Tag Archives: Christianity

The Great Spiritual Migration by Brian McLaren – A Book Review

McLaren, Brian D. – The Great Spiritual Migration – How The World’s Largest Religion is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian,  Copyright (c) 2016 by Brian D. McLaren Convergent Books, an Imprint of Crown Publishing Group, a Division of Penguin Random House, LLC. New York, NY


A Review by Bill Dahl

In the Foreword to the book entitled, Mis-Measuring Our Lives,[i] France’s former President Nicolas Sarkozy[ii] wrote:

The time to change our trajectory is now. Amidst all these difficulties we cannot rest content with reacting on a day to day basis; we will not recover from the crisis with just ad hoc solutions…the only thing that will save us is unchaining our minds so as to gather the strength to make the necessary changes. The only thing that will save us is unchaining our minds so as to free ourselves from conformism, conservatism and short sighted interests….such a revolution is inconceivable without deeply challenging the way we represent the challenges of what we undertake, the results of what we do.”[iii]

Although writing in two, somewhat different contexts to a global audience, one underlying theme of McLaren’s new book, The Great Spiritual Migration – How The World’s Largest Religion is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian is the uncanny parallel with Sarkozy’s tremarks above:

  1. The time to change the trajectory of the worldwide Christian faith is now.
  2. Christians must unchain their minds.
  3. A revolution in Christianity must include deeply challenging the way Christians represent the challenges they undertake, how they behave, and the results of what they do.

McLaren writes:

The Christian faith needs to be radically converted to a new fuel. We need to be energized by something other than beliefs; because beliefs are not the point.” Not the point? That’s not to say beliefs are insignificant. They are powerfully significant, for better or worse.”[iv]

The author then launches into some superb examples of how specific Christian beliefs have led to unfortunate historical and current day outcomes. McLaren envisions the migration like this:

“Must we stay where we are, forever defining ourselves as a system of beliefs, or may we migrate to a new understanding of Christian faith as a way of life, (emphasis is mine), a practice of ongoing personal growth and cultural evolution ?[v]

McLaren then turns to the life of Jesus as the example of what he refers to as the way of love; a life embodying love, mercy, compassion, reconciliation, community, solidarity, friendship, kindness, tolerance, forgiveness, love for neighbor, the other, the earth  and humanity.

McLaren’s thesis is a call to what I refer to as “re-belief.” He makes the distinction between beliefs and faith as follows:

“Beliefs are commonly defined as opinions or judgments about which a person is fully persuaded. Although beliefs generally cannot be proven they are treated among believers as certainties, perhaps not as absolute certainties, but as certain enough that they aren’t up for questioning (statements that a group requires members to and not question or contradict. In contrast, faith is conviction, the deep and motivating sense that a course of action is right and worth doing…a conviction (faith) lived out in the context of uncertainty, involving risk, proceeding not through certainty but through confidence (hope) and expressed through love.”[vi]

McLaren goes on to share very personal examples of his own journey “seeking to conform to the way of Christ by willing to rethink”[vii] the beliefs he was saddled with at certain points in his life. These examples are poignant and powerful, demonstrating walking the talk. This concludes the first section of the book entitled “spiritual migration.”

The second part of the book delves into the essential “theological migration’ where McLaren addresses the issue of the conception of God as a violent God of domination versus a nonviolent God of liberation. He dives into the history of “justifiable homicide,” (my term), violence, prejudice domination, subjugation and “un-love” perpetrated in the name of the faith. He lays out a rational, logical narrative as to how these outcomes are related to our conception of God, our reading of the Bible (literal vs. literary) and other causal factors. He suggests an approach consistent with the way of love.

McLaren titles the third section of the book The Missional Migration. – the transition from organized religion to organizing religion. His focus is on moving away from the extractive, consumptive and unsustainable way of life that is destroying both civilization and planet. In this sense, the migration McLaren is calling for is moving from a “religion organized for self-preservation and privilege to a religion organizing for the common good of all.”[viii] This section contains innumerable practical examples of exactly what some of those beliefs and behaviors for might look like for modern day Christians, modeled by the life of Jesus.

The book contains superb lists of questions at the end of each chapter and three appendices to guide individual readers and groups into further discussion, contemplation and a guide to the behavioral migration to the way of love.

Admittedly, I have read every book Brian McLaren has penned. I have met him on several occasions and enjoyed his presence. His life, mind and passions are inspirational to me on a personal level. As one who is self-described as widely read on the topic(s) of faith and culture, this particular book stands out to me, for several reasons:

  1. As we age, the proximity and reality of the light at the end of this earthly life becomes tangibly more apparent. In this book, it is clear to me that Brian McLaren is no exception to this truth. The passion, compassion, and love for the Christian faith, Jesus, his followers and institutions erected in His name are all distinctly expressed here (as they have been, in my opinion), throughout the author’s lifetime.
  2. There is a rather unique sense of urgency expressed by McLaren in this book. Perhaps, this too, emanates from A. above.
  3. The vision McLaren lays out in this particular writing, is accompanied by a roadmap to guide both individuals and institutions (as he has done in several previous books). However, this particular roadmap is informed by specific global and cultural imperatives where spectating just won’t cut it anymore. The urgency of global challenges (and the state of the Christian faith) demands concurrent, immediate changes in individual and group behavior to positively inform, and re-direct the trajectory of those current challenges.

For me, this book is an urgent call for the faith and the faithful to immediately engage in the process of what has been referred to as de-illusionment. I believe it is also a deeply personal  sharing of McLaren’s actual life journey whereby de-illusionment has been an incredibly important aspect of his development as a person, his relationship with Jesus, and voice for his cherished faith. In this sense, the term de-illusionment is defined in the following:

As he attempts to reappraise his life, a man discovers how much it has been based on illusions, and he is faced with the task of de-illusionment. By this expression I mean a reduction of illusions, a recognition that long held assumptions and beliefs about self and world are not true. This process merits special attention because illusions play so vital a role in our lives throughout the life cycle.”[ix]

There is much here for those involved in organized communities of faith. Clearly, McLaren has not abandoned his deep respect and love for the church, in its myriad of forms, wherever it may be found. In this work, McLaren maintains his ongoing “within-stitutional” (my term) voice, echoing through the corridors of organized religion. The value of the book is also for those with no current church attendance and/or denominational commitment. Yet, if I had one recurring longing during my consumption of this work, it was the resurging hope that Brian McLaren pens a fiction work in the near future; one that may embody what carrying out the vision shared in this book, just might look like…

Read Brian McLaren’s The Great Spiritual Migration – How The World’s Largest Religion is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian. May you end up where I did, embracing McLaren’s call for V’yisa’u! – To get going, go forward, go farther, NOW!

