About LA’s “Call to Brotherhood Unity and Revival”

Note: Please keep in mind the admonition at the upper left about the content of this site. Though I am a deacon in my church, the comments posted here are mine and mine alone. Unless I say otherwise, they are not the opinions of my church or it’s leadership, just me. Considering the controversial things going on lately, I felt the need to say that again. On this topic specificaly, our leadership hasn’t yet considered it as a group, though we intend to.
I wanted to talk about the LA Call to Brotherhood Unity and Revivial, since implementation of it is to get underway within the week (why so fast, by the way? This only came out on the 27th.) My thoughts can pretty much be summed up in one sentence. Actually, in one word.
Why?
What I mean is, why do wee need a formal, codified structural arrangement between churches? The ‘Call’ doesn’t really answer that question. It touches on it, but never answers it in the following statements:

There are many of us who believe that in order for our churches to go forward and multiply, the time has come for us to reaffirm what we believe, set aside a day to fast, pray, repent and forgive, recommit to having the same expectations for everyone in our church, and organize ourselves in such a way that we have a brotherhood that has supporting ligaments (Ephesians 4:16), not just within one congregation, but between the leaderships of congregations.

OK so this does sort of answer it, I guess. “Many” think that we can’t “go forward and multiply” if we don’t have an arrangement between churches. OK then, let me rephrase the question. Why can’t we grow without some kind of structure between us? How is a structure going ensure or foster growth?
I wonder what our first century brothers would say about this. I mean, I don’t see any formalized, codified arrangement between the churches other than the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15, and I’d like to take a minute to compare LA’s call to that. In the Council of Jerusalem, the apostles addressed the desire by some of the Jews to return to the comfort of the familiar – obedience to the law of Moses. The Apostles affirmed that they should not return to a system that neither they nor their fathers could bear. Instead they came up with four things to instruct the Gentiles disciples to stay away from – “food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.” Interestingly, three of those four things seem cultural. Who today struggles with, and what church preaches against, food polluted by idols, the meat of strangled animals and blood? Only sexual immorality seems relevant today. Also interesting to me is that there are many other passages like Galatians 5:19-20 that list sins to be avoided, with dire consequences if one doesn’t, but those sins aren’t listed here, nor are those three cultural things mentioned again in the NT.
Actually, the Council of Jerusalem is not really a ‘call to unity’ as much as it is a list of specific instructions to a minority group of believers in danger of being outcast by the stronger majority. In a very real sense the council at Jerusalem was to protect the weak from the strong. The first century churches seem to be united on Jesus Christ & the cross alone. This ‘call’ from LA seems to do the opposite, to bring the ‘strong’ out from among the weak. The push from the majority at Jerusalem was to hold onto and to return to old, familiar ways. The resulting instructions from the Apostles and elders was a rejection of returning to a system that did not bring them closer to God, but was instead was a burden to them. It seems to me from this document that some desire to return to a polished version the old ICOC system. I would say the same thing that Peter said in Acts 15, “Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that … we … have [not] been able to bear?” The old ICOC ways were needlessly burdensome to most of us, why go back there? Instead let’s look for a new paradigm, truly based on grace and the lordship of Christ. We’ve had two years to do this, but instead we sat on our hands waiting for the storm to pass. Now that the coast is clear and most of the critics within our fellowship have left, will we return to our vomit (Proverbs 26:11)?

Numerous people have expressed that there is a significant need for leadership, of some nature, on a Kingdom level to assist in meeting needs that cannot be met on a local level. While we certainly believe the local leadership needs to be able to make decisions concerning their own congregations, we have also seen how fractured, discouraged, and weak any church becomes when the leadership is isolated and fails to solicit counsel and discipling from mature evangelists and elders outside their own congregations.

I ask again, why? Or more to the quote, what are these ‘needs that cannot be met on a local level’? They are not listed, only to say that lots of folks think there is a ‘significant need’ for ‘Kingdom level’ leadership. How is having another level of leadership above our churches will help ‘fractured, discouraged, and weak’ churches, particularly if they are not seeking outside council on their own? Will forcing oversight on them really help?
Again I wonder what the first century church would think. If they wanted help from a the outside, it was extremely difficult. Yes, there were traveling evangelists but I would assume their visits were by necessity few and far between. After all it took days to travel from city to city. If you put a call out for Paul or Peter to come visit, it could very well be weeks or months before he arrived. It’s speculation, but I suspect that all of the nitty gritty day to day living as disciples had to be handled on a local level. It simply took too long to go get someone to help you work things out.
I think that we are spoiled by telephones, email, blogs, cars and airline travel. We can call or jump in the car or a plane and meet face to face with other church leaders. Our first century brothers did not have such a luxury. It’s a blessing, but it can also be a curse. It leads us to believe that we need to work out some arrangement between us, because we can. Why not instead simply focus on those immediately around us instead of those outside? What I mean is, let’s stop putting all this energy into relationships with other congregations by flying here and there and instead focus that on strengthening our own churches. Certainly, build the dialog and talk to each other to help each other build, but mostly stay home and take care of the flock.

