8.26.2016

How do you Justify That with Scripture?

I was asked this question recently...

...on the face of it, it is a good question.

The person who asked it was genuinely concerned with being obedient to Christ, and knowing God's commands.

So what's the problem?

A little context will help:

We were discussing racial politics in America, and the wisdom that scripture might offer to the church in such a muddy cultural milieu.  Specifically, I was arguing that Christians ought to engage in cross-cultural relationships as a rule.  This person was arguing that it is good for Christians to engage in cross-cultural relationships, but only when they are specifically called to do so; that it is also fine for Christians to only engage in relationships within homogenous peer groups.

I was arguing that it is a discipleship issue; to be mature in Christ, one must engage in relationships with other Christians who do not share your culture.  I was arguing that it is an ethical issue: to be godly and good is to love our neighbors even though they are not like us.

At this point, the person asked, "Okay, that all sounds fine, but how do you justify that with scripture?"

There are two responses that I want to give to that question:

1) Why should I have to justify my position scripturally, but you don't?  Why is it important for me to understand the biblical commands before engaging in cross-cultural community, but it is perfectly fine for you to maintain the status quo (ignoring people who aren't like you) without any need to know what scripture says about it?

2) Let's look at scripture!  From Genesis to Revelation a major theme of the Kingdom of God is the bringing together of the nations under the rule and reign of our Lord and Messiah.  The major ethical concern of the New Testament is precisely the creation of a new ethnos on the earth through the proclamation of the Gospel of the Kingdom of Jesus.  Paul publicly rebukes Peter on exactly this point, to fail to eat with other Christians of different cultures is to fail to understand the Gospel.  (Gal 2)  Racism is the charge that must be dealt with by the Jerusalem church in Acts 6, and working out the sticky details of multi-cultural community is the primary focus of the first ecumenical council in Acts 15.

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To come back to the point, it is right and good for scripture to be the proving grounds of new ideas.  But scripture must also be applied to old ideas and patterns of life!

It is not enough to simply accept things as they are and move on.  Jesus, our King, is redeeming all things to the Father, bringing all aspects of life under His dominion.

8.24.2016

What Are We Doing Here?

Taken as a whole, I love what I do.  Some aspects of being a pastor come naturally to me, others have required work to learn but are enjoyable none-the-less, others are not-so-pleasant.  Being an effective manager, however, is something that wasn't even on my radar screen as a leader.  That has been the single largest growth area for me as a pastor...

I sure wish someone had sent me this article five years ago...

8.22.2016

The Alternative to Charity

The alternative to this false charity is to love well.

In moving to a house that was inundated with homeless individuals where panhandling was almost an hourly occurrence in my life, I was quickly confronted with the need to discern some 'best practices.'

I will be the first to confess that I don't have it all figured out, but that time in my life helped me to figure a few things out.  Its worth noting, that these are my rules, no one has to follow them but me:


  1. Don't do things because it makes me feel better.  Do things that I think might genuinely help the human being stating in front of me asking for help.
  2. Don't ignore those feelings inside myself.  Don't just walk by and ignore the situation.  Don't ignore people.
  3. Engage.  Make eye contact.  Get their name, and use it.
  4. Find the real problem, and offer to help.  Is it a ride?  A meal?  A job?  Usually the situation is bigger than my ability to solve it.  But usually there is something I can do to be a friend and encourage them to begin to solve it.  The trick is, I usually have to dig a little to get to the real problem.
  5. Meet needs out of my own personal resources, never (or rarely) give money.  Let someone borrow my phone.  Give someone a ride in my car.  Sit down and have lunch ...together.  Introduce them to someone I know who might be able to help more.
  6. Offer to pray.  Ask God to bless them.  Listen to what God might have to say about this encounter.
  7. Where appropriate, and they seem open, invite them to church.  Encourage them that God cares, and they are welcome in His house.

8.20.2016

Charity



The English word "charity" comes from the Latin word for "love."

