Tag: The Church

The Building is Not the Church, but when this is over, you should Come to the Building.

“The Sense of the Church as an article of faith, shows what power it carries with it for the interior life of the soul.” – John Williamson Nevin “On the Church” 1857.

 

Jonathan David Faulkner

 Authors note: This piece was written March 1st and scheduled before the substantial spread of COVID-19. Many churches, including First Congregational Church of Buffalo Center are livestreaming or streaming prerecorded services. Readers are encouraged to plug into those online resources. 

Cyril of Jerusalem is famous for the quote that would be handed down to the reformation through Luther and Calvin in their respected works; “You cannot have God as your father, if you do not have the church as your mother.” The problem that arises when we consider the meaning of this quote in its original context and its reformation context is the essential definition of the church that is being used to make the assessment of church parentage. Cyril wrote in the fourth century, he received his ideas of the church directly from Irenaeus of Lyons who had received them from Polycarp who had received them from John. This was when the church still operated on an Acts 2-4 model of family worship. Yes, there was a certain amount of organization that was necessary but show me a family without some structure and I will show you their dysfunction. Catechism had already, begun, we know because the quote from Cyril above is from his first Catechetical Lectures and was the means by which the family passed on the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles to the next generation. It was within the Church that the teachings of salvation through Christ’s death and resurrection were passed down. Hence the Roman Catholic Idea that gets adopted by Luther in the Reformation that “Salvation is from the Church.” The church is meant to be the means by which those who are unsaved experience Christ and come to salvation through Him. It is not meant to happen outside the family structure of the Church, and until the rise of Revivalism and Sect and Schism, it did not. Still, Jesus gives the power of the keys to the Church, salvation is not meant to be outside the Church, salvation is Sola Ecclesio (the church alone).

However, by the time this teaching reached the reformation another understanding of the church had developed. St. Augustine, whose name Martin Luther’s order of Monks bore and from which Calvin took much of his theology had, in looking around and noticing unsaved sinners in the pews of the churches, developed the idea of the visible and invisible church. Essentially, Augustine took his Manichean and Platonic philosophical training and applied the idea of forms to the Church. The Church on Earth was a corrupt shadow of the Church in the transcendent. There were sinners among us because the Visible Church was the imperfect shadow of the Invisible Church. This is when the line “Communion of Saints” was added to the Creed. It was this communion that all Holy Spirit Baptized believers, past, present and future, were a part of through Christ, yet while on Earth, the Church was nothing more than an organization made up of sinful men and women and not in its perfect “form.” This became the dominant form of the church in the West until Philip Schaff’s “The Principle of Protestantism” as first preached and then published in 1844 at Mercersburg Seminary in Pennsylvania and sparked a debate over the nature of the Church between the Swiss born and German trained Schaff, his American accomplice John Williamson Nevin and their opponent, the distinguished Calvinist Charles Hodge of Princeton. Schaff understood structure and organization only as a “necessary evil” not as a means and end of the church. That is, our pastor/CEO business model of church  which has become the primary model of the church in North America was not to be primary or secondary to the nature of the Church, but the final concern after all other concerns were addressed and questions answered.

 

Schaff and Nevin scoured the scriptures and the Church Father’s available to them to come up with their definition of the Church as Organism and not organization. In Acts they observed that it was not until it was necessary that structure developed such as in Acts 6. That the natural “Structure” could be found in Acts 2:42-47 and 4:32-37 where the Church is living organically as a family in Christ. They also looked at passages like John 17 and 20 where Jesus prays for the unity of his Brothers, not as a loosely associated group of people, but as a people sent into the world as He was sent into the world, except for us the divine nature that dwells or is incarnate inside of us is the Holy Spirit and we do not share the same Hypostatic Union as Jesus did. We can only be drawn up into the divine life through the Holy Spirit, Jesus was and is always part of the divine life of the Godhead. Jesus is fully God and fully man, we are fully man and the person of the Holy Spirit comes and dwells inside us. All this feels like theological gobbledygook to one who has not been to seminary, but I promise it is important for the average person to understand this because it is essential to the definition of the church as Organism not as organization.