As your brothers, we are inviting you and your congregation to join us in this call to unity and revival. We are calling our congregation to a day of fasting and prayer for unity and revival on Friday, October 7th, 2005 and invite your congregation to join with us. We are building a list of churches that likewise affirm these Biblical beliefs and principles and choose to join us in this effort. We encourage you to speak with your leadership groups and prayerfully consider this proposal. We realize that there may be some churches that join us that may use slightly different wording or phrases in the way they express some of their beliefs or practices (such as small groups, family groups, etc.), but have the same basic core beliefs and practices. We also realize that there will be some who may not be ready to join us in this action.

In general it seems that this is more a way to draw lines in the sand. Are you with us or not? Who is a part of us? Particularly when I look at the list of beliefs and practices that we are asked to agree to. Why do we need to add up such a comprehensive and specific list of dos and don’ts in order to work together? Why do we need to regulate giving, attendance, church structure (small groups & teen and campus ministries are required) and dating habits if not to draw a line in the sand around us so we can tell who is in and who is out? I wonder, as John Engler did, which congregations are they giving this invitation too? Is going out to our COC brothers as well? What about other churches? Or are we only capable of being unified with ourselves?
Individually, there isn’t much I disagree with in these statements. For example, I happen to think that dating non-disciples is not wise and should be avoided. I think it’s good to be at all the meetings of the church, although there are good reasons at time to miss them (beyond the traditionally accepted being sick.) I think small groups are great. I don’t agree that these are ‘laws’ we should codify, however. A very relevant thing to read on this is one of the latest posts from Tent Pegs, No Jesus for YOU! A snippet:

Legalism is not a love of the law. It is not wanting to do the right thing to please Jesus. Legalism is saying that you must have Jesus AND…. or that you can’t have Jesus UNTIL… and then placing barriers around the would-be disciple.

My Catholic friends tell me I need Jesus AND the Pope and their structure. My Mormon friends tell me I need Jesus AND their extra Bible (Jesus: The Sequel). My charismatic friends tell me I need Jesus AND a second outpouring of the Spirit. My friends in the church tell me I need Jesus AND the right doctrines on a hundred different crucial matters. And if I don’t have Jesus AND whatever they add? Then — no Jesus for me! I am denied equal status with them, turned away from their fellowship, because I only brought Jesus and that — to them — was just not enough. Or, alternatively, what I brought wasn’t the real Jesus because the real Jesus only comes in a package with whatever else they declare as essential.

I don’t think there’s a need to add anything to Jesus, grace and the cross.
So, in the end, it really for me boils down to that one word, why? I’ve been trying, and I can’t think of a good answer to that.

Before I Get Carried Away

Boy, I’m having serious flashbacks going on here.
On one hand, it seems like 1979 all over again, with Kip “Calling out the Remnant” from the ICOC now, just like he did with the COC shortly after taking the reigns at the Boston Church of Christ (then the Lexington COC). I wasn’t around at that time, although I joined the ICOC in the middle of the ‘reconstruction of COC’s” phase in the late 80’s and remember the transition shortly after to the “plant new churches” phase. I came to Columbus on one of those church plantings, after two unsuccessful attempts to reconstruct local COC’s. In each of those cases, the ‘sold out’ were called to Boston or Cincinnati and the churches left wounded. Years later we marched into town to save the city. Now the roles are reversed and it’s my church that is threatened. It’s a humbling feeling that creates a rock in the pit of my stomach when I think about it.
On the other hand it seems like 2003, in the months after the Henry Kriete letter (HKL). In those days there were letters, papers and opinions flying on what we should and shouldn’t do or believe and what it all meant. Talk about deja-vu. First it was Kip, then the LA Statement, then the Boston COC elders respond to Kip, then Alan Rouse (an elder in Atlanta) responds to LA and John Engler, former ICOC leader in Denver and the guy behind the Barnabas Ministry has posted his comments about it all. All of this has sparked a revival in the long dormant ICOCNews, the place to go in 2003 for links and commentary on all that was happening.
It’s a bit overwhelming on a lot of levels. It’s sad, it makes me angry and it makes me afraid of what will happen next.
Time to take a breath.
A couple of things have helped put things in perspective for me.
First, my wife has asked me a couple of questions and cautioned me to be careful in my criticism, specifically of Kip. I need that. It’s easy as the words fly across the internet to forget that there are real men behind these words. Men that I don’t know personally, in some cases I haven’t even met them. They believe that they are doing their best for God. I must act and speak with respect for the men, even if I consider their ideas and doctrine to wrong. It’s frankly not hard to keep from personally attacking them with words, I’m not the name calling kind of guy in general. But to stop the slide in my mind from disdain for their ideas to disdain for them is much harder. I must pray more and try harder to maintain my respect. After all, many of those things that they profess that I disagree with now, I wholeheartedly endorsed at one time. Humility goes a long way.
Second was a reminder from my friend Pinakidion from this post (and the comments) that there is much more to life than the state of the ICOC family of church. Much, much more important things to be focused on. Like my amazing wife of 12 years, my 6, 8 and 10 year old girls who started school today, my and my wife’s families, my local church family and my friends. This too will pass, although perhaps with a fair bit of pain.
Don’t get me wrong, there are things that should be, and will be, said and actions to take to care for the flock here in Columbus during this time. But all of this must be done with the proper perspective. Lord help me maintain that.

