The Festival of Goodwill

The Festival of Goodwill September 2, 2014

WillardOne could have called Dallas Willard and Gary Black’s book, The Divine Conspiracy Continued the “divine conspiracy expanded.” The aim of the book is to take kingdom theology of The Divine Conspiracy and expand that teaching into the public sectors of life. For this to happen they say “There must be a robust competency and willingness to examine and then demonstrate, model, and thus prove how and why Jesus’s answers to these questions are both good and best” (23).

But how is the church to engage culture and society? What is the single-most important element of this engagement? What is the church’s strategy?

But this Christian engagement is not a program, a plan or a set of principles. It begins with Psalm 23 and learning one simple feature: God is our Shepherd. It is the “reality of knowing a loving, attentive, present, powerful, and purposeful guide for his life” (14). It is about “the intensely personal, comforting, attentive, and providing nature of God’s love and care for his flock of humanity” (14).  This is in direct confrontation with the way of the world, where shepherds are tyrants and laws and power lords all shaped, not by God’s love, but by fear. “The kingdoms of our world, including many religious kingdoms, run on doctrinal fear the way the kingdom of God runs on grace” (15).

Knowing this Shepherd transforms the one known. Following Jesus who knew this good Shepherd, “we are to facilitate and lead a humble, wise, and loving festival of goodwill, the result of which will overwhelm every competing agenda, every fearful scheme, and every desperate plan founded on the shifting sands of human fear or pride. It is a revolution of loving-kindness” (19).

So, the expansion of the divine conspiracy, or the kingdom of God now at work among us, is to form a people of goodwill and loving-kindness. If I may, it will be a people shaped by the Jesus Creed of loving God and loving others.

Many today love to rake the church over the coals of hypocrisy and superficiality, but Dallas — never afraid to poke where the church needed to poked — and Gary sketch the many, many accomplishments of the church. (Here he reminds of John Ortberg’s book that does this well.)

And they apply this to leaders: “the world is a better place when leaders lead well” (26).

But leadership is shaped by what God is doing in this world. “In God’s kingdom we are not solely concerned with our personal transformation (which by itself would be spiritual narcissism [and Willard’s focus has been on personal transformation in his five major books — Hearing GodThe Spirit of the Disciplines, The Divine Conspiracy, Renovation of the Heartand The Great Omission]), but also with how we are part of a larger work of transformation: the reconciliation of all things” (28). They want to see this work God is doing impact each area of life. That is, leaders are called “to extend the kingdom of God to whatever areas they are involved with” (29). SMcK: what does “kingdom” mean here? Is it the same as “common grace” or “festival of goodwill” and what role does “church” play and where is that kingdom work of God in this world? In the church or in the world?

They are not advocating a new kind of social gospel but instead they are proposing the old way: the way of shalom. It must begin with the church. It must move from advocacy to demonstration. This is the way of blessing the nations. This is the radical implication of the kingdom for all of life and for all the world.

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