You might have seen my review of Alexander Venter’s new book, Doing Spirituality. As it is quite a long, meaty and beautiful book, I asked Alexander a few questions to help explain and explore what he’s written. I hope it is helpful.
Could you just say a little bit about yourself?
My greatest claim to fame is that I’m married to Gillian, have two grown up children – one married – and that they (still) love me! I had a born-again experience coming to faith in Jesus on 7 June 1968. Went into paid ministry in January 1975 and have planted four churches, raised up leaders and handed over the churches, during the past 44 years of ministry & leadership. Since March 2019 I’ve no longer pastoring a local church. I’m now available full time to consult with leaders & churches, write more books, do teaching & equipping conferences, and lead spiritual retreats.
So, you’ve written a book. What’s the elevator pitch?
The passion to become more like Jesus. One of the earliest hymns I learnt, and fell in love with, was: “O to be like Thee, O to be like Thee, precious Redeemer, pure as Thou art.” My deepest longing has been for God’s Person and Presence as revealed in Jesus of Nazareth,
whom I follow – to live with him, learn from him, become like him. Doing Spirituality is essentially about The Journey of Character Formation toward Christlikeness. Humanity is in deep crisis: the crisis of character failure in people, nations, and especially political and spiritual leaders. The lack of intentional discipleship/spiritual formation among Christians, in the Church, is mirrored in our dysfunctional & disintegrating societies. We are more a copy of society than a model of God’s Kingdom. Followers of Jesus should be different, not only in the charisma of Jesus (“doing the power stuff” of the Kingdom – Doing Healing), but more so in the character of Jesus (“being and becoming” the King’s Person & Presence in society – Doing Spirituality)
You are bringing two important conversations (spirituality and The Kingdom of God) together. Why was it important to you to do that?
Very few books on spiritual formation (discipleship to Jesus) have purposefully been written from the Kingdom worldview that the historical Jesus lived and taught. Most books on Christian spirituality are from a mix of paradigms: liturgical, ecclesiastical, ascetic, monastic, mystical, evangelical faith, charismatic power-encounter. We need to recover and live by what formed Jesus’ consciousness, his spiritual formation, his mission and message, which was the Kingdom of God. This is increasingly accepted as the interpretative key to scripture and all major themes in theology, church and Christian living. The Vineyard is founded on this ‘hermeneutic’. Thus I have systematically laid out Christian spirituality from the biblical theology and practice of God’s Kingdom come, and yet to come in Jesus – the tension of the “already” and “not yet”.
You draw from across all church tradition and history to explain your ideas. Could you share why?
If one is truly Kingdom in faith & praxis, in thinking & living, one is truly ecumenical. One simply cannot be denominational or national: the Kingdom explodes echo-chamber theologies and ideological loyalties. John Wimber said, “To be [a person of] Kingdom is to love the whole Church that Jesus loves” in all its glory & brokenness. That means we respect & honour all Christian traditions and Church history, and learn from it all by discerning truth from error in the ecumenical dialogue to which God’s people are called. We only see and make known “the manifold wisdom of God” through the Jewish and Gentile Church (Ephesians 3:10); we only “grasp how wide, long, high and deep is God’s love in Christ… and are filled with the fullness of God… with all God’s people” (3:17-19). Hence, for Kingdom integrity & truth I discipline myself into the broadest spectrum of dialogue and learning, for my own sake and that of my hearers.
What has ‘Doing Spirituality’ meant for you in your own life?
I share my story in this regard in chapter one. So, buy the book to get my answer! Now that’s crude advertising! In fact, in some ways that chapter was the most difficult to write: to share autobiographically in a truly God glorifying manner, that genuinely helps others in their personal journey, is a serious challenge. Anyway, of all my pursuits of faith & life and themes of understanding & writing, ‘doing spirituality’ – as in the historical Jesus and his Kingdom mission & message – has been closest to my heart. And writing the book between leading, pastoring, travelling, was a six year journey of ‘re-ploughing’ my heart and mind in terms of what I already knew but needed to carefully articulate – and to live in and from that reality.
What is your hope for ‘Doing Spirituality’? What do you hope this book will ‘do’?
I’m praying that God will use it to inspire and instruct followers of Jesus to purposefully commit to their spiritual formation to become more like Jesus. And for pastors and leaders to make discipleship to Jesus – not to themselves or to ‘our church’ – an intentional planned process, so that the local church becomes, once again, the community of formation toward Christlikeness.
Anything else before we go?
Yes, thanks so much for the interview, and thanks for listening!
Thanks! Do have a read of my review, and if it piques your interest, grab a copy and join the discussion!