Come To Us...
In thinking about Jake's quick post two things occured to me. I think I'll only talk about one though. Jake said...
"the most interesting and difficult would be the development of the community the church is in. I don't see much of this at all, to be honest, fighting injustice and not only providing some relief for people in need in the area but really fighting to get things right for them"
I think that it's easy to see churches at work in their community. There are a ton of churches that do a lot of "nice" stuff right within their circle, the key I think is in the last part of what Jake said, "the fighting to get things right for them." The churches do a lot of nice stuff for those who are "less fortunate", but very little to make it better for the long haul.
When Jake said that he wonders if the reason that people don't know their neighbors. I think he may be on to something. I think that it may break down into corporate and individual reasons.
Coporately I believe the church has become more of a service organization than it is a "body." The mindset in most churches is that people will come to us, and that they will recieve some sort of service when they come. (not church service, but more in the line of an oil change)
Individually I believe that we've become so accustumed to being consumers in every aspect of life that we forget what it means to be a neighbor. We're always looking at things from a consumer mindset that we forget what it means to be neighbors. For Christians we're always on our way to something "christian". Brian McLaren wrote in More Ready Than You Realize, "I think most people would become better Christians if they spent less time in church."
One thing I would like to talk about is the impact of how being a Christian has become so "me focused" that we loose the mission.
Jonny, I thought you offered several good reminders in your post. I agreed with your point and was reminded that it's probably not a good thing that I never got rooted into a church community while at Huntington. Here's hoping it goes better at the next stop. I think that on your list the most interesting and difficult would be the development of the community the church is in. I don't see much of this at all, to be honest, fighting injustice and not only providing some relief for people in need in the area but really fighting to get things right for them. I'm wondering if some of the reason this sort of in the area focused ministry does not happen much in our churches is because of the same reasons we don't generally know most of our neighbors anymore.
Injustice and Concentric Circles
Jake, I wholeheartedly agree with you that the struggle against injustice is both part of the Gospel, and something that we as Christians are called to when we claim to follow Christ. A great part of Christ's ministry was spent amongst the poor and oppressed -- kind of his way of saying, "wink, wink; nudge, nudge," while elbowing us in the ribs (I don't know about you guys, but when I read the Gospels, I think Jesus probably had to elbow people in the ribs all the time).
How this plays out in our daily lives is a tougher call. When ministering to middle-or-upper class families/kids/people in general, we don't see the kind of injustice and oppression that we might see if we lived among the poor in India or the Sudan. But like Andy said, and Jake reiterated, that doesn't mean that those who run off to live with the poor have some sort of "higher calling" or "spiritual maturity" that the rest of Christianity lacks.
There's this verse in Acts that I really like, that might have some bearing here. Dr. Newton was the one that pointed it out to me, so some of you might know it to. It's the last part of Acts 1:8. "And you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth." Dr. Newton liked to use these concentric circles, where evangelism starts with your immediate area (Jerusalem), then the area outside of that (Judea/Samaria -- say your state, or even your country), then further beyond that to "the remotest parts of the earth."
If we follow this model, we could say the fight against injustice starts at home (ministering "across the tracks" in Huntington, or making trips, not "missions trips," but monthly or weekly trips to areas of Ft. Wayne that need food/renovating/painting/whatevering). This is something everyone in the church who is a Christian could participate in. Next, we could take more detailed and involved trips to different parts of the country, to work against injustice, which most churches already do. Oftentimes though, we skip over the initial step of looking after our own neighbors before we look beyond our neighborhood. (Local trips are cheaper, theoretically could have higher participation, and hold a greater chance of creating relationships where ministry could continue in the immediate future).
After that, Christ expects us to hit the rest of the world. The only way I understand this is that, every local church should be sending out missionaries to the world. Not just sponsoring a missionary from a para-church org or another church, but actually sending out mature members of the congregation to places who need mature Christians. New churches might not have the resources in place yet, but once they get to a certain point (whatever that point is) they need to begin. I loved how Heartland in Ft. Wayne was always sending members out to church plants all over the country. Once someone really starting showing leadership qualities in the church, the left for a new church in Florida or Minnesota or where ever. It was crazy, but God kept bringing up others to replace them, who in turn were called elsewhere, and replaced by someone else!
I know this doesn't apply well to a collegiate situation, but maybe someone else might have a suggestion for that. And while I would agree that it's impossible for any one person to be aware of and battle all injustice, I honestly believe that with the resources the American church has, we as a body could do a pretty good job of it if we all picked one area/aspect/place and threw ourselves into it with all our might. My point for this discussion is not that we need to rally the American church, it's that we need to rally our local
church, and let that be our witness.
Here's something else. I don't know if any of you check out this blog ever but it's pretty interesting. Read over the two articles on worship:
"Attention Journalists" and "The Plugged-in revolution"
There's some interesting things about worship here. I guess that the quote from Barna really gets me going since I consider transactionalism to be anti-Gospel and here it is setting up at the center of worship...
