The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others, and by himself. He enters the community of Christians with demands, sets up his own law, and judges the brethren and God himself accordingly.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer - Life Together
Ive been reading Total Church, by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis, and starting to ask myself–should we be churches with communities or churches that are communities? Here is what I mean–is “community” another program that is offered by the church? Just one of the list of things a church offers to people trying to decide which church to attend.
It seems like the churches of the New Testament were communities, they didn’t offer some program called community, its just what they were. The early church spent its life together, and we know that by the end of the first century they were also together in the deaths.
Though Ive not finished Total Church, I would at least recommend the first section of the book – it is a simple and accurate examination of what a church should look like.
By becoming a Christian, I belong to God and I belong to my brothers and sisters. It is not that I belong to God and then make a decision to join a local church. My being in Christ means being in Christ with others who are in Christ. This is my identity. This is our identity. To fail to live out our corporate identity in Christ is analogous to the act of adultery: we can be Christians and do it, but is it not what Christians should do.
Tags: Apology, Community, Contextualization, Culture, Messy Christianity, Pittsburgh
Over the last month, my wife and I have been traveling between NY, West Virginia, and Indiana. Over these weeks we have been able to examine why people choose to live where they live.
As many of you know I am firmly committed to living in the city of Pittsburgh, and am always encouraging others to love the robo-city. As I have had to be away from the place I love I have had to ask myself why do I care so much about living in Pittsburgh? Why do I live in Pittsburgh, and why do people live anywhere?
At one point the idea of living in the city was seen by most people as a foolish thing to do. After all cities are dangerous, they are polluted and its harder to be a Christian. In recent years, this has begun to change. Gentrification has made it socially acceptable to dwell in cities. While men like Tim Keller, and others, have also encouraged Christians to see the strategic importance of Christians living in and loving cities.
To those who live in the suburbs this might come as a shock, but I have to admit when Christians who live in cities get together, they tend to bad mouth anyone who doesn’t share their passion of the urban context. There is perceived mutual enlightenment among those who live in the city. After all, we have the culture and the community that others wish they had, or should wish they had if they knew what was good for them. Folks in the suburbs might hear this and chuckle, while folks from the country might laugh at both groups and offer up their simple, one with nature life style, as a rebuttal.
Though I think Dr. Keller has many good reasons, why Christians should live in the city, I think the question that all Christians need to be asking themselves is why should I live anywhere? If you have realized your brokenness and sought redemption and reconciliation with God, than you will respond. All Christians are called to live differently, their are called to see their lives as more than simply the pursuit of comfort or safety. More than simply the accumulation of family and happiness. Too often Christians do not examine their own lifestyle choices. It is not enough to send money to missionaries who have been called to a far of place. Though not all people are called to live in some far off place, God calls all Christians to become missionaries, in a broader sense of the word.
All Christians must ask themselves where is God calling me to live?
Is God calling you to live near work so you can be home more often? Is he calling you to live in a smaller home rather than a larger one? Is he calling you to an at-risk neighborhood? Or to one of great affluence?
Let me offer up some simple principles that I have come to accept:
God wants you to love people. Pick a place where you can get to know people. Or find local ways to interact with people that you would not meet otherwise.
You should care more about God and people than about your house. Jack Miller rightly points out that most of us are too worried about scuffed furniture and wear and tear, and not worried enough about caring for people who live around them.
Your trust should be in God not in your choice of neighborhood. Christians need to go beyond buying the smallest house in the best neighborhood. People need to realize that every place is safe when you trust that Christ is on his throne, just consider the Chinese church. If you are worried about living in an “unsafe” place I would challenge you to consider how much you are truly trusting God.
Figure out how to live where God is calling you to live. People need to be loved and they need to learn of the love that died for their sake. People need this in places that are very expensive and, they need this in places that are very poor. This means that folks should choose to live in high priced neighborhoods, and others should chose to live in lower cost neighborhoods. Each brings risks and rewards.
Live where God is calling you not necessarily where you want to live. “Not my will but your will” ring a bell?
Some might look at where Jo and I live and say: you are less safe, or making less money on your investment. You could get more home for your money, in different area. Our answer is that as far as we can tell God has called us to live in Lawrenceville, and we plan to be their for better or worse until he calls us to move somewhere else.
I hope that all Christians will continue to ask themselves why did we move here? or where is God calling us to live?
If all goes well Im going to be ordained sometime this summer. As I have been transitioning into full time ministry I have had more discussions with my senior pastor about how I dress that almost any other topic.
Here is the question how should a pastor dress? Should he dress like business guy? Should he dress like a golfer? Should he dress like a rock star?
Here is what i have been thinking bout recently. 1: I need to be accessible to a wide variety of people. 2: Im not a button up and khakis kind of guy (It just doesn’t look that good on my build.) 3: I either like to dress down (t-shirt, shorts and flip flops), or up (sports coats). 4: If I’m going to to dress up I feel like I should be comfortable, but at the same time stylish.
