Saturday, November 6, 2010

Make Disciples and Be Witnesses Where?

Make Disciples and Be Witnesses Where?

PREFACE: There are a few definitions I will need to give in order to give an understanding of several things I am talking about.

SYSTEMIC RACISM- Discriminatory habits, stereotypes, generally racist attitudes whether conscious or not. An example-While driving to Tennessee I saw a multitude of construction crews. Each crew had a pattern. Those working with hand tools were Mexican. Those working with equipment were black. Finally, those who were telling people what to do, holding the clipboards, and keeping charge of each crew were white.


: of, relating to, or common to a system: as a : affecting the body generally b : supplying those parts of the body that receive blood through the aorta rather than through the pulmonary artery c : of, relating to, or being a pesticide that as used is harmless to the plant or higher animal but when absorbed into its sap or bloodstream makes the entire organism toxic to pests (as an insect or fungus)

RACISM- Definition of RACISM

1: a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race

2: racial prejudice or discrimination

HAVE/HAVE NOT-Societal groups determined by who is in a position of wealth, power, or acceptance on the social scale.


[The Great Commission]

[16] Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. [17] And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. [18] And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. [19] Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, [20] teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

(Matthew 28:16-20 ESV)

[The Ascension]

[6] So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” [7] He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. [8] But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

(Acts 1:6-8 ESV)

For those of you who remember the Promise Keepers Movement, one of the things they attempted to do was to work toward racial reconciliation. You might ask, “What do these passages have to do with racial reconciliation?” Bear with me a little while longer and I will do my best to share with you. First, however, let me give you a little history lesson over the last 110 years.

Somewhere around April, 1906 there was a little phenomenon called the Azusa Street Revival. In that revival, African American Pastor, William J. Seymour led the way. During that time people of primarily black and white descent were present and worshipping side by side. The revival ended around 1915. Unfortunately, whites went back to their homes, as did African Americans. Just a side note: Blacks were treated as second class citizens only being approximately 40 years removed from slavery. Also of note, Charles Parham (father of Pentecostalism) (white person, in a position as a “have” in society), wanted to take credit for this revival and keep the segregation of “races.”

In 1964 Martin Luther King Jr. was named the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in the Civil Rights Movement. This movement was led by this African American pastor to work toward ending racial segregation and discrimination. Many in the world know the famous “I have a Dream” speech. This speech had elements of Scriptures like Galatians 3:28, and Ephesians 2:15 put into our American context.

It is at this point that I must ask a question. What is the work of the Church? I stated it above with the Great Commission, did I not? That is a major part of the work, but what must happen along with that? This is where I look to correct what I see as an error in American Christian thinking. Is it enough for the world to get a “get out of Hell free” card? This is, unfortunately, our way of thinking about the mission of the Church. It is not enough to lead people through a simple formula of the sinners prayer in order to deliver their souls from Hell. There is a word called repentance, and it simply means to turn from that which you were before.

What are other major responsibilities of the Church? For the sake of time I will list some (this is not an exhaustive list):

  • To share the Gospel
  • To make Disciples of Jesus
  • To lay down our lives for others
  • To minister to the poor
  • To give food to the hungry
  • To give drink to the thirsty
  • To welcome the stranger
  • To clothe the naked
  • To care for the sick and in prison
  • To become all things to all men so that by all means you might win some
  • To become the bride of Christ

You might say, “Rob, we do all these things. What does all this have to do with the above?”

Let’s go back and look at the last words of Jesus before His ascension into Heaven.

[The Ascension]

[6] So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” [7] He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. [8] But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

(Acts 1:6-8 ESV)

NOTE: I could go on into the entirety of the exegeses of this passage and discuss our American weakness to government and our subsequent codependence on God plus our party, but that would be another paper… For now I would like to focus on the words in verse 8.

From what I understand of history in this time period, the Jews were occupied by a Roman government. On one hand, one could argue that the Jews were minorities. Unfortunately, this was in their homeland, so this argument is not accurate. They were the majority. The Samaritans, however, were the minority to the Jews. Jesus mentions the Samaritans in one of His parables:

[The Parable of the Good Samaritan]

[25] And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” [26] He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” [27] And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” [28] And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

[29] But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” [30] Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. [31] Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. [32] So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. [33] But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. [34] He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. [35] And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ [36] Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” [37] He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

(Luke 10:25-37 ESV)

If you would care to note, in v37, after being asked who the good neighbor was, the man could not even say the word “Samaritan.” This is because the Jews despised this people group.

Jesus also has a direct encounter with the people of Samaria. This account can be found in John 4:1-42. In Jesus’ days the people would not go through Samaria. They would pass around it. Jesus “had” to go through it. He “had” to talk to a Samaritan. He “had” to talk to a woman. He “had to set a precedent for His disciples to follow.