"What we know about Americans is that we view ourselves first and foremost as consumers," said Barna. "Even when we walk in the doors of our churches what we tend to do is to wonder how can I get a good transaction out of this experience. ... So, what we know from our research is that Americans have made worship something that primarily that we do for ourselves. When is it successful? When we feel good."
In response to andy, the sins of unawareness, and God vs. injustice
To begin, I think I can appreciate the time that you have to take in writing for something like this, as this is how it is for me on things that come easily for others (like loving people). At the same time, perhaps writing out your thoughts, although difficult, is important for seeing what you believe or what you're doing. On to your other points:
I agree and endorse your claim that the only way we have things come to our attention is to make yourself aware of them. I think that your account of the easy life is, for most people in our context, a choice that is available and attractive. I also agree that when your employment involves 'loving others' that does not make it a given and truly loving others takes work for you as much as me or anyone else. Finally, I know that your youth ministry includes the integration of these issues with the lives of your students and this has become central to your ministry.
The first point of your statement that makes me uncomfortable, however, begins with this lurking notion of "nobility in calling." I hope that we can dispose of such a myth, not simply in official doctrine but in the way we view each other. There is no calling more noble than any other. I know that you're not suggesting this but I believe it is important to be careful with our words in this area.
Of all of the ideas you suggested, your final point raises some questions in my mind that perhaps were coming up throughout the rest of the post. I agree that there is danger is suggesting that people are not 'passionate enough' about God or whatever if they do not share our interests. My question is this; are there certain things that, despite a particular calling God has put on your life, are essential to following Christ? I'm not talking about something that must be done to be considered a Christ follower but rather something that follows from following Christ. I think there are. We would agree that Christian community, worship of God, spiritual disciplines, and loving others all fall in this category, right? When we recognize people within the church who are not doing these practices we are quick to understand that there must be some sort of spiritual immaturity (trust me, as one who struggles with actualizing classical Christian community or worshiping God in traditional ways, I know this is accepted)
My point is this. If we're serious about following Jesus we get very little in the way of practical, life applicable advice from the good book of what to do. But in the ministry of Jesus somethings do become clear. There is the is proclamation of the gospel, prayer, and fellowship. But there is also the battle against injustice. In fact, this can arguably be considered the underlying force behind all of Jesus' ministry. His proclamation of the Gospel was a proclamation of freedom and liberation for the oppressed. His message of prayer included the meeting of the physical needs of people who have been left out. And his fellowship was one of radical inclusion, both rich, poor etc. I'm wondering if in Jesus' life with the poor and oppressed and his overwhelming work to overthrow oppressive evil (in life, death, and resurrection) if we aren't looking at a central concept of following Jesus. You're right to say it is impossible for us (as in you and me in isolation) to be aware and battle all injustice. But you are wrong if this means that this is impossible. If we believe in the resurrection of the dead, what is convincing some people to change their minds, etc? If we are truly the body of Christ, as in the people through whom God accomplishes his desires on earth, and it is the work of Christ to overthrow evil and injustice, then I believe it is fair to not only believe but expect the church to address and overthrow all injustice in the world.
In conclusion, I agree that we are not to be judging those who are not going to Iraq or living in the projects. But shouldn't we have somewhere in our concept of sin the act of choosing not to actualize our awareness that you mentioned earlier? If it is up to us to choose to be exposed to the suffering of the world, the billions of people who go without food or the injustice spending of trillions of dollars a year on death through war, what can be said of the Christians who choose the simple life? I'm having a hard time not seeing this as one of the fundamental evils at work within the North American evangelical church. This is partnered with the choice of many who are aware still not doing anything about it. I'm not saying you have to move to Iraq to follow Jesus, I'm just saying that Jesus would probably be in Iraq (or Israel right?) and that when we follow him we go where he's going. In the very least, wherever Jesus was he was surrounded by losers and was challenging what was not only acceptable but what was moral, acceptable, and Godly.
What's everyone else think? Anyone know of anyone new to join the conversations?
Here's Why... (at least for me)
Hey Guys. Here's the deal. There has been a reluctance to post on my part because I really have been busy, but not too busy too think about what was being talked about on this message board. For some who post on this board writting is something that flows out of you almost as easily as exhailing. For me it often takes work. I really want to contribute to the conversation on major issues, but sometimes I can't because I don't have the time, brain power, or words to really express what I'm thinking on the issues at hand. Basically, I want to post things that mean something, and for me that takes a little more work than it does for others.
Now, let me address what it will take for things that aren't in my wheel house to catch my attention. It takes me being aware. Let me explain what an easy life for me would be. It would be me waking up, going to my job, doing my job, going home. Sure my job takes a little interacting with people, but it would be very easy for me to head home, do a little reading of something I bought from the Anchor Room, and go to bed, peacefully, thinking that all was well with my soul. For me to be affected by something means that I have to care about something other than myself.
