Category Archives: Moving to England

New Testament Studies at Durham… New Strengths

In spite of the horrific costs of postgraduate study in the UK, I am so pleased that Durham is where I have ended up.  I am biased, of course.  But bias might actually be a criterion for truthfulness—sometimes the only accurate portrayals are not the “objective” views from outsiders, but the subjective view from insiders.

(On that statement one could wax on and on with an exciting theology of hermeneutics, by the way— biased insiders are, for the most part, the “implied readers” of Scripture).

The strengths of Durham’s Dept. of Theology are widely recognized.  From an insider’s perspective, there are some less known elements at play that increase my thankfulness for being here.

For one, there is a sincere and energetic agenda of strengthening the academic skills of us postgrads.  Some serious thinking and evaluation is at work as faculty members wonder how they can make us better scholars and address our potential weaknesses.  This agenda is not enacted in a heavy-handed way.  Instead, the faculty are sacrificially making themselves more available in an array of opportunities which are simply there should we choose to take advantage of the offerings.

Here are examples.  Our NT Seminar meets not fortnightly (every other week) like most in the UK, but weekly.  And Prof. Francis Watson (the seminar convener and my supervisor) has added a skills development dimension.  Every other week we have paper presentations (the standard fare of postgraduate seminars in the UK), but on the alternative weeks there are training sessions in reading primary texts, open only to postgrads and faculty.  This means that every other week we NT doctoral and masters students are reading ancient texts with expert ancient-text-readers.  For this term (Michaelmas), our training sessions are dedicated to textual criticism.  In effect, we will have experienced something akin to a doctoral level seminar on text-critical reading of the Greek New Testament.

In addition to the NT seminar, an impressive host of language reading groups are on offer.  Our faculty have quite a breadth in linguistic competencies, and they are making themselves available so that we can choose to meet them in small groups to read Hebrew, Aramaic, Coptic, Greek, French, etc.

Also worth mentioning is the new Integrated PhD program, just initiated.  The standard US PhD program is 4-5 years with heavy emphases on doctoral level coursework and language study built into them.  The 3-year UK program, on the other hand, expects the competencies gained from language study and coursework to be developed before entering doctoral level research.

Times are changing, so that expectation has proven to be a bit too optimistic.  Many of us begin with an array of linguistic and research weaknesses, a situation that has at times drawn criticism from Americans who have managed to get one of the rare PhD slots in the elite US schools.  Durham is addressing these perceived weaknesses with vigor.  And this new integrated PhD program (4 years) allows an extra year of work on the front end of doctoral research so that these potential areas of scholarly weakness can be mitigated.

Below is the schedule for this term’s NT Seminar.  I’m glad I have a seat at the conference table.


8 October | Prof Walter Moberly, “Biblical Hermeneutics and Ecclesial Responsibility”

*15 October | Prof Francis Watson, “Textual Criticism and NT Exegesis (1): Matthew [selected passages]”

22 October | Dr Rainer Hirsch-Luipold (University of Berne), “John and the Religious Philosophy of his Time”

23 October | Dr Rainer Hirsch-Luipold, “Plutarch’s Religious Philosophy and the New Testament” (DCC Seminar Room, 1.30-3.00)

*29 October | Prof John Barclay, “Textual Criticism and NT Exegesis (2) Luke”

5 November | Dr Helen Bond (University of Edinburgh), “Dating the Death of Jesus: Memory and the Religious Imagination”

*12 November Dr Lutz Doering, “Textual Criticism and NT Exegesis (3): John”

19 November | NO SEMINAR

26 November | tba

*3 December | Dr Jane Heath, “Textual Criticism and NT Exegesis (4): Acts”

10 December | Prof Larry Hurtado (University of Edinburgh), “Interactive Diversity: A Proposed Model of Christian Origins”

On NOT being a Minister

It is Sunday morning, and I have no sermon to preach and no Bible Study to prepare.  I will attend church, but I will not be expected to serve Communion or set up mid-week pastoral appointments.  I have no mailbox to check in the church office.  I have nothing to print out, no copies to make.

I am a layperson.

By virtue of moving to England for the PhD, I find myself no longer working in the capacity of a minister.  Setting out on this new academic vocation is in no way a departure from ministry, in my view.  I have not chosen doctoral work because I wish to be unshackled from churchly annoyances and pastoral messes.  I delayed my entry into a PhD program by taking a 3-year pastoral post right at the time I was about to begin the same program in 2008.