 

If the Church is an organism than it is a symbiotic one. We are joined to Christ, it is Christ who gives us our Oneness, not doctrine, not Creeds, those serve as reminders and reflections of scripture and its Truths, but our oneness is eternally bound to Christ. All the “One” phrases in Ephesians 4:1-5 point to Christ, none of the “one” in that passage would be possible without Christ. Unity apart from Christ is a myth and a dangerous one. The Church is an organism that is totally dependent on Christ for its very life and existence. We are the: “Continuation of Christ’s presence here on Earth” through the Holy Spirit.

 

Notice what this means the church is not, a building where people gather on Sunday and then do not think about the rest of the week. The Church is not a business where we seek the best marketing slogan, the church is not a place to drop the kids on Wednesday Night. None of that constitutes the Church, in fact, none of those should have anything to do with the church or be used in the same sentence with the Church because the Church is not a building. I write this because I have seen an increasing number of articles about how “going to church” is better for family health and development. Or the articles that tell people they need to go to church to be good Christians. I am tired of these articles, Church Leaders and The Gospel Coalition alike because they are ignorant of both the biblical definition of the Church and the cultural exegesis that tells us this mentality is why young people have left the church. Because Christianity, when reduced to going to a building, once a week to be told about a brand named Jesus who doesn’t actually remind or resemble the Jesus of the Bible. With 93% of young people who are still engaged in the church saying that, according to Barna: “A Personal relationship with Jesus is extremely important to my faith and my Church life” it seems we should be working to get better at fostering relationships with Christ, not trying to sell a brand. It seems we should return to an idea of the church where that relationship between God and Man through Christ is the very essence of how we understand the church. This would also give younger members the agency and ownership within the local body that they so often feel they are lacking or told frankly that they are not allowed to have.

 

But what about the buildings we call Churches? We can still call them that, though it might be more advantageous to call them “Meeting houses” as our puritan ancestors did. They should also be repurposed or reimagined with the goal of fostering intergenerational organic relationships by the Holy Spirit. That is, we can keep the sanctuary, but if should not be open one hour, one day a week but multiple days a week and not just for worship, but for prayer and for meals together and for distributing to the needy. Yes, even in a small town. The Church buildings we have can become bases of operation and training for God’s children to be prepared to go and care in the world. But we should do this not merely because Jesus and scripture tells us too, but because God has made us a family through adoption and out of that love, we should live in a gratitude that follows the example set for us by Christ and the Early Christians.

 

This kind of living includes the sacraments because the efficacy of the sacraments are in Christ whose Spirit pervades them. “Whether men chose to know it,” writes John Williamson Nevin “and lay it to heart, or not, the view that is taken of the Holy Sacraments, as conditioning the view taken by the Holy Catholic Church, and, through this again the view that is taken of the whole mystery of the incarnation, must ever be of radical and primary account in all true Christian Theology. Especially must this be the case with the Sacrament of the Eucharist.” Whatever is happening in the Eucharist, however Christ is present, the manner of which is divine mystery and we should avoid certainty on, are possible because Christ is still Incarnate. The same is true of Baptism where we are literally Baptized into and through Christ by participating in His death and resurrection. Nevin’s Colleague Emmanuel Gerhardt writes: “A Sacrament is a sign and seal of divine grace. The outward element is both the sign and the seal. As sign it represents grace- a spiritual good. As a seas it gives the assurance of a real and present grace.” Sacraments are given for life, for drawing us into deeper relationship with Christ, to partake of the body and blood of Christ in their mystical presence. The incarnation pervades everything: Again Nevin writes: “We become sons of God by union with him in a supernatural way. Let Christ be apprehended as the central bearer of the new creation whose universal fullness is made to reach over in the form of grace and truth (not law but life) into the souls of people, and the subline representation of St. John is simple and clear. Resolve the Christian salvation into an outward image only of Christ, wrought either with our without God’s help, and the representation is blind as chaos.”
Like with all things, instead of glorying in the awesome majesty and power of God we have oversimplified and done exactly what Nevin has warned us against. We have made the Christian Life about how good or moral someone is, how many times they attend Church each year or how many bibles verses they have memorized. These things are all well and good, but the speak to an institutionalized, outward model, not an inward transformative change by Jesus Christ within the heart. We are not called Moralists, we are called Christians, an insult which meant “Little Christs.” We got that name because we believed the Holy Spirit dwelled with us and made us like Christ, because we were committed to the “renewing of our minds and transformation of our hearts” (Rom 12:10). Because we did our best to have the “Same mind as Christ” (Phil 2:5) and because we were known for our radical care for everyone (Acts 2:42-47, 4:32-37). Millennial’s like myself do not want over simplistic ideas or to be told not to question the way the church has always done things. Sometimes questioning is essential for sustained health and our current way of “doing church” (I hate that phrase) is a hindrance to us being the Church. Our scriptures are deep, our God even deeper and our understanding of him in the modern context is substantially lessoned by our anti-intellectualism and “thou shalt not question” rigorism and both have led to biblical illiteracy of the highest and worst order.

