Imagine a neighbor came up to you and said, “You know, I can tell you’re a Christian by the way you ___________.”
What would they have put in that blank?
Rick McKinley pastors a large church with a reputation for blessing the community while resisting the culture in Portland, Oregon, one of the least churched cities in America. In Faith for This Moment: Navigating a Polarized World as the People of God, McKinley discusses how Christianity’s loss of identity, place and purpose in our current culture often leaves Christians unsure how to live out their faith in everyday life. He then lays out five spiritual practices that are crucial for blessing our neighbors while sustaining our faith and preserving our identity as God’s people.
God’s People in Exile
The first half of McKinley’s book contains a brief history of the people of God in exile, then looks at exile as a powerful and helpful analogy for Christians and how we live with society today. As God’s people in exile, the question of how we relate becomes this: Do we baptize society, burn it, or bless it? McKinley discusses the two extremes (baptizing or burning it), and looking at Jeremiah 29:4-7, concludes that we must both bless and resist the culture.
McKinley writes, “Every culture values things that are good, true, and beautiful, and through these windows of redemption, we can find ways to talk about Jesus.” (p. 77) Yet he points out that while we must have a framework of discernment to judge good from evil, “we must be careful to separate what is opposed to Jesus and the gospel and what is simply opposed to our church culture.” (p. 79)
The Discipline of Repentance
The two halves of the book are bridged by a chapter on how exercising the disciplines of repentance and discernment are key to Christians recovering our identity, place and practice in our world. McKinley provides a framework for how to recover Christianity in the world by repenting of not loving our neighbors in our everyday lives. His premise is that we can only move forward by realizing where we’ve been failing. He writes,
“to be a faithful presence and a prophetic witness, we must admit both that we don’t know how to do that and perhaps that we don’t even want to.” (p. 85)
He expands on this concept, saying,
“It’s not just the sinful things in our hearts that cause the problem; it’s also the absence of the right things—the absence of love for our neighbors, the absence of care for the poor, the absence of compassion for the prisoner and the broken hearted.” (p. 86)
In the second half of the book, McKinley writes about five spiritual practices — Centering (hearing and obeying God), Hospitality, Generosity, Sabbath, and Vocation – and how we can practically live them out in our everyday lives, both in obedience to the Word of God and to bless our neighbors and show them Jesus. He focuses on these distinctly-Christian spiritual practices for living out our faith and how these practices can transform us, preserve our identities as Christians and bless our neighbors despite living in a pagan culture.
While none of these spiritual practices will come as a surprise to someone who has grown up in the church, reading about them in the context of blessing and resisting the culture makes them refreshingly relevant and sustainable, and McKinley manages to steer clear of legalistic potholes.
Faith for This Moment is a gem of a book. At less than a hundred pages, it is an easy and quick read packed with insights into how Christians can interact with the culture while still maintaining their identity as the people of God. While it has insights for all believers, I would especially recommend it for young adults and new Christians who aren’t sure how to integrate their faith into daily life.
Sara Cone lives with her family near Portland, Oregon and enjoys working at the local history museum and teaching secondary classes at a classical Christian school. She occasionally blogs at her site Retro*Pulser and likes to read, travel and hike. You can find Sara on Instagram, too @sarabette.