The Gospel and Social Justice

Here is a very interesting video series where Mark Dever and Jim Wallis discuss the relationship between the gospel and social justice. The staff at my church has been wrestling through ways to practically live out the reconciling message of the gospel in our neighborhood. Part One deals with racial reconciliation in the local church. HT: Timmy Brister.

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CNN Identifies “Fake” Christianity

A recent article on CNN identifies what they call “fake” Christianity and describes it as a “watered-down faith that portrays God as a ‘divine therapist’ whose chief goal is to boost people’s self-esteem.” This brand of Christianity is very common in today’s churches, especially those geared towards attracting young people. But instead of attracting them, these churches end up repelling young people. Read the whole thing here.

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How White Evangelicals Perceive Racial Issues

Divided by Faith, by Michael Emerson and Christian Smith, offers three lenses (page 74) through which white evangelicals typically perceive racial issues. Racial problems are caused by prejudiced individuals, resulting in bad relationships and sin. This is the most common feature of white evangelical perception of race. Along with this is the notion that the best remedies are also individualized. For example, white people and black people should focus their reconciling energies on building relationships with one another, and through this process the divide will heal. Racial problems are caused by other groups, usually African Americans, who try to make race problems a group issue when there is nothing more than individual problems. Since white evangelicals put a great amount of emphasis on individual accountability, some attempts to address racial problems that deals with entire groups of people will be met with resistance. Racial problems are actually a fabrication of…

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Hip Hop + Basketball = Urban Ministry

Great post on Baptisttwentyone.com about using hip hop and basketball as a means of reaching people. The idea: When we took that drive back in the summer and observed this sub-culture we recognized immediately two predominant things that interested them: basketball and hip hop music. We knew that we had the facilities and guys who could connect with these young men through basketball. We said, “This is out there but what might really be cool is a hip hop service of some kind with open gym afterwards…” The young men: They were 19-29 year old young men who play basketball nearly every single day, wear baggy clothes strategically placed to show off inked skin, work (or don’t work) part time to support various addictions, go from relationship to relationship sometimes producing children, and are heavily influenced regardless of race by hip hop music. These men, we recognized, may be directionless…

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7 Elements of a Multi-Ethnic Church

George Yancey writes in One Body One Spirit that there are seven characteristics of multi-ethnic churches that are worth noting. Some of these were surprising. 1. Inclusive Worship. Music is so important to people that when they sing to God it needs to take on a form that is culturally meaningful for them. In the Euro-white culture, we have everything from Indie-Rock, to pipe organs, to Coldplay, to acoustic folk in our churches. But others prefer a keyboard and rhythm section driven sound. I suppose in India people would want a Sitar with Ravi Shankar sound. The point is that the musical style of the church must reflect the diversity of the people that come there. 2. Diverse Leadership. Yancey writes, “multiracial leadership is important because members of different racial groups desire to feel represented by the members of the church, especially racial minorities who historically have received a lack…

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Is Racial Reconciliation Dead?

No, racial reconciliation isn’t dead, but perhaps Christians need to talk about the topic differently. God has put in my heart a dream of a multi-racial church in the heart of downtown Cincinnati. In that previous sentence, there’s about three things that people have told me are foolish ideas. I have been told that (1) Cincinnati is “rough soil” for church planting, and (2) downtown Cincinnati is especially difficult, but to be (3) multi-racial is just plain out of the question. I believe that God can and will do it, however. And right now, God has answered my prayers of raising up a core group of Christian leaders who want to see the same thing happen downtown in Cincinnati. But I have been beating my head against a wall trying to figure out how to make our group more ethnically diverse. Yesterday, I met Alvin Sanders, the Chief Diversity Officer…

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Why I’m Planting a Racially Diverse Church in Cincinnati (reason #4)

The fourth reason to plant a racially reconciled church in downtown Cincinnati is this: racial reconciliation forces us to have a missionary mindset. One of the most important things for aspiring missionaries to learn in preparation for the mission field is how to best communicate with people who are different from them. This is called contextualization. Basically, the patterns of communication that work for me in my context may not work so well in someone else’s context. For example, I have spent two summers in Argentina leading short term mission projects. I had to speak to people who didn’t know English primarily and had different culture and customs. It was perfectly acceptable for men to kiss each other on the cheek. In fact, to not greet someone with a “beso” would have been perceived as an insult. But they also had different customs in terms of food, time, family, and…

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Worship Leadership Series (part two): Singing is Commanded in Scripture

In many contemporary worship settings, the focus of the music appears to be primarily self-expression of one’s relationship with God. While there’s nothing wrong with this, I do believe that it is a misplaced priority. I aim to show in this post that worship music in the church is to be primarily for instruction in the truths of scripture and not for self-expression. Ephesians 5:18ff says this: And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5 is a great example of the purpose that God assigns to singing in his church. The positive…

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