But the reality is that I am not pastoring right now, for the first time in 9 years.

I had hoped to find a part-time ministry post here in England, but Durham’s Department of Theology reasonably expects its full-time students to be full-time students.  And no such post emerged when we were searching all last summer (though one did for my wife).

I have done quite a bit of preaching in my first year here in Durham, but I no longer bear the enormous pastoral burdens that have characterized my vocational life for most of the previous decade.

I miss it.  And yet I am so grateful for the break.

I realized several months into life here in England that I was viewing myself as a minister without a ministry post.  For the most part, I still consider myself a pastor.  So I have wondered—am I clinging to some occupational identity for the sake of feeling personally significant?  Or is “minister” who I am by virtue of divine call?  Either way, I cannot answer that awkward question, “What do you do?” with “I pastor or I minister.”  In this stage of my life, I study… and I do it full-time.

The weight of pastoral ministry can be absolutely crushing.  Another good descriptor is “suffocating.”  There are the painful burdens of parishioners one must bear.  There are the disillusioning secrets one discovers every week.  And uglier than these weights are the pressures one feels to grow the church, to expand the ministry, to increase the numbers.  These “ugly pressures” are the sort that we minister-types like to think we are above or immune to.  In every ministry post I have held, these “ugly pressures” have haunted every meeting, every sermon, every Bible study preparation.  I have hated them and fought tooth and nail to resist them and entrust the growth/size/numbers to God.  But they have always been there, whether within or without.  These pressures are unfortunate realities.

But not for me.  Not right now.

Today, my heaviest burdens are 1) the financial costs of tuition and life in the UK, 2) German, 3) Hebrew, 4) the secondary literature on John’s Gospel, 5) the work of writing a guild-worthy doctoral thesis, 6) the work of writing a theology of media.

Bearing the burden of someone’s disintegrating marriage seems much more noble than bearing the weight of memorizing German vocab or Hebrew verb paradigms.  But the struggle of many a theology student and seminarian is the struggle of faithfulness in small, tedious labors that can discipline us for weightier assignments.  By entering a doctoral program, I have determined that German vocab and Hebrew paradigms are non-negotiable for my vocational work as a minister.  As impractical as they seem to be at first glance, they open up new worlds for the minister of the Gospel—Hebrew more than German, but there are times when it would be nice to get into Barth or Thielicke or Bonhoeffer on their own linguistic grounds.

Will I “return” to ministry after the doctoral program?  Will I chose a professorship over a pastorate, a classroom over a chapel?

I have decided at this point to refuse bifurcating church and seminary and ministry from the discipline of theology.  The vocational fork up ahead of me between pastoring and teaching has loomed almost ominously, because I cannot envision serving in a church post that removes me from serious theological study, nor can I envision working as a professor in a way that compromises my work as a minister.  Assuming someone offers me a job in a couple of years, I will have to choose.

But I am blurring the vocational lines on purpose.

For now, I have an excellent opportunity to learn to be a devoted layperson.  I have the unique privilege of serving the church as a minister without an official title.  Pastoring has helped me learn so much about lay ministry.  Ministers know well how church members can strengthen the church’s ministry  through their volunteer devotions.  Now, I am going to let lay ministry teach me how to better serve as a pastor.  Because sometimes, the folks in the pews are the most erudite professors for that lonely, disgruntled person in the pulpit.



When Salvation Hurts

[For the IVP Authors’ Lenten Blog Tour]

God’s rescue operations can feel like assault operations. At times, it is hard to distinguish between salvation and affliction.

Mark Chagall: "Exodus"

A sea was parted for my family about a year and half ago. After ten years of collecting airline mileage points in hopes of me doing a PhD program in England, my wife was finally on the phone with a ticketing agent. While accumulating mileage points, though, we were also accumulating children. Four of them. We only had half the necessary mileage points, and no real funds to make up the difference. The ticketing agent then mentioned that for the first time in its history, the airline was accepting points for one-way tickets, not just round-trip. “Would one-way work?”

We had 165,768 points. The amount required was 165,000. “Oh, yes, one-way will work.”

The evidence of providence was surely in the close figures. We stepped forward for the exciting trek ahead.

