Zach Yentzer: The joke (but it’s often true) is that pastor’s kids grow up to either be very rebellious, or hold close to their faith and upbringing. As one yourself, how did you not only maintain your faith, but also find a passion for theology?
Micah Lunsford: I was blessed to have parents who lived what they talked about. Hypocrisy is one of the greatest criticisms leveled at the church, so to have a family who sought to practice what they preached was huge. Another big factor in my development was the influence of my dad. He always allowed me to ask big questions, and his answers were never trite or cliché. If he didn’t know the answer, he was honest with me.
ZY: That’s so important. Research is showing that young people who leave the church do so in part because they don’t feel like they have a space to express doubt or ask questions.
ML: This is one of my greatest concerns about the church – too often we’re comfortable with not encouraging the tough questions. We’re ok with not pushing past simple-minded Biblicism that doesn’t wrestle with thorny issues or deal with things that matter. This is, in fact, one of the reasons I wanted to start Resonance.
ZY: When I think about you and the work you’re doing, the phrase that comes to mind is “theology matters.” As leaders and faith communities, the internal drive is to focus on practice and impact of faith, and often reflection and theological pursuit doesn’t get as much emphasis. What drives your interest in this area?
ML: Theology can be a loaded word, and it has its own baggage. For me, what I mean when I say “theology” is the pursuit of God with the full capacity of one’s mind. It fits under the Great Commandment – love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and strength. It’s a call to love God with everything we are. Here’s what I don’t mean when I say “theology.” Theology is not an effort to attain an exhaustive list of facts or doctrines that may then be used to beat up other people or prove that I am right. Doctrines and creeds are important, don’t get me wrong – but the point of theology is not to prove superiority, but to love God and neighbor better. Theology actually leads to great humility – the more you contemplate and seek to understand God, the more you find that there is more to know. We are finite and He is infinite. Therefore, the pursuit of God is never ending.
ZY: On that note of humility, you’ve talked about ecumenical theology. Those can often be opposing words – what is ecumenical theology and how do you pair those two ideas?
ML: Theology, if it is theology, is one – in the sense that it is all about studying and seeking the same God. Ecumenical theology then is the desire to hear from the different strands of Christian tradition and how they have understood a piece of God, or their focus on a part of the Biblical narrative and what it says about God. One of my goals with Resonance is to encourage people who desire to be ecumenically generous to listen to other points of view outside the ones they grew up with. These diverse perspectives all remain very firmly Christian viewpoints, but they are different from our default inclination. Ecumenical theology then not only includes both a study of “high-church” liturgy and habit, and a look at “low-church” simplicity and informality; it encourages such an intentional crossing of boundaries. The theology underpinning both sides has a valid Biblical foundation, and we can learn from each other by exploring and understanding backgrounds that are unfamiliar. While Resonance doesn’t go beyond theology that we would consider orthodox, I do hope it can help create a culture where we as a Christian community agree on the essentials, listen generously, and disagree agreeably on the peripherals.
ZY: One of the criticisms of the study of theology is that it is often an “ivory tower,” aloof from reality and with little impact on the day-to-day challenges we face. How would you respond to that?
ML: We are holistic beings created in the image of God for community and relationship and stewarding creation. This implies that our life is meant for more than just the practical and pragmatic necessities alone – we are made to be creators of culture, artwork, and everything that composes the best of civilization. Sometimes the academic pursuit of theology can veil a simple truth with complex vocabulary, but if it is truly theology then it must be able to directly impact “real life.” Truly seeking God in all His complexity must always connect with reality.
ZY: You answer from an individual perspective – would you say the same is true for the growth and development of a missional faith community?
ML: Certainly. Theology helps us reacquire a communal sense. Our culture today is hyper-individualistic with a focus on the single person, instead of engaging within a community that requires things of us as individuals. Biblical theology reorients us on our neighbor and the good of those around us. For example, Biblical hospitality focuses on connecting and serving those who don’t act, think, or look like us. Theology pushes us to live radical lifestyles that live out Biblical truth.
ZY: Millennials are looking for radical, authentic, highly missional faith. What are your thoughts on this?
ML: I am encouraged by the growing movement to deeply engage with theology that I see both among Millenials as well as older generations. It really feels like a ripe time for the church to re-engage together in the pursuit of theology and deeper faith-understanding. I also admire our generation’s desire for social justice and not being content with the status quo. But my recommendation for Millennials is that our ethics and justice worldview has to have theological underpinnings. We can’t fall into either extreme – hard truth stances that are graceless, or graceful truthlessness that fails to call people to a Godly, ethical standard.
ZY: What inspired you to start Resonance: A Theological Journal?
ML: I wanted to create a space to further the things we’ve just talked about, as well as create an opportunity to collaborate with others and build a theologically attentive community – the first issue that we just released has five authors from five different theological perspectives, focused on time and how to be a Christ-follower in a time-bound world.
ZY: When we think about “theological” and “journal,” heavy academic writing comes to mind. But Resonance is a compilation of ideas and thoughts that can be consumed in a short period of time. Without large amounts of available time or theological background, people can use Resonance to invest in their growth. But also those who have backgrounds in theology and Biblical study can keep growing through reading it. Is that a good description?
ML: I agree – the word “journal” can throw people off. Resonance is really a mix of journal and magazine. The articles are more than soundbytes or short-form works, but are visually laid out in a magazine format and are thematically tied together. Our goal is to have a close tie to the arts as well, to connect to the artistic expression of being human and our worship of God in that way. I hope that it’s not intimidating, but can provoke contemplation, refreshment, and provide an invitation into more profound reflection.
ZY: What advice would you give to Millennial church leaders and followers of Christ?
ML: Pursue God with everything; your heart, mind, and body. Be ok with the fact that you are human and limited. Ask tough questions and don’t be satisfied with cliché answers. God is big and He doesn’t need to be defended, and He isn’t taken aback by us asking the hard things.
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