Avoiding Responsibility by Pointing Fingers


I’ve been reading N. T. Wright’s latest book, After You Believe, and came across this paragraph this morning:

“…we who have lived for many generations with the phenomenon of ‘denominations’ may well sigh and throw up our hands. Our denominations, with all their ambiguities and puzzles, are often rooted in the very kind of ethnic distinctions or personality-based divisions which Paul went out of his way to combat. Perhaps that is one reason why moral discussions in the church tend to go round and round in small circles on a few favored issues, especially sex: discussing how, why, and when two human beings come together in a loving or quasi-loving act may be, after all, a displacement activity when we can’t cope with the question of how, why, and when a whole family of Christians should (but can’t) come together in mutual love and support. That doesn’t mean that sexual ethics are unimportant. On the contrary, they are symptomatic of the health or unhealthy of the wider community.” (N. T. Wright. After You Believe. New York: HarperOne, 2010, p. 208-209)

Questions Wright raises for me:

  • Are there ways in which I am focusing more on the “big sins” of others as a way of avoiding my own?
  • How might God want me to become more awake to my own shortcomings so that I might experience mercy and grow in grace myself?
  • Specifically, how might He wish our communities to focus more on loving one another in such a way that this mutual care overflows into the world around us?

(A repost from April 2010)

Avoiding Responsibility by Pointing Fingers


I’ve been reading N. T. Wright’s latest book, After You Believe, and came across this paragraph this morning:

“…we who have lived for many generations with the phenomenon of ‘denominations’ may well sigh and throw up our hands. Our denominations, with all their ambiguities and puzzles, are often rooted in the very kind of ethnic distinctions or personality-based divisions which Paul went out of his way to combat. Perhaps that is one reason why moral discussions in the church tend to go round and round in small circles on a few favored issues, especially sex: discussing how, why, and when two human beings come together in a loving or quasi-loving act may be, after all, a displacement activity when we can’t cope with the question of how, why, and when a whole family of Christians should (but can’t) come together in mutual love and support. That doesn’t mean that sexual ethics are unimportant. On the contrary, they are symptomatic of the health or unhealthy of the wider community.” (N. T. Wright. After You Believe. New York: HarperOne, 2010, p. 208-209)

Questions Wright raises for me:

  • Are there ways in which I am focusing more on the “big sins” of others as a way of avoiding my own?
  • How might God want me to become more awake to my own shortcomings so that I might experience mercy and grow in grace myself?
  • Specifically, how might He wish our communities to focus more on loving one another in such a way that this mutual care overflows into the world around us?

Buy a copy of After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters on Amazon.com

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The Transforming Power of Remembering Our Stories


One expanding arena of our work in The Leadership Institute has been in organizational transformation. Recently, Paul Jensen pointed me to a quotation in Evil and the Justice of God (Intervarsity, 2006), where N. T. Wright says, “As Walter Wink has argued strongly in his major work on the powers, there is a great deal to be said for the view that all corporate institutions have a kind of corporate soul, an identity which is greater than the sum of its parts, which can actually tell the parts what to do and how to do it. This leads to the view that in some cases at least, some of these corporate institutions-whether they be industrial companies, governments or even (God help us) churches–can become so corrupted with evil that the language of ‘possession’ at a corporate level becomes the only way to explain the phenomena before us (p. 18, emphasis mine).”

Wright and Jensen are careful about explicitly referencing the demonic in relation to Christian organizations, but there can be patterns in any organization that look more unholy than holy, unloving than loving, ungraced than graced. Christian organizations may find themselves desiring a deeper integrity as it relates to practicing God’s presence in their individual and shared life together. One of the tools that has proven fruitful is remembering and telling founding stories. In any church, ministry, mission, movement or denomination, there are stories about how it came to be. There are often powerful God dynamics illustrated in those stories. Over time, a community may lose touch with those God stories. When this happens, a community forgets who they are and Who God is among them.

A basic biblical version of this dynamic is the way in which Israel told and retold their own Exodus story, remembering together (and often) how God had delivered them from centuries of slavery in a miraculous way through the Red Sea. Whenever they lost track of that story, they lost track of their unique relationship with God. So the story needed to be told and retold.

What are some of your own earliest God stories? How well do you remember them? How often do you remember them?

If you are in any kind of ministry leadership, what are some of the founding stories of your organization? How might remembering them be a source of renewal and encouragement for your community?

Buy a copy of Evil & the Justice of God on Amazon.com

A Funny N. T. Wright Moment


The YouTube video below is a clip from his teaching at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach earlier this year. Gem and I had the treat of attending. (At about 30 seconds in, you can see my five seconds of fame, laughing in the center of the frame). He was absolutely amazing. I hope that the Los Ranchos Presbytery might make some of what he shared available. It was very, very good.

N. T. Wright on Acts (2 new clips)


In late May I posted some YouTube clips of N. T. Wright teaching out of Acts to a group of Southern California pastors a few months ago. There are two additional clips just posted in the last couple of days. Again, for ease of viewing, I’ve embedded all seven from this particular presentation below.  The rest of series can be accessed here:

More N. T. Wright Videos (YouTube)


Last week, I posted the first of a series YouTube videos from N. T. Wright on the theme of the book of Acts. On that same retreat, Wright offered answers to a number of questions raised by this group of pastors. (Below is one of seven such clips, which can be accessed here on YouTube)