Category: Kingdom Living

Entertainment and Hospitality- Can They Co-exist?

Today I came across a post in Out of Ur about the clash between the church’s values of entertainment and hospitality. In the article, a church asked a family to leave their service on Easter Sunday because their 12-year-old son with cerebral palsy made a loud noise after the opening prayer. In the comments, a visitor to the church (in 2009) also was asked to remove their 2-year-old after she made a few loud noises after the singing was over. The church did this because the wanted to provide a distraction-free environment for the congregation to worship in.

I understand this to an extent. I get that it IS distracting when a baby is crying in the service. Or a kid is talking loudly. Or a teenager is laughing.

Then I think about how the disciples were mad when some little children were approaching Jesus- Get them away! Jesus got ticked and rebuked the disciples- Let them come to Me.

As we think about our church’s worship services, we MUST think through our values. Is it our value to entertain people? SHOULD we have the value of entertainment? What happens when we turn a worship service into a show? How is this value supported in Scripture? What values do we teach our congregants when we remove people who are not conforming to the right behavior?

And we also must ask- what is the option for this family with a 12-year-old son with cerebral palsy? The church has no special needs ministry, nor do they want one (or so it seems from the blog post), so the 12-year-old has no class to go to AND the 12-year-old is not welcome in the worship gathering. It seems like the only option is for them to be in a different part of the church, watching the church service. From my experience with small children in a similar situation, this makes the family not want to attend a worship service at all (and participation is out of the question).

WHAT in the world are we doing, American church? It is not our job to provide a slick show to convince people to come to Christ. We are NOT competing with television or movies. If we are not making space and WELCOMING those who are on the edges of our society, we are not being the Kingdom of God. We are putting on  a musical and verbal show that gives off a putrid smell before Him.

I think some churches have some serious re-evaluating of policies to do. Let’s talk about it– what are your thoughts? Can entertainment and hospitality co-exist? Should they co-exist? What are some alternative practices to this situation?

Managing the Tension

In a couple of my classes over the past couple years, we’ve talked about varying models of the Kingdom, and hence models of ministry. This semester in particular, I have been challenged to choose a model of ministry for campus ministry, explaining why I think that one best fits my ideas of effective discipleship, evangelism, and leadership development. I really believe there are various models that are “best”, meaning one model can’t claim a corner market. However, there may be one that I simply like best and am best able to work out of.

So, saying all of this, I’m feeling a tension between two: 1.) Doing ministry by living out countercultural models, trusting that God will bring people close to Him through this alternate lifestyle. I like this because I primarily see the Kingdom as a subversive kingdom with countercultural values and practices, and 2.) Being missional, meaning instead of being attractional by countercultural values, going out into the marketplace and finding ways to meet them on their turf, engaging with them in all ways that we can.

Perhaps this tension is an appropriate one? If I didn’t have this tension, perhaps I would either promote Puritanism or syncretism. I think this is why I’m intrigued and drawn to the New Monastic Movement— a movement who is committed to spiritual practices, community, generosity, etc. BUT is also very concerned with living in the world- playing with neighborhood kids, opening their homes to strangers, and sharing meals with those who can’t offer back an invitation.

This is a tough tension for me to live with, but as Andy Stanley said at Catalyst 2010, tension is good! In order for us to be successful in leadership, it’s our job to monitor and leverage the tension. The tension between discipleship and evangelism. Between global missions and local missions. Between feeding the hungry and creating spaces for worship. Money creates tension. Relationships create tension.

Where do you most feel this kind of tension in your life and/or ministry?

Is your church promoting consumerism?

For my Foundations of Campus Ministry class, we’re reading Alan Hirsch’s The Forgotten Ways. It exegetes the attractional church culture pretty well, revealing some things about it that I hadn’t really thought of. Hirsch spends a good part of a chapter discussing consumerism’s effects on how we do church, particularly as the typical middle-class community.He goes as far to say that consumerism has become the driving ideology of the contemporary church growth model (110).

As you reflect on your church community, do you see aspects of this?

If so, what are they and do you think it’s helpful to the mission of the church?

If not, what are some counter-cultural practices that you have adopted as a church to guard yourselves against this?

Someone convince me…

…that missions is something for westerners to engage in.

For a leadership project, I’m reflecting back on those events in my life that formed me. The first one I’m writing about is when the Travelling Team visited the BSU when I was a student. Through their presentation and small workshop afterwards, my heart began to be excited about world missions and God’s heart for all people around the world. They convinced me to begin becoming a “World Christian.” As I peruse their website as I write about this formation encounter, I find myself desperately wanting to be back in that place….