We have established that the Samaritans weren’t looked on very favorably by the Jews. We have established that we are to be witnesses to all people groups. It is at this point that you might say that, “We are firing on all cylinders. We are sharing the Gospel throughout the world. We do missions. We have a food pantry. We help the poor and the needy. What are you getting at?”

Let’s look at how we have this wrong for a minute. Let’s assume that Jerusalem is our church, and our friends. Judea is our community, and the end of the earth is missions. How do we stack up? Unless we have immersed ourselves in the church, and have only church friends, many of us have unsaved friends with whom we need to be sharing the Gospel. How about the area of missions? In missions, we in America are weak. I would say that too many of us look at missions as our “Hollywood.” Missions are treated in the church as a glorified vacation in which the rich Americans go to help the poor people of ___ country. Some of us have mission funds in which we only send money to “do our part.” That again, may have to be saved for a later conversation.

What about Samaria? What is our Samaria? How are we doing in Samaria? “Well, we have minorities in our congregation, if that’s what you are asking.” That’s a start. Are we, however, seeking to build with those who are “American like us, but not like us?” I would argue that we are not good in this. The evidence can be seen in America every Sunday. “Well, that’s because we prefer to worship with those who are like us.” This is a comment that I have heard often. Do you see the error in this?

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

(Galatians 3:28 ESV)

[15] by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, [16] and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.

(Ephesians 2:15-16 ESV)

How then do we live out becoming one new man?

If we took another look at our American history we would see that along with seeking a new land in which to worship, sinners (believers and unbelievers alike) came to America. Since those who came to America were sinners, some of them were given to the sin of slavery. Some of the sinners who came to America were given to the sin of greed. This combination left the door open to the selling and trafficking of human beings. Due to this, our country has been a part of approximately 400 years of oppression followed by a century of systemic racism (Jamestown contains the first recorded acceptance of Africans from a slave ship in 1619).

It is here that I have heard the argument that Jesus used the Samaritan as being the one who was good, so therefore it should be the minorities who do the reaching out to end systemic racism. In that I would ask if we understand the part of Luke 12:48 that says, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.” That simply means that we have been given much. Much is required of us. If we are the “have” people, and we see that our brother “has not,” then we are to share with him. This is a principle taught by Jesus over and over, then carried out by the first church in Acts 2:45.

In conclusion, this area of the church in America is an area that I feel needs to be improved upon. Whether we are doing an acceptable job in our mission to make disciples in Jerusalem, Judea, and the ends of the world, is a question that I don’t think we can answer until we determine how we are doing in our mission to our own “Samaria.” As I have pointed out, the church in America has had a number of opportunities to tackle this "Power and Principality" battle and defeat it, but has fallen short. If we are ever to become one new man in Christ, then we must add intentionally working to minister in our "Samaria" as one of the missions of the church. Are we willing to look beyond ourselves and move intentionally toward reconciliation?

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Church in America Intro

The Church in America

For quite some time I have been a worker in the church. For quite some time I have been interested in church movements across our country. I have watched the rise and fall of the Vineyard Renewal, the Promise Keepers Movement and a few other things. In recent years I have watched the emergence of the emergent church, the religious left, and the new reformation. It has been through these events and movements that I developed a desire to take a look and see what I can learn from it all.

Over the years I have developed several things that I really se about the church in America that I think we miss or lack. Please note now that I am not writing an indictment against the American church. My tendencies are to be harsh and black and white, and this might come off as such. Let’s just say that I am a sinner saved by grace, and understand that we all only see in part and prophesy in part (1 Corinthians 13:9-12). I say that to help you understand that these are my observations after looking at the church in America, other countries, and seeking Father to be who He wants me to be as a pastor and a leader.

With that said, I could sit here with my trusty laptop and write away about a billion and one things that I see about the church. Let’s face it, the American church is pretty silly and is often looked at as a joke by the world we are supposed to be ministering to. I could type about things like:
• Sin in the church
• In-fighting
• Errors in preaching
• Errors in teaching
• Errors in Bible study
• Our attempts to be culturally relevant
• Our lack of “need” of God and a Savior (which I will get to soon)
• Our tolerance of fallen Christian leaders, but our intolerance of those who have not heard or understood His grace
• Teaching Jesus as a principle or a concept as opposed to teaching Him as a person, the flesh part of the triune Godhead with whom there is relationship
• The subconscious thinking that you can serve God and politics simultaneously

I could go on and on like a Journey song at this point. There are so many things out of line with the church that we need to address. Over the next few posts I will be working on explaining some of the things that I think are extremely out of line. I will be starting with some of the lessons taught in the Promise Keepers Movement. As I go on, feel free to let me know your thoughts because, as I said before, I do not claim to have the whole answer.