Practicing Your Faith

Jonathan SBy Jonathan Storment

Over the past few months, I have done reviews of a couple of different books that I’ve found helpful in ministry. One was Jamie Smith’s latest book “You Are What You Love” where, as a virtue ethicist, Smith convincingly makes the case that human beings are not brains on a stick and we can’t change by thinking our ways into better kinds of life.

Instead, Smith argues, we are primarily formed by our practices and habits.

The other book I recently reviewed was Richard Beck’s great new read “Reviving Old Scratch: Demons and the Devil for Doubters and the Disenchanted” and today I wanted to share a video that is probably off of most of your radar that I think is helpful to dive deeper into both of those topics.

The video is an interview between Richard Beck and Randy Harris, both good friends of mine, who are talking about some of Beck’s best work from his earlier book “Unclean” and how the way of Jesus has to impact the way churches approach and think about hospitality.

Here it is:

One of the reasons I wanted to share this with you is because many of the readers here are pastors or church leaders, and Beck has literally gone all over the world sharing with this material with churches, including North Point. And I think that this can be a very helpful resource for church leaders who are working to help their people be more hospitable.

But the other reason I wanted to share this with you is because I think Richard Beck is a great example of the ideas that Jamie Smith was trying to communicate in his last book.

Just as a reminder, Smith says that the reason we are so anemic in discipleship with American Christianity is because we focus primarily on communicating information about God/Jesus/Christianity, but our actual lives are more animated by what we love, and more specifically what we practice and train ourselves to love.

We don’t just think our way into consumerism. The reason why we spend more money than we have, buying way more than we actually need, is because we have been covertly conscripted into a way of life. We have been formed by cultural practices that are nothing less than secular liturgies.

Our loves have been engineered by rituals that we were unable to recognize for what they really were…liturgies.

But this can work the other way as well.

Several years ago, Richard said that his Christian faith had almost entirely dried up, it was mostly an intellectual exercise riddled with doubts and cynicism. He cared a lot about justice, but not very much about human beings. He was passionate about the poor in an abstract way, but really didn’t know any poor people.

And the video is kind of an extended testimony about how Richard practiced his way back to a vibrant, robust faith.

I’m a part of Churches of Christ, these are my people, and I thank God for them. But one of our great strengths is also one of our great weaknesses. We are primarily a cognitive tribe. We think about our faith much better than we embody it. And while that may not be your particular slice of Christianity’s story, I’ll bet there are plenty of people reading this who can relate.

Loving God with our mind is obviously important, but whenever our knowledge of God outpaces our obedience of what God is calling us to do, something important is missing, and I think will eventually erode even our intellectual faith.

And for that reason, I just wanted to let all my brothers and sisters out there know about this resource because I don’t want the way of Jesus to be primarily about what I think anymore.

But that’s going to take some practice.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.