 

The bottom line is this: our buildings are just buildings and we are the church, the buildings are just the meetinghouse of the church, God’s house is you and I (Gal 2:20, 1 Cor 6:19). As Downhere sings: “We are a Cathedral, made of people, in a kingdom that the eye cannot see.” We are the visible representatives of Christ on Earth who Christ dwells within and maintains His presence through. So while the Church is not a building, you should not forsake meeting together with your local body (Heb 10:25). Salvation comes from the Church because the Church is bound up in union with Christ first and foremost. The building does not dull out salvation, God does, though the church. Thus, the church should be an entrance into a deep relationship with God defined by love, thankfulness and transformation through Discipleship in the Holy Spirit.

 

So, if you are a believer, go to the place where the Church meets, the building, and be part of the Church which your Union with Christ means you belong to. The visible and organic church defined in relationship to the Holy Spirit and not to its sinfulness/perfection. You are the church and you are one part of the greater whole and the other parts of the greater whole, members one of another (1 Cor 14:12-26) need you to function fully. We all are called to work together for the gospel, not as isolated individuals, and we should do so with great anticipation of what God can and will do through us as a whole body where He has planted us.

 

References

Gerhart, Emanuel V. 2016. The Efficacy of Baptism . Vol. VI, in The Mercersburg Theology Study Series: Born of Water and Spirit Essays on the Sacraments and Christian Formation , by Philip Schaff, Emanuel V. Gerhart John Williamson Nevin, edited by David W. Laymen, location 4743-5729. Eugene , OR: WIFP & Stock.

Hoffecker, W. Andrew. 2011. Charles Hodge, THe Prince of Princeton, . Philidelphia : P&R Publishing .

John Willaimson Nevin, Philip Scaff, Emanuel V. Gerhart, David W. Laymen, W. Bradford Littlejon. 2016. Born of Water & Spirit: Essays on the Sacraments and Christian Formation. Eugene : Wfpf & Stock .

John Williamson Nevin, Charles Hodge, Linden J. DeBie, W. Bradford Littlejohn . 2013. Coena Mystica: Debating Reformed Eucharistic Theology. Eugene : Wfpf & Stock .

John Williamson Nevin, Linden J. DeBie. 2012. The Mystical Presence & the Doctrine of the Reformed Church on the Lord’s Supper . Eugene : Wfpf & Stock .

John Williamson Nevin, Philip Schaff, Daniel Gans, William B. Evans, W. Bradford Littlejohn . 2014. The Incarnate Word: Selected Writings on Christology . Eugene : Wfpf & Stock .

Nevin, John Williamson. 1846. The Mystical Presence . Philidelphia : J.B. Lippincott & Co. .

Nevin, John Williamson. 2017. “Thoughts on the Church .” In The Mercersburg Study Series Vol VII: One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Tome Two: John Williamson Nevin’s Ecclesiological Writings (1851-1858, by John Williamson Nevin David W. Laymen, 131-152. Eugene : WfPF and Stock .

