Faith, Hope and Love in a Broken World

GORDON: YOU BRING A RICH BACKGROUND TO YOUR NEW ROLE AS SENIOR ASSOCIATE FOR THEOLOGICAL INTEGRATION AT CBM. CAN YOU BRIEFLY DESCRIBE YOUR LIFE EXPERIENCE TO THE CBM COMMUNITY?

JONATHAN: Until I was 10, my father pastored churches in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Michigan. Then he was appointed General Director of Foreign Missions for the National Association of Free Will Baptists. He went from small towns to world traveller very quickly. During these years, we always had a guest bedroom that was often occupied by missionaries who were home from the field. The dinner conversations focused on the challenges of missions, especially cross-cultural communication of the gospel and the development of indigenous leaders. Those conversations made me a theologian – and made me the kind of theologian that I am.

I carried these questions with me through an undergraduate degree in Bible and Missions and into my studies at Regent College. While at Regent, I began to hear a call to be a pastor rather than a professor. I also met, fell in love with and married Marti Crosby, who was from Nova Scotia. We met when I became a volunteer on the staff of the street ministry that she led out of Frist Baptist Church (FBC) in Vancouver. With guidance and support from Marti and FBC, I accepted a call to Edmonds Baptist Church in Burnaby, B.C. Our years there were rich in learning – heart, hands and head learning. I learned the simple joy of loving people. The church grew spiritually and numerically. Our daughter, Leah, was born.

Our small congregation, which had grown from 25 to 125, represented 14 ethnic backgrounds and continued to teach me the power of the gospel and the Spirit in bringing together people across many cultures. But again with Marti’s counsel, we discerned that God was calling us from Edmonds for me to study for a Ph.D. at Duke University.

The conversations around my family’s table continued to guide me. My doctoral research was specifically focused on theology of culture. My later books have been about “making disciples” and strengthening the witness of the Church. For me, my writing is simply an extension of my teaching in a classroom and online.
When I left my pastorate of Edmonds Baptist Church in order to study for my doctorate, I thought that I would return to Western Canada to spend my life in a pastorate while also doing some teaching and writing. But God directed us to Westmont College, where I taught undergraduates for 14 years. Since I had spent five years in business in my twenties, I found it fulfilling and challenging to teach Christianity to these students, most of whom were not going into parish ministry. Then, after 14 years at Westmont, God called us to accept a position at Acadia Divinity College in Nova Scotia. Our short three years there were marked by wonderful faculty colleagues, the best teaching experience I have had and a wide ministry in churches. We also faced some significant disappointments. So when Carey Theological College extended an offer to me, we recognized it as God’s call to return to where Marti and I had both been grounded spiritually.

Shortly after we arrived in Vancouver, Marti’s health began to deteriorate. She had a hereditary disease, Gaucher disease, that had led to one brother’s death at age 12 and another at age 59. This disease had prevented our serving outside North America and restricted my travel. But we built a life of service within our limitations. After several illnesses and surgeries, Marti died on September 16, 2010.

In 2013, Soohwan Park and I married. Soohwan was born and educated in South Korea but has lived outside of there since 1995, working with Food for the Hungry International in various roles. She worked with Dalit communities in Bangladesh, and then pioneered a local church training network in Korea with which she is still involved to this date. She later directed global human resources for Food for the Hungry International while based in Thailand. In 2007, she moved to Vancouver to study at Regent College and completed her MCS in Marketplace Theology. She then worked as a consultant and senior staff with the Marketplace Institute until 2012. After the triple disaster in Japan, she also worked with local churches in Fukushima. In 2016, she joined the board of A Rocha International. She continues to speak at retreats and conferences on spiritual formation and people care, as well as holistic, local church-based mission.

GORDON: SO, HOW DO WE “DO THEOLOGY” IN WAYS THAT CONSIDER THE MISSION OF THE CHURCH IN A WORLD OF DISPARITY, VIOLENCE AND ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION? HOW DO WE KEEP THEOLOGY FROM BEING A THEORETICAL DIALOGUE BETWEEN ACADEMICS?

