The Weekend Wanderer: 26 October 2019

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

PF_10.17.19_rdd_update-00-020“In U.S., Decline of Christianity Continues at Rapid Pace” – How many times have you heard about the decline of Christianity in the US in the past few years? More than you’d like to say, I would expect. There are some voices saying that the statistics speak to many other changes in culture, others the theological truth tells us something else, while other voices say the implications are not all bad. Here is the latest look at the data from the Pew Research Center on religion and public life. The bottom line: Christianity of every stripe is in decline in the US while the religiously unaffiliated (“religious nones”) are on the rise. What does this mean? Well, that is certainly a larger discussion that must take into account the nature of organized religion, shifts in social value of religion, shifts in social engagement as a whole in the US, and honesty about personal engagement within religion.

 

92589“Why We Still Prophesy Hope” – I have been involved here in Milwaukee with efforts to transform the racial divides both in our city and inside the church fellowships here. This type of work involves honest self-assessments, engaging with painful stories, encouraging those different from one another to journey together, and also somehow pointing to real change. It can be exhausting, humbling, and frustrating work at times. It is also hopeful work. Here is Dante Stewart speaking to that from his own journey and story.

 

Screen Shot 2019-10-24 at 9.38.10 AM“Accusing SBC of ‘caving,’ John MacArthur says of Beth Moore: ‘Go home'” – I first encountered the teaching of John MacArthur in probably the worst way possible. After coming to Christ through a charismatic renewal, someone shared MacArthur’s book, Charismatic Chaos, with me in an attempt to fix my “bad” theology of the Holy Spirit. It didn’t work, but it did serve as a strange introduction to a renowned American Bible teacher. Since that time, others I respect helped me to appreciate certain aspects of MacArthur’s expository preaching ministry. Still, I have always struggled with his less than irenic approach to controversial issues. That was confirmed further when, at a celebration of fifty years of ministry, when MacArthur was asked to make word associations with certain theological issues or figures, he responded to “Beth Moore” with “Go home.” You can listen to the whole clip here. I have friends who do not support women in preaching or ordained ministry and we can have a healthy discussion about our differing views, but MacArthur’s sharp words do not seem helpful here. Beth Moore responded via Twitter, and others, such as Kay Warren and SBC President J. D. Greear, have weighed in. In many ways, this is nothing new for MacArthur, as Christianity Today highlighted, “John MacArthur Is No Stranger to Controversy.”

 

8rriw2o“Pilgrims, Priests, and Breaking Bread in an Alpine Monastery” – I’m not alone in thinking that there is not enough silence in our lives. Of course, the lack of external silence is often a reflection of the lack of internal silence in our lives. For me, drawing away from the noise, voices, and busyness regularly helps me to recovery my identity. I often do this in nature, but have at times gathered in spaces set apart for this, such as retreat houses, monasteries, or camps. Every once in awhile it’s refreshing to catch a view of this experience from someone with fresh eyes. Timothy Egan does just that as he relates his encounter with Ignatian spirituality, silence, space, and listening in a visit to the Great St. Bernard Hospice.

 

Columba Stewart“A Monk of the Secular Age” – Speaking of monks, why not read about the life of Columba Stewart, a Benedictine monk who has traversed the world to help save and catalog ancient religious texts. Even finding himself in the midst of war zones, including Iraq, he has worked tirelessly to gather and digitize these texts to preserve them and make them accessible to scholars and the broader world. This reminds us of the historic efforts of monasticism to preserve works that would otherwise be lost, giving us links to earlier eras and societies that have formed the history of thought in ways we should not underestimate.

 

St Lydias Brooklyn“Dinner Church, anyone?” – What is church? How should we live together as church? These questions repeat in discussions again and again. They are not new, but they always bring new answers within the changing context of human culture and social experience. I was talking with a friend over lunch just over a week ago, and we shared our own thoughts about these questions. When I read this article by Michael Frost, I was reminded of some of that discussion, because this very idea had popped up there. I’m not really into pursuing fads in church models, but Frost’s exploration and sharing of examples is thought-provoking. Here’s Frost: “So, what is dinner church? Well, it’s dinner. And church. Scrunched together. But there’s so much more to it than that. Here’s a few dinner churches from around the world to give you a little taste.”

 

Music: Mavis Staples, “You Are Not Alone,” from You Are Not Alone (written by Jeff Tweedy)

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

Pastor, Know Your Context

When I was a graduate student, I took a missions class called “Contextualization” as an elective. The class was essentially intended to equip missionaries for understanding the cross-cultural context, or setting, in which they were going to do mission work so that they could share the message of Christ in culturally astute ways. We discussed ethical issues like bribery, relational issues like polygamy, and theological issues like worship styles that fit the heart language of a people group.

Unfortunately, the mission principle of contextualization – doing ministry in culturally astute ways – is often relegated to clearly “missionary” or cross-cultural settings. But when we do ministry as pastors within United State, we often ignore the fact that we need to contextualize our ministry just as much in a setting that seems familiar.

We take for granted, for instance, that we actually know our setting. “After all,” we think to ourselves, “I’m an American doing ministry in America! What is there to understand?”I would like to contend, however, that we do not always understand our context as much as we think we do.

Here are six questions worth pondering for those of us who do ministry in the United States. While national history and trends must be considered, we must be aware of the specific state and local history and trends for our context. If you know the answers to these questions for your setting, kudos to you! If not, it is time for you to dig deeper in order to know your setting.