May “finger by finger, the fist of your little heart be pulled open, where a new depth of naked, essential faith in God mysteriously become possible.”[x]

Buy this book. Share a copy with a friend. Engage in the dialog it compels. Introduce it to your faith community. Unchain your mind. Accept the permission and invitation to re-belief. Begin the essential process of de-illusionment.





[i] Stiglitz, Joseph E., Se, Amartya ans Fitoussi, Jean-Paul Mismeasuring Our Lives – Why GDP Doesn’t Add Up – The Report By The Commission on The Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress, Copyright (c) 2010 , The New Press New York, NY Excerpts that make up this quote are compiled from pages vii, xv.

[ii] Nicolas Sarkozy was the President of France from 2007-2012.

iii McLaren, Brian D. – The Great Spiritual Migration – How The World’s Largest Religion is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian,  Copyright (c) 2016 by Brian D. McLaren Convergent Books, an Imprint of Crown Publishing Group, a Division of Penguin Random House, LLC. New York, NY. p. 31.

iv McLaren, Brian D. – The Great Spiritual Migration – How The World’s Largest Religion is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian,  Copyright (c) 2016 by Brian D. McLaren Convergent Books, an Imprint of Crown Publishing Group, a Division of Penguin Random House, LLC. New York, NY. p. 42.

[vi] McLaren, Brian D. – The Great Spiritual Migration – How The World’s Largest Religion is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian,  Copyright (c) 2016 by Brian D. McLaren Convergent Books, an Imprint of Crown Publishing Group, a Division of Penguin Random House, LLC. New York, NY. p. 45

[vii] McLaren, Brian D. – The Great Spiritual Migration – How The World’s Largest Religion is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian,  Copyright (c) 2016 by Brian D. McLaren Convergent Books, an Imprint of Crown Publishing Group, a Division of Penguin Random House, LLC. New York, NY. p. 40.

[viii] McLaren, Brian D. – The Great Spiritual Migration – How The World’s Largest Religion is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian,  Copyright (c) 2016 by Brian D. McLaren Convergent Books, an Imprint of Crown Publishing Group, a Division of Penguin Random House, LLC. New York, NY. p. 153.

[ix] Levinson, Daniel J., The Seasons Of A Man’s Life, New York: Ballantine Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, 1978, p.192. This sociological classic was one of the first longitudinal studies of how people’s beliefs and perceptions change throughout the life cycle.

[x] McLaren, Brian D. – The Great Spiritual Migration – How The World’s Largest Religion is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian,  Copyright (c) 2016 by Brian D. McLaren Convergent Books, an Imprint of Crown Publishing Group, a Division of Penguin Random House, LLC. New York, NY. p. 203.



We Make The Road by Walking by Brian McLaren

Savor This Treasure!

I am reading an advance copy of Brian McLaren‘s new book (June 2014 – Jericho Books/Hachette Book Group NY,NY) – “We Make the Road by Walking – A Year-Long Quest for Spiritual Formation, Reorientation and Activation.” This book is spiritual dynamite! I am savoring this book – and will be unable to “read the book” for a review – as it demands contemplation, digestion, and action. What a blessing!!! BUY THIS BOOK!!! You’ve gotta live with this book – one week at a time – Superb weekly group discussion book – GREAT WORK – again – by Brian McLaren!!!

Brian McLaren - We Make the Road by Walking
Brian McLaren – We Make the Road by Walking









Savor This Treasure!

Dancing with Diana (Butler-Bass)

Dancing with Diana ( Butler-Bass )

by Bill Dahl

Photography by Bill Dahl – All Rights Reserved

The following is an interview I completed with Diana Butler-Bass regarding her new book: Christianity After Religion– The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening. My review of the book is here and on Amazon. In my view, her new book is both timely and prescient. It is convincing evidence defining Diana as a thought & practice leader in the faith & culture genre (if she wasn’t already).

About Diana Butler-Bass (excerpt below is from her site):

Diana Butler Bass is an author, speaker, and independent scholar specializing in American religion and culture. She holds a Ph.D. in religious studies from Duke University and is the author of eight books including Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening, NOW AVAILABLE from HarperOne (on Amazon). Her other books include A People’s History of Christianity: the Other Side of the Story (HarperOne, 2009), nominated for a Library of Virginia literary award and the best-selling Christianity for the Rest of Us (2006) which was named as one of the best religion books of the year by Publishers Weekly and was featured in a cover story in USA TODAY.

Currently a Chabraja Fellow with the SeaburyNEXT project at Seabury Western Theological Seminary, Diana regularly consults with religious organizations, leads conferences for religious leaders, and teaches and preaches in a variety of venues. She blogs at The Huffington Post and Patheos and regularly comments on religion, politics, and culture in the media including USA TODAY, Time, Newsweek, The Washington Post, CNN, FOX, PBS, and NPR. From 1995-2000, she wrote a weekly column on American religion for the New York Times Syndicate. She is a contributing editor for Sojourners Magazine has written widely in the religious press, including Christian Century, Clergy Journal, and Congregations.

From 2002 to 2006, she was the Project Director of a national Lilly Endowment funded study of mainline Protestant vitality—a project featured in Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. She is the recipient of numerous grants and awards including an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from The General Theological Seminary in New York. Diana also serves on the boards of the Beatitudes Society and Public Religion Research.

Diana has taught at Westmont College, the University of California at Santa Barbara, Macalester College, Rhodes College, and the Virginia Theological Seminary. She has taught church history, American religious history, history of Christian thought, religion and politics, and congregational studies.

She and her family live in Alexandria, Virginia.  She can be contacted through her website at www.dianabutlerbass.com and can be followed on Facebook and Twitter.

Here’s the interview with Diana: I call it, Dancing with Diana. Enjoy!