…convinced that God wanted me to go near and far with the good news.

…wanting all to know and understand their role in the evangelization of all tribes.

…committed to praying for people around the world, using Operation World.

…excited to be caught up in missionary biographies.

…a burning desire and conviction to go.

Here I am, 8 years later and things have changed. I’ve prayed. I’ve gone. I’ve supported those who have gone. And I’m somewhat disillusioned. Left asking God what my role is. What our family’s role is.

Asking God to make sense of my experience in Kenya and the feeling that the church in Kenya doesn’t need me. They’re doing great on their own. And wondering if me being there makes is better…or worse.

Tonight I’m wondering if I’ll ever get back to that place. Perhaps it’s just a desire for the nostalgic. Or perhaps it is God inviting me to seek Him.

Ideas and Words

In light of the Rob Bell controversy, I have been reflecting on my life and my use of words and ideas.

Sometimes I use ideas in a wrong way. I use ideas to gain power over people. I use ideas to make myself look better than I really am. I use ideas to display something on the outside that isn’t there on the inside. I use ideas to make me look smarter than I feel. I use ideas to gain access to people that I wouldn’t otherwise gain access to. I use ideas to seek approval, affirmation, or being on the “inside”. I use ideas to “other” people.

Sometimes I use words in harmful ways. I belittle. I tear down. I call out people for saying things that I perceive to be false (whether that be about life, about Scripture, etc.) in ways that discourage dialogue and make someone out to be the enemy. I make people feel small. I make people feel dumb. I make people feel like they have nothing to contribute to a conversation. I write things or say things about people that I would never say to their faces. I use words to “other” people.

I have been on the giving end and the receiving end of both of these inappropriate uses of ideas and words. And for where my use of words and ideas have damaged people and damaged the advancement of the Kingdom of God and the unity of the church, I apologize.

What is true religion?

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. – James 1.27

This verse has been haunting me over the past year.

It started out at Catalyst ’09, where much emphasis was placed on the idea of adoption. They challenged us to simply pray about and be open to the possibility that maybe God would ask us to adopt. Jake and I had never really felt that pressing, but after I came home and told him about the challenge, we agreed to be open to it and pray about God’s desires for our family in that way.

And honestly, I still don’t feel like we’re supposed to adopt. But we’re still praying. And asking. Because this verse (and tons others liked it all over Scripture) is really important. And direct. And one that the Holy Spirit likes to bring up A LOT.

A few months ago Jake and I were discussing that although it’s not clear whether we’re being led to adopt, we must allow this verse (and others like it) to instruct us in how to live.

Our family sponsored a boy, Emmanuel, from Kenya through Compassion International. Our intent is to sponsor one child for each of the biological children that we have. Although we’re unable to do that at this time, as soon as we are able, it’s a high priority for us.

Of course, I don’t think this is the only way to live out caring for orphans. I was reading Gail Hyatt’s blog, and she talked about how those who are not called to adopt ARE called to give in order for others to adopt. And I think that is a huge challenge. The high cost of adoption is what stands in many willing family’s way.

I was wondering, what are some other ways that you and your family have found to care for orphans?

In Celebration of Election Day

Here’s a paper that I wrote for my weekend class (Christian Ethics). Our assignment was to take a position (didn’t necessarily have to be ours) on the Christian’s relationship to the contemporary political sphere , and use our readings to support it. And all of this in 3 pages =). Here’s what I’ll be submitting on Friday. I won’t say if it is actually my position.

The Kingdom Comes a Different Way: Reflections on a Christian’s Role in Government

Today is election day. Many people from all over Jessamine County will be going out to vote for the best candidates for various political offices. Most of these citizens will be exercising this privilege because they believe that they have a responsibility to help elect someone who will work towards implementing a better, more just, society. Some voters will be motivated to vote because they feel like it is better than doing nothing. Still others will not be voting, mostly because they do not think their vote makes a difference, and a small portion of non-voters will be abstaining because of their religious convictions. For Christ-followers, deciding whether or not to vote is tightly interwoven with one’s perspective on the proper relationship between the Christian and the State. Ultimately, the real question comes down to, “how do we relate the kingdom of God to the kingdoms of this world?” (Hollinger 190). In this essay, I am proposing that the kingdom of God does not come through the kingdoms of this world, and that Christians should abstain from the political sphere altogether, directing their energies for Kingdom-building elsewhere.