[Sigh – Part II]

While I don’t think it’s a direct response to Kip’s ‘Portland Story’, this was posted on Saturday from the LA ICoC. (BTW – You can follow some of the news on Kip’s ‘calling of the remnant’ and the fallout and responses at both the suddenly renewed, ‘outsider’ run icocnews and icocinfo, run by an ICOC member and teamed up with Disciples Today, the closest thing to an official ICOC website there is. See links at left.) Some snippets from the LA article, including the ‘Statement’ in its entirety

After much prayer, we humbly put before you the following call to unity and revival. … There are many of us who believe that in order for our churches to go forward and multiply, the time has come for us to reaffirm what we believe, set aside a day to fast, pray, repent and forgive, recommit to having the same expectations for everyone in our church, and organize ourselves in such a way that we have a brotherhood that has supporting ligaments (Ephesians 4:16), not just within one congregation, but between the leaderships of congregations.

We have assembled a basic list of core convictions and principles upon which most, if not all, of us have lived our Christian lives since the beginning of our walk with God. We have attached a document that states a declaration of these convictions and
principles.

STATEMENT OF UNIFIED BELIEFS, PRACTICES, AND BROTHERHOOD
“May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:23 NIV)

As brothers who have been brought together by the cross of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we have a passion to love, honor, and obey God. As His disciples bonded by the Spirit, the water, and the blood, and saved by grace in the waters of baptism, our collective vision is to carry the good news of Jesus Christ to every corner of the world. From that vision, our belief that the Bible is God’s inspired Word, and our intense desire to please the
Lord through seeing Christ’s church grow in spirit and number, we commit ourselves to the following beliefs, practices, and brotherhood:
Unified Beliefs

  1. Every member in every church is expected to be a true disciple through belief in Jesus as God’s Son (John 20:31), a decision to deny self and surrender all to Christ’s Lordship (Luke 9:23ff; 14:33), complete repentance of sin (Acts 2:38), confession of Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:9), and baptism for the forgiveness of sin and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38) and to be raised to a new life. (Romans 6:1-4)
  2. Every member in every church is to share in Christ’s mission to seek and save the lost. (Matthew 28:18-20)
  3. Every member in every church is expected to be totally committed to the body life of the church which includes attendance at all the services, consistent sacrificial giving, and joyful and growing “one another” discipling relationships. (Romans 12:10, Hebrews 3:12,13; 10:24-25)

Unified Practices

  1. For the purpose of outreach, as well as mature discipling, every member will be in a small group. ( Acts 20:20, Colossians 4:15)
  2. Every member in every church is to financially support both local and world missions. (Matthew 28:18-20)
  3. We are committed to remembering the poor. (Galatians 2:10)
  4. We are committed to women having a ministry role in training other women. (Titus 2:3-4)
  5. We are committed to providing resources to supply leadership for our young people, to insure ministries such as the teen and campus thrive and multiply. (Acts 19:9, 10)
  6. We are committed to free and respectful communication within the brotherhood. (1 Peter 2:17)
  7. We are committed to obedience to the command of 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1, and in that spirit expect that disciples should therefore only date and marry disciples.
  8. While we recognize the need for local decision-making, we are committed to our congregation soliciting and receiving outside godly input and influence. (1 Peter 5:5)