  1. What is the rough chronology or time-line of your city, town, or county? When and how was it founded and when and how did it expand?
  2. What ethnic groups make up your context and how did they come to be there over time? What are the cultural distinctives of those ethnic groups, and how are those distinctives continuing to impact your setting?
  3. What are the driving economic forces of your setting and how have those changed over time? How did national issues, such as the Great Depression or World War II, affect your setting economically?
  4. What have been the defining conflicts over time in your setting? Put another way, what governmental, ethnic, or economic issues have raised tension levels at different times?
  5. What has the religious climate been within your setting over the course of its history? What have been the ebbs and flows of church life, and how has the flow of cultural issues over time affected that positively or negatively?
  6. What would you see as the key 3-5 issues in your setting that the church must address in some way, whether directly or indirectly, in order to minister in culturally astute ways in the next 25 years?

A superficial familiarity with our setting may hinder us from truly knowing it and, thus, keep us from an effective ministry for the kingdom where God has placed us. We must dig deep to know our setting.

Next Steps on Displaced People

In response to our MissionsFest and preaching on displaced people both by me and Jenny Yang of World Relief, our mission team offered a list of next steps as our response to displaced people and the needs of the world. I’ve slightly edited it for online readership.

  • SHOW HOSPITALITY. Thanksgiving is coming! Invite a refugee family/individual, or an international university student to your home to share a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Questions? Just ask. Sign up at the MissionsFest ministry booth in the Lobby this weekend or email Maritza Diaz
  • READ A BOOK! We recommend Seeking Refuge: On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis by Stephan Bauman, Matthew Soerens, and Dr. Issam Smeir or Welcoming the Stranger by Jenny Yang and Matthew Soerens.
  • GET INVOLVED by attending a Next Steps class. Have your questions answered about connecting globally and locally with the world’s refugee community. Sunday, October 29, 11 am in Fellowship Hall.
  • MEET SOME NEW FRIENDS at Eastbrook’s International Language Center (ILCT). See what happens at our center and consider tutoring a refugee. Find out more at our Southside Informational Meeting on Saturday, November 18, 9-11:30 am at the ILCT (4204 S. Howell Ave., Milwaukee).
  • PRAY for Eastbrook’s international workers using the prayer insert in this weekend’s bulletin.
  • SUPPORT Eastbrook’s Missions Budget financially for 12 months and help fuel ministry around the world: eastbrook.org/giving

God of the Displaced Ones. part 2

This past weekend, I concluded both Eastbrook’s Missions Fest as well as our series “God in Blank Spaces.” Building off of Jenny Yang‘s message on the global situation of displaced people the previous weekend, I continued the theme of God’s mission amongst the displaced people of the world.

My approach to this topic, however, was to engage more deeply with the theme verses chosen for the week from Leviticus 19:33-34:

When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.

I sought to provide an overview of the book of Leviticus and its vital role in our own faith today as the New Testament people of God. In particular I focused on Leviticus’s theme of holiness, giving attention to four aspects of holiness that we must grasp clearly:

  1. God makes His people holy.
  2. God is making His people holy.
  3. Holiness is personal in nature.
  4. Holiness is relational in nature.

Here is the video and sermon outline of my message, “God of the Displaced Ones, part two.”

You can follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

 

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God of the Displaced Ones

Two weekends ago, I began a new series entitled “God in Blank Spaces.” The idea of this series is to connect our thinking about who God is as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit with what God does in our world. One question I pondered quite a bit is this: if God is who we say He is, then what does that mean for the world in which we live?

This past weekend, we had the privilege of hearing from Jenny Yang, Vice President of Policy and Advocacy at World Relief, as the first weekend in our missions festival, “God of the Displaced Ones.” Jenny is co-author with Matt Soerens of Welcoming the Stranger and was named by Christianity Today as one of five women change-makers in non-profit leadership today.

You can watch the video of Jenny’s message below and follow along with her sermon outline as well.

You can follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

 

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The Triune God is Self-Giving in His Love

The Triune God, who is eternally in reciprocal, self-giving relationship, is a sending God.

The Father sends the Son at the incarnation. The Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit at the impartation of Pentecost. The Father and the Son and the Spirit send the church from Pentecost to this very day.

As the Triune God is irrepressible in His love, He is a sending God who cannot hold back. He is by His very nature a missionary God.

God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – is ahead of us on mission. He is beyond us and inviting us into this work with Him.

If we know Him, we move toward Him…and He is in the blank spaces of the world inviting us to join Him where He already is.

God is at work in the blank spaces.


 

God of the Lost Ones

Two weekends ago, I began a new series entitled “God in Blank Spaces.” The idea of this series is to connect our thinking about who God is as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit with what God does in our world. One question I pondered quite a bit is this: if God is who we say He is, then what does that mean for the world in which we live?

There are places in our world where it seems like God is absent. There are peripheral places and marginal spaces where people are often forgotten, even by us. But they are not forgotten by God. In fact, the Scripture tells us again and again that God shows up in the blank spaces, the margins and the periphery. Because the love of God is at the heart of who He is, God is already standing in the midst of the blank spaces of our world. And He is inviting His people to join Him there.

Here is the video and sermon outline of the first message of this series, “God of the Lost Ones.”

You can follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

 

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