Archive for the ‘ Ministry ’ Category

Vince Campbell

Here are three youtube clips of great commentary on the early church – specifically the divisions that emerged from different cultural perspectives and cultural philosophies.  The video is from a workshop he and Soong Chan Rah led at this year’s CCDA (which I was unfortunately unable to attend).

Vince is currently a PhD student at Catholic University, studying the early African church.

Thoughts?

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Are We There Yet?

Urban Faith recently published my article on Christianity Today International’s newest short-term missions curriculum, Round Trip.

Excerpt

Round Trip includes the typical information that likely can be found in a variety of training manuals for short-term mission candidates. But unlike many of those programs, this documentary and handbook bring an intimate, real-life narrative to the exciting but often uncomfortable experience of traveling to another country to share the gospel. [read more]

Interview with Soong-Chan Rah

I wanted to pass this article. It is an interview with Northpark University professor Soong-Chan Rah about diversity in the church and his new book The Next Evangelicalism.  Several of the questions of from me and the others come from Ed Gilbreath and some others at UrbanFaith.com. Here are some of the questions asked.

Practically speaking, do you think the strong tone and language of your book will change the mind of someone who isn’t already passionate about diversity in the church?

You seem to suggest a connection between the Korean/Korean American church and the African American church. Where does this come from, and why do you establish such a connection?

How do ethnic minorities begin a conversation amongst themselves about reaching out to other racial and ethnic groups?

You offer a blistering critique of the emerging church movement, suggesting that it is overhyped and lacks diversity. Is diversity possible in the “emerging” or “emergent” churches”? It seems as if Christians involved in that movement are extremely cultural bound, even more so than “mainstream” evangelical Christianity?

It seems that often the conversation is how white churches can become more diverse, which can come off as an expression of white dominance or perpetuate the phenomenon of “white guilt” as a motivator. Would you suggest that some white and minority churches serving in the same neighborhood merge rather than having white churches glibly trying to be diverse?

Greed

If one desires a short, and invigorating read about the evolution of greed in western secular and Christian culture, Phyllis Tickle’s Greed is an ideal read. Greed is a part of the Seven Deadly Sins series, a joint effort between Oxford University press and the NY public library – it is also a series on my Amazon wish list.

Before diving into the book it is important to note two qualities. First, the shortness of the book is primarily due to the fact the book is an edited transcription of a lecture given by Tickle at the NY public library. This causes the reader to feel somewhat out of place. One senses that they should be present, hearing these words, not in their home or a coffee shop attempting to read them. The format of the book also includes a relatively lengthy prologue and epilogue. Honestly theses are my least favorite parts of any book so they will not receive more than this mention.

The second aspect of Greed is Tickle’s dictum, candor and language. As she often does, Tickle evokes one’s intelligence. She jogs the mind and necessitates multiple synapses to occur within one’s brain. However, Greed also flirts with waxing intellectual and academic pontification rather than prophetic wisdom. This may cause a reader to turn off in the middle of the text. However, it is worth persevering. At the least, struggle though the text once and then read it again. The historical insight becomes clearer and more profound with repetition.

Tickle begins by examining the Apostle Paul’s commentary on greed. Perhaps most interesting in this section is Tickle’s examination of the Pauline phrase “the love of money is the root of all evil”. This phrase – originally Radix Omnium Maloran Avaritia –, when viewed as an acrostic makes a powerful social statement.

Radix

Omnium

Maloran

Avaritia

Though Tickle does not say this directly, the creative relevance suggests that Paul meant to both resist falling in love with money in and of itself and the seduction to the materialistic ways of the Roman Empire.  I personally, connect this to our present state in the USA and the ease in which Christians can fall into the “American way” rather than Christian values of money and subsequently preach the Gospel of Capitalism with word and dead.

After examining Paul, Tickle moves on to the  Psychomachia which is a literary work which chronicles a series of battles between seven virtues and vices. They story of Greed (indulgence) tells of Greed’s initial failure to overcome then her transformation into thrift. This is one of my favorite sections of commentary. Thrift is so often viewed as a virtue; as an act of restraint. However, thrift suggests a lack of willingness to give what an item is worth and a preoccupation with retaining – or hording – money. Thrift is not congruent with stewardship. Thrift encourages the purchasing of cheap goods rather than durable ones. Thrift is the ideology which says “because it is cheap it is good”. It is the mantra of the American culture. Thrift is we purchase cheap goods to retain money not to serve others and end up purchasing abundantly more because of perceived and designed obsolescence.

Tickle then goes through a series of works of art – The Seven Deadly Sins, the Haywain, Big Fish Eat Little Fish, Greenspan Buddha, the Christmas Carol, Greed and Wall Street. In the midst, Tickle refers to Hebrew College professor Solomon Schimmel’s observation of the secularization of greed. His concern is that evil has become viewed to have only social implications rather than spiritual ones. This dimension – somewhat Gnostic – has not  allowed the church or the individual to connect greed to a break with God or evoke a need for reconciliation.

