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

Transformation At Its Best

Written by: on March 1, 2019

I love the parable of the Good Samaritan.  It is one of my favorites.  Of course, it is about the traveler who was stripped of clothing, beaten, and left half dead along the side of the road.  First a priest and then a Levite come by and ignore this injured man along the side of the road.  Then, along comes a Samaritan.  Now, Samaritans and Jews despised each other back in the day, but the Samaritan helped the injured man by bringing him to an inn, paying the innkeeper to care for him, and then adding that whatever additional costs there may be, he would cover them in full.  Jesus then said, “Go and do likewise.”

OK, I may be a little slow here, but my take on this parable is that, as Christians, we must help others on our journey, as all people are our neighbors.  This includes every race, gender, culture, etc.  This is part of our role as a Christian.  So, along comes Hunter’s book, To Change the World…and my confusion increases.  (Lordy, lordy, it’s not good to increase my confusion in this already confused world, Hunter.  Whutchu talkin’bout, Willis?)

I have always lived my life to believe we truly can make a difference in this world.  John F. Kennedy said, “One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.”  Mother Teresa said, “If you cannot feed 100 people, feed 1.”  And John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down’s one’s life for one’s friends.”  This ‘laying of your life’ may be through sacrifice, as every time we sacrifice for someone else, we give up a part of ourselves to bless that person.  So, when I read Hunter, I saw this viewpoint of Christianity as a type of idealism of transforming the world, which basically means trying to change the hearts and minds of individuals, and in this scenario, it’s through acts of love.  “This account,” says Hunter, “is almost wholly mistaken.”[1]

Hunter continues: “It is essential, in my view, to abandon altogether talk of redeeming the culture, advancing the kingdom, building the kingdom, transforming the world, reclaiming the culture, reforming the culture, and changing the world.”[2]  The author then explores that he sees these phrases as conquests.  I disagree, as I see these phrases as utilizing the principles of Luke 10:30-37, where Jesus said, “Go and do likewise.”  In other words, it is through God’s light shining in us that we can lead others to the glory of God and creates transformation.

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in Heaven” (Matthew 5:16).  This is what transformation is all about.  It is allowing the secular world to see the good works, which will glorify God.  Sometimes, preaching the Word just isn’t enough to reach people.  They need to feel the touch of Christ upon them to begin to understand His love.

Hunter noted that by making a certain understanding of the good of society as the objective, the source of the good – God himself and the intimacy he offers – becomes nothing more than a tool to be used to ‘transform the world,’ which the author notes as a negative.  Yet, Hebrews 13:16 states: “And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need.  These are sacrifices that please God.”  I’m not seeing the ‘tool’ as a problem, as I believe our goal is to please God on our journey on earth.

So, I’ll end with this thought from Martin Luther King, Jr.: “The first question, which the priest and the Levite asked, was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’  But the good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’”  Let Christ’s love shine in all we do – and others will see that glow and feel God’s love through His light that is within us.  Then, stand back and watch transformation at its best!

[1] James Davison Hunter, To Change The World: The Irony, Tragedy, And Possibility Of Christianity In The Late Modern World, (Oxford University Press, 2010), 17.

[2] Ibid, 280.

About the Author

mm

Nancy VanderRoest

Nancy is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and fulfills God's calling on her life by serving as a Chaplain & Counselor with Hospice. In her spare time, Nancy works with the anti-human trafficking coalition in her local community.

10 responses to “Transformation At Its Best”

  1. Digby Wilkinson says:

    Hi Nancy. I think Hunter would agree with you. His concluding chapters point in the same direction. I get the impression that his main interest is in shaping cultural thinking rather than changing specific lives. Doing good stuff for others is a direct imperative for all Christians, however, when Hunter talks of changing the world, his attention is more on the politics and the cultural dynamics of morality and worldview. Is there a Christian worldview that can be applied seamlessly worldwide and across civilisations? In most cases, the answers smack of spiritual colonialism. History seems to say no. I, however, don’t believe Hunter is saying that precludes embodying Christ within every culture. In fact, that is the great challenge, rather than changing the culture. “Give to Caesar what is Caesars, to God what is God’s”.

    • mm Nancy VanderRoest says:

      I agree with you, Digby. I think Hunter had a focus of shaping cultural thinking as you stated. To me, his focus seemed to be speaking the Word rather than living out the Word. But you are right in stating that Hunter wasn’t precluding embodying Christ. I just would have appreciated seeing more about living like Jesus versus spreading the news verbally, as often the secular world cannot hear it, but must see it visually to receive it.

  2. Mario Hood says:

    Very great post Nancy. I too at first believed that Hunter was essentially going against everything the Bible teaches but then I begin to think about the history of Christianity and how for most of it and even now if functioned more as a subculture rather than a dominant culture. This is what I think Hunter is getting at, that the main objective is to be present in the lives of those we can actually affect rather than trying to “dominant” culture as a whole.

  3. mm Rhonda Davis says:

    Thank you for your post, Nancy. It seems to me that your work in hospice care is an excellent example of Hunter’s idea of “faithful presence.” You are changing the world…not through political power, but through personal presence. You are leaving your community better than you found it!

  4. mm Nancy VanderRoest says:

    Thanks for your response, Mario. I agree with your reflection on Hunter focusing on the dominant culture of the church and serve as a faithful presence within (in Hunter’s words). Thanks for your insight, Mario. I appreciated your observation and your comments.

  5. mm Nancy VanderRoest says:

    You are so sweet, Rhonda. I agree with you that “faithful presence” is a part of Hunter’s philosophy which does fit with Hospice work. Thanks for your gifts and your insight, Rhonda.

  6. mm Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Nancy, thanks so much for your very biblical view. I found Hunter helpful and took his arguments as decrying the well-intentioned, but unwise macro rallying cries to stir the “masses” to “take” their world for Jesus. The militant, “go get ’em” anthems of the recent past and present do not fare well in sustainability for the duration. To me, what you are wonderfully affirming is faithful presence wherever we are, with whoever we are with. You are a treasure and I am grateful for your influence in the church. Thanks again for your perspective.

  7. mm Nancy VanderRoest says:

    Thanks so much, Harry. You are so sweet! I found Hunter’s book more fulfilling in the end when he shared about faithful presence. But I found his process of getting there tooooo long for me. I agree with your viewpoint and always appreciate your blogs and responses, Harry. Thanks for blessing our cohort!

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