10 Questions With...Tony Jones

Last week I sat down with Tony Jones & talked with him about his new book, Divine Intervention. You may remember this book from a review I did on it earlier.
Tony Jones is the National Coordinator of Emergent Village, a network of innovative, missional Christians. He's also a doctoral fellow and senior research fellow in practical theology at Princeton Theological Seminary. Tony has written several books on philosophy, theology, ministry, and prayer, including Postmodern Youth Ministry and The Sacred Way. Mr. Jones was the minister to youth and young adults at Colonial Church in Edina, Minnesota. In his years at Colonial, Tony pioneered new forms of youth ministry, spending much of his time in one-on-one relationships with students.

What is your background & what led you to youth ministry?
Growing up, I attended Colonial Church in Edina, MN. I was given leadership responsibility early. As a sophomore, I was able to teach a class of 6th grade students. Ever since then, I have had a desire to be involved with youth. From volunteering with junior high students in Vermont to being a camp counselor to working with YouthWorks Mission, I have loved being involved in the lives of students.

How long have you been practicing Lectio Divina & who introduced the practice to you?
My practice of lectio came out of a sabbatical I took, in conjunction with a grant from the Louisville Institute. I desired to find out what a contemplative youth ministry would look like. As a follow-up of Postmodern Youth Ministry, I was rethinking a devotional life with God. As for how long I have been practicing, since ’02 or so.

What authors have influenced your spiritual life &/or the writing of this book?
Many, many authors & thinkers have influenced me, as far as the writing of this book, the Rule of St. Benedict, Henri Nouwen, Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, Thomas a Kempis.

Am I right in thinking that Divine Intervention is a revised edition for your earlier work Read Think Pray Live? Why the update?
It is. Read Think Pray Live was written to a youth audience. Divine Intervention is a revised & expanded version of that book that seeks a broader audience, not just students.

Based on your writing both Divine Intervention & The Sacred Way, you seem to be very interested in ancient Christian practices. What brought about this interest & why are they important for the Church today?
The sin of the modern Church is that we are divorced from the history of the Church. We have no art, no beauty, the modern church is very functional, not transcendent. It is similar in our devotional life. We are enamored of what’s new & now. We are the poorer for neglecting the practices & traditions of our heritage.

What resources, books, or tools out there would you consider vital for any student minister to have worked through or know about?
The Bible. More important than any practical student ministry book, though, I would recommend the latest literature on adolescent brain development. Good ones to start off with are Cold New World & A Tribe Apart.

You are part of the Classics of Christian Faith for Today's Readers Series. What led to involvement in that project? You speak on your blog of not buying in fully to Bunyan’s theology, in You Converted Me, the first of the series on Augustine, is there anything you especially like or dislike about his theology?
Augustine is trying to convince a Hellenistic mind that Jesus could come to earth, that God would become human. Augustine obviously has a very platonic view of God, he is emersed in platonic philosophy. In order to read Augustine, we need to translate him into our postmodern world. That is what this series is about. There are conversational notes within the text to enhance a greater understanding. It is more interactive for the reader.

What do you see as a crucial topic facing the evangelical church at large today?
We have been duped by the religious right into voting for them. I am no leftist, but evangelicals have been used by the Republican party. One part is not tied to Jesus Christ. Jesus is unpredictable, & we should be too, even politically.

Many younger believers are seeing the importance of serving their communities & world. Is there a social justice issue that you are passionate about?
If I had to choose one, it would be AIDS in Africa. However, it seems that many of the problems we face today, from abortion to hunger to sometimes even AIDS is poverty. If we take care of extreme global poverty, we will curb many other problems.

You have another book coming out next spring which you edited with Doug Pagitt called An Emergent Manifesto. What was the genesis of that book?
I hear all the time that Emergent Village is this that or the other thing. We are much more than the things that some people pigeon-hole us in. This book is to show that this is what we are, but even more. We have a hopeful eschatology, grasping towards God’s future. The full title is An Emergent Manifesto of Hope.

Mr. Jones is a very amiable person & easy to converse with. It was a pleasure to sit down with him & hear about his books & work within the church. I would encourage you to pick up one of his books & check it out. We have them at NextStep for 20% off.

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