JONATHAN: The first step in learning to “do theology” is to recognize that God precedes us in mission, from Genesis 3, when God comes looking for our first parents in the garden, to Genesis 12, when God calls Abraham and makes promises, to Exodus 3, when God comes down to free God’s people, through the prophets, to the fulfillment of God’s promises in the coming of the Messiah, to the descent of the Spirit and equipping of the Church until all things are reconciled in Christ through his cross. It’s the mission of the Father, Son and Spirit. And we are commissioned to participate in that mission. Wendell Berry says, “Be joyful though you have considered all the facts.” To that I would add that the Church is to also “be faithful though we see all the sorrow, sin and death,” and see it more clearly than anyone. We are faithful witnesses in the face of “disparity, violence and environmental degradation” because we know that those things are caught up in a larger story: the story of the redemption of all creation through Jesus Christ. And the Spirit guarantees the reality of that story and equips us to live in that story and bear witness to it. We are people of faith, hope and love because we know the purpose, the end for which this world is created: to be the “home” where God dwells with us in peace forever.

In order for theology not to be merely a theoretical dialogue among people who have learned an esoteric language that no one else can understand, we need to reconnect theory and practice. Best understood, “theory” is the study of what and how people “see.” And how people see the world determines how they act. We can also turn this around: how people act in the world reveals how they see the world. Do we see the world as a “dog-eat-dog” world where the rule is survival of the fittest? Then we will seek to be strong and powerful and regard others as our enemies. Do we see this age as “all that there is”? Then perhaps we’ll try to get as much pleasure as we can and avoid suffering and sorrow.

We who are followers of Jesus are called to see this world as God’s good creation, which he has redeemed through Jesus Christ. All things are “through him and for him” (Col 1:16). This is why we care for the poor, feed the hungry, work for God’s justice, love our enemies, baptize believers and make disciples: because we see the world a particular way. And when we act as the disciple community we begin to see the world as God’s world.

GORDON: JONATHAN, TWO YEARS AGO WE WERE PRAYING FOR YOUR HEALING DURING A SERIOUS HEALTH CRISIS. WE REJOICE THAT GOD HAS GIVEN NEW LIFE TO YOUR BODY. HOW HAS THIS “BRUSH WITH DEATH EXPERIENCE” GIVEN A NEW PERSPECTIVE TO YOUR LIFE OF SERVICE TO GOD’S KINGDOM?

JONATHAN: For many reasons, I have always lived with an awareness of death in the midst of life. And I have always assigned my students the task of developing a “theology of death,” after which I proclaim to them a “theology of life” that cannot be overcome by death! So that health crisis provided me with an opportunity to discover if my theology and my character had been well-formed by the Spirit. I am happy to report that by God’s grace, my theology of death and life was a source of comfort and confidence. It reinforced my commitment to focusing my teaching and writing on a “theology of life” in the midst of a global culture of death. This is the good news of Jesus Christ.

GORDON: YOU HAVE ENCOURAGED AND SUPPORTED CBM’S WORK IN THE PAST – AND HAVE TAUGHT SEVERAL CBM STAFF MEMBERS IN MASTERS AND DOCTORAL PROGRAMS. WHAT EXCITES YOU ABOUT THIS NEW ROLE AND CLOSER RELATIONSHIP WITH CBM?

JONATHAN: My best learning has come when I teach “visionary-practical theology” to practitioners, especially when we are crossing cultures. The reality of the gospel comes even more alive for me and for them. So I am excited that I will be more consistently engaged by such occasions for learning and entering more fully into the reality of the Gospel.

Mosaic is a community forum of local and global voices united by a shared mission. Mosaic will serve as a catalyst to stimulate and encourage passionate discipleship among Canadian Baptists and their partners.

Spring 2018

Table of Contents

Gordon King

Gordon King most recently served with CBM as a Resource
Specialist until early 2018. He is now serving part-time as Pastor of
Community Outreach at Westview Baptist Church in Calgary.