The Great Commission Vacation

short term missionsIt seems to me that many short-term mission trips are problematic for a number of reasons. Let me give a few off the top of my head; 

1) Service missions are a waste of money that could have been used to hire local workers to do many of the jobs much better. I don’t understand why we spend thousands of dollars to send unskilled workers, often teenagers, when we could give jobs to local workers who actually know what they are doing for less money.

2) The false implicit assumption seems to be that missions and service need to be done somewhere other than within our own communities and to our own neighbors.

3) It reinforces the dynamic of impoverished people needing to be taken care of and saved by affluent, (typically white) Americans. Instead of empowering others and standing beside them as equals, a hierarchy develops even under the guise of service.

4) People gain an undue sense of their own goodness and the ‘impact’ or ‘difference’ that they made in other people’s lives. This also perpetuates the false belief that poverty is not an issue that should be addressed in the public sphere because charity is good enough to handle it.

5) While exposing people to poverty is a good thing, the lack of ongoing relationships does not actually improve people’s awareness of the reality of poverty. You often end up with affluent people who falsely think they understand the experience of poverty and the issues surrounding it.

6) The people being served are dehumanized as objects that we get to feel bad for, show compassion toward, feel love at, etc… They exist to make us feel like good Christians. How many people end up taking pictures of locals as if they are tourist attractions? Wouldn’t you find it weird if strangers went through your neighborhood and started taking pictures of you or your kids?

We’ve turned The Great Commission into something that is nothing more than an expensive vacation for church people.  If God has called you to missions, then do mission work.  But don’t do mission work for a week, come back to your home and share about how much you loved it and can’t wait to go back next year.  Just go do it.

 

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Seven Tips for a Happy Christian Marriage

Biblical Spirituality

Here are seven tips for a happy Christian marriage coming from Mr. Don Verduin, a member of our church, who has been married for 67 years:

IMG_20140327_143518_812 Don & Alice Verduin

  1. Make God the center of your life and marriage. Seek God’s will as found in the Bible, and make His Word your guide for all decisions you are required to make.

  2. Make sure that you read the Bible every day. The Bible has answers for every issue that Christian couples face. For instance, take time to study Ephesians 5 – 6: 18 where God has listed rules for a happy marriage.

  3. Church attendance is a must. As a couple, support your church with your prayers, gifts, and time. The fellowship with Christian friends can be educational and comforting. Also, be sure to tithe, and, if able, to give beyond your tithe. God requires giving and blesses those who give.

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But They Don’t Understand How Jesus Feel About His Church

church-blocks1Lisa and I have been living in Columbus since a month before we got married or so (Fall of 2012).  Soon after we got married, I started a job where I was required to work almost every Sunday and my shifts throughout the week varied constantly.  It made finding a church incredibly difficult.  Occasionally when I would have a Sunday off, we would visit a church we thought could become our home church, but we never really felt like any of those could be churches where we grow, helped others grow, and raise a family in.  That’s not to say some of these churches were not biblical or gospel-centered, they just weren’t where God wanted us, which is evident now.  A couples months ago, I was lucky enough to trade the weekend shift in for the regular Monday through Friday, 9am to 6pm shift.  We began looking through websites (The Gospel Coalition, Acts 29 Network, Sojourn Network) looking for a church that wasn’t super far away and also shared in our same reformed theology.  We visited a couple of churches whose doctrine we didn’t completely agree with, some of it minor some of it major.  Some churches we did find, we emailed and never heard back.

Somehow, during my 10th scanning of The Gospel Coalition’s I saw a church that I hadn’t seen before.  Refuge Church, which was located in Grove City, about 15 minutes from where we live.  I went to their website and thought to myself “this looks like it could be a very good place for us to visit and check out”. I emailed the pastor, half expecting never to hear anything back like 90% of my prior inquires with other churches. But to my surprise, I heard back rather quickly, and most of the questions I had, he answered.  Usually when I had heard back from a church I emailed with questions, I got super vague answers back with them trying to get me to come to service to get all the answers.  It was  a refreshing twist.  Needless to say, we attended their Sunday service that week and have been going back ever since.  Next month we hope to take the membership class and become full-fledged members of Refuge Church.

Our first visit was crazy, it was made pretty obvious to us on our first trip that this was where God wanted us.  We were approached after service by one of the elders of Refuge and asked to have lunch with us (Something to note, Refuge offers a lunch buffet at church after Sunday service as a way for fellowship and getting together). Readers of my blog will know that Lisa and I feel called to the poorest area of Columbus, Franklinton (aka The Bottoms), without knowing of our call to that area, one of the elders brought up how Refuge is involved in that area and hope to eventually plant a church in that area one day.  Lisa and I kind of looked at each other, almost in disbelief.  It was obviously from there on, that God wanted us at Refuge.  It has been such a blessing getting to know the people at Refuge and making friends.  I had forgotten how much I longed for a church family during the last two years.  It would have been a lot easier dealing with our miscarriage had we had a church family then.  I can’t wait to see where God takes us and Refuge next.