1. Dr. Ellen J. Langer of Harvard has written the following, which seemed to keep coming to mind as I read your book:

A mindful approach to any activity has three characteristics: the continuous creation of new categories; openness to new information; and an implicit awareness of more than one perspective. Mindlessness, in contrast, is characterized by an entrapment in old categories; by automatic behavior that precludes attending to new signals; and by action that operates from a single perspective. Being mindless, colloquially speaking, is like being on automatic pilot. (1)

Can you comment on the above as it relates to several of the arguments you share in Christianity After Religion – The End of the Church and The Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening?

I’ve not heard that distinction using the vocabulary of “mindfulness,” but I have used similar language about intentionality and being “reflexive.” All of these actions include creativity, reflection, engagement, and multi-perspectivalism as well as a willingness to move into unfamiliar territory. For Christianity to thrive in the 21st century, western Christianity must develop mindful, intentional and reflexive ways of being in community, acting out faith in the world, and living with conviction. A mindful Christian faith is the necessary opposite of received or inherited faith–and the world can no longer afford a sort of Christianity that rests solely of the patterns of the past. (emphasis is the Editor’s)

2. Neuroscientist Dr. Robert A. Burton has said in his book On Being Certain – Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Not:We do not need and cannot afford the catastrophes born out of a belief in certainty.” He also says, “Certainty is not biologically possible. We must learn (and teach our children) to tolerate the unpleasantness of uncertainty.” (2)

How do these statements match up with what you have illuminated in Christianity After Religion – The End of the Church and The Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening?

In the new book, I talk about the necessity of experiential belief, what I also refer to as integrated belief. Belief that issues from experience and from human wholeness is almost in tension with ideological certainty. For life experience and the capacity to believe with our hearts always make room for the messiness of life and the exceptional cases. It is one thing, for example, to be certain that homosexuality is wrong; and it is a completely different thing to be the parent of a homosexual child. Being a good parent means mitigating certainty in favor of love. Belief is a necessary part of human life, every one believes many things. But belief that springs from experience and relationship is a healing sort of belief, rather than belief as intellectual certainty. We need to belief differently, not stop believing.

3. In Christianity After Religion – The End of the Church and The Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening you write:

A new Light Form of faith, is led by those who wish to connect with people and ideas that are different, to explore the meaning of story and history, and to include as many as possible in God’s embrace.” – p.232.

What does this actually look like, practically speaking, using examples of such, that you’re aware of.

Although there are many such examples, one of the best is the Tri-Faith Initiative in Omaha, Nebraska. There, Jews, Christians, and Muslims have joined together and are building a synagogue, church, and mosque on a common piece of property, and all three sacred spaces will be joined by a common building for joint worship, education, and shared practices. They are building a sacred geography of connection with each other, exploring the meanings of their own stories and histories in relationship with the stories and histories of their neighbors. It is a big project, involving many thousands of people in Omaha, but it shows that we can think big in this Awakening. This isn’t just about micro-level connections, but together we really can create new macro-level structures that model and lead toward God’ dream of shalom.

4. Eugene Peterson has written:

With God depersonalized and then repackaged as a principle or formula, people could shop at their convenience for whatever sounded or looked as if it would make their lives more interesting and satisfying on their own terms. Marketing research quickly developed to show us just what people wanted in terms of God and religion. As soon as we knew what it was, we gave it to them.” (3) p. 23

How does this statement match up with what you have written in Christianity After Religion – The End of the Church and The Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening?

There is line between being responsive to cultural change and the longings of human beings at any given moment in history, and turning those longings into a marketing strategy. All religions, indeed all forms of spirituality, relate intimately to new ideas about culture, science, human nature, and justice. None stand outside of the contours of human desire, even if that is desire for God. In that way, faith communities are always and must always adjust to different languages, tastes, song, ways of relating to one another, forms of leadership, practices of prayer. Yet, that must always be held in tension with the old quip of the 19th century Anglican Dean William Inge, “Whoever marries the spirit of this age will find himself a widower in the next.” To simply recreate faith on the basis of what is fashionable today is a mistake. But to sense, understand, and respond to the work of God’s spirit in and through the world in which we live–well, that is the primary vocation of Christians in every age.

5. George Barna has written regarding the spiritual transformation of Christians in the U.S.:

“the research indicates that only a handful of people make serious progress on the journey to wholeness.” (p.8) “Of all the adults who make a profession of faith in Christ – that is, they become “born again” – there is surprisingly little to show for the effort. On numerous occasions Jesus talked about the fact that you can tell Christians by the spiritual fruit they bear, but the data suggest that just one out of every ten adults who accept Jesus as their Savior make any substantial changes in their spiritual routines.” (4) pp.25-26.

What does this say about the success of religion in the U.S. – as evidenced in what you have written in Christianity After Religion – The End of the Church and The Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening?

I always find it interesting when George Barna and I agree–since we come from such different theological perspectives! Here, I mostly agree with him. Much of American religiosity can be thin, there’s a bad tendency, as there as with many religious traditions, among “born again” Christians to not practice what you preach. However, I’m actually glad that such a small percentage of those who Barna identifies as “born again” practice what they preach. Too much of “born again” religion in the United States is theologically narrow and politically right-wing. Should their spiritual routines involve excluding Jews and Muslims and Buddhists from civic engagement? Making women submit to their husbands? Recreating some sort of Christian America? Barna isn’t clear with his definitions of “born again,” or the sort of “spiritual routines” he thinks Christians should engage. Are those spiritual routines private or public? How do those people read the Bible? So, despite my general agreement with his assessment of shallowness of American religiosity, this statement makes me nervous as to what counts as being Christian. I’m more concerned with the vast numbers of Americans who say they believe in God yet continually support political policies that diminish the lives of their neighbors. That’s more important to me–and more important to America–than worrying about the fact that American evangelicals don’t change their spiritual practices.

6. David Kinnaman has written:If outsiders stop listening, we cannot just turn up the volume.” (5)

If you agree, what do the new melody, lyrics, dancers and where we dance look like to you – as well as the impact this behavior may have on others and ourselves?

