New book Suffering in Romans (Foreword by Todd Still and written by Siu Fung Wu) is now available

The new book, Suffering in Romans, is now available for order. (Click here to go to the publisher’s website.)

Draft Book Cover—Front

Book description.

Most of the Jesus-followers in Rome would have been familiar with socioeconomic hardship. Suffering was a daily reality either for themselves or for someone they knew. Many lived below or just above subsistence level. Some were slaves, homeless, or chronically sick. Followers of Christ might have experienced persecution because of their refusal to take part in the local religious festivals. Suffering is, of course, a significant theme in Rom 5:1–11 and 8:17, 18–39. Paul mentions various types of afflictions many times in these texts. How might Paul’s audience have understood them? In Suffering in Romans Siu Fung Wu argues that Paul speaks of the vocation of the Jesus-fllowers to participate in Christ’s suffering, with the purpose that they may be glorified with him. Indeed, their identification with Christ’s suffering is an integral part of God’s project of transforming humanity and renewing creation. It is in their faithful suffering that Christ-followers participate in God’s triumph over evil. This is counter-intuitive, because most people think that victory is won by power and strength. Yet the children of God partake in his cosmic victory by their suffering, aided by the Spirit and the hope of glory.

An excerpt from Professor Todd Still can be found here.

Endorsement by Tim Gombis can be found by clicking here. Endorsements by Keith DyerGeorge M. Wieland, and Sean Winter can be found here.

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Tim Gombis’ endorsement for the new book Suffering in Romans

In a previous post I mentioned the new book Suffering in Romans, which will be released soon. Here is Tim Gombis’ endorsement for it. (For more information about the book, click here.)

Wu’s analysis of Romans 5–8 represents an original contribution to the study of Paul’s great letter . . . Against the backdrop of his social reconstruction, Wu elucidates Paul’s argument regarding the creation of a new humanity in Christ and its vocation to suffer in anticipation of sharing in Christ’s glory. Deftly drawing together several lines of inquiry —Scriptural echoes, the Greco-Roman religio-political matrix—Wu engages a wide rang of scholarship to provide a sound exegetical study.

Timothy G. Gombis, Associate Professor of New Testament, Grand Rapids Theological Seminary

Draft Book Cover—Front

Jesus-shaped VS worldly leadership: Tim Gombis on Christian leadership

Over the past 20 years I have been an active participant of a number of churches, Christian organisations and theological colleges. I have met some wonderful people, and am thankful to their leadership and their desire to serve God.

But at times I come across leaders, whose style, ethos and practice are, I am afraid, shaped by the values of this world rather than the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ. I don’t think it is a healthy trend.

Recently Tim Gombis wrote a series of blog posts that are particularly insightful, and I think it is worth re-blogging here. In the following I will list the links to those posts, as well as some quotable quotes there.

Whether you are a pastor, an elder of a church, a board member in a Christian organisation, a Christian school teacher or principal, or a professor/lecturer in a seminary/theological college, I think Gombis’ thoughts are helpful as you ponder your leadership in your context.

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Cross-shaped Leadership

http://timgombis.com/2014/06/12/cross-shaped-leadership/

The cross of Jesus Christ is central to the Christian faith, and it shapes  and determines everything about being Christian. Cruciformity – or, being “cross-shaped” — means having our lives and church community dynamics oriented by the cross-shaped life of Jesus.

Cruciformity is a powerful reality because it is the only way to gain access to the resurrection power of God.  When we shape our lives according to the life of Jesus, we experience his presence by the Spirit, and God floods our lives, relationships, and communities with resurrection power.

When I talk to people training for Christian leadership about cruciformity, however, I discover the assumption that it isn’t easily practiced in ministry.  Many assume that cruciformity may be good for ordinary Christian people, but it won’t work in leadership situations.

I wonder if this is because our imaginations are shaped by worldly conceptions of leadership and of power.  We assume that at some point cruciform leadership would fail.  It wouldn’t be up to the challenges of “real world” situations where power must be wielded over others.

Cross-shaped Leadership, Part 2

http://timgombis.com/2014/06/13/cross-shaped-leadership-pt-2/

Worldly leadership: A desire to increase in prestige, status, and influence and a willingness to do whatever it takes to achieve these things, even if it means neglecting or hurting people who do not appear to be means of one’s own personal advancement.