Then came the most distressing season of our adult lives—months of juggling insane schedules while plodding on toward wider, stormier seas left unparted. We were not sure we would board that flight until three weeks before departure. But we did. Another sea was crossed—literally. Thank You, Lord….

….And then an even more difficult season ensued.

All these partings seemed to be leading not to deliverance but to disaster. I complain a lot. I pelt desperate prayers skyward. I just want to follow God’s lead. Why must he complicate and obscure the path at every turn?

I find myself echoing a rather unheroic voice in Scripture: the voice of Israel in the wilderness.

The Exodus out of Egypt is the Old Testament prototype of God’s salvation. It must have seemed an odd way “to save” for the Israelites. In many respects, it was a botched rescue op from the beginning that felt more like oppression. Moses to Pharaoh: Let them go. Pharaoh to Israel: Make more bricks… and get your own straw. Israel to Moses: “You have put a sword in [Egypt’s] hand to kill us” (Ex 5:21).

This was a deliverance marked by a river swollen with blood, by heaps of rotting frog-flesh, by eerie nighttime wails in the homes of unbloodied lintels—

What kind of rescue plan is this? You call this “salvation”?

To be sure, when the sea parted, there was singing and dancing. Worship. Finally, amidst nightmarish plagues, there was the taste of freedom.

But not the taste of food. Or water.

Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full… (Ex 16:3).

Egypt’s oppression seemed better than God’s deliverance. Divine rescue felt like divine attack. This “salvation” seemed too painful, too risky, too costly. What kind of salvation is this?

And what kind of Savior is this?

The hope of Canaan seemed pathetic consolation. God advertised the place as flowing with milk and honey… and also with Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites, Jebusites and Amorites. This is a salvation that lands you in a desert, that thrusts you before the spears of unknown enemies.

And yet the Exodus is the paradigmatic portrayal in Israel’s Scriptures of the salvation of God and of God as Savior.

How does that affect our soteriology?

God’s salvation requires intense acculturation. To be extracted from Egypt and acclimated to life before YHWH, intense seasons of painful re-orientation must follow the dramatic ripping of seas. We must be wary of rosy depictions of salvation as the Christianized “good life.” Salvation sometimes hurts.

Lent, however, reminds us that salvation ultimately hurts the Savior more than the saved.

When Jesus talked on the Transfiguration Mount with Moses and Elijah about his upcoming “departure” in Jerusalem, the Greek word used is “exodus” (Lk 9:31).

What kind of salvation is this? One that requires a lot of ripping. The ripping of a sea, of the sky, of a curtain veil. One that requires the death of a lamb… and of a King’s Son. Not Pharaoh’s son this time. The Son of the Saving God. What kind of Savior is this? One who gives blood and water better than milk and honey. It’s not the Nile that turns to blood this time. It’s the wine. This is a Savior who may lead us into barren wastelands… but one who has endured himself the full brunt of salvation’s pain. The wider sea left unparted now has an inaugural gash. The open hole of Jesus’ tomb is a puncture-wound in the sea of Death.

I am not sure what sort of salvation this is. But it is the only kind strongest enough for me. And for you.

[Past installments in this series are written by Rachel Stone, Margot Starbuck, J. Brent Bill, and Logan Mehl-Laituri. The next posts will be from Valerie Hess, Beth Booram, and Chad Young.]

My Last Sermon in America

This blog title sounds a bit “epic,” huh?

Preaching at Mountain Brook Community Church on July 17, 2011, however, was actually quite monumental for me (even though it was probably not very epic for anyone else… and that is okay).

The text I was assigned (The first part of Philippians 3) was providential.  The preceding week was the most furiously difficult several days of my life in terms of vocational wrangling—I was trying to decide whether or not to move my family to England for doctoral work.  The passage in Philippians allowed me to work out in the exegetical task some of the critical issues at stake in the decision-making (in the text, Paul himself describes some of his own vocational struggles).  The homiletical task of presenting the exegetical work to the congregation was also very significant for me.  I did not realize until I was preaching that morning just how desperately I needed to work through—before my faith family—the struggles not only of the text but also of my own soul.

Something happens in preaching, to the faithful preacher and to the faithful hearers alike.  The mystical power of God’s Spirit is at work in a sermon, in ways mostly subtle, but sometimes dramatic.  That Sunday morning, I found my own life on the verge of a sacrificial venture while working through a text written by someone who had crossed the threshold of an even more costly venture.