Now, it is natural to assume that someone who is in the business of people (sociologists, ministry, res life) is in the business of caring for people full time. The difference between doing my job and caring about things outside of my wheel house is that one is the easy road and the other takes work. To be informed about the issues that are taking place across the ocean or even across the street one has to take time to move past the here and now of their dailly life, responsibilities, or personal relationships and look for where there are needs, hurts, pains, desires that need to be met.
I wish that I could say that I make the choice to care at all times but I can tell you honestly sometimes I can't get past myself, my current situation, how I feel, or even that I just don't care. That is NO excuse for not caring though, and I believe it is integral to my life in Christ. Furthermore I think IT IS MY RESPONSIBILITY AS A YOUTH MINISTER TO BRING THESE ISSUES BEFORE THE STUDENTS I AM MINISTERING TOO.
I have seen how exposure to peoples needs, hurts, pains, desires has changed and shaped students from my ministry in very real ways. Ways that I believe will last a lifetime, and even spur them onto things that I never thought students would be interested in.
Last year I took 5 kids from our high school ministry to inner-city philidelphia. We had an opportunity to work with all sorts of people while we were out there and were exposed to all sorts of things. Just last month we took a trip to Butler, PA and worked with inner city kids. There were 4 students who went on both of those trips, and one that was affected dramatically by the situations they saw their fellow man in places they've never seen anyone in. Because of these trips she has decided that she is going to spend her life working with inner-city kids. The most amazing part is that she is in the process of getting plugged into an active ministry in downtown Fort Wayne with kids right in her own community.
I know that youth ministry in a church on the North West side may not be considered the nobelest of callings to some who read this, but I know that's where I'm called to be, without a doubt in my mind. If that is true, and looking for a way to help cure injustices is key to my relationship with Christ (as well as all the other followers of Christ) it seems as if this is key in being obedient to Christ.
On another note, I think that it is impossible to be aware of and battle against all injustice. At times I think that we think that people who are not passionate about the things that we're passionate about don't "care enough". Every now and then I think that people confuse a sure calling with apathy for all other endevors. I think we have to bring issues to the forefront so people are aware of these injustices, but we cannot judge the heart of individuals in service to others based on what we have decided are important. I may have just dispuited my previous point, but oh well...
Finally count me among the blessed to have a new gmail address. You can find me at asikoraATgmail.com
Remember Why Not? What a great idea. Hey everyone, I haven't stopped by for a while because I didn't know what to say. I mean, I tried going all "what's really on my person (rejecting the mind/heart dualism)" but no one cared and that was different. Or, rather, I was only speaking to myself. When the only other relevant post dealt with the Passion, which I have not seen and mostly have offended people in talking about it, I decided to 'unplug' from anything obviously Christian for a while. And here I am again. I guess my question is this, based on the last few posts.
For Dusty: i agree with jonny's vague complaint that we too are engaged in full time activities but find the time and care to search through what's going on in the rest of the world. The rest of this applies to brian and andy and anyone else reading; is it not your duty as an RD or minister or simply a Christian to be engaged in the world outside of your context? If not, why not?
I will try to only talk about things in the context of this blog that are easily accessible and not obviously theological or philosophical. In the meantime, I suggest we get talking about something because I'm guessing all of us will be better at our full time activities if we're talking. So, Jonny, I'm still stuck on the avoidance option with the passion and, like every other fad around these sorts of places, it has mostly passed on with the exception of Sunday morning references. It seems like it was placed within the context of the lenten season and just as easily as we forget Easter the monday after we have left this film in storage until next year. Jonny may be interested in looking at the following article in the chicago tribune and the backlash that has come about from it:
To everyone: what does it mean for you to have a perspective outside of your context? How are you doing this? What would it take for something like Iraq, the addition of countries to the EU, or the poverty within your own towns to get into your field of vision? How can we teach sociology, study theology, or minister to people if we're not looking beyond our time and place (as in 2.30 this afternoon in my apartment)? Is it just me or does anyone else see the contradicition (i know this is vaguely philosophical concept) between what we're all doing and a refusal to look outside of our context? Finally, perhaps we should invite some other people who are interested in talking about these issues but not in immediate contact with each other and thus looking for a place to talk. Any ideas? What the hell are any of you doing anyway? Andy, I know that you've got some things in your ministry you're excited about and other areas you're looking for help. Dusty, I know you're trying to stradle a couple of fences with Sociology and student D that could have some interesting questions. Jonny, I have no idea what you're doing other than reading the internet and teaching computers. Brian, i don't know even know if you're still alive. So, everyone can answer my previous questions, talk about the passion, invite someone else to talk about something, or simply tell everyone what's going on. Here's to the beginning of the summer of love!