Jesus-shaped leadership: An unrelenting commitment to the delivery of the love and grace of God into the lives of others (or, the life of another), and taking the initiative to see to it that this happens.

Cross-shaped Leadership, Part 3

http://timgombis.com/2014/06/16/cross-shaped-leadership-pt-3/

Cross-shaped leadership constantly adjusts to God’s agenda.  This is significantly different from worldly forms of leadership, which are oriented by the leader’s agenda.

Worldly leadership is leader-determined.  It’s all about “my dream,” or “my vision for this church.”  Churches with charismatic leaders are often compelling communities for a time, but they seldom manifest cruciformity.

Cross-shaped Leadership, Part 4

http://timgombis.com/2014/06/17/cross-shaped-leadership-pt-4/

Cruciform leaders do not view people as the means to achieve other goals.  The people to whom we minister are the goal.  The whole point of Jesus-shaped leadership is to take the initiative to see that God’s grace and love arrive into the lives of others.

Christian leaders are servants of others on behalf of God, so people are the point—not my goals, plans, vision, or ambitions.

We talk about “results,” or we want our ministries to be “effective.”  We look for ministry strategies that “work.”

When we talk like this, we reveal that we are envisioning something bigger than or beyond the people to whom we minister.  We subtly become the servants of that other thing and we look at the people as the means to get somewhere else.

This is one way that pastors’ hearts function as idol factories.

When we set our hearts on certain goals and ends, we can become very frustrated at our people when they don’t perform the way we want them to.  When we’re not seeing the results we expected, we put pressure on people, demanding more from them.

Cross-shaped Leadership, Part 5

http://timgombis.com/2014/06/18/cross-shaped-leadership-pt-5/

Worldly leaders are captivated by a craving for more and more influence.  Cruciform leaders, on the other hand, are content with current responsibilities given by God and seek to grow in faithfulness.

In any and every case, cruciform leaders are focused on faithfulness to the task.  This involves self-sacrificially serving others, getting to know those to whom we minister.  Cruciform leaders take the initiative to cultivate relationships of mutuality and authenticity shaped and oriented by the love and grace of God.

Cross-shaped Leadership, Part 6

http://timgombis.com/2014/06/19/cross-shaped-leadership-pt-6/

Cruciform leadership is marked by a determination to live authentically and relate honestly.  Jesus-shaped, cruciform leaders don’t hide their weaknesses, inadequacies, and failures.  They aren’t self-promoting, they don’t seek power, and they don’t trumpet their strengths.

Worldly leadership, on the other hand, is consumed with image-consciousness.  Worldly leaders manipulate situations in order to put the best face on things.  They try to control how people see them and what others think of them.

Cross-shaped Leadership, Part 7

http://timgombis.com/2014/06/21/cross-shaped-leadership-pt-7/

Cruciform leaders have ultimate aims to bless others, to give them life, to see to it that God’s goodness, love, and grace are always arriving into others’ lives.

Worldly leaders, on the other hand, have selfish ends and will use others to achieve those ends.  Other people, therefore, are means to my own ends, and others are valuable to me only insofar as they serve my purposes.

Seeking to resolve a broken relationship is a well-motivated desire, but it’s possible to approach such situations manipulatively.  We might find ourselves plotting and planning how we’ll graciously expose the other’s fault; we anticipate responses and prepare counter-arguments.

Tim Gombis on “The Paul we think we know”

Recently I came across an article written by Tim Gombis, which was published by Christianity Today (22nd July 2011). It’s called “The Paul we think we know.” It’s a great article and here I will list a few quotes.

Evangelicals typically regard Paul as focusing on believers’ private spirituality to the relative neglect of the church’s communal character and social dynamics.

…….

Paul, on the other hand, preached that God is saving individuals, taking up residence in their hearts, and giving them a heavenly destiny. His vision of the Christian life is one in which believers cultivate inner piety and practice private devotion.

….…

This view of Paul is reinforced by our pietistic heritage and our individualistic culture. More recently, however, evangelicals have been awakening to the primacy of the church and its related corporate practices… Far from focusing on privatized piety, the apostle’s conception of salvation concerns the arrival of the kingdom of God—a fundamentally communal reality.