Exasperated over the unworthiness of the message before the service, I wanted to flee to my truck and drive home before the service began.  But like I wrote above, something happens in preaching.  For me, my plans for England were solidified (just 3 weeks from the scheduled departure).

I was delighted, encouraged, and strengthened by the sermon’s reception.  If any of you want to hear it, you can go to MBCC’s resource page here and click on the sermon entitled “A Christ-Centered Value System.”

E N G L A N D (and witing about “boredom” from an exciting place)

I am having a cappuccino.  The coffee shop is situated on the banks of a river.  A stone-paved pedestrian street is below from my view at the window.  Looking up, I see the parapets of an old castle silhouetting the blue of sky.

Ok, I admit that I just wrote an article warning against serving Jesus for the sake of cool Facebook updates or exciting blog posts.  But allow me just a bit of indulgence.  I’ve struggled ten years to be able to write this post, to write that I am in England.

I am in England.

I live here now.  And I assure you I am the only person in this coffee shop wearing Carrharts and a Samaritan’s Purse t-shirt colored crimson red (for volunteer teams out of Alabama).

I wrote the article in Relevant Magazine not to dissuade the adventurous from adventure… but maybe to call the wandering out of wanderlust.  (Subtle is the difference, I suppose.)  I wrote about faithfulness in the mundane and non-exotic not as a man who begrudges exciting travel but as a man who was packing his bags.  19 of them, to be exact.  My wife and I traveled with 19 pieces of luggage and four children—two of them in diapers.  Let’s see… there were  two cars to the Atlanta airport,  two planes, a bus or two somewhere in the mix, a (large) taxi, a train, and then two more cars.  24 hours.

We are here for me to begin a PhD program in New Testament at Durham University.

I wrote the Relevant article from a rather unique position of sobriety.  That’s saying a lot, coming from a big dreamer.  Over the past months, the enormous costs and sacrifices—financial, logistical, emotional, etc.—ceased to be easily ignored abstractions.  Reality has its shadows… even beautiful reality.  Those shadows were almost too much for me.

But now, thanks to the loving encouragement and help of so many, I am here.  And it truly is glorious… my children gawking at the rose window in a 1000-year old cathedral.  Picking blackberries alongside footpaths that have been trodden for centuries.  Breathing in the fresh, 60-degree breeze.  Sipping an espresso drink from a window with a castle-view.  But as I wrote in the Relevant piece, so much of life in the exciting places lacks luster.  Like when one of your kids tries to crawl over the tomb of a celebrated saint in that 1000-yr old cathedral, or when you are trying to dry clothes without a dryer in a that (quite moist) 60-degree breeze.  Trying to get a bank account set up.  Trying to find dishwashing soap that works….

I am noticing that my greatest challenge, now that I am here, is not writing for the kingdom or doing research in theology for the church, but in striving to rely on God’s strength to be patient in not having a vehicle, to be patient with my kids when they are too loud or too tired, to be patient while we look for proper furniture for storing the clutter of our clothes.  My prayer this morning was not that I might be an extraordinary voice in the cybersphere today, or that I would even be able to share the Gospel with the students populating this coffee shop, but that I would be patient and calm so as not to miss the simple beauty and joy in my kids as they play and eat snacks and process their new daily grind.

So grace and peace… this time–and for a some time to come–from England.

Ezra as a model for those who would teach Scripture

“…Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of YHWH, and to do it, and to teach his statues and rules in Israel” (Ezra 7:10). 

I want to teach the Bible.  I am moving to England in 3 weeks for further training to this end.  The venture is so costly in every way—emotionally, logistically, financially.  It is also a venture fraught with temptations.  So many young pastors and students, smitten with the beauty and wonder of God’s self-revelation in Scripture, have waded into academic waters in which certain currents pull with riptide force in a number of hazardous directions.  One of the most dangerous (mis)directions one could take would be down a course that abstracts the subject matter.  Post-Enlightenment theological/biblical study can come with the temptation to professionally distance oneself from the potent content of the lessons and lectures.  This casual (and often unconscious) aloofness has led to much of the anti-intellectualism so strong in American religious life.

Ezra provides us an alternative model.