Ah! The Dance! One of the most beautiful mystical symbols for the reign of God! My teenage daughter would be mortified by the idea of her mom at a dance. My wonderful friend, Phyllis Tickle, has spoken of this age being not an age of orthodoxy or orthopraxy, of “right” belief or practice, but of ortho-nomy, that which she called “right” harmony, of the harmony of beauty being the fundamental test of human flourishing and truthfulness. I have meditated on that image for several years now, and I think that it is in harmonizing our voices, our loves, our experiences–and here I mean “our” as in the whole human family, not just Americans or Christians or people in a particular tradition–that we will find a path forward. But harmony does not eliminate voices that are dissonant. Indeed, those who cannot or refuse to harmonize sometimes make a music that the rest need to hear. It isn’t a matter of everyone in the world making harmony with the majority; it is often the case of the majority adjusting its music to the song of the marginalized.

As to the dance, it is most surely a circle dance, a communal one, not just the dance of individual partners. The days of the minuet are gone; these are the days of the dance around the campfire. (Editors Note: I love this characterization – don’t you?)

7. Diana, you’re a superb example of how a quality education can transform a person. The expense of higher education today is, unfortunately, precluding far too many from embracing this privilege. Do you have any thoughts on “new models” of higher education that readers might begin exploring? Also, how must seminary education change to maximize their contribution to “A New Spiritual Awakening?”

I’m still paying for that quality education myself! About two more years to go on what was an expensive but amazing adventure–one that created in me the disposition of a life of learning. I’m working with a number of groups trying to think about new models of higher education. At this point, there’s a lot of creative thinking, but not much has been put in practice. I think that much creativity is inhibited by what is still a hierarchical (and even patriarchal) model of expertise and leadership. When it comes to education, I always think that Parker Palmer‘s writings and his vision of circles of trust are a fantastic vision and resource–he has offered up in several of his books a model of integrated education. Seminary education possesses, in and of itself, the possibility of integration as theology must and should be based in and through an experience of God as understood by the heart. But, sadly, seminary education has too often mimicked secular expertise rather than the heart of wisdom upon which excellence theology is birthed. Right now, secular processes of accreditation and professionalism are holding the church back. What is really needed are theological learning communities, based in a mentor/friend/guild model, where people can engage in a range of practices from theological reflection to prayer to doing justice in the world. Seminary education, however, is a chicken-and-egg sort of thing. Seminaries can’t change until denominational policies do; denominational policies can’t change until seminaries nurture new vision; and nothing can change until grassroots churches demand change. And for churches to demand change, they must change themselves.

Thank you SO MUCH for such a tremendous book Diana!

You’re welcome! I’m so glad for your enthusiasm and support, Bill.


(1) Langer, Ellen J. The Power of Mindful Learning, DA CAPO Press – A member of the Perseus Books Group. Cambridge, MA Copyright © 1997 by Ellen Langer, Ph. D. p. 4.

(2) Burton, Robert A. M.D. On Being Certain – Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Not, St. Martins Press, New York, NY Copyright © 2008 by Robert A. Burton, M.D. pp.223-224.

(3) Peterson, Eugene H. Practice Resurrection – a conversation on growing up in Christ, William B. Eerdsman Publishing Company Grand Rapids, MI and Cambridge, U.K. Copyright © 2010 by Eugene H. Peterson. P. 23

(4) Barna, George Maximum Faith – Live Like Jesus, Metaformation, Inc. Ventura, CA & Strategenius Group, LLC New York, NY and WHC Publishing, Glendora, CA Copyright 2011 by George Barna.p. 23.

(5) UNchristan–What A New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity…And Why It Really Matters, by David Kinnaman & Gabe Lyons, Copyright © 2007 by David Kinnaman and Fermi Project. Published by Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, MI. p. 84.

All Rights Reserved. For Reprint Permission – please contact Bill Dahl at wsdahl(at)bendbroadband(dot)com. Links are fine without asking.

How God Became King – The Forgotten Story of the Gospels by N.T. Wright – A Review by Bill Dahl

Confession:  I have been a fan of N.T. Wright for some time. I look forward to the opportunity to read his work. (This particular book is available on March 13th 2012 by HarperOne).

N.T. Wright is currently serving as the Chair of New Testament and Early Christianity at the School of Divinity – University of St. Andrews.  He is, for the layperson, one of the few intellectuals focused on the history of Christianity – whose work can be – and should be – tasty fare to the palette of the layperson. Translation: People like me can both understand and appreciate what he is saying – without the need for a seminary degree. (no offense intended to those who may possess or are desirous of the same).

The central thesis of the book is contained in an excerpt from the author toward the middle of the book:

Near the heart of my purpose in this book is to suggest that not only have we misread the gospels, but that we have made them ordinary, have cut them down to size, have allowed them only to peak about the few concerns that happened to occupy our minds already, rather than setting them free to generate an entire world of meaning in all directions, a new world in which we would discover not only new life, but new Vocation. P. 158.

Clearly, one of the outcomes of reading this work is to have a re-invigorated appetite for reading the Gospels – in a new way…a refreshed perspective. As is clear from the title, the author says:

The story Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John tell is the story of how God became king – in and through Jesus both in his public career and in his death.” (p.175). Wright calls for a refreshing look at these sacred texts. His narrative and analysis do NOT disappoint. He observes: These are not merely antiquarian documents telling a strange story about a powerful, but now long-gone moment of history. They are the moment of sunrise on a new morning, casting a strange glory over the landscape and inviting all readers to wake up, rub the sleep from their eyes, and come out to enjoy the fully dawned day and give themselves to its tasks.” (p.122.) He says:

Yet it is clear to me that none of them have actually taken the gospels seriously as they stand. They have gone to them with the wrong questions and have found answers, of a sort, to those questions. The challenge now is to accept that we have all misunderstood the gospels and to set about finding ways in which we can put this right. It is time for a fresh look at our central texts. (P.58).

Wright uses the metaphor of a quadrophonic stereo system whereby each speaker is out of balance – to provide a structure for his presentation. “One way or another, the music is out of balance. Some parts are almost inaudible, and other parts are all too audible, blasting out l at top volume, distorted in themselves and drowning out every- thing else.” (p.61).

I’ll allow the following excerpts to speak for themselves:

The first speaker of our quadraphonic sound system to be turned up is this: the four gospels present themselves as the climax of the story of Israel.” (p.65).

