Designed for Dependence
By Katie Edwardson
Anyone in ministry leadership will likely resonate with these conversations I’ve had with churchgoers in recent years:
“Watching church online is working pretty well for us; we’re going to stick with that for a while.”
“Why would I pay attention to what’s happening in the world? It’s all going to burn anyway.”
“All I’m asking is for my pastor to help me whenever I need him, day or night.”
Such comments and related ministry challenges have revealed that even long-term Christ-followers are often confused about God’s intentions for human beings and the Church.
In his ambitious book, You’re Only Human: How Your Limits Reflect God’s Design and Why That’s Good News, Kelly M. Kapic examines these and similar questions that this season has raised for believers. This paradigm-shifting work invites believers to embrace their identity as creatures, created good, beloved—and, as Kapic argues, even liked—by God.
Instead of viewing human limits as primarily tied to sin, he encourages readers to reframe our finitude as a divinely-given gift that draws us into deeper dependence on God and others. Such an understanding enables us to faithfully love God and neighbor: “Accepting our finitude and affirming our interdependence as the people of God move us from guilt to liberty, from being overwhelmed to being energized, from passivity to activity.”
While we might expect a book about our limits to depress us, I found its message had the opposite effect. Kapic points us to the glory of humanity and the church as God designed it; even as he reminds believers that we are finite, he reminds us we are also saints.
He draws essential but often missed connections between a biblical theology of creation and redemption, rooted in an orthodox but stretching exploration of Christ’s humanity, ecclesiology and other topics. His use of scripture and theologians across church history is thoughtful and accessible, offering me new insights, especially on humility and spiritual growth.
For readers who struggle with their limits (particularly fellow Enneagram Ones), more soul work is required to embrace Kapic’s promised outcome of actually rejoicing in our finitude. I found it helpful to reflect on 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 and other Pauline passages around themes of grace, weakness and dependence on Christ; unfortunately, Kapic does not turn to such passages nor develop these themes as much as I had hoped.
Another shortcoming of the book is Kapic’s avoidance and insufficient treatment of related issues of great concern to many believers and ministry leaders, such as gender/sexuality, creation care, political identity, social media/technology and mortality. I would encourage you to read this book in community to best facilitate reflection on such concerns and on the practical implications for your ministry context.
Overall, You’re Only Human is a thought-provoking and encouraging read that is sure to enrich discussions around what it means to be human. It will also move us to deeper worship of our Creator and Redeemer, who lovingly designed us for dependence on Himself and others.
More Than Just Figuring It Out
By David Tanner
I serve as the executive pastor of a church plant of about 300 that was less than 5 years old when the pandemic hit. On Thursday, March 12, 2020, I celebrated my 27th birthday with a series of phone calls and meetings that ultimately ended in the decision to close our building and not have in-person services. We all felt confused and disoriented. But do you know what happened next?
We figured it out.
We put together a video team. Restructured the worship service. Updated the website. Helped people transition to online giving. Stopped to pray for the pandemic. Had an online staff meeting.
We thought we’d be back in-person by Easter, but that didn’t happen. So we just kept figuring it out: changing from pre-recorded to live services, adjusting staff roles, starting a podcast, moving small groups online.
We felt overwhelmed and we felt the anxiety, but we just, I just, kept taking on more and more. Blame the pandemic. Blame my role. Blame my personality. For whatever reason, I am too often convinced that, “If we can just get through COVID (or Christmas, or budgeting or whatever), then we’ll be okay. If I can only crack the code, find that leadership hack or the perfect productivity app, then I can do it all, stress-free!”
But it just doesn’t pan out. There’s always the next thing. There’s always another ministry opportunity. There’s always the next project that puts me over, operating at the most urgent, efficient, frantic pace possible.
And perhaps the worst part of it is that I often feel guilty for not being able to do it all.
Upon seeing the title of Kelly M. Kapic’s book You’re Only Human: How Your Limits Reflect God’s Design and Why That’s Good News, I jumped into it with hope and high expectations. Kapic suggests that human limits are not a product of the fall, not an obstacle to overcome. Instead, our limits are a part of the inherent goodness of creation and should be received as a gift. With this premise, through the lens of “finitude,” he explores and reinterprets a variety of topics from our understanding of time and the imago Dei to physical touch and our belly buttons.
While the author took a broad approach to many topics, I can deeply relate to the desire to do it all. Like Kapic, I need to hear the good-news message, “You are enough.” What I appreciated most about the book was the main thesis: human limits are not sin.
I wish the book would have further explored the concept of presence—the ability to be at peace, internally slowed down, attentive and appropriately engaged with God, others and the task at hand. Kapic says presence is the “underlying challenge” behind the issues of busyness and the “crippling effects of anxiety.” He says in order to experience presence you have to have a biblical fear of the Lord and to see the world as enchanted, a place where God is active and involved in everyday life.
This sounded like the solution—the biblical, gospel-centered counter-narrative to productivity culture. But I was left wanting. Perhaps Brother Lawrence’s The Practice of the Presence of God deserves another read.
Ultimately for Kapic, embracing finitude can result in a life primarily characterized by love and presence rather than efficiency and anxiety. It’s a grand promise but the author made me believe it’s true and possible. You’re Only Human left me wanting—but left me wanting to go deeper in study and in my own embrace of finitude.
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