Wilkinson, Cron, and Vischer

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I keep running into what seem to be two different streams of thought within the Christian faith.   One stream seems to be about God-given vision, changing the world, and dedicating yourself to the pursuit of both.  Blogs and books and sermons inspire Christians to aim their energy toward Doing Big Things… pursuing the dream God placed in them… because all are called to change the world.  The assumption, then, is that the world can be changed and that it happens through the dreams God places in people’s hearts.  Bruce Wilkinson’s ‘The Dream Giver’ falls into this stream a bit.

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The other stream includes books and sermons about pursuing God and pursuing truth.  These conversations seem to urge Christians to aim their effort, their attention, and their affection toward building their relationship with God… learning to pray, learning to listen, learning to notice God’s movement in the world around them.  The assumption is that a person can be changed and that it happens through time spent in God’s presence. ‘Chasing Francis’ by Ian Morgan Cron is an amazing book I’ve just read that speaks to this beautifully.

I realize these two streams are not opposites or mutually exclusive.  The streams themselves recognize this; the dream-pursuers know that the dream is only revealed when one spends time in God’s presence, and the relationship-pursuers recognize that purposeful action emerges out of a strengthened relationship with God.  These are not two ‘camps’ at war.  I hear more and more people wrestling with the first stream…. striving to pursue big dreams, desperate to start movements and ministries that will change the world.  Which is good.  It’s just that many of the people writing and speaking in the other stream seem to have lived in the first one for a while, which led to a crash of some kind, followed by a re-alignment of their perspective.  

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The book I’ve read most recently that illustrates this is ‘Me, Myself and Bob’ by Phil Vischer.  (If you are a dedicated VeggieTales fan, check it out.) I think that most of us in this belief system would say that we believe fostering a relationship with God…. praying, listening, reading… is the foundation upon which anything else rests.  But in the media we create I’ve noticed that for every one voice encouraging us to ‘abide’, there seem to be about three or four encouraging us to ‘run/strive/chase/pursue’. What do you think about this?

16 thoughts on “Wilkinson, Cron, and Vischer

  1. samantha… marilyn….love… : thank you so much for your comments. I love the wisdom that’s emerging here. Thank you so much for sharing it!

  2. G’day :-)I hear what you say. I think the ‘prevalence’ of the ‘doers’ over the ‘be’ers reflects todays modern world where people sometimes tend to want to act so as to feel like they are doing something ‘useful’ in the ‘Big Picture’.I loved the “‘everybody wants to start a revolution, but nobody wants to do the dishes.” comment that i think sums it up well.It has been mentioned before and i agree with your perspective also that this is not an ‘either/or’ thing i do believe however that for each of us it should be of PRIMARY importance to get the ‘being’ as close as we can first before the ‘doing ‘Great’ Things commences.A Tree does not produce fruit in it’s first year or season. The ‘seed’ must be planted and time for it to grow, gather strength and mature a little before ‘good’ fruits can spring from it naturally.Our actions can contribute towards our growth and great work can be achieved – but unless we are firmly ‘rooted’ in the grounding of Truth and Love (and have the right sort of ‘environment’) those works can have the potential to become ‘spoiled’ or blow over entirely by ill winds taking many others with it in the ‘fall’.Progress should be made and our ‘success’ will be determined by Him and how we are aided in our growth but He also understands that patience and getting the Right ‘conditions are a necesary part of our growth and eventual actions/fruits.and He knows full well that it is necessary to ‘do the dishes’ also. ;-)Each of us is to play the part we are best ‘prepared’ for.<B

  3. Kim, you’ve inspired a lot of good response and conversation. There are likely as many different perspectives as there are people and experiences. Questions are good. They keep us open to new learnings. I was a devoted doer for a long time. I heard external voices of authority telling me what I should (or shouldn’t) be doing and thinking and why. I saw these same sincere zealots wound people who didn’t believe quite as they did. I was wounded, too. It was about that time that I turned to a more contemplative stream. I have found this way of being to be life-changing and life-giving. Experiencing unconditional Love in the midst of my questions, uncertainties and wounds enables me to accept and care for others, to extend grace to them in what I trust are life-giving ways. In this way of being we don’t change anyone, rather we create a space where God can do God’s work. The focus is more relational, walking along with people, empowering them to identify and make changes as they walk with God rather than presuming to know what that is. It is not my task to fix anyone. It is my resposibility to care. I don’t know if I’m making sense or not. It is often difficult to put words to these inner workings and learnings. I find it meaningful and inspiring to read the words of others who are asking questions, exploring new ways of being authentic as we live each day in whatever our setting. One of these writers for me is Barbara Brown Taylor. Right now I am reading An Altar in the World. She writes about various spiritual practices that transform the moments of our days. And her earlier book, Leaving Church, left me gasping as it articulated many of the unexpected and lifegiving things I learned after the painful death of my “call “. Keep writing, Kim. You are a gift and a blessing to many!

