave,
      Shalom is something that I believe we have strayed so far away from that we don’t know how it looks within our own lives or within organizations. Yet, it is critical to our ability to move forward with positive change. Take, for example, an organization or church that is executing ministry projects. If they don’t have a culture of shalom, then they have failed to leverage the full capacity of their workers to complete the tasks necessary to have a successful mission. When I think about the greater impact of Christianity in the world today, I get discouraged. Just think about how much broader of an impact we would have if there wasn’t so much disunity and conflict between different Christian groups. In general, we don’t have shalom in the community of believers.

  4. mm Mary Pandiani says:

    I love that you brought in shalom. If changing the world for a Christian is bringing in the Kingdom of God, then truly it’s about well being and freedom of living in Christ. That brings in so much latitude for how we approach one another, rather than feeling like we need the big glitzy formula for an effective impact on the world.
    Going back to Dave’s comment in his post about not confusing mission and method – I think the integration of those two is shalom. Then, as Brian reminded us, we can be activists, or pastors, or teachers, or moms, or whatever God has gifted us in to bring about peace on earth.
    Sure appreciate your vulnerability on this post.

  5. mm Dave Young says:

    Dawnel, I’m really captivated by you thoughts on ‘shalom’. Speaking as an idealist and a perfectionist – ugh – I hold onto a lot of tension as I make my way through this world. Tension and stress that have little to do with being an effective witness to our church or our culture. Through the indwelling Spirit, the demands of my perfectionism can be let go, the impatience of my idealism can be set aside… In it’s place Shalom. So – Shalom becomes a profound witness inwardly and outwardly.

    • mm Jon Spellman says:

      Dave, the witness of Shalom is something I have systematically overlooked. I have always selfishly looked for peace only in the light of its personal benefit to me, not in terms of how it witnesses to the world.

      Pondering this one…

  6. mm Travis Biglow says:

    Dawnel, i am in total agreement with you. How will the Bible be fulfilled if we won the world for Christ. It is a utopian idea to that when there are other religions who have no intentions of being a Chrisitian. We should reach the world as much as the Lord allows us without feeling guilty we have not got everyone!

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