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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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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Race and the Evangelical Slavery Problem

Pop Quiz. First Question: Who are some of the most beloved figures of American Evangelicalism? Answer. Consider these names: Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and Charles Hodge. Great theologians and preachers all. Second Question: Even though most African American Christians believe in a generally evangelical theology, why do so few identify with evangelicalism as a broader movement? Answer. Consider these names: Jonathan Edwards (owned at least 6 slaves), George Whitefield (slave owner, fought for legalization of slavery in Georgie, used slave labor in his orphanage, bought 20+ slaves in his lifetime), Charles Hodge (defender of the slave trade). Also, Charles Finney, D.L. Moody and Billy Graham all preached to segregated audiences even while on some level denouncing the slave trade (source: The American Evangelical Story by Doug Sweeney). In other words, history shows us that white evangelical heroes of the American past have either outright participated in slavery or at least…

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How to Waste $1,000,000

This article on Chicago Tribune’s website (registration required) describes the ever-expanding pageantry of Christmas productions at the Savannah Christian (mega) Churches where attendees (at $5 a head) get to take a boat ride across a massive lake into Bethlehem, where they mingle with the townspeople who greet them with fresh water, fruit and assorted cheeses. Roman soldiers on white horses lead them along a lighted path, where they encounter the Three Wise Men with a live camel resting at their side. They look on as the archangel Gabriel appears at the Virgin Mary’s home and tells her that she is carrying a child. They watch an evil King Herod, who plots to kill the newborn. Finally, they arrive at the manger, standing close enough to touch the crying baby Jesus. Or try Willow Creek, for example: The Cirque du Soleil-style production at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington features…

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Why Contextualization is Scary

The word Contextualization will get you shot in some areas. “The gospel doesn’t need to be contextualized” is the mantra. I definitely recognize the inherent feeling of uneasiness about it because it sure does seem like the gospel itself is somehow being modified to suit a particular audience. But that is not the heart behind proper contextualization. To be simple and to the point: contextualization is best positioning the proclamation of Christ to gain a favorable reception without adding to or taking away from the basic content of it. Here’s the kicker: everybody has a context. This is so obvious that its easy to overlook. Here are some traits of the modern evangelical context, and a brief challenge for each.

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Ten Myths Concerning Communication (part 2)

Ah, I know you’ve been waiting ever so impatiently for the next five myths. Your patience will be rewarded. 6. The key to effective communication is the precise formulation of the message. Get this quote: “Many would-be communicators pay primary attention to the technical preciseness, accuracy, and truthfulness of the words and phrases they use to construct their messages. Yet the choice to use precise, technical language, especially with popular audiences, usually increases rather than decreases the possibility of misinterpretation. The drive towards preciseness does not take account of the fact that much of what goes into effective communication is outside the control of the communicator,” (32).

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Ten Myths Concerning Communication (part 1)

Charles H. Kraft’s book, Communication Theory for Christian Witness, has a chapter of ten myths in communication. These are quite helpful and challenging because there are several sacred cows in American Evangelicalism that he debunks. For example, I had a friend once who was offended that a church service did not conclude with an altar call. Although this was at one point a very effective tool for communication and calling people to respond, it has descended into emotive pleas with little substance (actually, I may be giving the altar call a little more credit than it actually deserves here). At any rate, see how many of these you can agree with: 1. Hearing the gospel with one’s ears is equivalent to “being reached” with the gospel.

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