  4. I see what you mean. You have to build your relationship with the Lord, then from that you flow out into the ministry. I do know what you mean about big dreams and striving to change. I think that in little things we do day to day can really have a ripple affect for bad or good. So sometimes our idea of change can seem huge, but sometimes you just need a little pebble thrown into a stream. I am a mom and a wife and that alone can be a huge influence, I don’t see it, and most don’t think of it as an impact. I guess my point is Doing Big Things is in the eye of the beholder. God sees all and I think if we saw through his eyes we would realize how much of what we do can be Big.

  5. brent… I like what you’ve written here. Truly. You’ve nicely shaped your thoughts. It really is about both things. I think I’m just bothered by the seeming overbalance of stuff that’s written or spoken about the ‘striving’.

  6. When I read scripture, everything points to action. What I mean is that the moment we surrender our lives to Jesus, our lives are dramatically changed. Obviously, we are changed from the inside out, but scripture goes on to say that the fruit is action, not just thought.My point is, that I believe everything starts at the foot of the cross. But it doesn’t end there. As we walk through this life of faith, we have times of craziness and turmoil, we have times of silence and peace. But in all of it, we are moving forward. So, I think it all has to be inclusive. Both thoughts. To pursue and to stop. But if it is to go wrong, it is because our pursuit has become one of goals and expectations and has ceased to be a pursuit of Jesus alone. When we lose focus, nothing matters. When the focus is clear, it is all to His glory and it all matters.

  7. mandythompson… thanks for your comment. I agree with you. Maximize and multipy our talents to serve God and others, and to bring glory to God.What I see happening is ‘doing the best with what we’ve been given’ gets interpreted to mean ‘I must singlehandedly save the world (for God) in a way that everyone knows about’. I do understand that that’s not what you’re saying.

  8. What do I think? Honestly? I think we do the best with what we’ve been given… We’re not the “giver” but do have choices in what we do. Kinda like those servants who were given talents while the king was away – they were held accountable for what they did with their talents. Our goal should be to maximize and multiply our talents in the best ways we know how.But that’s just how I see it.

  9. lesc1aypool… I think you’re exactly right. The ‘revolution’ for me on a daily basis might be the result of 4 ‘little’ desicions that change the way I think about somebody, or the way I react to them, or the way I serve them. THAT’s a huge battle sometimes.

  10. Here’s a thought I had that came to me when thinking about what my role is as a Christian in the realm of politics and government…hate thinking about that…but I digress.I wondered to myself how I could make a difference in a country whose government is not really in tune with its people (please let’s not get into a debate…I’m not trying to make a political stance). What would God have me do as a person who wants to be involved, yet I’m repulsed by the machine that is our governing system? I immediately got my answer. Start small…and maybe stay small. Or at least don’t make your goal to start a revolution.The reason I bring this up is I think I would apply this same thought to what you bring up in this post Kim. If God calls us to love him and love others, we are revolutionary in the eyes of our current consumer culture when we love someone. Anyone. In any way. Because we’re not TAKING or CONSUMING, we’re giving of ourselves…isn’t that a way to define love? So I think that we shouldn’t think we should feel we must be achieve something huge (but who says we can’t), but ALSO we shouldn’t just internalize and only focus on the intimate relationship with God. What I want is a one to one revolution. When I ask someone how they’re doing, I mean it. That right there is revolutionary in our culture. Itty bitty revolutions. Do something big for God on a small scale…one that maybe no one else will see. Hurt for the people nobody else will hurt for…”Pray for those who persecute you…” That is a big-small revolution.Ok maybe I’m rambling. Sum it up: I hope I can realize that I can do big revolutionary things every day that could change someones life forever…and nobody else may ever even know. Small and big at once…

  11. I’ve been thinking more about this, and here’s the thing that catches my attention: I hear teaching about changing the world, and then I see people interpreting that as meaning they HAVE to do something huge… something that gains attention. Even if their intent is that the attention be drawn to the need or to what God is doing, the prevailing urging seems to be ‘what I do needs to be HUGE and revolutionary!!!’. I can’t remember if it was Shane Claiborne or Dan Kimball who said this at the Emerging Church Forum: ‘everybody wants to start a revolution, but nobody wants to do the dishes’.