Many Jews expected the Messiah to come as a political figure. They looked forward to His coming, desiring the Kingdom of God to be established through His political authority. In the Old Testament, we find God using the prophets to shake the Israelites to an awareness of the injustices going on in their communities. In Isaiah 1.16-17 (NLT), God says, “Wash yourselves and be clean! Get your sins out of my sight. Give up your evil ways. Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.” The poor were being ignored. A deaf ear had been turned to the cries of the weak. Those who had much were not holding their possessions with open hands (Isaiah 56). We see that God had serious things to say about this to the people of God. He desired for them to repent and to come near to Him. But most of them did not.

Much injustice was still occurring when Jesus came on the scene hundreds of years later. Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for obeying the laws, but having ugly, unrighteous hearts. (Matthew 23.23-28). However, perhaps surprisingly to some, Jesus did not concern Himself with changing the way Rome governed. He did not try and establish a new government, and He did not attempt to enact justice through the creation of laws. In fact, His whole life and mission was to communicate the reality of the Kingdom and help people to understand their invitation to joining Him in that. This was not a Kingdom where people were forced to join. The invitation was one of love. He invited us to be in a relationship with God through a great act of love (John 15.13). He does not make us love Him. He does not make us participate. It is through these choices of love that the Kingdom of God comes to earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10). So, when we are working to establish the Kingdom of God on earth and working for the justice of all people, we follow suite- knowing that justice is not going to be established through political authorities, making laws for people to follow.

By not participating in politics, one does not give up the responsibility to establish justice. God cares about the whole world, and we are to work with Him in redeeming it- culture and all. Some would suggest that political silence makes a person guilty of injustice because they are doing nothing to change a situation (Boulton 434). My response is that yes, doing nothing does make a person guilty of injustice, however, there are other ways of establishing justice outside of the political sphere. As Shane Claiborne said in a blog post on God’s Politics:

…if we do not vote, we had better be spending every day of our lives trying to create alternative solutions to the questions of how 48 million folks can have health care, how we can live without fuel, how we deal with violent people … and on and on.

Critics of the withdrawal position will highlight Romans 13 and will say the government officials are commissioned by God, have divine authority, and act on behalf of God (Calvin). I would respond by asking if Hitler was acting on behalf of God when he exterminated millions of Jews. If not, we may need to look at this chapter of Scripture through a different lens. Perhaps the role of the government is used by God to give order to society, and Paul is encouraging us here to submit to that order.

Finally, while some would see the stance of withdrawal as “Christ against culture” and point out its guilt of dualism, John Yoder rightly explains the heart behind it when he argues, as explained by Dennis Hollinger, “that the issue is not about being against culture but about devotion to the way of Christ, which at points conflicts with culture and society” (194). Christians are called to live in this world, but not be of this world. Withdrawing completely from society in attempts to create a Christian colony is unhelpful. God sent His son Jesus to walk and live amongst us, and we are called to walk and live among others. However, there are times when Christians can better bring the Kingdom of God to earth by working in ways counter to the world. It requires a sense of balance and an understanding of the nature of the Kingdom to discern when to do which.

Whatever a Christian decides on his or her role in the contemporary political sphere, it is important to remember the words of Dennis Hollinger when he talking about “Christ in but not of culture”:

Certainly the preposition ‘in’ can too easily portray a static role for Christians in culture and society, but it points us in the direction of an incarnational model that seeks to be faithful to both the paradigm of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation and the mode of Jesus himself (214).

Christians are to carry the light of Jesus to the world, being agents of reconciliation, defenders of the weak and oppressed, and establishing the Kingdom of God here on earth. May the Father guide us in imaginatively creating alternatives outside the political realm.

Works Cited

Boulton, Wayne G. and Thomas D. Kennedy, and Allen Verhey, eds. From Christ to the World:

Introductory Readings in Christian Ethics. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994.

Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion. On Civil Government, Sections 1-7.

<http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes.vi.xxi.html>

Claiborne, Shane. “Voting As Damage Control.” God’s Politics. Sojourners, 30 10 2008. Web. 2

Nov 2010. <http://blog.sojo.net/2008/10/30/voting-as-damage-control/>.

Hollinger, Dennis. Choosing the Good: Christian Ethics in a Complex World. Grand Rapids:

Baker, 2002.

Characteristics of a Disciple

For one of my classes, Equipping the Laity, we’ve been talking about what it means to be a disciple of Christ (as opposed to being a cultural christian). Below are some characteristics that we talked about (as expressed in Dr. Steve Martyn’s lecture, What is a Disciple?). As we were discussing, I thought to myself- how does my life reflect or not reflect these values/characteristics/traits that I would agree make up a true disciple of Jesus. It was challenging to me, especially in the area of “means of grace” (aka spiritual disciplines for those of you in the southern baptist world). If these are traits I hope and pray and labor towards for others in my future congregation/campus ministry, how much more should I be modeling and living these myself?