“Here, to be sure, is a paradox we meet throughout the New Testament: God acts completely unexpectedly-as he always said he would… what is being fulfilled is precisely the promise of drastic, unexpected, and perhaps even unwelcome judgment and mercy.” (P.75).

“As I said before, it is possible for one truth, overemphasized, to drown out others with which it needs to be balanced and modulated. It is time to listen with a good deal more are to the story the Bible itself tells us about Israel’s God, the world’s creator.” (P.86).

“We find in the very earliest Christian documents that all of these ‘pointed to a strange new reality: that, in Jesus, Israel’s God had become present, had become human, had come to live in the midst of his people, to set up his kingdom, to take upon himself the full horror of their plight, and to bring about his long-awaited new world. (P.95).

The gospels are consciously telling the story of how God’s one time action in Jesus the Messiah ushered in a new world order within which a new way of life was not only possible, but mandatory for Jesus followers. (P. 119).

(Luke) – “He is telling the story of Jesus as the story of the launching of God’s renewed people.” (P.124).

The fourth element in the music to which we must pay proper attention, along with everything else, the story of Jesus told as the story of the kingdom of God clashing with the kingdom of Caesar.” (P.127)

A terribly compelling read. Another marvelous contribution by N.T. Wright. Enjoy!

Unladylike – Resisting the Injustice of Inequality in the Church by Pam Hogeweide

Unladylike –

Resisting the Injustice of Inequality in the Church


By Pam Hogeweide


Beyond Beliefism – From “Just Us” to JusticeA Book Review by Bill Dahl


Once Upon A Time…

Once upon a time – long, long ago – in a universe far, far away – there existed the planet of KOG. The planet was inhabited by billions of people – including those who lived in the Kingdom of Christendom. The kingdom was ruled by the emperor “Justus.” The citizens were ruled by a body of laws – including the few – and excluding the many – from full participation in the Kingdom. The “laws of Justus” were deemed sacred, inviolable and not subject to interpretation, by countless villages throughout the kingdom. Each village was referred to as “church” – a place where like-minded villagers would come together for fellowship, study of the law, and worship of God. More specifically, numerous laws excluded women from exercising their God-given gifts within the Church – including leadership and teaching. Truth be told, the “laws of Justus”   denied women fundamental equality with men in the Church. However, this particular set of rules regarding the role of women in daily life – and the Church – were often cloaked in a veil of vagueness, facilitating the transmission of the ongoing submission of women to the “laws of Justus” – from one generation to the next – to preserve unity within the Church…and the normative standard of ladylike identities, roles and behavior by women.

Throughout the years, many women left their local Church when they realized (among other things) their God granted giftedness and calling would not be honored by their male counterparts who led, taught and administered the Church. Many women remained content at Church. Others resigned and walked away. Others, continued to show up without being present.[1] Many more remained in the Church, submitted to the laws. Although those who inhabited the broader culture, outside the subculture of Justus, had canonized rules to insure the equality of women throughout the land – the Church remained a curious exception to these rules. How can this be? Some women (and men) began to whisper to one another. The laws of Justus demanded beliefism – an unswerving dedication to a body of beliefs – no matter what – passed from one generation to the next within the Church. It is the adoption of a way of thinking and set of beliefs about self, others, life and God that are right – and provide the basis for suspicion of others who believe differently ( see Henderson).




One day, after years of increasing consternation about the ongoing unequal treatment of women within the Church, a woman by the name of Pam Hogeweide stood up and publicly declared:


“The issue of how women are politely oppressed in church is not an issue of theology –  but is indeed – an issue of justice….We need a movement of women (and men) to teach us how to resist these messages of inequality and to occupy our space of full personhood together. The church needs transformation in how half its members are esteemed and treated. If not now, then when? If not us, then who?” (Hogeweide – Unladylike – 2012 – Civitas Press).


Unladylike! Heretic! Traitor! Shouted many of those deeply entrenched in maintaining and defending the status quo throughout the Church and the Kingdom of Christendom.

Unbeknownst to the vast majority within the Church – Hogeweide had come upon the realization “that there was an invisible, secret society of free thinkers roaming the church without hall passes.” For several years, she and a number of women had been gathering surreptitiously in what they refer to as listening parties – where they discussed the injustice of inequality embodied in the laws of Justus and how adherence to these laws continued to negatively impact their personhood, worth, calling, exercise of God-equipped giftedness – potential contribution to their Church, the Kingdom of Christendom – even their relationship with their own daughters – sons and husbands.

A week later, after a long illness, the emperor Justus died.




The above might seem cute or funny if it wasn’t true. Unfortunately, it’s a reality… except that “Justus” is alive and well. For this reviewer, there’s nothing cute or humorous about Hogeweide’s work – and the labor that lies ahead of us to infect the heart of the nation of Christendom with the merits of her profoundly persuasive and comprehensive arguments – and life experience.

Hogeweide’s work is neither a figment of the imagination nor wishful thinking. It’s about the immorality, the injustice of inequality in the Church…and imagining a better way. Unladylike confronts us with a challenge – to begin to ask ourselves and our respective Church community questions –  as – “the hard questions begin when we ask what people are due, and why?”[2]

Benedict Anderson has said that nations are “imagined” communities: essentially they are ideas – that can be re-imagined.[3] Throughout the Bible, the essential truths that a prophetic, spirit of discontentment might provide are aptly represented. “This is the heart of discontentment – we imagine something better and hold that up against reality.”[4] Sociologist Daniel Levinson describes the process as “de-illusionment a recognition that long held assumptions and beliefs about self and world are not true.[5] Is Hogeweide delusional? Not hardly.

In his most recent book, Nobel Prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman points out “two important facts about our minds: we can be blind to the obvious, and we are also blind to our blindness.”[6] Hogeweide’s work rips the veil of vagueness from the face of this disgrace. Christendom can no longer rationalize the injustice of the ongoing, willful, obvious blindness she so aptly characterizes.

