As part of his Doctor of Ministry (DMin) in Ministry to Emerging Generations (Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary), Tom’s written a number of book responses and given several short presentations (personal and group). In this series he not only “shares the wealth,” but also looks forward to your feedback as he refines his project: An argument for vocational discernment for graduate studies in the context of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (Stay tuned to learn more!). Earlier posts on the program: Ministry to Emerging Generations and The Big Picture of Ministry to Emerging Generations.
Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk & True Flourishing
The Emerging Scholars Network is delighted to give away 5 free e-books of Andy Crouch’s Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk and True Flourishing, in partnership with InterVarsity Press. To be entered in our drawing, just follow the steps at the bottom of the post to invite others in your campus context to consider Andy’s words by posting a video short over the course of the coming week (details at the bottom of the post).
As I shared in Teaser: Strong and Weak, by Andy Crouch, I have appreciated Andy’s ministry for over two decades and Strong and Weak delivers a model for leadership that leads to true flourishing: Authority with vulnerability. He frames his perspective on “how to embrace the life for which we were made—life that embraces the paradox of flourishing, that pursues greater authority and greater vulnerability at the same time” (12) with a superb quadrant graphic (13).
Andy dives into Chapter 2 by critiquing popular culture’s definition of flourishing. Then he tells the story of Angela, one of his sister’s Melinda’s children. Although born with Trisomy 13, by God’s grace Angela is 11 years old. But can she be considered one who is flourishing when she cannot meaningfully see or hear . . . walk . . . feed or bathe herself . . . talk . . . understand (31-32)?
If your definition of flourishing is the life held out for us by mass-affluent consumer culture, the obvious answer is that Angela is not flourishing–never has and never will. She cannot purchase her satisfactions; she cannot impress her peers; she cannot even “express herself” in the ways we think are so important for our own fulfillment (32).
Through the lens of “[Who] was the neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”, Andy asks:
- Who is helping Angela flourish?
- Who is flourishing because of Angela?
- How can we become the kind of people among whom Angela flourishes, and who flourish with Angela in our midst? (32)
Reflecting upon the health challenges faced personally and by several of my children I appreciate Andy’s framing of flourishing:
Flourishing is not actually the property of an individual at all, not matter how able or disabled. It describes a community. The real question of flourishing is for the community that surrounds Angela—her parents and siblings, her extended family, the skilled practitioners of medicine and education and nutrition who care for her, and in a wider sense the society and nation of which she is a citizen. The real test of every human community is how to care for the most vulnerable, those like Angela who cannot sustain even a simulation of independence and autonomy. The question is not whether Angela alone is flourishing or not—the question is whether her presence in our midst leads us to flourishing, together (32-33).
Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk & True Flourishing provides a window into “why” I invest in and press on with future health care professionals and academic researchers. I long for each and every follower of Christ “through thick and thin” to frame their vocation by the call to bless others through the gifts God has given them. As Andy Crouch emphasizes, “Leadership does not begin with a title or a position. It begins the moment you are concerned more about others’ flourishing than you are about your own” (112-113).
There is much more to unpack from this “simple” book which concludes with a beautiful story of flourishing. Although I leave the particular story to the reader, my longing is for stories of true flourishing to multiply as we (i.e., Emerging Scholars) are the head, heart, and hands of God at work not only on our campus, but also in our culture. Let us pray and act. May we truly be a part of what Os Guinness frames as Renaissance: The Power of the Gospel However Dark the Times (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2014). To God be the glory!
*Enter for a drawing of an e-book.
- By 2/15 at 11:59 pm Eastern share a Strong and Weak short video via a public form of social media.
- On Facebook include #strongandweak, @EmergingScholarsNetwork
- On Twitter include #strongandweak, @esnivcf
- With respect to other platforms, email ESN where you have posted.
- We’ll collect the data and enter those who shared their posts in a random drawing. Only one entry per person. Although InterVarsity staff are not eligible for the drawing, we hope that they’ll help us share the word about this opportunity for the students and faculty whom they serve.
- We’ll contact the winners by email or through messaging (i.e., Facebook, Twitter). Note: there will be 5 winners.
About the author:
Tom enjoys daily conversations regarding living out the Biblical Story with his wife Theresa and their four girls, around the block, at Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church (where he teaches adult electives and co-leads a small group), among healthcare professionals as the Northeast Regional Director for the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA), and in higher ed as a volunteer with the Emerging Scholars Network (ESN). For a number of years, the Christian Medical Society / CMDA at Penn State College of Medicine was the hub of his ministry with CMDA. Note: Tom served with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship / USA for 20+ years, including 6+ years as the Associate Director of ESN. He has written for the ESN blog from its launch in August 2008. He has studied Biology (B.S.), Higher Education (M.A.), Spiritual Direction (Certificate), Spiritual Formation (M.A.R.), Ministry to Emerging Generations (D.Min.). To God be the glory!