What about you? Which ones are challenging to you? Any that you hope to grow in? Any you disagree with? Or anything you would add to this list?

We want to make disciples of Jesus Christ who:

  • Understand the whole story of the Bible and where they fit into the history of salvation
  • Know how to enter into transformative study of God’s word
  • Are living in and practicing the means of grace and are experiencing ongoing transformation
  • Are walking in purity of heart and the freedom of the Gospel and are experiencing release from destructive addictions and collapse of prideful sin
  • Are living in life-giving relationships with others and are allowing the directives of the Gospel to define their roles in those relationships
  • Are seeking to accept and live into the gifts of ministry given to them by the Holy Spirit
  • Are taking the time for critical thinking/discernment and for thoughtful reflection/meditation upon the actions of God in their lives
  • Are missionally engaged for the transformation of the world
  • Understand that ministry is to be done and the Gospel spread through a community of committed disciples who love and honor one another and who seek to unfold the Kingdom within the context of ministry teams
  • Love God’s church and are faithfully engaged in worship and are building up the body of Christ
  • Are tithing their income (as a minimal standard) for the work of the God’s Kingdom
  • Are seeking to be stewards of all of God’s good gifts including creation, their physical bodies, their resources, and their very lives
  • See themselves as followers of Jesus Christ and full-time ministers of the Gospel of grace and understand they are to be servant leaders in the work of redemption

Living the Kingdom Life

The Kingdom Life: A Practical Theology of Discipleship and Spiritual Formation is a book written by several different theologians/authors/professors who belong to a group called TACT (Theological and Cultural Thinkers). This group came together, several years ago, to discuss how to encourage and strengthen the American church, especially in light of the discouraging statistics from Barna and Gallup research.

This book was a really encouraging and fun read for me because it has brought together many of the things I’ve learned and worked through over this past year in my classes. In the first half of the book, the authors discussed various parts of spiritual formation, exploring issues like what is the gospel? What does community look like for us? What role does suffering play in our formation? What is mission and why are we on it? How do we form spiritually? In the second half, the authors discuss the theology behind spiritual formation- trinitarian theology, the role of the Spirit, and the role of Scripture.

There are a lot of different parts that I could highlight in this review, but I’m making myself choose just one for sake of time and space. The aspect of the book that I liked best was its emphasis on real life transformation, and how it not only CAN happen, but it should happen. For many American Christians, we see the conversion, re-birth experience as the most important part of our spiritual life. We look back at a moment that we “accepted Jesus Christ as Savior” and that’s enough. Maybe most of us want something more, but we are willing to settle for the insurance and assurance of salvation. These authors emphasized that this conversion-centered gospel that many preach and emphasis is incomplete, unhealthy, and results in the research that Barna and Gallup reported.

Instead, we need to learn and model for one another what it looks like to be on the road of discipleship- following Jesus, practicing disciplines that help us to hear and understand God better, learning to say n0 to the flesh, living in open communities of grace, etc. For these authors, they seemed to be wanting to challenge church and lay leaders to first apply these principles to their own life, and then to re-structure, if necessary, the church in order to make sure that they are truly making disciples (and not just converts).

This is a five star book and one that I will certainly be re-rereading during parts of this semester (especially for my Equipping the Laity class). I would highly suggest this to any leader in the American church, and to anyone who thinks that spiritual formation will “just happen.”

As Dallas Willard said, “God is not opposed to effort, but to earning.” – The Divine Conspiracy

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Check it Out- Wasabi Gospel


A book bomb is going off on amazon.com, you may want to check it out.

I got the privilege of being able to get a sneak peak of this bomb, called the Wasabi Gospel, written by Shawn Wood. You may have heard of another book that he’s written, 200 Pomegranates and an Audience of One.

Anyway, although I didn’t have time to read the entire book word for word, I did skim through it and read chapter 4 in-depth: Rich People Go Straight to Hell, Do Not Pass Go.
Sound challenging? Yeaaah. It was. Wood does a great job of communicating wasabi-like Scripture passages in a way that is easy to identify with and that reveals the real zest with which Jesus said them.

Who is “the rich”? Could it be you or me? What are we expected to do with excess? What are people doing today because of this truth? Not meant to produce a guilt trip or wring us through the dryer, Wood encourages and challenges readers to live the life of the Kingdom- bring the Kingdom to earth. If all the chapters in this book are a similar quality, this is going to be a must-read for all young adults.

To learn more about this book and about the author, be sure to check out any of the following links:

www.wasabigospel.com
www.shawnwoodwrites.com
www.twitter.com/shawnwood
www.facebook.com/shawnwood