Nevin, John Williamson. 2016. Wilburforce on the Eucharist. Vol. VI , in The Mercersburg Theology Study Series: Born of Water And Spirit Essays on the Sacraments and Christian Formation, by Philip Schaff, Emanuel V. Gerhart John Williamson Nevin, edited by William B. Evans, Location 3989-4743. Eugene, OR: WIFP & Stock.

Philip Schaff, . 1964. “The Principle of Protestantism .” In The Lancaster Theology Series on the Mercersburg Theology V: VI , by J.W. Nevin, Ed Bard Thompson Philip Schaff, 48-219. Philidelphia : United Church Press.

 

Jonathan D12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oavid Faulkner is a Graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary holding Masters in Divinity and Church History, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry. He lives with his wife Rachel and daughter Erin in Buffalo Center Iowa and seeks to be a part of the project of reconciliation in the local and international church. He is currently serving as the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Buffalo Center.

Coronavirus and The Death of Individualism

When this is over, and it will eventually be, perhaps we will have been reminded that what really matters is each other.

Jonathan David Faulkner

As a student of 19th Century Church History at Mercersburg I have little patience for Princeton, as a human being a struggle with Twitter because of how negative it has become. Yet, yesterday both of these combined to surprise me. This time in the form of a Tweet from Princeton Professor Kate Bowler about how the Coronavirus marks the end of individualism

I could write an entire article on how entertaining it is for someone who has studied the “Common sense” theology that Princeton was born into to hear someone from Princeton claiming the end of Individualism, but that is not the point of this article. What is the point is to explore what that means for society going forward.

Lifeway Research, Barna and Pew have all marked an increase in anxiety and its contributors in both Millenials and Gen Z compared to the other two living generations (Baby Boomers and Gen X) who make up much of the population. That means that isolation, depression and loneliness are all on the rise among people 15-35 and as a result we are suffering more anxiety because we have a much weaker social network to fall back upon. Instead we have one that, for all its claims to be social, is increasingly proving to be fake and in fact, toxic, to our mental heath (Social Media). Social Media creates the illusion of togetherness and interconnectedness but does not fulfil either human need. Jean M. Twenge has warned us about the effect Social Media is having both on us and our kids as the pressure to present a perfectly curated world based on your personal preferences overwhelms them.

Individualism, especially the radical American brand that was handed down to us and expanded upon from the time of the Enlightenment says that the individual is prime, and nothing should interfere with the individuals personal autonomy. That translates to an attitude that “no one is going to tell me what to do and as long as it feels good to me, I am going to do it.” If you are on Twitter today you know that this very attitude is being blamed for why the virus is spreading at the alarming rate that it is in the United States. We all saw the videos of college kids partying in Florida and then saw the new report that most of those kids have tested positive for the virus. The idea that “I am young and invincible” is one that has affected every youth, but individualism says: “I am going to do what feels good, consequences be damned.” Individualism fuels our other impulses, consumerism, stuff will make the individual feel secure, identitarianism, personal identity is the path to harmony and perfect happiness, hedonism, I want to do what makes me happiest and most fulfilled. These all look to the self as the greatest authority, again, the individual is prime.

Yet we have seen recently a rise in strong group think the extremes of the right and the left. Tribalism is our word for it, and though incompatible with individualism, it makes the same claim as individualism, the self of group is primary, and no one can tell the tribe what to think or to think differently. I remember sitting in a meeting with one of my professors for a “Readings and Research” course on Jonathan Edwards and Charles Chauncy’s debate over revivalism. Revivalism being a key contributor to the spread of individualism in America. I remember telling her that individualism is breaking down, but that tribalism is as well, leading to some kind of primalism that is purely emotionally driven which corresponds with the breakdown in language and increased isolation caused by Social Media. This observation came after an article in The Guardian about the use of Emoji’s in communication and the idea that we had reverted back to Hieroglyphs on tablets with glowing screens. The relationship between individualism and tribalism is thus that they both reject dependence on the other, in the case of individualism, prizing personal autonomy and in the case of tribalism, prizing group autonomy. It is the same idea, applied to two extremes.

