The Upside of Down:

Harvesting The By-Products of Liminality

All this talk about adventure, risk, and in extremis leadership sounds pretty exhausting. But these are the necessary elements of liminality—that neither-here-nor-there place to which the church is called. The church can neither retreat to safe institutionalization nor abandon its faith altogether. It is called out—out beyond itself into the liminal place of mission. Such a neither-here-nor-there space calls forth a capacity for relentless change. It forces us to be a constantly learning community, with agility and a propensity for risk-taking and movement. And shouldn’t anyone related to the Holy God that we worship be in a continual state of change? To know God is to change. Besides, human maturity is predicated on our continued willingness to learn and to grow. But we don’t want to give the false impression that change, journey, and liminality always involve death-defying deeds to qualify for a genuine gospel adventure. Acts of love and mercy themselves embody courage and advance the cause of Jesus in our world.

For all the insecurity that an adventurous Christianity-of-the- Road brings, the benefits far outweigh the costs. Conversely, in the non-adventurous, supposedly more secure life, the costs far outweigh the advantages. The loss of pathos, authenticity, and living reality to our faith and experience of Jesus’s church is a high price to pay for comfort and convenience. A life lived in fear is a life half lived. Likewise, a church addicted to security and safety is not the church of Jesus Christ; it is in reality something else. 

  • from Hirsch and Frost, The Faith of Leap, (Baker) 


Stir Up Holy Dust: Cultivating Learning and Innovation IV:

Karl Marx said that, in order to foster revolution, activists will need to “rub raw the sores of discontent.” He understood that people would not pay the price for change unless they feel a profound sense of disgruntlement with the prevailing conditions. Now I think this is a highly manipulative thing to do in the context of a political revolution, but this should not obscure the redeemable truth that lies behind this approach—discontent results in movement and movement in change. Or, in the interests of a holy revolution, we have got to cultivate a holy discontent in our own hearts and in our systems if we are going to move toward a better future. Speaking of our spiritual yearnings, Jewish theologian/philosopher Abraham Heschel says, “All that is creative stems from the seed of endless discontent. . . . He who is satisfied has never truly craved.” In order to engender change in our lives, especially in organizations, we have to sell the problem before we sell the solution.

But holy discontent need not always be the result of a prophetic critique of things; it could come about from a holy sense of curiosity and being attentive to the provocatively fertile nature of good, probing, questions. As discussed in the introduction, we ought never to take ourselves out of the questing aspect of Christianity and discipleship. Spiritual quests in particular are driven by the need for a deeper, more satisfying experience of life and faith. Questing is the result of holy discontent, and more often than not, as in all genuine renewal movements, they are the result of the Holy Spirit working directly in our lives. And behind every good quest lies at least one really good question—we do well to heed Einstein’s advice to a young admirer when he said, “The important thing is to not stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence.”