DMINLGP

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

Courage redefined.

Written by: on February 28, 2019

Every day, when I enter my office, this is the picture I see behind my desk. Both of these framed pieces were given to me by close friends after I participated in ministry events and campaigns with them. On the left is a token from a conference where I taught. It is a challenge to remember that if I can only muster enough courage, I can bring about change. On the right is a reminder of a fundraising campaign my sons and I participated in that raised a significant amount of money to aid in the eradication of Malaria. Both of these pieces remind me of powerful times in my life, but they also remind me of how far I still have to go and how much work remains to really change the world.

Hunter’s To Change the World, though a thick academic read, was an important message for the church. The book contains three essays that explain: (1) we cannot change the world if we continue doing what we are doing now;(2) the hubris of adopting a political model of change; and (3) the potential of the “faithful presence” of the church within the culture.[1] His challenging incarnational approach to ministry was encouraging and hopeful.

I found Hunter’s approach to the idea of power especially intriguing. Lately, I have found myself increasingly uncomfortable with the way, over time, I have embraced a power-driven approach to ministry leadership. Utilizing the best resources available in the corporate business world, I have applied a systems-based, optimization-obsessed model to the Christian organizations I am part of, all for the cause of world-change. Hunter has invited me to consider that this is not the real power available to us. Perhaps God is asking me to focus less on the efficiency of the church, and more on the presence of the church.

Hunter discusses the power God gives to us in creation:

“To be made in the image of God and to be charged with the task of working in and cultivating, preserving, and protecting the creation, is to possess power. The creation mandate, then, is a mandate to use that power in the world in ways that reflect God’s intentions… The question for the church, then, is not about choosing between power and powerlessness but rather, to the extent that it has space to do so, how will the church and its people use the power that they have?”[2] 

He then discusses this power that, in opposition to political power, rests within everyone:

“…the core teachings of Jesus as they bear on “social power” or “relational power”, the power one finds in ordinary life. It is exercised every day in primary social relationships, within the relationships of the family, neighborhood, and work in all of the institutions that surround us in daily life and therefore it is far more common to people than political power [which] tends to be experienced as an abstraction.”[3] 

I am challenged by the problem of political power Hunter identifies within the church, particularly his reminder that it is not Christians who bring about the Kingdom of God, but God alone who accomplishes this. He has graciously invited us to be part of this renewal. It is not our responsibility to ensure social well-being. Rather, Hunter says, “the vocation of the church is to bear witness to and to be the embodiment of the coming Kingdom of God.”[4] The point of the church is not to change the world, but to be a witness to the world that something better is coming.

At the close of Hunter’s book, I find myself in a repentant posture for the hubris I have been guilty of. Given the fact that my tendency is always to work harder and longer in order to move change forward, I am humbled and encouraged by the idea that perhaps the bravest thing to do is not to charge in, bearing the responsibility to change culture, but to simply live within it as a representation of God’s desire for the renewal of all things. Though I am still wrestling with how to do my part in “enacting shalom,”[5] I am leaning into the fact that there is so much more to consider.

Given the helplessness I have felt in the past few weeks, Hunter’s answer to the question of, world change is an encouraging one.

“Against the present realities of our historical moment, it is impossible to say what can actually be accomplished. There are intractable uncertainties that cannot be avoided. Certainly Christians, at their best, will neither create a perfect world nor one that is altogether new; but 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.”[6]

________________________________________

[1] James Davison Hunter, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010).

[2] Ibid., 181-4

[3] Ibid., 187

[4] Ibid., 285

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

About the Author

mm

Rhonda Davis

Rhonda is passionate about loving her Creator, her wonderful husband, and her three amazing sons. She serves as VP of Enrollment Management & Student Development at The King's University in Southlake, TX.

6 responses to “Courage redefined.”

  1. mm Sean Dean says:

    Rhonda, thank you for your reflection. I appreciate that we should all be in a repentant posture for how we have sought to use worldly power rather than the power provided for us by our creator. Thanks again.

  2. mm Tammy Dunahoo says:

    Rhonda, I appreciate your vulnerability. I was in a church this morning and heard stories of significant personal and family transformation. It spoke deeply to me that this is what faithful presence is all about. It’s not about trying to “change the world” that is God’s job. Our role is about trying to bring influence to bear on the people’s lives around us that they would experience the goodness of God. Seeing the homeless and teen moms find a pathway to life and hope was inspiring and a reminder of what the incarnated gospel will do.

  3. mm Rev Jacob Bolton says:

    Thank you Rhonda. Without sounding like Huey Lewis I kept thinking about the power of love as I read this book, and how that power has been shared with us by God. That power is much more transformative and claims resurrection more than the modern culture.

  4. mm Mary Mims says:

    Beautifully put Rhonda. I agree with what Tammy said. We cannot ignore the small faithful changes we are making in the lives of those we know and love. It is in this that we can take comfort.

  5. mm Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Rhonda, You are wise and seasoned leader that I respect very much. I also found myself repentant of notions of power and a systems approach to getting things done for the kingdom. I also found Hunter’s challenge to be humbling yet encouraging. As we grow and exercise leadership within our circles of influence, may we remember we can always be faithfully present across our respective cultures.

  6. mm Nancy VanderRoest says:

    Awesome post, Rhonda. There is no doubt that you are an amazing leader, as your insight is so well critiqued…by YOU! I appreciated your statement that ‘perhaps God is asking me to focus less on the efficiency of the church, and more on the presence of the church.’ I think this is a powerful reflection for all church leaders. Thanks for being so humble in your posts, Rhonda. I love that your eyes and ears are always open to learning and growing. You are a gift, my friend.

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