….…

Paul does not, then, view salvation in individualistic terms apart from the arrival of God’s kingdom in the church. As individuals, we have been saved for life-giving relationships within kingdom of God communities, not merely for privatized walks with Jesus. We become our true selves only in community, exercising our gifts and learning to receive the gifts of others. Paul’s vision for the church includes the renewed social practices of forgiving and being forgiven, reconciling formerly alienated individuals and communities, learning to speak words of grace and kindness, practicing justice, and absorbing loss rather than taking vengeance for wrongs suffered. Social practices such as these suffer from neglect in our culture, especially when we orient ourselves by individualized and internalized conceptions of being Christian.

And the following is spot-on.

If we encountered Paul today, we might be disappointed to find someone quite unlike the strong and decisive leader we often imagine. In fact, many of our contemporary churches would hardly consider him a viable pastoral candidate. In this regard, as in so many others, the New Testament evidence resists efforts to re-create Paul in our own image.

(The article can be found here.)

Something to ponder at the upcoming Australian Federal Election

The Australian Federal Election is coming up soon. There has been much talk about the policies of Labor, the Coalition and the Greens. But how should Christians understand their roles in Australian politics? Back in April this year, there was a theological conference at Wheaton in the USA on this issue. One of the speakers was Tim Gombis. In his blog he posted some of his thoughts (on 8th April 2013) Here are a few excerpts.

I think that contemporary evangelicals—especially those who imagine America is or ever was a “Christian nation”—should give sustained attention to the character of God’s people in exile.

This notion has received little attention in evangelical discussions of politics.  I suspect that’s because it runs counter to desires to influence policy, control the levers of power, and determine the course of national history.

American evangelicals would do well to consider how Israel’s exile shaped Paul’s conception of the church—his vision of a weak and vulnerable wandering people among the nations.  We feel that we’re losing power, influence, access, our former position of political leverage and cultural dominance.  We grow worrisome, anxious, nervous about the sort of future our churches will face and the conditions our children will encounter.  I’ll just suggest to you that this might be a strategic moment for us to embrace our identity as God’s wandering people among the nations.  It just may be that this emerging moment of cultural weakness is God’s gift to his church.  What if it’s an opportunity for the God revealed in the crucified Jesus to press his people into the shape of the cross?  What if the Lord of the church is grieved when we strive for power and agitate to control the course of history?  Do we risk being blind to Paul’s vision for the polis of Jesus because we’re overcome by cultural resentment fueled by memories of former days when our opinions held sway?

I think Tim Gombis has given us something to ponder as we reflect on our own Christian witness in the upcoming Australian Federal Election.

Participation in a community hammered by poverty: Story of a New Testament scholar

I am always encouraged when a biblical scholar spends time with those living with poverty. This means that the scholar engages with both the Scripture and God’s world at the same time, which enriches her/his own understanding of the Bible and the people whom God loves dearly.

Here is the story of Timothy Gombis, Associate Professor of New Testament at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. (I posted this elsewhere last year, and I think it’s worth re-posting.)

“In the 90′s, my wife and I were in a doctrinally oriented church in which being Christian meant having the right mental furniture, having our doctrine sorted out right, and getting others to think the way we did.

During my doctoral studies in the early 00′s, we became convinced that being Christian was communally-oriented and needed to be lived out through service to one another and others. When we moved back to the States in ’04, we looked for a church that exalted Christ and reached out the poor and marginalized to absorb them into a thriving community life of flourishing. We found that church, an urban church plant that served a community hammered by poverty. We read the Gospels and sought to put many of these challenging texts into practice–learning to forgive one another, invite poor people to our homes, receive invitations to enter their homes (not easy for middle class people!), share the ministry load with “others” who didn’t do it like we did, etc. Those were wonderful years–hard, but so rich. Lots of other things to add here, but that’s just a sampling…

We recently moved to Grand Rapids and participate in a ministry that provides shelter for homeless people. We take up concrete service opportunities to participate in the ways our church proclaims the gospel and participates in it.”

The following is an excerpt of a separate correspondence I had with Tim. I really like what he says here.

“What changed everything for me was the day-in, day-out exposure to what it meant to live in poverty.  We recognized the power-differentials in our relationships when we just handed out money.  We invited others to minister alongside us in relationships of reciprocity and mutuality rather than top-down relationships of power-inequality.  It was tough, but it completely transformed us.

So many other lessons, too, but our eyes need to be opened through the actual experience–incarnational experience.” (Used with permission.)

(Click here for Tim Gombis’ blog post, and his story above can be found in the comment dated 30th April 2012.)