IVP - Strangely Dim - Experiments in the Kingdom of Love

June 7, 2011

Experiments in the Kingdom of Love

I have long held that Mark Scandrette, author of the new Likewise book Practicing the Way of Jesus, is the coolest guy in the room, regardless of the room. Bono, Bonhoeffer and Bon Jovi could all be playing euchre together, but if Mark walked up and asked to join the game, they'd all start feeling giddy and self-conscious. I'm sure of it.

Anyway, Mark is now part of the Likewise family, which makes all of us cooler by association. Congratulations to all of us. In celebration of his book's release, we've decided to try his book on for size, and report on our experiences to you, our devoted and decidedly cool readers.

author photo.jpgMark has been described by my colleagues in marketing as what you get when you put Dallas Willard (intellectual champion of embodied, kingdom spirituality) and Shane Claiborne (soulful activist who makes his own clothes) into a blender. Not that we'd ever do that, but you have to admit that a Scandrette SmoothieTM is a pretty cool mental image. But I digress. The gist of Mark's book is that the spiritual formation that we've come to accept for ourselves--largely informational and taken in relatively passively, maybe best visualized by a lecture hall or a museum--is more a reflection of our contemporary culture than the model of discipleship put forth in the Gospels. Jesus didn't call a class to order or send his followers on a self-guided tour to read the captions of untouchable works of art; rather he invited followers into a tactile, three-dimensional experience of God and community.

A better image of for discipleship, Mark argues, is a workshop or an art studio, where scraps and flickers and stains surround works in progress, where people are perpetually honing their craft. Discipleship, according to Mark's vision, is less like a lecture hall and more like a dojo, where people learn by moving their bodies, by taking action, by going and doing.

You can perhaps imagine how disorienting such a thesis can be to people who work with books for a living. So much of Christian publishing is intellectual exercise--and appropriately so, for reading is a discipline of the mind, and discipleship of the mind is as important as discipleship of the body. We are, remember, commanded to love the Lord our God with our heart, soul, mind and strength. But for a few weeks at least, we'd like to consider how following Jesus changes when you--as Mark advised me the first time we met--"get out of your mind and into your body." (He prefaced that statement by calling me "Dude," something I imagine Dallas Willard rarely says.)

Thumbnail image for 3634.jpegAfter setting up the premise of his model, in Practicing the Way of Jesus Mark offers "experiments" of varying lengths of time organized around five primal needs he observes in the Lord's Prayer: identity ("Our Father in heaven . . ."); purpose ("Your kingdom come, your will be done . . ."); security ("Give us this day . . ."); community ("Forgive us . . . as we forgive"); and freedom and peace ("Lead us not into temptation . . ."). The experiments in the book are intended to help people get started, but they're not a checklist: the ideal experiment is not parroted but discerned, based on the context and particular struggles of the community gathered. In fact, Mark has set up a website to allow groups to share stories of experiments they've come up with, and the first fifty groups to sign up at the site will be able to meet privately with Mark via live video chat to get started crafting their own exercises.

With that in mind, our Strangely Dim community is discerning experiments for us individually (and perhaps collectively) to take on. Some of us may do more than one; I, for example, am starting with a seven-day experiment of reading the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) every day. I'll talk about the why behind this experiment in my next post, but given that "reading" is a far cry from "getting out of your head and into your body," I'm already trying to discern what more experiential experiment will be on my to-do list this summer.

We invite you to experiment with Practicing the Way of Jesus this summer as well. And let us know how it's going! This is a kingdom of love we're experimenting with, after all, and--as with every portrait of the kingdom Jesus paints--the more, the merrier.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at June 7, 2011 8:29 AM Bookmark and Share

Comments

Thanks Dave. I will consider this. Made me think of two things:

1) Similar to "out of your head", some of the practitioners of so-called body work in my men's spirituality network frame it this way:

"Lose your mind and come to your senses."

More radical, or poetically layered, or something...

2) A thought re: your own experiment: why not read the Sermon ALOUD? A bit more sensory, and I've found that the act of reading and cognition/integration changes when I read aloud, or listen to a book-on-tape. Or... if you go the tape/CD route, it may free your hands/eyes to walk, to look at the world as you listen to Jesus' words, and the Spirit may nudge one toward real-world connections one would not have made if reading off in a closet somewhere.

Blessings in the new experiments. Report back, but it's pass/fail... no grades allowed.

Comment by: Mark Nielsen at June 7, 2011 5:36 PM

Good thought on the aural experience, although I'm sure my wife wouldn't appreciate me belting out the beatitudes while she's trying to sleep. But I'll give it a shot in the car tomorrow. Thanks! By the way, it's not Mark's fault he's the coolest guy in the room; that's how God made him.

Comment by: Dave at June 7, 2011 8:39 PM

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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