WHAT I'M READING
BY THE REV'D CANON ART GOING, CANON FOR LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT
This month, I’m moving on with Luther. After two plus years in the Psalms and then on to Romans, Luther turned in 1516 to Galatians for a series of lectures. It’s hard to overestimate the impact Galatians had on Luther . . . and, through Luther’s own fresh discovery of the gospel and his reawakening to grace alone, through faith alone, the subsequent impact on figures like John Wesley. Of course, recall that Luther was influenced heavily by Augustine, who himself had reclaimed Paul’s relentless focus on grace. Luther would return to Galatians with a commentary in 1535. And his 1520 treatise on the Freedom of a Christian bears unmistakable marks of Galatians theology. Parenthetically, I’ve wondered for a long time if C.S.Lewis had read freedom of Christian, given some similarities in language and concept; it seems unlikely, but more on that in a couple of months.
I’m revising the sequence of Luther reading a bit. I hand not planned to read his lectures on Hebrews, but now I’m reconsidering. The impetus for the shift came with my reading this month of a wonderful little book by Graham Tomlin, Anglican Luther scholar, Bishop of Kensington, and founding president of St Mellitus College, the newest and now largest theological college in the Church of England: The Widening Circle: Priesthood as God's Way of Blessing the World. In the opening chapters, Tomlin writes beautifully about the priesthood of Christ the Mediator as it is portrayed in Hebrews. So I’ve decided to lay Tomlin and Luther side-by-side this month and reflect more deeply on priesthood.
David Fitch is a professor of theology at Northern Seminary and founding pastor of Life on the Vine Christian Community outside Chicago. He also writes a widely read blog reclaimingthemission.com. And he has been an influential voice in Mission Alliance, an effort to bring together a number of Church leaders, from across a range of theological traditions, who have voiced a shared desire for a collaborative alternative in the face of increasing fragmentation within evangelical Protestantism in North America.
Convinced that we need clarity on the issues of scriptural authority, the robustness of the gospel, the incarnational nature of the Church, the importance of community, and the place of spiritual formation as discipleship, Fitch has written a new book on missional ecclesiology, Faithful Presence: Seven Disciplines that Shape the Church for Mission.
What I appreciate about Fitch is that the book is not merely an abstract academic manifesto, but rather flows out of his missionary work as a church planter, alongside his teaching ministry. The seven disciplines were not conceived in a scholar’s study but practiced and shaped in the pastoral work of a church planter and his congregation: the discipline of the Lord’s Table, the discipline of reconciliation, the discipline of proclaiming the gospel, the discipline of being with the “least of these,” the discipline of being with children [where else have you seen this emphasized in a book like this?], the discipline of the fivefold gifting, and the discipline of kingdom prayer. Grab this book. I think you’ll find it a refreshingly different and challenging invitation to rethink our ministries.
Let me just mention briefly some other books I’m beginning to dip into this month:
Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit: Growing in Christlikeness
Christopher Wright’s Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit: Growing in Christlikeness. Wright, the well-known director of the Langham Trust (the global equipping ministry founded by John Stott), writes this lovely little book in the wake of an online initiative called Nine-a Day, which, through short videos and devotional reflections, invited people to: “Feed on the Word of God, grow in Christlikeness, and live in the Spirit.”
Craig Bartholomew’s Excellent Preaching. Many of you know his co-authored book (with Robert Goheen), The Drama of Scripture, required reading for our ordinands. Aubrey Spears introduced me to this book through his wonderful lectures on homiletics. I’m looking forward to this reading, not least because of the enticing chapter titles: “The Destination, the Plane, and the Cargo; The Captain; The View from Arrivals; The Airport: Contextualization; Landing the Plane.” It’a small book that packs a big punch.
Transforming Conversion: Rethinking the Lanuage and Contours of Christian Initiation
Lastly, Gordon Smith’s Transforming Conversion: Rethinking the Language and Contours of Christian Initiation. This I’m reading as part of my work as chair of the ACNA Committee for Catechesis and because Smith will be the keynoter at our 2017 Synod, which will begin our diocesan focus on discipleship and catechesis. Stay tuned.