Why I Believe You Should Read "Dwell"

Ever since I began my journey into the discussion about formation & mission, I have been excited to find people who think and feel the same way I do - that formation into Christlikeness should drive us towards the mission and Kingdom agenda of Jesus. 

Barry Jones is no exception.

61O+dVlZVYL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Jones' book Dwell: Life With God for the World is a richly written book about how our "being with God" shifts and transforms how we are "for the world." Coming from primarily an academic background but with a deep understanding of the local church, Jones sets the stage by teaching us

a) what is the world we find ourselves in

b) what is the life with God we can embrace in this world

c) what practices can we do - both together and separate - to live with God for the world.

The two concepts that frame this book are "the logic of the incarnation" (15) and the "vandalism of shalom" (48). The "logic of the incarnation" contains "the implications of the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ for our thinking about Christian spirituality." (15) This has always stuck with me because if we look at how Jesus lived when He was walking in flesh, we have an accurate and poetic picture of what the spiritual life must look like. In Jones' words, the logic of the incarnation of Jesus "presents a model of how to dwell with God in and for the world." (15, italics author)

As for the "vandalism of shalom," it is a concept that originates with Cornelius Plantinga that basically states, "God hates sin not just because it violates his law but, more substantively, because it violates shalom, because it breaks the peace, because it interferes with the way things are supposed to be..." (from Not The Way It's Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin)

The dominant thought of the book then is this:  we live the life with God for the world by standing against the violation of shalom through stepping into the logic of the incarnation. 

This book is helpful on many levels, not the least of which is the fact that Jones has a gift for challenging the mind in a way that moves the heart and hands. The downfall of books in general is they often address either the intellectual or the practical, but the bridge Jones creates is accessible and helpful to anyone who is interested in living with God in the real world with their mind, heart and hands. Each of the later chapters includes a practice that helps the reader move into the "logic of the incarnation" on an intentional, daily basis.

For me, one of the best ideas Jones conveys is the idea of balancing being present in our culture and society and being apart from the brokenness of them. We often resolve that tension too quickly by separating from the world or becoming simply an activist, when what is needed is the faith to hold ourselves where we are. In other words,

What we need is to learn that a spirituality deeply informed by the logic of the incarnation attempts to resolve it in either direction can be a compromise of faithfulness. (57)

I appreciate greatly the grace and understanding that Jones brings to this book, and I believe you'll find it to be helpful in your own understanding of how to balance the inward and outward, advance and retreat, formation and mission elements of your discipleship journey.