Within Tickle’s essay one can easily see her burgeoning ideas of the Great Emergence. Tickle believed then – and is more convicted now – that we are one the fourth 500 year seismic shift in which a re-formation within the church occurs. Though I am unsure I agree that this is a global occurrence – perhaps it is relevant in the Western church. Despite my questions, this aspect is important to realize as Tickle presented an urgency in re-spiritualizing greed.  And viewing it’s impact as broad in pervasive both personally and socially. Tickle’s perspective is continuously imaginative and thought provoking.

Greed is a worthwhile read. And though short in words, packs a punch of an espresso or jalapeño seed. You will not read Greed and remain static in your views and your examination of Greed’s interaction with us a contemporary creations of God.

Beautiful Togetherness

Sf Gate

The Rev. George Cummings looked out over his congregation in the Laurel District of Oakland and saw white faces sitting next to black ones. Piedmonters sat next to Oaklanders.One of the most intractable racial divides in America – the self-segregation of churches – was being bridged before his eyes.

“The God who calls us to be together, calls us to oneness,” said Cummings, pastor of Imani Community Church.

“Amen,” said someone in the crowd.

“We are not always there yet, but we are on our way,” said Cummings, who is black.

“That’s right,” said another voice from the pews.

Cummings’ church and Piedmont Community Church decided that they would come together as one people. They will worship together periodically. They’ve started to mix into each others’ Bible studies. Their choirs sing together. Their children have gone on a mission trip together to Tijuana. On Sunday, May 3 and May 17, they had ceremonies affirming their covenant with each other.

Piedmont Community Church is predominantly white, as much as Imani is black. They are only 10 minutes apart by car, yet before this relationship began, neither pastor had been to the neighborhood of the other’s church. All sides see bridging the divide as bearing fruit. Read More

My heart was blessed by this article. Seeing the Kingdom of God uniting and overcoming racial/ethnic barriers is satisfying to my soul. What is wonderful about this situation is the fact that churches are literally 10 minutes from one another, thus the potential for collaboration and eventually integration is there. I am sure that if they decided to integrate permanently there will be culture collisions, but those tensions would be growth pangs that lead one another towards Godliness.

Shallow differences of style and preference often get in the way of us being true community together.

One of the congregation members made a wonderful comment to bookend this article.

Jan Hunter, an Imani member, said doing the right thing sometimes means feeling uncomfortable. A few years ago, the Imani congregation christened the child of a lesbian couple. It was a first for many in the congregation.

“I don’t know what we thought was going to happen,” said Hunter, 54, who is black. “Everyone was happy. Lightning did not strike.”

She said it was probably uncomfortable for some to worship with people they’d had prejudices about – in both directions. But, she said, “You have to start somewhere.”

“Doing the right thing sometimes means feeling uncomfortable”; simple and profound. We are a comfort seeking culture one of the ways this is manifested is the continued racial and socioeconomic segregation of our churches (and neighborhoods).

One of the most important elements of this article is that these are old churches. They aren’t church plants by young folks who see the need for multi-cultural congregations. While new plants are beneficial, there is something rich in reconciliation when churches change directions and acknowledge the ills of their separation. These two churches have histories, they existed for years. The fact that they are willing to understand the biblical call for unity, acknowledge the social rift between ethnicities and humble themselves is simply incredible.

I am encouraging my church to participate in this type of relationship. We live approximately 30 minutes from any church that is not predominately white,  so whatever relationship we form will not be one that leads to one integrated local church. But, racial reconciliation between Christians can most definitely be done . Churches can learn to worship and serve with those “different from them”, understand the needs of different communities and become a larger body of Christ.

Huntington, Indiana has a dark racial history and although things have changed there are mutual negative perceptions between he minority communities in Fort Wayne , Marion, and Huntington.  If something can occur it will not only mend the brokenness with the church, but within our communities.

Prayer

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
Amen.

–Reinhold Niebuhr


Soul Searching

Soul Searching is a film for anyone wanting to know more about the spiritual lives of teenagers. The book – of the same title and well worth the read – is robust in its examinations and shows the complexities and sometimes shallowness of teenage spirituality.

This DVD does the same. The DVD gives images and audible voices to the stories of teenage spirituality and helps the watcher connect with the student’s spiritual life through wonderful statistical commentary. Ideally, this film is not one to watch and set aside as a good documentary. It is one that is meant to challenge the way we do “youth ministry” and view our teenagers as they develop spiritually.

Here is a the review from Amazon.

In 2005, Oxford University Press released a very important book. Sociologists from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill had just released their findings of a comprehensive study of the religious views of American teenagers. And what they found was nothing less than shocking. According to Christian Smith, the primary author of the book Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American teenagers, the actual professed religion of most young adults, whether they’re being raised in Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Presbyterian, or Jewish homes, is what he called Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. What this means is that although many teens believe in God and go to church regularly, they end up defining belief in very vague and subjective terms, such as, God exists, He’s there when we need him, He wants us to be happy, The purpose of life is to feel good, Good people go to heaven, and so forth. Now, in 2007, a documentary film version of Soul Searching was just released by Revelation Studios. And on this edition of the White Horse Inn webcast, Michael Horton talks with Michael Eaton, the co-director of the film, as well as Christian Smith himself, the primary researcher behind the project, about their new documentary Soul Searching: A Movie About Teenagers & God. Based on a seven year study of the religious views of American teens, this film presents some troubling findings about the content and quality of the faith being passed on to the next generation. –Whitehorse Inn