Archive for March, 2007

simplicity

This is from Jared Looney‘s periodic prayer update for God’s work in the Bronx. Good stuff.

As of the year 2000, those identifying with Christianity of one form or another amounted to 33% of the world population (still the largest faith on the planet). Collectively receiving $15.2 trillion dollars a year (53% of the world’s total income), the global church spends 97% of it on ourselves.

A few nights ago, 20/20 featured a ministry called Ministry Watch (www.ministrywatch.org). This ministry is led by a man who handled millions of dollars on Wall Street for 10 years. Now, he has accepted a vocation of calling ministries to financial transparency. Weary of the financial abuses through religious, Christianity-like messages, they are working to create accountability. And they might just make an impact. For example, Joyce Meyer sold some of her multi-million dollar mansions after receiving an “F” from Ministry Watch. The ABC report highlighted popular preachers with multi-million dollar homes, private jets, and a message that seems to keep people motivated to make them rich.At the turn of the milennium, 2.8 billion (46%) of the globe’s population live in poverty with 1.1 billion living in “absolute poverty.” 26.9% of the world (1.6 billion) is “unaware of Christianity, Christ, or the Gospel.” Currently, for the first time in history the world is now more than 50% urban.

In the 1980’s Harvie Conn, an urban missions scholar, argued that the only way contemporary Christians will have the potential for world evangelism is to learn to live simply. Not necessarily a vow of poverty, but certainly more simply than our consumer culture.

Did Jesus discuss any subject more than economics and religion?

Heavenly Father, your name is holy. Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Provide us with our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us. Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. Yours is the Kingdom, the power, and the glory. Amen.

-Jared

*Statistics taken from David Barrett and Todd Johnson.

the secret

msoul_left.jpgTaylor and I had a great weekend hanging out in the New York City area. We enjoyed a prolonged conversation with Jared Looney over an extended Italian lunch on Saturday and coffee and dinner with Ben Cheek that evening, during which we gleaned much from a couple of guys who have been proclaiming Jesus in an urban context for quite a while now. (the Loonies and their team in the Bronx; the Cheeks in Jersey City, NJ)

On Sunday morning, we joined the Bronx Fellowship crew for a special assembly in a local school in correlation with a conflict resolution seminar they offered Monday night. They only rarely get the whole group together for a time of worship (the church meets in the apartments of its members), usually only for special seminars or classes. Many of the BF “regulars” were out of town, but we were able to see that the BF is a prayerful community that expects to see the lives of its members transformed by Jesus Christ. In fact, we prayed corporately and passionately over a member of the church who is struggling to break free from addiction.

What began as Jared moving to the city 6 years ago turned into one house church … and 6 years later, at least 10 vibrant communities exist in multiple burroughs in two states in the Metro area. Believers from all over are continually drawn to the movement; its first 2-year apprentice will soon be replaced by another apprentice, and this summer, seven interns (6 from ACU) will temporarily join God’s work in NYC.

Could God be birthing something similar in Boston? In Abilene, TX? In Chicago? Based on early evidence, this seems to be the case.

But if precedents like New York are any reflection, we needn’t complicate things more than they need to with all the frills humans tend to add to God’s redemptive work. Ask the high school girl who came to know Jesus and kick drugs through a simple conversation and the love of some imperfect Christians what’s important. Or the addict we prayed for on Sunday.

Based on what we saw in NY this past weekend, the following things — though not bad or evil themselves — are probably unnecessary for this movement to occur: property (besides apartments), a big budget, a worship minister, preaching, gospel tracks, a slick marketing campaign, frequent large-group gatherings …

What is necessary? The lives of people broken for the sake of the world, engaging and critiquing the culture, becoming like Jesus more every day.
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On a related note, I loved this quote from Terry Rush in the comments section on this PreacherMike post:

The reason “The Secret” is best known for being “out of stock” at local bookstores is because the world is clamoring for hope. Why didn’t it find it in Christianity? Because we took the light out of its socket so we could inspect the finer details of the wiring.

Society is willing to give their devotion to the light….but not to the ornate lampstand and its well-decorated shade.

weekend rip-offs

A few tid-bits I found this week on the interwebs. Be blessed.

We find throughout Scripture that humans are invited to worship the God in whose image they are made. By worshipping this God (which involves repentance and faith; the faith involves learning to recognize this God in the crucified and risen Jesus), they are restored as image-bearers.
When people continually and consistently refuse to worship this God, they progressively reflect this image less and less. Instead, they reflect the images of what they are worshipping. Since all else other than the true creator God is heading for death, this means that they buy into a system of death, [which] leads, by one’s own choice, to an eventual erasing of that which makes us truly human.
— NT Wright, in answer to a request for a definition of what “damnation” means (HT: Beth)

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Here is a description of Ryan Bolger’s “Church and Mission” class at Fuller Theological Seminary. I would take this class in a heartbeat. Wow.