Both individualism and Tribalism are dangerous to the public health and well-being of a society because they both reject anything other than what they have accepted as personal truth. This operative principle of relativism means that doing anything that does not see to the wellbeing of the central idea or person is evil is extremely destructive both to society and to the individual in general or persons involved. Believe it or not, this is how cults operate, loyalty to the leader or central idea is absolute and if one diverges from that then they are punished by the group. Think Westboro Baptist or Jonestown, they often seem like great places to be, but if you step out of line you become public enemy number one. Yet we have embraced both mediums unquestionably and are going to long pay the price for our obstinance.

If you do not believe me, look at this week’s debate over the stimulus package. Everyone is trying to get a piece of pie for their constituency, their tribe, and the result is ultimately an abandonment of the American People. Meanwhile Lobbyists want what is best for them, a juicy bonus from their employers, and so they bend the ear of their allies on the hill. That is not how a representative republic is meant to work and we are learning that the tribal mantra “America First” does not actually mean “Americans First.” We should be ashamed of ourselves. Individualism and Tribalism, two extremes, predicated on the same utilitarian principle. Do what is best for me and forget everyone else. Who cares if someone dies, they are not part of me or my group, I have nothing to do with them and they have nothing to do with me? How perfectly Stalinite of us saying “one death is a tragedy but a million is a statistic.”

Yet, as a Christian I know that this is not how the world is meant to be ordered. As a Historian I know this ordering of the world is abnormal when compared to the strong group societies that are still much of the world today. As a Pastor who believes what the Bible says is true (I should not teach it otherwise) I have a responsibility to teach my congregation that Jesus gave His life so that we could live a life that was radically different from the world around us. For the Christian, self-seeking is unprofitable and unuseful (Titus 3:1-11) and leads to fights and quarrels and schism. Self-seeking leaves us self-condemned while living the Christian Life that we can only live because God made it possible through Jesus Christ, should make us work for the benefit of one another. That includes those who think differently than we do, those who the world would naturally label our “enemies.” The Christian Life is meant to be lived for the benefit of our neighbors, not for the benefit of ourselves. We have received out reward and it is well beyond what we could ever gain on this Earth (i.e Eternal Life).

In times of crisis then, we should not look to ourselves, but looking to the good of one another and to the world that does not know Christ. I work just as hard for the benefit and shalom of my neighbor who is unsaved as I do for the saved neighbor. I do this not because I am obligated too, but because I am grateful for that Christ as done for me what I could not do myself. This does not mean there is not an inward quality to Christianity, we are commanded to work out our salvation, but that is also done in the context of our relationship with God and with others. The Churchman John Williamson Nevin, in his writing on the Two-Party System in the days leading up to the Civil War says this: “This does not mean there is not room for individual opinion, but that individual opinion must be brought into the group and be examined by all to see if it aligns with the word of God and the teachings of the Church.” Christians believe in an absolute truth, but we should be gracious in how we live and apply that truth because God has been gracious to us. We confess essential doctrines, but we also confess personal conscious and 1 Corinthians 10 tells us that there are some things that are left up to the personal conscious of the individual, but that considerations of conscious should take into account the conscious of another. If such and such an activity will be harmful to my neighbor, I will abstain from that activity in their company.

Both individualism and tribalism advance the individual conscious over the good of the people around us. Both make the individual conscious a self-contained god that declares its independence from every other god around it and is superior to everyone else’s god. Thus, no one is superior and no one’s individual truth is absolute. I am also under no obligation to do anything for my neighbor because my neighbor is my enemy. I have excused myself from doing anything for anyone, the self is my god and people better not play in my canned goods or challenge the high place I have built for myself. This has to be an exhausting way to live, but our culture has adopted it as normal, even voted it into office at the state and national levels.

