Together in Christ: Race, the Gospel and God’s People

On Monday, January 26, 2015,  Eastbrook Church was honored to host Bishop Walter Harvey of Parklawn Assembly of God for a conversation and time of prayer on the topic of race and the Gospel here in the city of Milwaukee. We opened a lot of points of discussion, did not address everything, perhaps raised more questions than we answered, but it was a great opportunity to press in deeper as the people of God together.

You can watch the video of the whole session below and access our recommended next steps here.

Four times a year we gather as a church to discuss key topics to help us move forward together. This year, we begin our Leadership Forum series with by addressing the challenging topic of how the gospel transforms racial divisions in our world and city. In a city known as one of the most segregated cities in the United States, we want to live into the dream of God for a multiethnic people rooted in the reconciling gospel of Jesus Christ.

Next Steps from Leadership Forum, 26 January 2015

Four times a year we gather in a Leadership Forum at Eastbrook Church to discuss key topics to help us move forward together in ministry. This year, we begin our Leadership Forum series with by addressing the challenging topic of how the gospel transforms racial divisions in our world and city. In a city known as one of the most segregated cities in the United States, we want to live into the dream of God for a multi-ethnic people rooted in the reconciling gospel of Jesus Christ.

It was a gift to have Bishop Walter Harvey of Parklawn Assembly of God join us for this discussion. At the end of the night we recommended a series of next steps and I wanted to make those available to a wider audience via my blog.

Next Steps: What Do I Do Now?

#1 Get with God
• Acknowledge and repent of any sin (see Psalm 51; Daniel 9:4-19)
• Lament over our nation (see Lamentations)
• Pray as Christ prayed (see John 17)

#2 Know and Apply what the Bible Teaches
• Read Genesis 12:1-3 in light of God’s multiethnic mission
• Read Ephesians with attention to chapter 2 on the new humanity in Jesus of Jews and Gentiles brought together
• Read Galatians in light of the situation that Paul describes in chapters 1 and 2

#3 Understand the BackgroundRead More »

World Watch List 2015

Today, Open Doors released the World Watch List 2015, a resource developed “to track and measure the extent of persecution in the world.” Open Doors has been tracking religious persecution of Christians since the 1970s and their approach to the work is well-informed and reliable. Religious persecution affects many religious groups and not just Christians. Still, there has been widespread recognition over the past few years that religious persecution of Christians is on the rise globally (see my earlier posts on Iraq, Syria, and the trials of Christians in the MidEast).

You can see an infographic of the list below and can read the entire report here. Christianity Today also has a nice overview of the watch list today in the article, “‘Not Forgotten’: The Top 50 Countries Where It’s Most Difficult to be a Christian.”

Here are a few highlights within the overall trends on this year’s list:

  • “The Top 10 countries where Christians face the most pressure and violence in the reporting period of the WWL 2015 are, in order: North Korea, Somalia, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan, Iran, Pakistan, Eritrea and Nigeria.”
  • North Korea continues in the #1 position, as it has for the past decade and more
  • Kenya (a majority Christian nation) and Djibouti have the highest jump in persecution ranking this year, from  positions in the 40s to the 20s
  • The impact of the group known as the Islamic State has strongly impacted the persecution levels in both Iraq and Syria. This includes a dramatic flight of Christians from these countries to other havens for safety.

World Watch List 2015

What the Church and Pastors Need to Learn from Ferguson

Chris Brooks & Matt EricksonThis blog post is co-authored by Chris Brooks and Matt Erickson. 

As I watched things unfold in Ferguson recently, I felt a surging of different thoughts and feelings within me. There was a mixture of sadness and fear, anger and helplessness, and my mind raced to come to terms with what this means not only for our nation but for the church. I’m a pastor of a multiethnic church in Milwaukee. Our church has been a community that is diverse ethnically, socio-economically, politically, and in other ways. As I sat and watched the events and all that has followed since, I wondered, “what is required of the people of God when such difficult and painful things grip our nation?”

As I have reflected since that painful evening last week, I have reached some preliminary conclusions. Let me suggest the following things we need to do as Christians, and a few action steps specifically for church leaders in light of the events of this past week and the ongoing national dialog.

1. Humble yourself: A posture of humility allows you to hear God’s voice above the political commentators and the ungodly opinions of this fallen world. In this situation, humility means that we are willing to step beyond our own desires, fears, and pride to consider things from God’s perspective and desires.

2. Think theologically: This is not just a social issue, this is a theological issue.  God created all of humankind in His image, yet not all are necessarily treated as “image bearers.”  This should cause unrest and lead to repentance within our Churches and Christian Institutions.Read More »

Unity – the driving aim in Jesus’ prayer

2014-11-13 13.14.09A couple of weeks ago, I was visiting the Middle East, in order to spend time with some friends and church partners there. Jordan is one of the most stable countries in the midst of a particularly turbulent region, thanks to a variety of factors, including . Even though the Christian population of Jordan is less than 3% of the entire nation, the relative stability of Jordan gives tremendous opportunities for the church and individual Christians to touch the lives of those who are seeking refuge in their country.

In one part of the country, where refugees are spilling over the border from neighboring Syria and Iraq, I witnessed a number of people and groups from various backgrounds working together. The needs are massive, but the total amount of work being done was much larger than what one person or group could do on its own.

It is amazing what happens when people come together to serve a great need with greater unity.Read More »