Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Giving Church Another Chance: Finding New Meaning in Spiritual Practices - Todd D. Hunter

Practicing anew the traditional observances associated with church life

Giving Church Another Chance: Finding New Meaning in Spiritual Practices
Author: Todd D. Hunter
Publisher: IVP Books (http://www.ivpress.com/)
Pages: 189

The title Giving Church Another Chance is what drew me to Todd Hunter’s latest book. I nearly walked away from church. I see the problems, and as much as I might want to resist, we are made to live in community. I want to love the church, and Todd Hunter has a perspective that is different than mine, so I want to learn what I can from him.

His journey is fascinating. Early mentors include Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel and John Wimber of The Vineyard churches. He became the national coordinator and shortly thereafter the president of Vineyard Churches USA. After 12 years of ministry a crisis of confidence led to Todd’s departure.

He enrolled in a Virginia Beach seminary and sought counseling. A pivotal event came, when in an effort to reengage in some basic Christian practices, he read Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline. Through Richard he discovered Dallas Willard, Eugene Peterson and host of other ancient and contemporary writers “who educate and train others on the practices associated with Christian faith.”

Today Hunter is the director of West Coast church planting and a bishop for Anglican Mission in the Americas. He pastors Holy Trinity Church in Orange County, California where he and his congregation practice the principles outlined in this book.

Hunter emphasizes that being a Christian is more than believing a set of truths. It’s a way of life. He writes, “To recover their rightful place in Christian life, beliefs need to be actualized, that is, we turn them into practices that (1) change us for the better in a way that (2) those around us experience as for their good.“

In succeeding chapters Hunter walks the reader through some of the observances found more typically in liturgical or traditional churches. He starts with the “Quiet Prelude.” It is preparation intended to help individuals live a life of settled peace.

He references Archibald Hart’s Thrilled to Death: “Hart recommends Christian meditation and times of quiet contemplation and concentration focusing on the presence of God.” Why is experiencing centered peace a big deal? Hunter answers, “Centered peace implies a deep and abiding form of confidence in Jesus and his care for the whole world, including us.” Our actions and living in carrying-out the teachings of Jesus are to spring from this fertile soil.

Other chapters cover “Singing the Doxology,” “Scripture Reading,” “Hearing Sermons,” “Following Liturgy,” “Giving an Offering,” “Taking Communion,” and “Receiving the Benediction.” Hunter succeeds in making each of these subjects not only meaningful but practical.

The only place he loses me is when he writes about the Eucharist: “The Eucharist conveys to those who receive it in faith, the body and blood of Jesus, that is Christ’s life. It transmits by faith all the benefits of his broken body and shed blood, these being sacramental signs of the totality of his virgin birth, life, teachings, works, death, resurrection and ascension.” I recognize different views, but isn’t Christ’s life conveyed through faith in him? It is not faith in communion or its elements but faith in the person of Christ. I received Christ and the benefits of what he did for me the moment I believed in him.

Where Hunter succeeds admirably is in connecting faith with daily life. Spiritual practices regain their meaning.
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