What Sylvia Nasar, New York Times bestselling author of A Beautiful Mind has to say is pertinent to Hogeweide’s work in Unladylike. Nasar writes (in another context); “being spectacularly wrong is often the most powerful stimulus to fresh thinking.”[7] Unladylike is just the powerful stimulus the Church needs at this time, as recent research has characterized women as the backbone of the Church…as well as a dying breed.[8]

Imagine the future of the nations of Christendom – after having discarded the injustice of the present inequality within. Pam Hogeweide does. I applaud her. It took incredible backbone to write a book about the heart of this matter. As we have seen throughout the history of civilization, it takes the heart and beautiful mind of a wise, courageous and creative woman to propel us toward imagining a better wayDying breed? Not – if Hogeweide and her ilk have anything to do with it.

Finally, a song from my childhood kept throbbing through my head as I read this book. It’s entitled “The Buses Are A Comin.”

Hogeweide’s authorship of this book finally…formally.. introduces a voice that is long overdue a legitimate place on the platform this work places her on. Pam Hogeweide… a freedom writer.”

Imagine that


[1] Henderson, Jim The Resignation of Eve – What If Adam’s Rib Is No Longer Willing To Be The Church’s Backbone, BARNA – An Imprint of TYNDALE House Publishers, Inc. Copyright © 2012 by Jim Henderson, p. 7.

[2] Sandel, Michael J. Justice – What’s The Right Thing To Do? Farrar,Straus and Giroux New York, NY Copyright 2009 by Michael J. Sandel, p. 19. Note: A fine source for the comprehensive treatment of the concept of justice (and the challenge of practical decision-making) can be found at http://www.justiceharvard.org/.

[3] Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. Copyright © 1983, 1991 & 2006 by Benedict Anderson, Revised Edition ed. 2006 London and New York: Verso, pp. 5-7.

[4] Manayon, Bong The Spirituality of Discontentment – Reflections on The Sermon on the Mount, Ekklesia Press Omaha, NebraskaCopyright © 2012 by Bong Manayon, p. 137.

[5] Levinson, Daniel J., The Seasons Of A Man’s Life, New York: Ballantine Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Copyright © 1978 by Daniel J. Levinson, p.192.

[6] Kahneman, Daniel Thinking, Fast and Slow, Farrar, Straus & Giroux New York, NY Copyright © 2011 by DanielKahneman, p.24.

[7] Nasar, Sylvia Grand Pursuit – The Story of Economic Genius, Simon & Schuster, Inc. New York, NY Copyright © 2011 by Sylvia Nasar, p. 320.

[8] SEE Henderson, Jim The Resignation of Eve – What If Adam’s Rib Is No Longer Willing To Be The Church’s Backbone, Copyright © 2012 by Jim Henderson, BARNA – An Imprint of TYNDALE House Publishers, Inc.




George Barna – FUTURECAST – What Todays Trends Mean For Tomorrows World – an interview by Bill Dahl

The following is my interview with George Barna about “one” of his most recent books — well, may two actually…keep reading.

READERS:Make sure to leave comments/questions in the dialogue box at the end of the interview…

Futurecast: What Today’s Trends Mean for Tomorrow’s World


George Barna – Bio excerpt below from The Barna Group

A native New Yorker, George Barna has filled executive roles in politics, marketing, advertising, media, research and ministry. He founded the Barna Research Group (now The Barna Group) in 1984 and helped it become the nation’s leading marketing research firm focused on the intersection of faith and culture. The company has served several hundred parachurch ministries and thousands of Christian churches throughout the country. It has also supplied research to numerous corporations and non-profit organizations, as well as to the U.S. Navy and U.S. Army.
To date, Barna has written 48 books, mostly addressing leadership, trends, church health and spiritual development. They include best-sellers such as Revolution, Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions, The Frog in the Kettle, and The Power of Vision. His most recent book is Revolutionary Parenting. Several of his books have received national awards. He has had more than 100 articles published in periodicals and writes a bi-weekly research report (The Barna Update) accessed by more than a million people each year, through his firm’s website (www.barna.org). His work is frequently cited as an authoritative source by the media. He has been hailed as “the most quoted person in the Christian Church today” and has been named by various media as one of the nation’s most influential Christian leaders.
He is a popular speaker at ministry conferences around the world and has taught at Pepperdine and Biola Universities and several seminaries. Barna served as a pastor of a large, multi-ethnic church and has been involved in several church start-ups.

After graduating summa cum laude from Boston College, Barna earned two Master’s degrees from Rutgers University. At Rutgers, he was awarded the Eagleton Fellowship. He also received a doctorate from Dallas Baptist University. He lives with his wife (Nancy) and their three daughters (Samantha, Corban, Christine) in southern California. He enjoys reading novels, watching movies, playing guitar, and relaxing on the beach.

Questions from Bill Dahl are in red. George’s responses are in this color.

Here we go:

1. How are you and your family? Any major strategic initiatives on the horizon for 2011 in your professional life?

A: Life is good, God is better. Like many families, we have our ups and downs. Our children all have health issues, so that produces various forms of stress and hardship but we do our best to work and pray through that. If nothing else, those challenges keep us looking to God for strength and wisdom – which is an under appreciated gift in itself! Generally, though, we’re fine. When you have the opportunity to travel to countries where people are challenged in so many ways, where they lack the opportunities and blessings we take for granted, it puts things into perspective. We can whine about the high cost of health care and other daily challenges, but we are blessed to live in a country where great medical care, among other things, is available.

As for strategic initiatives, this year we launched the Maximum Faith Project, which focuses on my research concerning how God transforms people’s lives. I think it’s perhaps the most significant research I’ve ever done. 2012 will entail more emphasis on getting that information in people’s hands to facilitate more people experiencing all that God has in mind for them.

2. “Changing one life at a time” is a theme of your book. Yet, mass-production of disciples seems to be the dominant model in North America. How do leaders facilitate this change in their respective community of believers?

A: In some ways the mass-production model is another reflection of the American Church accommodating the culture. Americans are fed – and blindly accept – the notion that success is based on bigger, better, faster. I think a more biblical understanding of success is about deeper, simpler, truer. So perhaps the shift in our disciple-making strategy needs to start with how we define success. In a church setting, success is not about higher attendance, bigger budgets, expanded programs, hiring additional staff, or building out more square footage. Jesus didn’t die for any of those things. He died for us to invite Him to completely transform our lives, moving from sinners infatuated with the ways of the world to forgiven followers of Christ who live only to honor and obey God and pursue His agenda.

