Today the Beeson 11 Pastors and families (mostly) will be heading to Cincinnati, Ohio. Tonight we will visit Crossroads Church and tomorrow morning The Vineyard. Both churches have been a part of pioneering movements in current missiological movements - The Vineyard has been leading the way in servant evangelism and Crossroads has been extending its reach through satellite campuses or multi-site venues.
My reading for the week covered Thomas Merton and E. Stanley Jones. These writers are contributing to a class on spiritual formation. Merton's work is chronological and reflective in nature. Jones' is topical and pastorally theological. Both provide some tremendous prisms to see the world of the 20th century. Merton's thoughts and soul forming process portray a tremendous journey. His baptismal/faith confessing account is like a dark roasted pot of coffee - strong and full bodied.
Jones' work covers a plethora of ground; it speaks of his mission work, of his ambassadorial activities, of his views on health and food, and much more. He takes a full orbed view regarding holiness - that all of life is to be surrendered and received from Jesus. He provides a couple of phrases that I am embracing and wrestling with. The first is - "a Christian in the making." He never had the sense that he was done, but on the journey with Jesus. Thus Holiness for him was not perfection of thought, word and deed. It was being fully submitted to the Lord. The second is - God is Christlike. This phrase provides the theological wrestling. It takes up Jesus comment in John 14 when Philip says, show us the Father. Jesus says, "if you've seen me, you've seen the Father." Jones says that in the Word becoming flesh, the fullness of God was revealed in Jesus. Thus, when we think of God, if our thoughts run contrary to Jesus, then we're not thinking of the God of the universe, but some mis-conception. For in Jesus - God is fully revealed. Jones is a known ecumenist, and his perspective here helps him form his chief question as to whether he can join with another person in Christian fellowship, can you say the creed from Romans 10 - Jesus is Lord?
Yesterday our cohort sat down with Ben Thomas, Lead Pastor at Nehemiah Project, a church plant in Indianapolis, Indiana. I've known Ben since 1992 when he entered Indiana Wesleyan University as a freshman and I was a sophomore. Ben unpacked his story and the story of the church plant. It was great to hear about the unique approach to ministry he has a part of leading. Greater still is the joy of seeing what God has done with Ben's life, of where he was headed and where he is headed now to share in the beautiful spirit he exudes.