With an enormous sigh of a national relief, the Persian king Artaxerxes permitted him to return to Jerusalem, its walls freshly rebuilt, its ghost-town status recently annulled.  Out of the dust and ash of Solomon’s revered Temple, a new one had been constructed.  In Ezra 7:7 we read that out of Babylon came “singers” who had had no songs to sing (Ps. 137), “gatekeepers” who had had no gates to keep, and “temple servants” who had had no holy temple to serve.  They followed behind Ezra, known by Artaxerxes as “the scribe of the Law of the God of heaven” (Ezra 7.12, 21).

What had he been up to during all those years of exile in Babylon?  We know he had been studying.  Studying hard.  In a foreign land, there were surely late nights and early mornings spent before whatever scrolls had survived Nebuchadnezzar’s flames.  Work both wearisome and toilsome… and charged with the emotional pain of loss and remorse.  The man was pouring over the words of the Law which Israel had discarded and had in turn been discarded (seemingly) as a people, forcibly ejected out of their land.  We have little access (in the canon) to Ezra’s exilic life before taking on leadership in Jerusalem.  But we know this:

“…Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of YHWH, and to do it, and to teach his statues and rules in Israel” (Ezra 7:10). 

So there had to have been years of painstaking work in those precious, old texts.

But let’s notice that Scripture provides an interesting verbal order in 7:10, an order to emulate for any of us who would presume to crack open our Bibles for the purpose of study and teaching.  The verbal order in 7:10 is study – do – teach.

Many of us want to communicate God’s word.  We want to feel the edge of that pulpit or lectern in hand.  Many of us like a mic positioned before our lips.  But before teaching the word of God come preliminary disciplines.

Study.  Every now and then someone will preface their message to a congregation with something like this: “I think I just need to throw out my notes.  I’m just going to follow the Spirit.”  The Spirit of God will indeed guide us at times to make alterations.  I have no qualms with that.  But we have to admit that there is a strong tendency in evangelical circles for us to assign a superior status to un-manuscripted messages, as if an extemporaneous thus-sayeth-the-Lord message is more “spiritual” than a message that has risen from unseen hours of painful, arduous study.  Relying on the Spirit at the moment of teaching/preaching has become for some of us a spiritualized excuse for sloth in prayerful study.  If the Spirit is leading at the extemporaneous moment, is He not also leading us in the secret place of early morning and late night study?  Before Ezra stood before the people to teach them at a monumental turning point of Israel’s history, he had set his heart to study.

Do.  But Ezra was not just an intellectual bookworm more suited for a library than the marketplace.  Before he presumed to teach the Law, he performed the Law.  Study, do… then teach.  The anti-intellectualism in the evangelical church, though misguided, has some really solid grounds.  So many young men and women have left the workforce or the family farm for the seminary, only to return with impressive, esoteric verbage on their lips with very little to demonstrate with their actions.  Study, yes.  Study late into the night.  Rush to the text before the sunlight creeps out of the east.  But then doPerform the Scriptures as you ready yourself to teach the Scriptures.

Teach.  The need for vibrant, grounded teachers is always so dire.  But if I go to some foreign land, placing myself in some sort of an academic exile experience, yet I fail to embody Ezra’s example, then my teaching will be of little service to the church.  Teach, yes.  But not without serious studying and serious doing.

The Dangers of “Radical” Continued… Spiritualized Escapism

For those of you following the blog, I apologize for the hiatus in new posts.  My wife and I have been on a sobering, fast-paced trip to England.  We are moving there in early August in the face of extraordinary obstacles but with a nagging, unyielding sense of calling.  The plan (which we have been anticipating for about a decade) is for me to begin the PhD program in New Testament at the University of Durham.

This is a “radical” venture.  It may well be the most arduous path my feet will ever take.  Moving a family of six to one of the most expensive regions of the world without proper resources, and doing so for a stringently demanding degree program that will cost us so much financially, logistically and emotionally—to some, it may appear as madness.  Though I previously entertained the prospect of overseas study with a romanticized wistfulness (sipping coffee beneath the ancient beams and archways of a centuries-old library while studying theology), the severe costs of what we are undertaking has brought painful sobriety over the years.  The sense of calling, however, has only intensified, to the degree that we feel constrained to pursue the path “by faith.”