Classism and Contemporary Pastoral Training

Pastor Dave Online

seminary I am the product of a particular kind of culture, a culture of academics and education. I went to college and was trained by a well-educated pastor. I went to a strong academic seminary and was friends with PhD candidates and professors. I have been shaped and influenced by this highly academic culture. I am thankful for it, but not everyone has these same experiences. I have been wondering lately what this means for pastoral-training. There is a growing fear in me that we are creating an unhealthy trend in the church by means of our present models of pastoral training.  The present model of pastoral training utilized in much of the west perpetuates a kind of classism within the church.

A great many churches in America are pastored by middle-class males. That’s largely because Seminaries attract and equip middle-class males. The result has been a view of ministerial leadership…

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But I With The Voice of Thanksgiving, Will Sacrifice To You; What I Have Vowed I Will Pay.

ImageI’ve written about my perceived calling to inner cities several times before.  If you know me outside of this blog, I’m sure we have spoken about it before as well.  Moving back to Columbus after college has really only served to further fuel that desire.  To be honest, it’s a calling I have struggled with believing.  Not because I don’t want to minister to that type of area, but because I want to minister to that type of area so badly.  I have feared at times that I have made myself feel that calling because I like to hear people tell me how brave I am for wanting to move to a ghetto to share the gospel or how I’m a better Christian because I’m willing to sacrifice comfort for the gospel.  After living the last two years pretty comfortably in Columbus with my wife and attending a couple of churches who minister to wealthy suburbs of Columbus, I just can’t shake the calling to the inner city.  Specifically in this case, the bottoms of Columbus.  My wife and I want to buy a house in the bottoms and move there as we share the gospel with our neighbors.

I firmly believe that in order to effectively reach a community, you have to live in and be apart of the community.  While I was in college I attended a church that desperately wanted to reach out to the poor and lost of the towns urban areas and asked for their members to live in those areas, while the church leaders (some, not all) lived far away in very nice houses while sending their kids to private Christian schools.  You can’t share the gospel with people when you only want to interact with them when it’s convenient for you.  I know it’s a scary thing to live in the ghetto, there have been many times where I have thought about moving my young bride to the drug riddled and crime capital of Columbus and have simply wanted to ask God for another calling, but as a husband, I have to lead my wife and my future children to where God wants us.  And right now I am completely confident that He wants us in the Columbus ghetto.

Lisa and I are in the very beginning stages of looking for a home when our apartment lease is up this coming winter.  I pray that if this truly where God wants us to set up shop, that it will be made obvious in this part of our journey.

Breaking Bad and The Bible

I think if Dutch theologian Hendrik Berkhof were still alive, he might say that AMC’s big hit, Breaking Bad, just may be the perfect parable on the powers. His little book, ,Christ and the Powers, was translated into English by John Howard Yoder and serves as a foundational work for Yoder’s theology as well as the unique work of Walter Wink. I think it would be fascinating to reflect on this drama with the three of these great thinkers – now all dead (which, considering the tone of the show – seems kind of fitting).

Berkhof was one of the first (maybe the first?) to take a critical look at just what the Apostle Paul was talking about in the New Testament when he referred to “powers, principalities, and authorities.” Essentially, he goes on to suggest, they are the unseen forces that are at work in our world. This particular realm of discussion always makes me think of this scene from School of Rock – you may not understand the language of Powers – but everyone knows who “The Man” is:

I’ve never seen a more vivid commentary on the Powers than in the storyline of Breaking Bad. Hollywood has long wrestled with the dark realities and crises of sin through the genre of horror (a personal favorite!). Coming to terms with the reality of sin through the over-the-top nature of the the likes of Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers is less threatening to our personal faith than what we encounter through Breaking Bad. It just doesn’t seem that threatening to talk about what we would do if a mass murderer ever broke into our homes or dreams.

Maybe it began with the Saw movies – or maybe it was Se7en – but somewhere along the line the audience wasn’t allowed to simply watch idly by as a terrible tale unfolds and project ourselves into impossible scenarios. Instead, these new movies invite us into more realistic moral quandaries – what do we do when our only choices are between two evils? To what extent are we willing to participate in the fallen state in order to maintain our self-preservation? Just how entangled are we in the sinful work of the Powers?

In the beginning, of Breaking Bad we meet Walter White – an under-achieving chemistry genius who teaches high school science. Providing the plot lines to the program, Walter faces the Powers up close and personal through disease (cancer) which plunges him to face other realities that we all face: economic Powers, the Power of health care, the illegal drug world, and on and on the story goes delving more and more deeply into the interconnected world of the Powers.

What begins as a somewhat light-hearted traipse to the dark side of the law, continues to grow darker with each episode. It’s as if we the viewer are invited to witness the degree to which Walter becomes entrapped by the Powers in order to reflect upon our own life and the degree that the Powers have entangled us. As the story develops, the audience is forced to wrestle with the reality that the chief “hero” of the story, is slowly becoming baptized by the Powers and turning into the nemesis. This couldn’t resonate more directly with Berkhof’s teaching on the Powers: created as good, but fallen with all of creation and now ruling instead of serving.