James Petitfils

Adventures at Acton: A Reflection on Human Flourishing

By James Petitfils Jul. 19, 2017 9:00 a.m. Church Life, Marriage and Family, Ministry and Leadership

This summer, as part of my participation in Talbot’s Kern Foundation reading group, I had the opportunity to travel to Grand Rapids and attend a 4-day think tank called Acton University. This was my first time participating in a think tank (unless you count my years watching MacGyver problem-solve for the Phoenix Foundation), and it was an experience! The annual event brings together around 1000 scholars, students, businesspeople, and leaders from over 75 countries and seeks to provide “an opportunity to deepen one’s knowledge and integrate philosophy, theology, business, development – with sound, market based, economics” (http://university.acton.org/). The daily program consisted of several parallel presentations (in fact, Talbot’s own Dr. Scott Rae was a presenter), a fabulous dinner designed to foster new relationships and stimulate conversations, and it closed each night with a plenary talk ...

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Humility at Hume Lake

By James Petitfils Jul. 12, 2017 9:00 a.m. Church Life, Ministry and Leadership

I saw something amazing this June. Something rare. Something inspiring. It happened behind-the-scenes at Hume Lake Christian Camps and I simply had to move it from backstage and into to the spotlight. Before I showcase this beautiful sight, let me provide a couple paragraphs of context: As part of Talbot’s Kern Reading group this year, I’ve had the joy of reading (and re-reading) several thought-provoking texts on work, leadership, economics, poverty relief, and the relationship of theology and the church to such matters. On this journey, I happily re-read a chapter from one of my favorite books on organizational leadership, Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges’, Lead Like Jesus: Lessons for Everyone from the Greatest Leadership Role Model of All Time (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2005) ...

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A Call for Introspection: When Helping Hurts

By James Petitfils Apr. 10, 2017 9:00 a.m. Church Life, Ministry and Leadership, Missions, New Testament

Don’t you just hate it/love it when a book takes a long-standing ministry practice or cultural disposition you’ve unwittingly nurtured and totally applies the ol’ command-option-esc (or control-alt-delete to be P.C.) to completely reset things? A text I’ve been reading for the Kern Reading group at Talbot School of Theology--namely, Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert’s, When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor...and Yourself (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2012)--just pulled this on me. Let me explain ...

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Skull of John the Baptist Found in New York City Pawn Shop

By James Petitfils Nov. 12, 2014 9:00 a.m. Culture, Ministry and Leadership

Whether shock-and-awe biblical archeology, “lost” gospels found just in time for the Easter documentary season, or conclusive proof that the Nephilim of Genesis 6 were actually ancient aliens, the ol’ World Wide Web abounds with juicy rumors. While no one is talking about the big “John the Baptist Skull” story (because I just made that up 10 minutes ago), Facebook has recently been “abuzz” with an article published by the website, World News Daily Report, entitled “Newly-Found Document Holds Eyewitness Account of Jesus Performing Miracle.” This is the same website, incidentally, that broke the story, “Rancher Shoots Down UFO Near Area 51.” Despite the site’s self-identification as a “political satire web publication,” the article was posted and passed around social media hundreds of thousands of times. As a historian focused on the Roman Mediterranean, I’ll comfortably go on the record stating that this story is a pure and fantastic invention. Rather than debunking this particular Jesus rumor, however, I’d like to address a larger question facing many modern followers of Jesus: How should we respond when confronted with such “breaking news”? How might we advise those we disciple on these kinds of intriguing and quick-to-go-viral claims?

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