In my Church and Mission class this last quarter, we discussed this idea — continuing the work of Jesus as the primary task of ‘church’. We talked about Jesus’ central message, the proclamation of the kingdom of God. We talked about how the church finds its true identity when it continues this proclamation, both in their corporate life and in the story they tell about God. We talked about how the kingdom is not an abstract concept — Jesus’ proclamation created a space that included the outcasts and the sinners and invited them into community. It gave voice to the voiceless, the enemy a seat at the table.

I asked my very big class (74 students!), what would it look like if our sole mission strategy was to continue Jesus’ ministry? And what if it had to stay pretty concrete, staying pretty close to the actual things Jesus did in community with his disciples? What if that was the stuff we had to get right, the central stuff, and that the other stuff, while important, was peripheral? In our jobs at Starbucks, or in our neighborhood groups, or in our church systems, what if hospitality, including the marginalized, overflowing generosity, giving voice to those without, were the essentials? Could these sorts of communal practices point to God and change the world?

In our class, we replaced the church rubric (how many are in or out?) with kingdom rubrics — how are our practices, anywhere, like the kingdom (or not)? Are our activities that we participate in moving in that direction? How might we foster, through our conversations, positive moves towards the kingdom at Starbucks, in our neighborhoods, and in our church systems? (HT)

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New England has the largest gap between rich and poor than any region in the United States (story)

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And, last but not least, scary militant Christians.

Enjoy!

happy all the time?

Well, the brief hiccup regarding my comments sections appears to be over. Unfortunately, however, comments on all previous posts are lost. But please feel free to leave your comments on more recent posts if you want. The problem should be fixed from here on forward.
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I’m headed to the Bronx this afternoon with Taylor to visit with some likeminded folks (video) in that area. Looking forward to gleaning some of their 5+ years of experience doing what they do, as well as wearing my Red Sox hat in the thick of the Evil Empire. Wish the wives could come, though …

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I’m inright, outright, upright, downright happy all the time.
I’m inright, outright, upright, downright happy all the time.

Since Jesus Christ came in,
And cleansed my heart from sin.
I’m inright, outright, upright, downright happy all the time.

Ahh, nothing like false hopes and destructive theology to spice up a children’s church song. =)

There seems to be a problem with my comments, as readers are unable to open and view them.  I am having this looked at.  Thanks for your patience!

pain

I’ve had a great week with my brother Mitch in town since last Sunday. We’ve gone to shows, toured museums, enjoyed 70 degree days, endured a snowy Nor’easter, and had some amazing “bro time.” (hopefully, this adequately explains my absence from blogging this week) All the while, Chrissy was in Puerto Rico all week for a special public policy class as part of her MBA studies. She talked to politicians and business leaders, studied various issues impacting the commonwealth, and enjoyed some great weather and food in Old San Juan.

But for a handful of families that we know of here in Boston, this past week was not so great. In fact, it was hell. I’ve mentioned on this blog our friends Aaron and Amy who started a church in one of the roughest neighborhoods in Boston. Over the last 3+ years, they have seen some amazing changes in the neighborhood where their church meets, including several of the youth finding a purpose for their life beyond the streets — including college. Well, two of the boys with whom A & A have been working experienced the loss of their mother this week. She died of complications following a drug overdose, but her whole life was tumultuous; an active participant in the life of the church a few years ago, she has been on a downward spiral the last few years, abusing drugs and contracting AIDS. She lay as a vegetable until this week, when she finally passed on.

On Tuesday, hours after news of the mother’s death, word came that another boy in the youth group had been shot three times and was in intensive care. The boy, whose brother actually lived with A & A for a while, nearly had his life taken from him in broad daylight (you can read about that day and the incident from a Christian guy who lives just steps from where the shooting took place, and actually heard the shots. His reflections are here.) The night before, the kid who was shot was at the church’s youth meeting. Earlier in the day, Amy was helping him find a job in the area. He has since been moved out of intensive care and is doing better, but please pray for him and all those involved. Also keep the 4 boys who lost their mother this week in your prayers.

How does one explain what happened in Dorchester this week? Do easy answers suffice in situations like this? It’s clear that God’s work in that neighborhood — and specifically the work He is doing through Aaron and Amy — is under fire. But this week’s events reveal a much deeper truth: this world is full of pain. This world is broken. The groaning of mothers in Dorchester and fathers in Sudan and children in Tennessee are the groans of all of a creation that seeks redemption and “making right.” Clearly, we cannot rely on our own power to “set the world right” … all human effort has contributed is more pain.

Thank God we have a Savior. Thank God our Savior is working in and through his people to redeem this world, one person … household … community at a time. May we mourn with those who mourn, and respond to suffering by speaking truths about the human condition. Then, let us announce the truth that God’s ways are greater than our ways, that the cross was the difinitive act of God that would begin to make the world right and end pain, and that we can both become “whole” on this Earth AND join God in his work in the world.

What good news.

what is a christian?

Cody posed this great question in the comments of the last post, but I want to make sure everyone has a chance to think about it and comment if they so desire.  He asks:

What does it take to be considered a Christian?  Is following the teachings of Jesus enough to be considered a Jesus follower?  Does one also have to follow the teachings of Paul and others?  Does one have to buy into the teachings of The Church (The Church prior to the reformation) that have been co-opted into popular Christianity?

Well?