I know that no matter how I dress some people will be put off by my appearance, with that in mind, how should I dress? I’ve put pictures of three styles of dress with which I feel comfortable.
I was talking to one of the elders at my church after our Easter service, and we were discussing the historic Easter greeting: He has risen. He has risen, indeed!
This elder and I were talking about how we use a phrase once a year, that many people might really understand. This elder said that he was talking to a middle-aged man in our congregation and greeted him by saying “He has risen.” The man responded by saying “Yes, he has!”, rather than the traditional “He is risen indeed!”
So here is my question is there ever a time when we have to drop “historic” phrases because they no longer are understandable within out current use of language? This has been something that I have been thinking about for a while, and “He has risen indeed” is just one example.
This is something that presbyterians have to worry about more than other traditions. Most Presbyterians hold to, or at least interact with, the Westminster Confession of Faith, and at its Shorter Catechism.
The clearest example of using a phrase that is simply catechism Question: “What is sin?” Answer: “Sin is any want of conformity, or transgression of the law of God.”
The catechism is not saying that it is a sin to desire to conform to the law of God, but that it is a sin lack of conformity to the law of God.
Getting back to my original point. Would there be a greeting that would communicate the resurrection of Christ, in a way that is more understandable to modern America people?
Tags: City Reformed, Community, Culture, Pittsburgh, Urban Missions
The Pittsburgh Public School District is developing a massive scholarship program for all their High School graduates. The plan would give each student $5,000 each year toward college, until 2010 when that sum could be raised to $10,000 a year if students passed the state graduation test.
The catch is that you have to be in school 90% of the days (days missed are counted from unexcused absences, and suspensions) and you need to be in the district for all 4 years of High School. The schools that are acceptable are all state schools and most colleges and trade school in Allegheny county. For frame of reference Pitt costs about $13,000 a year for students in Pennsylvania.
The really cool part is that even if your are on a full scholarship you can still be eligible for up to $1,000 a year.
It seems like a pretty sweet deal. Lets see if its around in 2020 when my kids are in school.
I found a link to an article that a brother of mine wrote concerning what it means to be true to a denominations tradition. The whole article can be found here.
Here are a few thoughts on this article.
On Organic Growth. Your definition of root is wrong. Christ is clear that he is the root of any true branch of his Church. I must ask what do you mean by “Organic” If you mean by that: a slow process of acclamation, with the end result of the new looking like the old, than I think you are wrong.
Acts is full of examples of larger expansions of the church, not because of some pride over cultural heritage but many times in spite of that heritage. Additionally I think you would be hard press to say that they were organic expansion.
On stories forming identity and strengthening community.
In diverse situations we would find more stories not only about the killing times of Scotland, but of the grace of God in Commmunist China, his mercies in the Philippians, his protection in India. It is unthinkable for you to want to elevate one group of Christians stories over another. More stories revealing the Grace of God in many historical contexts is a good thing. The Covenanters of Scotland are not the start of your church. A more practical question would be: Why such an incomplete story. Stories are full of transitions, no story is complete if only the opening line has been read. What has happened in the last 400 years that should be retold by all Christians?
On Developing this identity in our children.
I cannot say it any other way, than to say you are Barthizing the common meaning of these words. community – does not come to its fullest expression when a focus on simply mimicking a culture set down before us. Look at any ethic neighborhood and that will become apparent. As new groups come in these communities are forced to do one of three things: 1st,Preserve their culture by keeping out those who are cultural different. 2nd, leave in protest. Finally they can chose to re-define what makes them a community, including their cultural habits and stories.
Localism – is a focus on what happens locally over and against Globalism, or Nationalism. Localism brings about diversity not uniformity.
Finally you said “Interestingly, while our denomination unanimously affirms the regulative principle of worship, we have reason to wonder if our unity is being swallowed up by diversity. No longer do our people have a valid expectation of visiting a RP Church in another city and experience a sense of familiarity. It seems we are bound together only by the Psalms.”
There is a great difference in trying to faithfully keep to the regulative principle, and believing that even in the circumstantial parts of worship that there must be uniformity, or that there is some unfaithfulness of one party when their worship has differences.
I wonder what you would say binds together the PCA? I know the bond that unites the PCA is our love of Christ, our commitment to the infallibility of Scripture, the historic reformed faith and to fulfilling the great commission.
Tags: City Reformed, Community, Divorce, Pittsburgh, Preaching
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“The conventional wisdom of the world says your in it till it hurts, the conventional wisdom of the church say never let them see you hurt, and so the resource around us, the friends, the counsel, the prayer, the support that would help us is not there.”
Matt has been preaching on Luke 16, in the last few weeks, last week he came to Christ’s talk about divorce. In my opinion one of his best sermons.
Listen to the sermon here.