The Coronavirus and COVID-19 challenge this mentality. I know last week I posted a piece about the need for more helpers, but that was because I wanted to see more of the few positive things I was seeing (I need to adjust my algorithm because my wife was seeing nothing but positive stories while all my headlines were about hoarding and toilet paper). I have seen how many of us have laid down our self-contained gods and self-worship to reach out to the other. We are self-quarantining because we understand how easy it is to transmit this virus and how deadly it is for older and vulnerable groups. We are adjusting store hours so that elderly men and women can go to the store without fear. People are baking bread so that their elderly neighbors who cannot get to the store can have bread. Yes, there are people hoarding, but there are a growing number of people who seem to be breaking from our usual American individualist way of life for the sake of helping others. They seem to be realizing that the benefit of helping one another far outweighs the benefit of helping themselves alone. In the words of Mr. Spock, “the needs of the many, outweigh the needs of the one or the few.” I can only hope that this trend continues, and individualism does die a quick death. This may be optimistic; we may go back to business as usual in June or July when this thing finally ends. But I can dream right?

Think about it this way:

 

Jonathan D12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oavid Faulkner is a Graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary holding Masters in Divinity and Church History, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry. He lives with his wife Rachel and daughter Erin in Buffalo Center Iowa and seeks to be a part of the project of reconciliation in the local and international church. He is currently serving as the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Buffalo Center.

A Protestant Goes to a Monastery:

 

By Jonathan David Faulkner

 

I once considered Cloistered life, no joke, as I studied Church History I found the flow and practice of Monastic life quite appealing. Eventually I began visiting a little Benedictine Monastery and conversing with the brothers. As I prayed about the decision I found God was not calling me to Holy Orders, he wanted me in the Local Church and while one can do that in a Monastery, but it is not the primary purpose. Also, I am not Catholic, as you know I was raised Presbyterian, served as a Baptist Pastor and am working on Ordination in the 4C’s. I am aware there are Protestant Monasteries, even Protestant order of Franciscans, I consider myself a student of the Little Saint from Assisi, (I now own the Omnibus of Sources on him), but the more I prayed about it, the more the Lord called me back to His mission for my life. I still enjoy going to Monasteries, they are quiet places, great for study, praying and listening and resting.

It was the last three reasons that I went. If you live here at the Seminary you know that my life has been a bit crazy lately, between leading worship for Chapels, God’s Heart, Paper Writing and all those other things associated with Seminary Life I had been running a bit low on energy, I needed a rest, since I missed the Soul Care retreat in February because of Mentored Ministry I had not had a proper break and since I load my semesters to get a lot done early on I found myself in need of a break.

So I saw the opportunity and took it, a day trip down to the Monastery with one of my fellow Seminarians.

The Monastery is set in the hills, next to the little towns of Still River and Harvard (Not the school). Its white buildings were built in the 1600’s with the exception of a barn that was built when the Benedictine’s first moved out to the Monastery in the 70’s and took up Dairy Farming. Now it is the multi-purpose facility for the use of the many retreat groups that come through their each year. Benedictine Monks are called to perform some task per The Rule of St. Benedict and this particular Monastery’s good was hospitality.

We arrived for 8AM mass, it was modeled after the Old Mass so everything was spoken and sung in Latin with the exception of Holy Scripture, which was read in English. We of course could not take Communion since we were not Baptized Catholics, but it was interesting to see the Host Elevated and hear the prayers and songs of the Monks as they joyously participated. After that we met with Father Augustine and toured the Monastery, visiting the guest house and learning about the History of the Abbey. After that we were on our own for awhile, we ended up going down to a little stone chapel (My room here on campus is bigger) and spending time in silent prayer and scripture meditation. I also wrote a poem while we were there. Then we trekked back up to the Monastery (about a mile) in the rain so we could meet with Father Augustine to ask questions about Monastic Life. We then went to Sext, one of the divine offices, which was again in Latin, though this time we had English translations, and after that lunch. The rest of the time was spent reading and praying and being quiet before the Lord. I spent the afternoon in the guest house, watching the storm clouds pass by outside, occasionally feeling the warmth of the sun on my shoulders.

It was a quiet and peaceful day, just the day I needed as I drank in the much needed prolonged scripture reading. Meditating specifically on Psalms 130 all morning while sitting in that tiny stone chapel, listening to the birds sing and the rain fall, it was, what my Protestant Soul needed.