  12. lesc1aypool… I appreciate that you have more questions. Because so do I. I agree with you that culture pushes us to ‘do’…. it’s very easy to Christianize the prioirty of ‘achievement’ by turning it into ‘building a ministry’. Alastair… for me the beauty in the story of Francis is the reminder of what communion with God can look like, rather than a pattern or model I should follow. Clearly everyone isn’t called to be a monk, as there was that whole ‘be fruitful and multiply’ thing. :) You’re right, the early church is a great model of both ‘being’ in God’s presence and living out God’s values. There was a lot of communal prayer and discernment of the Spirit’s leading happening in those communities as well as the practice of caring for whoever needed help.Adam… you’re probably right that there is a predisposition in us all based on our calling. I like your perspective on St. Francis.DayVee… I have always been a person who has more questions than answers. It’s a problem sometimes, actually. :)

  13. I know this doesn’t address your topic for this post. But I just have to tell you how much I appreciate that you ponder and grapple with these kinds of thoughts. I love the fact that you aren’t an “I have all the answers” kind of leader. It’s exciting to know you don’t just want to be static. But you desire to grow in your faith, understanding and practice of conforming your life to Christ-likeness. Thanks for letting me read along. You are such a blessing!

  14. I struggle with this too, Kim. I like Matt’s answer – it seems like today there are abundant examples of too many “Doers” that ultimately collapse into the emptiness of their own spiritual scaffolding. “Being” in Christ is not glamorous and is a long obedience. I wonder if it depends on the person/calling – a prophet or priest is more likely attuned to ‘being’, a king more to ‘doing’? I think Jesus modeled a rhythm, always grounded in the retreat (often long) from his work to be with God. Interestingly, I find a strange paradox in what people like Francis did… in that his life was not at all characterized by simply ‘being’ (prayer, withdrawal, etc.) but dancing naked in the street, throwing his riches out the window (literally), publicly eschewing the worlds values, serving the poor, etc. Those who are most at home with Christ are often the most alien to this world (which is not analogous to “out of touch” – far from it).I remember the precise moment when I realized that my most natural method of engagement with God (worshiping with music) was no more formative than that of the engagement with the poor and naked, blind and oppressed.

  15. It’s true – I’ve also noticed these two paths… one path that is desiring truth… seeking out the old ways of Christianity… then there is the other path that is focusing on injustices and caring for the poor. These paths should be intertwined. I liked Ian Morgan’s book (especially the conclusion) but I’m starting to think a better place to model our spiritual practices on lies in the Chapter of Acts (i.e. the early church) – not some monk who lived in the desert out of touch with reality. I’m not being harsh – just thinking out loud.

  16. Very interesting thoughts Kim. It seems to me that a lot of questions that contemporary Christians drum up are ones that are connected to culture and how it influences faith. When I read this post I don’t really come up with an answer, but more questions (hooray). Most of my questions are concerning “appropriate” interactions between Christians and culture. I personally hate thinking about this interaction because it tends to polarize people instead of bring them together.My humble opinion about your conundrum would be that Christians are really battling and wrestling with how to consume our American culture and digest it through sort of a Christian digestive system. Is this ok? Is that ok? Is that something I can be a part of and still be Christian? What should I think about these political issues? Does it matter?I think our culture pushes us to want to do instead of just be. Doers get ahead, be-ers (beers?) get left in the dust. Seems to me that the very western notion of wanting everything now, faster, better, mobile has very deeply penetrated our views of faith and what Christianity should be and do in our lives. Being content is not an option.Conclusion? Not sure. Parting thought? We are consumers and we want tasks and we want measureable results and we want it in a neat package we can read on our phones over our lunch break so we can be efficient and get back to the busy-ness of being a Christian. Consumer lifestyle has penetrated, permeated and bonded with our faith. Is that just how its gonna be? I dunno. Should we try to change it? Can we? Questions? yay?

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