Saturday, March 24, 2007

Intermission: Good job MNU!

Okay, I know this whole "Three problems" thing is taking longer then I promised, sorry, I have been very busy at work.

To throw in a little balance to this place I want to share an article that was brought to my attention about a homosexual rights group visiting a Nazarene college campus. It seems for as much as we try and screw things up Christ still uses His church in amazing ways. Thank God.

Here is the article.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Three Greatest Challenges Facing the Church (#2)

Suburbanization (Racial and Economic Segregation)

I am not sure if that is the right wording for what I am talking about here, but it's the best I can think of.

Phineas Bresee founded the Nazarene church, a former Methodist minister who didn't like how far the Methodist church has strayed from Wesleyan ideals of preaching to the poor and needy. It was a church found for the "least of these". A church for the ones the rest of society had forgotten, a place where the last become first. The first Nazarene church opened its doors in 1895 in urban Los Angeles, California. From the begining it was an "intercity church". A church that faced the challenges of being an anchor for the neighborhood it shared.

Then in the 1950's when all the white and wealthy started fleeing the cities for the suburbs, for the most part the church did the same. Even if the church didn't change location, they still became either a commuter church or a financially drained, low membership urban church. New churches started being built by people who all came from the same social economic level, for their friends and families in that same category.

Now you can go to church and hear about the powerful message Christ has for the way we deal with the poor and not ever have to face that in our own lives. I can sponsor an impoverished child for $19.99 a month and put some food in the food pantry. It feels safer, it makes me comfortable to be around those who look, act, and think just like I do. But this is not at all what the kingdom of God looks like, a place where the first are made last and the last are made first. We tell ourselves that "rich people need Jesus too", believing this is just cause for our $5,000 sound system. And it is true, we do need Jesus, everyone needs Jesus, but I wonder how much the church is reaching out to people like us versus how much we are perpetuating a lifestyle that is anything but Christ like.

The church should be the backbone of social reformation. We are called to love others as ourselves. How can a church be that from 30 miles across town from the social problems facing the intercity? How can the church be a reflection of the kingdom of God when only a portion of the people are represented by it? I really do believe that losing the African American voice, the Hispanic voice, the economically poor voice, has made the church lose the message of Christ. The spirit of the church of the Nazarene cannot and will not survive without these voices.

When I read about our world headquarters moving out of urban Kansas City, from a neighborhood it has been in for nearly a century, to a corporate business park in a grass field in Lenexa, it breaks my heart. I wonder if this church still cares about the general principals laid down by its founder. I like to think the church is heading back in the right direction, but it is hard to believe this when the World Headquarters itself is symbolizing so much of what is wrong in our churches. Moves like this have no motive outside of our own perceived "safety" and comfort, and I don't believe in a safe or comfortable gospel.

As a member of this denomination, it is up to me to make these changes in my own life as well. Collectively, as a whole, WE need to do something about this for the church to remain (or become) as relevant to people's lives as the message we believe in.

Jenny and I have found a church home here in Kansas City that we feel more at home in then anywhere we have attended yet. Some considers it an “urban” church; it has a better mix of economic classes then any church I have attended, and leadership with a heart for social justice. But even there we struggle with the desire to be around those who look, act, and think like us. One of the things that drew us in was the abundance of young, like-minded, people. Luckily we have also had the opportunity to meet many wonderful people outside of that mold, but at the same time I wonder, is our small church to comfortable in it's statues as well?

We have been talking about the book "Can This Church Live: A Congregation, It's Neighborhood, and Social Transformation" by Donald H. Matthews in my Sunday school class. I highly recommend it. Hopefully this can get our church thinking about some areas where we can improve how we relate to the neighborhood around it.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Three Greatest Challenges Facing the Church (#1)

Prosperity Gospel

The idea that God wants you to be rich, and that with enough faith you will be rich. This has been one of the biggest issues the church has faced in the last few years, and I don't think the next few are going to be any better. It is easy to understand why this is such a popular idea, it is a lot easier to ignore the extreme poverty in the world around us if we believe that God wants us to be as rich as we are, it is comfortable to think God wants us to spend our money on ourselves.

The truth is, God does bless all of His faithful, just not all of them financially, and those He does bless financially, we are under a mandate to use those blessings to bless others.

All across this country their are churches growing rapidly in numbers lead by preachers preaching nothing more then "God wants you to be rich". These church's may be large in size, but they have yet to become the norm, and I think most mainline congregations would frown upon the teachings of these churches, but have we let prosperity gospel spill over in it's own way into our churches? I think we have and it seems like it's getting worse.

The popularity of books like "The Prayer of Jabez" shows how much this idea has really caught on. Anytime an entire book is written about one chapter of scripture I get a bit leery. "Now Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, "Oh that You would bless me indeed and enlarge my border, and that Your hand might be with me, and that You would keep me from harm that it may not pain me!" And God granted him what he requested." (1Chron. 4:10) This is the only time Jabez is mentioned, it does not go on to explain what, when or how God granted this request, but the author of "The Prayer of Jabez" believes that if you say this prayer often enough and with enough meaning that God will make you wealthy.

If living a Christ like life really means living selflessly, I cannot accept the idea that as long as there is one person on this earth with less then I have, that God wants me to keep more to myself. That does not line up with the words of Christ in the gospels.

The idea that there is any blessing that can be stacked on top the gift of salvation and freedom from eternal bondage that Christ offers us all is absolutly false. To beleive that there is anything more that can compare to that gift is to completely misunderstand or even reject the truth of the gospel. The more the church falls for this lie the farther we will be getting from being any sort of light or body of Christ on earth.

Okay, sorry about that, there are few things that get me more upset then prosperity gospel.

Here is a song by Derek Webb that says it perfectly:

Beloved by Derek Webb
beloved these are dangerous times
because you are weightless like a leaf from the vine
and the wind has blown you all over town
because there is nothing holding you to the ground

so now you would rather be
a slave again than free from the law

beloved listen to me
don’t believe all that you see
and don’t you ever let anyone tell you
that there’s anything that you need
but me

beloved these are perilous days
when your culture is so set in it’s ways
that you will listen to salesmen and thieves
preaching other than the truth you’ve received

because they are telling lies
for they cannot circumcise your hearts

beloved there is nothing more
no more blessings and no more rewards
than the treasure of my body and blood
given freely to all daughters and sons

Well, let me know if you have any further thoughts on this or if you just flat out disagree.

Three Greatest Challenges Facing the Church (Intro)

There has been a lot of talk going around Nazarene circles about a video of on of our church leaders delivering a sermon at the M7 conference. In the video the church leader lists three challenges the church has to face in upcoming years, they where listed as: Calvinism, The Emergent Church, and Reform Theology. I don't FULLY agree with the sermon, and I defiantly don't agree with the way the video portrays it, but to be fair, the video was taken completely out of context and missed the greater point of the sermon itself, but nonetheless, it got me thinking.

Over the next three (or so) days I will be doing a post a day on what I believe are the biggest challenges the church is facing (or will face) in the next few years (in no particular order). Feel free to write a comment whether you agree or disagree, I certainly don't have any more insight on this then anyone else, so tell me what you think.

My first post should be up later this afternoon. Thanks!

Monday, March 05, 2007


Great little music video, I will post a real post soon. For now, tell me your thoughts on the song and video.