I know my readers are going to ask “Why did you go to Mass? Aren’t you a protestant?” The answer to the second question is “Yes, I am a Protestant,” Reformed as the next Reformed Theologian, but does that mean I can reject all that came before Calvin and Luther? We have discussed before how Church History did not start at the Reformation, Catholicism is our roots, and we are all part of the catholic (universal) church, which includes Catholics. There are also some very beautiful and life-giving practices given us by the Catholic Church that even Calvin upheld as good things (i.e Monastic devotion to study of scripture, praying the psalms). I may not agree with Transubstantiation, preferring the Reformed Doctrine of Real Presence and the explanation of Divine Mystery to answer the “How?” But there are many beautiful practices given us by the Early Church and then the Catholic Church that should never have been left behind.

The truth is, I went because it was good for my soul to experience God in another context, to be with Him in a place that was unfamiliar, yet quiet. The Mass was the best place to start, focusing my heart on God and preparing me for a day spent mostly in silence. The beauty of the Latin Service helped me meditate on the beauty of God. The reading of Scripture help prepare my heart to receive more Scripture. By the time we reached the Little Stone Chapel my heart was ready to listen to God.

As I opened my Bible to the Psalms I opened directly to 130. A psalm I long ago memorized and have spent time praying and meditating on. I decided to that this was a good time to pray through it again. As I did verse 7 kept repeating in my head: “Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is Steadfast Love and with the Lord is plentiful Redemption.” With these words came the Joy of the knowledge of that Plentiful Redemption. As I thought through the verses over and over again, the forgiveness of Iniquities, waiting for the Lord, Hoping in him, I could not help but think about how these aspects of the Gospel. Hope, Love, forgiveness of sins, all of those things that this Psalm reminds us of that we now have through the cross of Christ. How do we not come to him in gratitude and seek His will out of gratitude and with tears of Joy as we consider what He has done for us.

Do you know how big God’s Heart for you is? Or do you never get the chance to see it, is your life so full of activity that you never had time to simply retreat into Him. Do you ever sit back and consider what He has done for you by His great work of redemption on the cross. Or is your relationship with Him distant, you being unaware of His indwelling Spirit and Him reaching out to you, but you not knowing?

Oh dear brother, dear sister, I pray you know the Joy of your redemption so fully that it inspires you to sporadic praise of Him who gave it.  That you might be spurred to greater love and good works for those around you. That is might encourage you to encourage others, that it might exhort you to love God more deeply and to walk more closely with Him. That it might encourage you to righteous living and through that you might become an instrument of Justice, peace and mercy.

This is what I took from being with the community of Benedictine Monks. That there is so much Joy in our redemption that to deny that Joy is to deny part of its very core.

Oh brothers and sisters, hope in the Lord, always, hope in the Lord.\

 

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Jonathan David Faulkner is a student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree inChristian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry

Jonathan Takes Five: Talks Arts, the Church and Seminary Life.

By Bradly Tucker14140_10151927346899245_829737775_a

Hamilton Mass: Jonathan David Faulkner, the 24-year-old Proprietor of God’s Heart for Those and the former director of 10:31 Life Ministries, Pastor, Musician and Writer took a moment out of his busy study schedule to sit down and talk about his passion for the arts and the church, his current writing project and life in Seminary.

Brad: Jonathan, thank you for joining me.

Jonathan: You’re welcome

Brad: We know that you are musician, many of our readers have heard your music live, but what most people do not know about you is that you write as well. Can you tell us a little bit about that aspect of your life and any projects you might be working on?

Jonathan: Well, since I was a kid I have loved to tell stories, my mother used to say I could make something up and no one would know if it were true or not. I did not always use that power for good, especially before I became a Christian in 8th grade. I never wrote any of them down, what I did write was poem after poem, some in lyric structure, others were just poems. I would write them at school, print them off and carry them around in a huge binder or write them in this big notebook. I still have the binder and most of the songs, I should go back and look at them.

