Thursday, June 23, 2016

Spiritual Coffee: Barnabas Piper Leadership Podcasts (Spiritual Disciplines) - Sports Community Replaces Church - Richard John Neuhaus, Liberal and Orthodox?

Catching up on a week of interesting developments. Here are three of the most useful things I've come across to stimulate and sharpen your Christian thinking. As always, prior selections are under Spiritual Coffee.

5 Leadership Questions podcast: Spiritual Disciplines and Leadership, Todd Akins and Barnabas Piper (with Kevin Spratt)
The bonus here is discovering this podcast by Akins and Piper, which has weekly episodes where they "ask five questions of different guests or about different leadership topics. The aim of the podcast is to inform and encourage Christian leaders whether they serve in the pastorate, the business world, non-profits, or on a volunteer basis." This one has a valuable perspective on why we can't take the spiritual disciplines for granted, or get tired of them. Kind of like we shouldn't get tired of breathing or eating. Some things are so basic that you just can't opt out of them if you want life to work.
In addition to a useful concept, Akins and Piper have quotes from each episode posted below the player so you can skim what they talk about.
“Many times the delta between our knowledge and our application is immense.”“Without the fundamentals you don’t have anything to build off of.”
“There are some things that there simply isn’t a newer better way to do.”
“Character is as valuable now as it ever has been, and there aren’t different versions.”
“You can’t really innovate spiritual disciplines.”
“You can’t lead people in a direction you’re not going yourself.”

Check out the episode with Jon Acuff too. Good thoughts on developing yourself for success and staying away from moral failure.
“I try to surround myself with people who have the kind of lives I want to live.”“Hustle is an act of focus, not frenzy.”
Lessons from Cleveland's Religious Devotion to Its Teams, Ed Uszynski (Athletes in Action)
This is a remarkably well-written comparison that identifies the community-bonding and identity-formation aspects of the investment people have in their cities' sports teams. It contrasts how those aspects used to be served primarily by church community. There are some valuable observations here about what may be missing from our churches, as well as what we need to make sure we are getting from church instead of simply from sports and other recreational friendships.
"They actually fill a void previously filled by church attendance and the experience of being a church member. With the decline of institutional religion as an influential reality in communities across America, a key component of human development and one of the primary areas that Christian education used to fill—identity formation—has been taken over by sport culture."
The Liberalism of Richard John Neuhaus, Matthew Rose (National Affairs)
Neuhaus was founder and editor of the Christian magazine First Things, a commentary on religion and public life, up until his death. He is probably one of the most well-known voices addressing the absence of religion in the public square and civil government. He coined the phrase "the Naked Public Square" with his book in the 1980s, describing what had happened to social and civic discussions by the exclusion of 'religion' as an accepted aspect of those discussions. He was a great champion for the importance and appropriateness of religious thought being applied in society, politics, law, and education, but also a very wise and reasonable thinker who didn't suffer from the extremes that some Christians do in trying to 'put the Bible back in school.' He is a man well worth studying and knowing. It's only fair that I include a link to the reminiscences of First Things writers about Neuhaus as well. This article is by no means the definitive portrait of Neuhaus, but it is a great picture nonetheless.
"At the time of his death in 2009, Richard John Neuhaus had been a public figure for nearly four decades. To admirers and friends, he was arguably the most influential American Christian intellectual since Reinhold Niebuhr or John Courtney Murray. The New York Times described him as a 'theologian who transformed himself from a liberal Lutheran leader of the civil rights and anti-war struggles in the 1960s to a Roman Catholic beacon of the neoconservative movement of today.' It was a conventional biographical arc — Neuhaus's life was defined by exchanging the ideals of liberalism for the dogmas of religious traditionalism."
"But that story is misleading, if not worse, since it distorts the convictions of a man wholly defined by his convictions. Neuhaus spent his life contending for the soul of the liberal tradition. Conversions great and small marked his career, and he often quoted Cardinal Newman, saying that 'to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.' But his commitment to political liberalism, far from being a youthful error he later repudiated, was one of his life's few consistent threads. The other was his orthodox Christian faith."

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