Metrics are a critical part of this discussion. Most churches measure some outcomes, but often they are irrelevant outcomes. What we measure is important because you get what you measure. If you measure attendance you’re going to focus on becoming a megachurch. If you focus on budget, you’ll emphasize tithing and budgeting. If you measure program availability, you’ll be focused on the breadth of offerings, sufficient staffing, adequate attendance in each program, and the like. We won’t actually begin to approximate the biblical Church until we begin measuring indicators of transformation. The best way to do that is to evaluate the increase in the fruit emanating from people’s lives.

The central message from Maximum Faith addresses this challenge. That research shows that there is a ten-stop journey God moves through with us. The purpose of the journey is to enable us to become lovers of God and other people. Life, in that sense, is all about our relationships. So how do we change the current programmatic emphasis in churches? Redefine success and facilitate behavior and experiences around what’s important. We have to place less emphasis upon irrelevant measures and instead focus on the things that represent irrefutable evidence that God is at work in a person’s life. To get there we need to focus on coaching individuals in how to grow from one stop on the journey to the next, rather than simply winning the attendance award and graduating from another program. The bottom line is about who we are becoming rather than what we have achieved or what we know. The goal is holiness, Christ-likeness, wholeness – not churchliness or wall-to-wall religious activity.

3. In the early part of the book Futurecast, you speak about the new degree of uncertainty and the deterioration in hope and optimism (in the U.S.) – These conditions typically cause human beings to go into survival mode…the foxhole posture – vs. embracing new forms of behavior that focus on the needs of others (“your desire and ability to bless people”(p.25). “The inconsistency between how people see themselves and how they behave” (p.12) has become more pronounced. What can leaders do to make people aware of this “disconnect” and initiate change to bridge the gap?

A: Our behaviors reflect our beliefs. Four out of five adults call themselves as Christian, yet less than one out of five identify first and foremost as Christian in their mind and heart. Two out of three adults claim to be spiritual, yet barely one out of ten says their faith is the most important component in their life. For the millions of Americans for whom being a Christian is a statement of religious preference rather than the essence of their identity, despair and pessimism is a reasonable perspective. In that frame of mind, this world matters more than anything, and their own performance on this planet is of paramount importance to shaping their identity, their well-being, and their hope. A devoted follower of Jesus, however, lives for His purposes and sees this life within a bigger frame of reference. Such an individual understands the imperfections of this world and our lives, and instead places their hope in the eternal future with God.

Leaders have the opportunity to help people shift their life emphasis from accomplishments in this life to investments in the life that will occur after they die. This speaks to how individuals define purpose and success in life. Most Americans, including born again individuals, do not possess a biblical worldview so they behave in ways that suggest what we experience here on earth is the sum total of reality, with a helping of fire insurance thrown in for safety. Helping people to adjust their frame of reference is critical.

Developing a biblical worldview is more critical now than it has been at any time since we’ve been alive. With secular perspectives becoming more pervasive, even within the church body, making such a worldview practical and integrated into the fabric of their being is crucial. That requires a substantial change in how most families, schools, churches and Christian organizations teach people and help them remain accountable for the things they say they believe. It’s also vital that we do this more effectively among children, since that’s when our worldview forms and it’s difficult to change after it has been formed and embraced.

4. Much of the research you cite involves the issue of the “belief in opposites.” It appeared to me that this is the source of where the “hypocrisy” label hung on Christians comes from? Can you elaborate?

A: A lot of the confusion I describe in Futurecast is not so much new as it is now more widespread and touches a broader range of life dimensions. Examples of the confusion and resulting contradictions abound. For instance, people maintain that marriage is important yet they have become accepting of cohabitation and divorce. Most Americans claim they are deeply concerned about the moral decline in the US, yet their own moral values are slipping. People bemoan the loss of the common good yet they pursue personal advantage and benefit whenever possible. Born again Christians say that they have been saved by Jesus yet a large percentage also says there are ways to eternal salvation apart from Jesus. Tens of millions of adults still pursue knowledge but only trust experience. It is increasingly common for people to demand respect, yet they act with incivility toward others. People extol the virtues of tolerance, but harbor islands of intolerance in their life. Most adults emphasize the importance of good parenting but treat their opportunity to invest consistently in their children as a secondary responsibility. You get the drift.

So, yes, some of this may be the source of people calling Christians hypocrites, but really it’s a problem endemic to almost every segment of our population. I don’t think we can attribute this deficiency to any single factor. It occurs in response to a number of cultural and personal transitions, such as the dismissal of moral absolutes, the demise of trust in leaders, people’s unwillingness to live within moral and civil boundaries, and the acceptance of religious pluralism. People in America are distracted by countless options and overwhelmed by information, resulting in nonsensical, individualistic responses to the circumstances they face. Without the moral standards that have traditionally been in place, everything is up for grabs.

5. You have, for many years, used certain measurement devices to evaluate the degree, and typology of a “Christian” in North America/U.S. These measurements have been fully disclosed by you and typically are associated with the definition of what has been heretofore referred to a “biblical worldview.” I have a question related to this. On page 124 you write: “There must be a connection between claiming the name of Jesus Christ and one’s lifestyle and choices.” One thing I see missing in today’s social research measuring tools as applied to the area of Christian faith, are tools that measure one’s transformation – from the standpoint of the individual respondent – as well as – from someone else (a spouse, friend, co-worker, neighbor etc). The measurements would be unequivocally biblical…an increase in the last year in your ability to love, to forgive, to tolerate, to behave compassionately, to invest your time in the care of elders, the sick or the disadvantaged etc. Can you comment on your perception of the value of these types of measurements? Is it possible to measure a biblical worldview through new measurements of a biblical lifestyle?

A: I think what such measurements would reflect is more than possession of a biblical worldview, and more so one’s progress in the process of transformation. I agree that we need a completely different set of metrics. If you study what Jesus examined in His interactions with people, He showed less interest in their beliefs than their behavior. Why? Because behavior is the proof of what you believe. Satan may say one thing but his actions demonstrate what he really believes in right or significant. Satan knows the right answers but behaves in contrast to what he often leads people to believe. He may whisper particular lies to us but his actions give him away.

It’s the same with us. Your worldview is important because you do what you believe. Your behavior, not your statement of faith, is what gives you away. And that’s why Jesus said He wanted to see the fruit.