Anyway, I wanted to write a book, so I started writing this weird apocalyptic thing in this huge notebook. The idea was pretty good, or at least I thought it was, but I never finished it. My Junior year of college I wrote a book about my life and God’s work in it in about two weeks, I do not know where that book is now. Then last year I started working on a book series called “The Mozzaratt Saga.” Four books, a Trilogy and an origin story written by the main character of the book. I am almost done with book one and have made a good deal of progress in the origin story. The second and third book are still in the planning stages while I work out the plot, which by the way, you will have to buy the books when they come out. I am also working on a project dealing with Star Trek and another on Reconciliation and Social Justice, this of course while maintaining a rigorous Seminary reading schedule.

Brad: Those sound interesting, we know you have been involved in the Seminary’s Art’s Society. What do you think is the relationship between Christianity and Art?

Jonathan: I think they should be closely linked. In fact part of my mentored ministry responsibilities will be working in promoting art of all kinds at the church. For me it comes down to this; as Christians we are created by God, as part of God’s creativity, part of a natural response to that is to create, and we all do it, whether it is writing a song or coming up with your own paper filing system, we all create. I believe we are called to be sub-creators. Meaning, we create out of the overflow of our hearts of the Love of God with the desire to glorify Him by what we create. In Christianity then, art becomes a discipline for practicing the presence of God and glorifying Him, as well as a means to bless others by the gifts God has given us.

Several years ago, as part of the Good Discipline Series for GHFT I wrote an article on Art as a discipline. I still feel the same way, the closer we get to God the more our creativity will show up in the things we do. Back then I had written like 12 songs, in the 3 years since that article was written I have written over 200 more, that’s the Holy Spirit, that’s God driven creativity, I cannot take credit for that.

Brad: So should the church embrace all forms of art?

Jonathan: Absolutely, we do ourselves a disservice when we relegate art to music and music only. Painting for example is a wonderful expression of the Glory of God. Poetry is part of the Bible, and there is a lot of good poetry and good poets sitting in our congregations. I have talked to artistic church members who feel like they are being stifled, like their creative abilities have no place in the church. So we do ourselves and these an incredible disservice by not embracing their gifts and abilities so that we can all be blessed by them.

It should also be said that arts is individual praise to God expressed in the Corporate body. If you praise God by painting the body of Christ should have the chance to join you in praising and Glorifying God. That way, in your eternal enjoyment of Him, others might also get to enjoy Him through the use of your gifts.

Brad: Do you have time to create while in Seminary?

Jonathan: Not as much as I did before, that is for sure. But I try to take time out of my day to work on “non-academic work” to make sure I have time to let the creative juices flow. I spend a lot of those hours working on the book series or writing music. I call them Artist Dates, a term we used in Denver to describe getting away to do what our soul longs to do.

Brad: So art helps you cope with a busy schedule?

Jonathan: Among other things, I have a strict routine that I follow as far as prayer and scripture reading go. Sometimes I go to prayer on campus, though usually I leave early because the spirit has stirred something within me and I have to write a song or poetry or something. I need to start taking a notepad with me.

Brad: Any final thoughts on Art and life in general?

Jonathan: I think that art is as much formative as it is transformative. I will give you an example; songwriting, for me, usually comes out of times of deep reflection and contemplation on God and what He has done. That is formative for me because it helps me draw closer to Him. But say that song makes it into my life show, someone hears the message and is encouraged and drawn closer into their relationship with God who is transforming us through Sanctification. Or starts to think about God because of it. Whether that night or over time they find themselves drawn to God and become a believer and be transformed by God and the Gospel because God encouraged me, by the Spirit, to write the song. It also may be transformative for me in case I forget the lesson I was contemplating when I wrote the song. It could be the same with a poem, a story, a drawing, a painting any form of creativity, especially when coupled with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Brad: Finally can you tell us what you are working on for the upcoming month at GHFT?

Jonathan: Sure, today I finished up an article on Interruptions and Ministry and I have been doing some research on the latest Joshua Feuerstien’s claims. So there could be another article addressing his teachings and claims. Other than that I cannot say what God is going to do, what surprising work of grace He might see fit to bring about that would make me want to praise Him.

Brad: Thank you Jonathan and have a good night.

Jonathan: You too Brad, night.

 

Bradly Tucker is the Content Editor & Copyright Manager for GHFT