What Is Jesus Doing?: God's Activity in the Life and Work of the Church, Edited by Edwin Chr. van Driel
What Is Jesus Doing?
  • Length: 336 pages
  • Dimensions: 6 × 9 in
  • Published: January 21, 2020
  • Imprint: IVP Academic
  • Item Code: 5260
  • ISBN: 9780830852604

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Jesus is present here and now, Christians have always affirmed. But how are we to understand his present activity in a challenging, post-Christian context? In what ways is he at work in our congregational worship, pastoral care, preaching—and even our board meetings?

At a time when many feel uncertain about the future of the church, What Is Jesus Doing? brings together leading thinkers in pastoral theology, homiletics, liturgical theology, and missiology in a compelling resource for pastors and theologians. Emphasizing the reality of Jesus both as the resurrected, ascended Christ and as present and active today, the contributors consider how to recognize the divine presence and join in what God is already doing in all areas of church ministry.

Contributors include:

  • David Fergusson
  • Dwight J. Zscheile
  • Scott J. Hagley
  • Craig Barnes
  • Roger Owens
  • Anthony B. Robinson
  • Will Willimon
  • Andrew Root
  • John D. Witvliet
  • Nicholas Wolterstorff
  • Angela Dienhart Hancock
  • Trygve D. Johnson

With deep theological reflection, personal stories, and practical suggestions, this interdisciplinary conversation invites leaders to remember that the church is first of all God's project, not ours—and that this truth should fill us with hope.

"Evelyn Underhill famously insisted, 'God is the interesting thing about religion.' If theology is the discerning of what God is doing in the world and the subsequent earnest yearning to participate in that action, then this elegant and absorbing collection of essays is an admirable response to that challenge. If pastoral care means taking people a little more seriously than they take themselves, then this volume is an exemplary form of pastoral care for the church today."

Sam Wells, vicar, St. Martin-in-the-Fields

"Many of us make the mistake of speaking of Jesus in the past tense and subjunctive mood: 'What would Jesus do if he were here now?' This book answers another set of questions altogether: we must speak of Jesus Christ in the present tense as the living Lord, reigning, working for our transformation through the church. Andrew Purves has taught us all to speak, with Saint Paul, of the crucifixion and resurrection of our ministries. These essays represent the rich community of those gathered with a similar vision. May they find a wide and joyous readership."

Jason Byassee, Vancouver School of Theology

"This is a gem of a book, filled with outstanding essays across disciplinary divides on a topic that is at once relatively neglected and yet vital for the life of the church. Pastors, scholars, seminary students, thoughtful Christians of all kinds, prepare to have your thoughts deepened, your practices of ministry challenged and enriched, and your hope for the life and calling of the church renewed."

Suzanne McDonald, professor of systematic and historical theology, Western Theological Seminary, Holland, MI

"This is not just a collection of academic essays. It's a series of learned meditations on one of the most breathtaking mysteries of the universe: Jesus Christ, the crucified, risen, and ascended Lord, is alive and active today among us by the Holy Spirit. If you are weary of trying to market the church and reinvent it by our human power, be encouraged. The triune God is at work through his Word and Spirit. Together, these essays encourage pastors and church leaders to make a bold move: to discern the triune God's work and enter in, as those who belong to Christ by the Spirit. Read expectantly, with joy."

J. Todd Billings, Girod Research Professor of Reformed Theology, Western Theological Seminary

"In a world of rapid and disorienting change, a 'bias-for-action' is often a necessary trait of leaders and ministers. But without deep formation in the activity and character of God, these actions can become, as Thomas Merton once described, 'the contagion of our own obsessions.' In this thoughtful and accessible collection of essays, Van Driel and colleagues remind us that God's being and action is first, foremost, and primary, and then leads us to discernment and activity that enables us to develop a bias for 'wise action' that honors and embodies God as our first, foremost, and primary task. This is a timely book that will stimulate both good conversation and more reflective action."

Tod Bolsinger, vice president and associate professor, Fuller Seminary, author of Canoeing the Mountains

"These essays take the book title seriously: 'What is Jesus doing?' In a fitting tribute to the distinguished Reformed theologian Andrew Purves, the authors explore what Christ is doing in the world today and how the church joins in his continuing ministry. The question of the relationship between divine and human agency is explored throughout, with many illuminations of how ministry—in myriad forms—is essentially participation in what God is already doing."

Scot Sherman, executive director of the Newbigin House of Studies, San Francisco

"This collection is exceedingly well conceived, edited, and written. Van Driel, one of the most important young systematic theologians writing today, offers a remarkable conception of theology for the church and the world. He has invited some of the most respected, seasoned philosophers, like Nicholas Wolterstorff, and many of our youngest practical theologians to write in clear, concise, very readable, and engaging essays working on an essential theme for our time—the church's diminishing influence in Western culture. Rather than practicing the too common bipolar madness of panic and denial of our clear situation after Christendom, these authors offer a plainspoken and theologically sophisticated reflection upon what Jesus is doing in local churches. The essays give realistic hope based upon careful exegesis, critical assessment of context and, most importantly, the deep, powerful, and efficacious tradition of Christian theology."

Patrick R. Keifert, professor of systematic theology emeritus, Luther Seminary, and president and director of research, Church Innovations Institute, Saint Paul, Minnesota

"Van Driel and his colleagues speak to an anxiety-ridden church in a way that convicts, calms, and converts. They yank us away from our preoccupation with our own ministries and point us to what Christ is doing all around us. Countering the popular opinion that the church is dying, these authors insist that for too long we have assumed that the vitality of the church depends on our own efforts. Pastors, scholars, and church leaders all need to hear this good news: Jesus is alive, he is at work, and he is waiting for us to join him as he leads us into the future. Read this book, renew your hope, and get ready to be changed."

Kimberly Bracken Long, editor of Call to Worship: Liturgy, Music, Preaching, and the Arts, Office of Theology and Worship of the Presbyterian Church (USA)


1. What Is Jesus Doing? Christological Thoughts for an Anxious Church and Tired Pastors (Edwin Chr. van Driel)

Systematic Theology
2. He Ascended into Heaven: The Ascension and Agency of Christ in the Theology of T. F. Torrance (David Fergusson)
3. Rethinking Church in a Post-Christian Age (Edwin Chr. van Driel)

Missional Theology
4. Cultivating the Spirit’s Leadership in Congregational Life (Dwight J. Zscheile)
5. A Present Witness: Incarnation, Participation, and the Spirit of God (Scott J. Hagley)

Pastoral Theology and Pastoral Care
6. The Mission of God in Pastoral Care (M. Craig Barnes)
7. Shaping a Pastoral Spirituality: Learning from the Spiritual Vision of Quaker Thomas R. Kelly (L. Roger Owens)
8. Baptizing the Ordinary: Divine Agency and Church Administration (Anthony B. Robinson)
9. God’s Agency in Ecclesial Structures: A Time of Pruning (Will Willimon)
10. Ministry and the Concursus Dei (Andrew Root)

Liturgics and Homiletics
11. The Mysterious Mingling of Divine and Human Agency in Liturgical Participation: Pedagogical Reflections (John D. Witvliet)
12. Preaching the Word of God (Nicholas Wolterstorff)
13. The Prophetic Agency of Jesus Christ and the Task of Preaching (Angela Dienhart Hancock)
14. Preaching in Context (Trygve D. Johnson)

Scripture Index


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Edwin Chr. van Driel occupies the Directors' Bicentennial Chair in Theology at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. He is an ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and is the author of Incarnation Anyway: Arguments for Supralapsarian Christology.