Indeed, the word charity is an archaic word for love even in the English language.  One can see the obvious connection between the older usage of the word and its present use.  If we love people, we will help them when they need it.

So lets think a little about the word charity, and the practice of charity.

We usually offer to give charity to people because we can see an obvious problem, and we are moved to action by some internal motivation.  That internal motivation could be compassion, it could be guilt, it could be duty, it could be shame, it could be any number of things...

...but we are motivated by something inside of us.

So far, so good.

It is at this point that the problem arises, we must chose what we are going to do to respond to this internal motivation.  The common response is to simply give a few dollars to a person in need.  This is the most basic form of charity.  To give money.

Why do we give money?

We don't have time to ask about this person's situation, we don't really desire to get to know them, or let them get to know us.  When confronted with a situation where someone is in obvious need of help, we give money, precisely so we don't have to get more involved!  We don't have the interest in learning what this person really needs, discerning what would really help.  In short, we don't care about helping them, we care about the way we feel...

Why do we give money?

Because it is the simplest way to address that feeling inside of us!

The irony is, we are giving money, precisely so that we don't have to love someone, and then we call it charity.


8.16.2016

A Necessary Crowd?

"If something is worth doing, then it is worth doing by yourself."
Pastor Kyle Stevens

A friend of mine said this once after he hosted an event at our church where no one showed up but him.  Obviously there are times where going it alone is the wrong thing to do.  Obviously there are times where we need to heed the voices of others.  Obviously there are times where we need to acknowledge that we just need to quit because we have made a mistake, took a wrong turn, or we have failed.

And yet...

...we will never make our mark on the world if we only do what others are doing.  If we are convinced of the rightness of our action, and the wisdom of our cause, then no amount of opposition or isolation should prevent us from moving forward.  Even if we move forward alone.

8.01.2016

Exorcising the Spirit of the Age

How do you wrestle to stay faithful to God, hospitable to the outsider; relevant to the culture, and yet true to the faith?

As Christians we must be wary of the world creeping into our church...


...as you read the words above, I wonder what you imagine?


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What are the sins of our culture that are perverting the gospel?  I would humbly suggest that this is the place to reflect: http://www.thewilsonsindublin.com/there-must-be-more/

7.28.2016

Vision-Strategy-Story

A friend shared recently with me the importance of staying connected to vision (big picture) and story (little picture) whenever we are in a "management" role making decisions about strategy.

They specifically pointed at how easy strategic decisions can become ends to themselves, and our focus on budgets, teams, partnerships, events, and programs can become unhinged from the desire to see God's Kingdom unfold in the lives of our neighbors and friends.

It really clicked for me.

I have been learning more about leadership (and in particular, how important the strategic structures of our church actually are), and simultaneously I have been realizing just how critical vision is to our community. Vision is hard to communicate, but when people have been gripped by a compelling vision they will sell everything, and commit decades of their lives towards realizing that vision.

It is here that vision and strategy need to align. If that strategy is not meaningfully and effectively aligned with that vision, then the vision CANNOT be realized.

All of this had the effect of helping me see clearly how important it is that we connect all three dots as often as possible in our own minds, and in the minds of those we lead.


  • When we tell stories in our church, we must tie those stories directly to vision and strategy.
  • When we share our strategies with our church, we must tie it to vision and story.
  • When we cast vision, we must do so within the context of stories and communal strategies. 


When people hear a story about someone who was led by the Spirit to spend an evening in conversation and prayer with a neighbor, they will be moved emotionally. But if we can also connect that story to our vision to be a neighborhood church and to see the Blessings of God's Kingdom transform our neighborhood, it will have power to invite others into similar actions. And if we can also connect that story and vision to our strategies around Missional Service, our summer BBQs, our service partnerships, and people's individual vocation, THEN we will have hit the sweet spot.

When we tie all three together, then the story becomes a way of making the Big Picture the defining reality for people, and the Strategy a compelling course of action.