And doing anything “by faith” is just terribly inconvenient.

This is the context out of which I am writing about the dangers of “radical” (see the previous post, The Un-Romance of Radical).  In no way am I trying to bash the bestselling book Radical by David Platt.  I like the book, and I think it is so helpful in lovingly goading comfortable, safe,  and suburban Christians out of out complacency.

But there are dangers in being extreme or radical.  In my aspirations to do the PhD in England, a vocational decision attended by many painful sacrifices, and in other “radical” decisions from my past, I have noticed several impure motives that have been cloaked with the noble rhetoric of “divine calling.”  One of these dangers is “spiritualized escapism.”

Radical Leaving rather than Radical Going

I was 20 years old and wracked with angst.  I was on my knees in the tiny “prayer closet” at UGA’s Methodist Student Center.  My heart was burning so fiercely with passion to serve Christ overseas that I felt I could not go another day without a global assignment, without a divinely issued itinerary on hand.  Friends of mine were planning mission trips.  One had just withdrawn from college to go overseas, leaving behind a major scholarship.

This was my prayer that day.  And I meant every word:

Lord, just whisper a country, and I will walk to it.  I don’t care how far it is.  I don’t care what it costs.  Just whisper a place and I will go.

If I had even had the slightest sense of which nation I was being assigned to in that moment of prayer, I would have walked out of that room with the clothes on my back and headed north, south, east or west.  I did not care.  If the country was in another hemisphere, I would have walked to the nearest port city and boarded a ship secretly as a stowaway.  I just so desperately wanted a task, a mission, a feat.

I never heard a word.  I guess I ended up doing homework that night.

A couple of years later, just after graduation, I was working on a landscape crew, digging ditches, pulling Bermuda grass and mowing lawns.  I came to the conclusion by the summer’s end that God had higher things for me.  I quit my job, deciding not to bother myself with the mundane inconveniences of work.  I had bigger things ahead of me.  I took up residence in the home of a very gracious family and began praying over a stack of maps that God would send me to the darkest places on Earth because I was willing and eager to go and serve.  (I recount this season of my life in the second chapter of Faith Without Illusions).

Eventually, I ended up on the streets of a spiritually dark Southeast Asian metropolis and found myself praying a very different prayer than the ones I had been praying in the previous years and months:

Lord, please get me out of here.  And please don’t ever send me here again. 

Looking back on these prayers, I have realized that I was much more concerned with a radical leaving than with a going.  The heart behind the prayer was not so much “let me serve you, Lord” but “Lord, get me out of here.”


I wanted to escape the unexciting “local” for the exotic “global.”  I wanted freedom from the tedious tasks of the daily grind for the thrilling speed of travel and for the gratifying buzz of experiencing something new.  I did not want to do statistics homework—I wanted to fulfill the great commission.  I did not want to dig another ditch in the summer heat—I wanted to preach the word on a distant city street.

As a college pastor, I have seen this longing for escape at work in many other young people.  That itching angst to do something awesome, the burning passion to be a part of something big—as one familiar with these sensations, as one who has acted on them and ended up stranded on the other side of the world, I find myself calmly urging college students with similar desires to settle down a bit.

They cannot see how doing their accounting project will glorify God.  They cannot see how finishing the research paper on 18th century art forms can contribute to God’s Kingdom work.  Aren’t people dying out there from lack of clean water?  Aren’t the lost dying without the Gospel?

Yes, but an untested 20-something without the work ethic required for completing the accounting project or boring research paper will likely be of little help in dire situations overseas.

All Ministry is Local

What I failed to see in my earlier adventures was that all ministry is local.  You can wistfully scan the horizon longing for global exploits, but once the plane lands then anyone who really wants to work for change must then embrace a host of tedious, mundane disciplines that are very unexciting: learning the language, finding the right food items in the nearest market, figuring out how to use the local currency, interacting with the postal worker, finding a plumber to unclog the drain, etc., etc.

There is no escape from the local, mundane tasks of the daily grind.  Nothing may be more suitable training for radical work abroad than years of faithfulness in small, meticulous details.  Patiently digging ditches in the summer heat, regularly paying the water bill, diligently doing the homework—these are the practices of someone who is qualified not so much for a radical, wild-hare trip, but for a lifetime of slow, persistent faithfulness towards God’s radical mission.