Woosh. I won’t lie. The Tension Points series we just wrapped up at South Ridge Church was tough. The two messages I (Pastor Justin) personally focused on — Grief & Loss, and Race & Racial Reconciliation — were tough topics. I think I put more thought, prayer, and time into crafting these two messages than I’ve put into any other messages throughout my time in ministry. But I’m not alone. I believe that the topics of the Economy, the Pandemic, and American Politics & Geopolitical Unrest were challenging for Pastor Daniel and Looch to teach as well. (If you’d like to revisit any of these messages, you can do so by clicking here.)
You may be thinking, Yes, the messages were tough, but good. And I’d like to really spend some time thinking about how I can respond to these and other “Tension Points” in a godly manner.”
If this is you, allow me to provide some resources you may find helpful. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend purchasing or reading all of them, but take some time to think about which one(s) may be most helpful for you. (And, of course, if you’re ever looking for another resource…a good Study Bible is always a good option.)
One book you may find interesting is Uncommon Ground: Living Faithfully in a World of Difference, Edited by Timothy Keller and John Inazu. What I love about this book is that it wasn’t written by one person, but a treasure trove of authors and artists who have a lot of experience in navigating difficult conversations on tough topics. It’s an eye opening read, and each chapter will surely provide you a lot to consider.
Of all of the resources mentioned in this post, this would be my top recommendation. We all occasionally find ourselves on uncommon ground with others. We all want to grow in responding in love. This resource provides a lot of insight, and goes to show that there can still be unity even when there is a diverse range of perspectives on tough topics.
Another book – which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this year is The Deeply Formed Life, by Rich Villodas. Here, Rich Villodas navigates through Five Transformational Values to Root us in the Way of Jesus. These values include:
Contemplative Rhythms for an Exhausted Life
Racial Reconciliation for a Divided World
Interior Examination for a World Living on the Surface
Sexual Wholeness for a Culture that Splits Bodies from Souls
Missional Presence in a Distracted and Disengaged World
Reading through The Deeply Formed Life is easy to do. Reading through it slowly, very slowly, and practicing putting these rhythms into your daily life is the greater challenge. However, those who do will find that practicing these values well really does offer life transformation.
Another worth mentioning is A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson. Some books are good for a short season, and others have lasting strength. A Long Obedience in the Same Direction was first published in 1980 and continues to be one of the greatest books on Spiritual Formation. Why is it included here as a resource for the Tension Points message series? Well, like The Deeply Formed Life, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction focuses on key values that need to be regularly lived out in our lives. And as the title says, growing in Christ isn’t a quick fix. It takes…a long obedience in the same direction. It takes time.
When we are deeply rooted in Christ, we will be able to respond to difficult topics such as the Economy, Grief & Loss, and Racial Reconciliation well. And this book is one that can be read again and again and again. The truths provided here are excellent, and we need to be reminded them regularly.
One final resource to mention is The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby. Here, Tisby navigates through the history of the Christian Church being complicit in racial segregation. It’s a tough read, because the history provided here is irrefutable. While not everybody may agree with some of the proposed solutions Tisby provides, The Color of Compromise is eye-opening and will help the reader see a challenging topic through the lens of history.
I’ll be sure to throw out a couple of recommendations for the current Summer in the Psalms series soon as well. But if you’re ever looking for a resource on a specific topic, feel free to let me know.