So as I look at how things are evaluated in churches and individual lives, I think the measures we tend to rely upon reflect what we think of as success or significance in this life. Churches emphasize attendance, money, programs, staffing, and square footage. Jesus didn’t die for any of those. As individuals we tend to measure physical comfort, interpersonal acceptance, financial security, happiness, stellar health, and image. Jesus didn’t die for any of that, either. The problem is that you get what you measure. That being the case, it’s no wonder America is infatuated with megachurches, big homes, popularity, and the like. Those kinds of outcomes simply reflect what we contend is important.

Through the Maximum Faith research I realized that at each stop of the transformational journey, you are a noticeably different person than you were at prior stops. The only way to know, though, is by the fruit you produce. I have been encouraging people to pay attention to what they produce because you cannot produce stop 7 fruit if you’re currently living at stop 3. You cannot produce stop 9 fruit if you’re still at stop 2. The fruit you produce relates closely to how much you have cooperated with God in allowing Him to transform you.

So I think the kinds of measures that examine beliefs and knowledge are helpful insofar as they help us understand what underlies behavior. Religious knowledge for the sake of knowledge is rather meaningless, perhaps even counterproductive.

6. You make the statement (p.183): “Loyalty as a cultural value has seen its best days come and go.” Wow! What are the implications of that observation as it relates to creating and maintaining a life dedicated to Jesus Christ as one’s Lord and Savior?

A: In some ways, the product of that reality upon our spiritual condition is already visible. People no longer believe it is necessary to belong to a church or group of believers for an extended period of time. Denominationalism is dead. Families are being divided and reformed with regularity. People feel comfortable with the notion that there are multiple gods. A majority contends that all of the major faiths teach the same basic principles.

A true relationship with Jesus Christ demands that you make a permanent and singular commitment that will not waver or change based on circumstances or emotions. When people live in a culture that celebrates freedom, independence, change, experimentation, randomness, and emotions rather than commitment, responsibility, stability, consistency, and logic, it is almost inevitable that their inclination would be to view all relationships as utilitarian, maintaining them only as long as they feel they are getting sufficient benefit and having to expend minimal energy and resources to keep it going. That’s not how a relationship with the God of all creation works.

Having said all of that it’s important to recognize that there is a bit of a counterbalance that provides a ray of hope. America’s ongoing love affair with postmodern thought and behavior does place a greater emphasis upon experiences and relationships, so while people are less likely to buckle down and really study the scriptures or church history, they are at least more open to the notion of developing a relationship with the living God, and having an array of encounters and shared moments with God.

7. Can you elaborate on what your research shows about the rise in the American consumption of media (in ALL its forms) and the ability of one to “read” books or “study” material — or pray regularly/extensively – that is a critical component of “lifelong learning” — and a fundamental element of growing in Christ?

A: We are an entertainment-obsessed, distraction-loving, attention-challenged nation. We read an average of one-third of any book we start before discarding it in favor of some new option that has caught our ear or eye. The media have now trained us to “analyze” reality on the basis of sound bites and video clips. Instead of examining pages of newsprint or magazines, we now examine 140 characters on a mobile phone screen. USA Today was chastised as journalism lite when it began; today it is the norm. Newspapers are going under in favor of simpler, quicker, easier sources of information. News is what the Kardashians had for dinner. Amazingly, the content drawn from talk radio exchanges and from the late-night talk show monologues have become the primary news sources for millions of people.

All of this has resulted in a growing tendency for people to feel adequately versed in a topic once they grasp a few themes or dominant concepts. Memorization is looked down upon in society as a simplistic, empty-headed learning tool. Students often believe that the object of studying a subject is simply to pass a test or write a paper. The idea of “learning” is being redefined.

On the other hand, educational institutions that are tracking with these changes are discovering that it is possible for peoples’ interest to be sparked and maintained if the new learning tools can be properly used. I don’t think we’re entering an era in which people will be heavily inclined to use traditional study guides or attention traditional classroom-style learning options. However, Americans remain a somewhat inquisitive bunch, so if we can harness some of the new tools and use them responsibly, it is reasonable to expect that the current state of biblical illiteracy may not get worse. Will we rapidly transition to identifying and intelligently using the new tools of the trade? That remains a big “if.”

8. What are the two most troubling trends you are most concerned with, as identified in Futurecast?

People’s disinterest in and failure to diligently pursue transformation on God’s terms. The rejection and abandonment of absolute moral and spiritual truth.

9. It seemed to me that your two most recent books, Futurecast and Maximum Faith – play off of one another…that perhaps Maximum Faith is a response to the realities revealed in Futurecast. Can you comment on this?

I do think they help interpret each other. Futurecast provides the cultural context for why understanding God’s transformation process described in Maximum Faith is so critical – and why so few people are willing to go through the fullness of that process. On their face, the books seem very dissimilar, but there is a useful interplay between them.

In the past I’ve often heard people complain that my presentations about current trends caused them to feel discouraged – that the data presented were too pessimistic. My typical response is that accurate trend data is neither optimistic nor pessimistic; they are realistic, and it is your response to those realities that provides a sense or hope or despair. I think Futurecast fits snuggly within that framework. The book contains some harsh and startling views on the present and future. But what makes those views hopeful or hopeless is the nature of your trust in God, your commitment to changing those conditions, and the depth of your belief that God can do miraculous and mighty things through you and others.

At the same time, I think the portrait of society painted in Futurecast is made more bearable by the process of transformation described in Maximum Faith, which reminds us that we start changing the world by cooperating with God in His transformation of us, first. Knowing the nature of the journey, what the stops along the way require, and what to look for as evidence that God is at work in our lives and that we are working effectively with Him, provides enormous help and hope. It starts by understanding that you are not responsible for changing everything of dubious value or character that’s described in Futurecast; you only have to get your life right with God and give Him total access to your mind, heart, body, and spirit. When you do so, then He is able to affect the world through you, one life at a time, as He chooses, on His schedule and utilizing His resources. And suddenly things are no longer overwhelming, there is great hope for the future, and perhaps even a sense of excitement and anticipation.

Thank you George!!! Best wishes from our family to yours for 2012…and our deepest expression of gratitude for your ongoing, inspiring contributions in 2011.