The Inhale-Exhale of the Faith

The Inhale-Exhale of the Faith October 6, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-10-04 at 1.26.14 PMIn the 80s and 90s more and more churches took on board “spiritual disciplines” and began to teach and develop programs about spiritual disciplines. The primary movers of this movement were Richard Foster (Celebration of Discipline) and Dallas Willard (The Spirit of the Disciplines).  Any number of books and programs flow from these two authors, including Renovare and the Transforming Center here in Chicagoland with Ruth Haley Barton.

Without minimizing the importance of the disciplines (I have a book called Praying with the Church that comes out of this movement), these disciplines tell one half of the story and, I believe, the second half. The first half is the church and the second half the individual and the spiritual disciplines of prayer and fasting and contemplation and silence are individualistic transformational disciplines.

What we need are projects that focus on the disciplines of a church life, and my colleague David Fitch is writing such a book. But there is one who has paved the way, and this book too comes from the missional movement and from its emphasis on incarnational living in a postmodern, post Christendom world.

We inhale spirituality or life with God and we exhale mission or life for the world. This is the simple claim of Barry D. Jones in his new “grammar” of the Christian life called Dwell: Life with God for the World. This book is accessible for church life but does not sacrifice intelligence in the process: Jones is both pastor and professor.

Jones covers important topics needed in every church that wants to be more missional in its practices: stories we live by, vandalizing God’s shalom, the presence of the Spirit, the way of Jesus, and the disciplines of prayer, corporate worship, sabbath rest, feasting and fasting, and peacemaking.

He knows the problems in the whole spirituality discussion today, and he focuses on two:

Narcissistic spirituality: an exclusive, or almost exclusive, attention to the inner life, the soul, the personal life, the therapeutic, and personal transformation. Yes, he admits, one of the dangers of genuine transformation and character development is self-absorption, but that is a danger and not innate to personal growth. He knows sometimes this becomes a quest for personal holiness that loses contact with the world.

Promethean spirituality: an exclusive, or almost exclusive, attention to spiritual or social activism. Here mission takes the place of God and he sees it as “missionalism” (from Gordon Macdonald). Kingdom loses contact with the missio Dei, or the mission of God. These people are out building and establishing the kingdom.

He advocates Vision, Practice and Context.


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