Unified Brotherhood

  1. Missionary Unity: We are committed to practically coordinate resources for the evangelization of the world and provide necessary representation and cooperation. (2 Corinthians 8)
  2. Kingdom Leadership: We are committed to a collective leadership that will maintain unity, foster revival, and advance the gospel. (John 17:20-23) While we understand the need for each congregation’s leadership to make the decisions regarding their local work, we also recognize the need for leadership on a Kingdom level to meet needs such as, cooperation and fulfillment of missions support, regional coordination of training and discipling, provide accountability to these beliefs and practices, when necessary, and provide assistance to meeting staffing needs, when asked, etc.
  3. Conflict Resolution: We have all born painful witness to the past three years’ turmoil fueled by an unbridled spirit of suspicion, accusation, judgment, generalization, and public slander. We firmly commit, with this in mind, to Biblical conflict resolution and loving confrontation. We resolve to address concerns and disagreements as privately as possible, as Jesus’ teaching directs (Matthew 18:15ff) Though we affirm the charge for all disciples to privately and gently confront sin (Galatians 6:1, 2 Timothy 2:24) and the rare need for leaderships to publicly
    mark false teachers, we commit, in the spirit of family, to making every effort to guard one another’s churches’ and individual reputations in what we publicly say and write.

Under the submission and Lordship of Jesus Christ, the leaderships of the following churches commit to these unified beliefs, practices, and brotherhood “…that the world may believe” (John 17:21 NIV) “…and that by believing…have life in his name.” (John 20:31 NIV)
Los Angeles International Church of Christ

Both this and Kip’s latest seemed timed (this overtly so) to be just prior to the up coming leadership conference. It seems that those who were once in charge are jockying for position to shape the future ICOC. OK, to be fair, that’s the cynic in me talking. I probably shouldn’t say any more until I’ve prayed more.

Just for the record

Since one, two, three (part 1), three (part 2), four (part one), four (part 2), five , six (part 1), six (part 2), seven, eight of the blogs linked at left have already commented on Pat Robertson’s comments on assasinating Chavez, I’ll spare you my tirade.
For the record, I also think his comments, on this an many other things political, have nothing to do with Christ and Christianity, but instead seem to serve his need to be in the spotlight.
BTW – There’s an interesting discussion going on at the Thinklings around this question: Why is what Pat Robertson said wrong? Now that’s an interesting question.

[Sigh]

Now in deep appreciation of God’s grace, the Portland leadership is taking the initiative to help rebuild any congregation that asks our help thereby aiding in rebuilding a global movement of “sold-out” disciples that will reach this lost world.
As the “aroma of Christ” some will regard our efforts as “the smell of death” and others the “fragrance of life” (2 Corinthians 2:15-16) Let it be stated clearly, we are not trying to build a “new movement.” Yet since many “teachers” have chosen to preach “a different Jesus, a different gospel with a different spirit” (2 Corinthians 11:3), we realize like Paul our vision efforts and plans will short term cause division. Most view division always as sin, yet Pal says “No doubt there have to be divisions (differences) among you to show which of you have God’s approval.” (1 Corinthians 11:19)

However, as of this Jubilee the Portland leadership believes it is time for a progressive “calling out of the remnant of disciples” from dying, former ICOC Churches. … If a group asks for help to restore the foundation of sold-out disciples, we will help in any way we can. Biblically, disciples can never rebel against authority, yet as seen with David who “chose” to transfer his allegiance from the ungodly Saul to the uncircumcised Achish(1 Samuel 27:1-4) one is “free to choose” whom to submit to. In the fall the Portland leadership will begin to seek out church leaderships in congregations that are struggling to ask if we can help them build a foundation of sold-out disciples. If they are not inclined to receive help, then we will offer help to any group that would prefer to be in a new congregation composed of only sold-out disciples.

Kip McKean, August 21st, 2005

I have much to say, but for now I’ll just say that I’m sad, very sad.
I’ll have more to say about this later after I’ve had some (more) time to pray about it.

A Letter to the Leaders

Our church recently lost its campus minister. He felt that the ministry was not for him and resigned, moving to Florida to be a teacher. We are left to decide what to do. The board, the Deacons and the Evangelist met last Monday to discuss it. We are are a church of about 120 people, only 4 or 5 are campus students, down fro a high a few years ago of 20 or so. However, Ohio State University and it’s 60,000 – 70,000 or more students are here in Columbus. Our church family has a strong history in Campus Ministry and on some levels questioning having a campus minister seems unthinkable. While I can appreciate that pull, I am not convinced that we need to have one now.
We are to meet again on Monday, and there’s a leader’s meeting (larger group including family group leaders and others.) on Sunday afternoon. Since I’m away at a family reunion (ain’t hotel wireless grand?) I wanted to put my thoughts on paper and get them to the group before our Monday meeting. The following is what I emailed the board, Deacons and the evangelist.

Brothers,
I was very encouraged by our meeting on Monday. It was very good for us to get together as a group, hopefully we can do that more often. Since I will not be there on Sunday at the leader’s meeting, I wanted to put some of my thoughts and perspective on paper and have you be able to review it while I’m gone.
I was glad to hear everyone’s views on the importance of the campus ministry. It helped me renew my own conviction on the matter. I agree that it is ultimately a ministry we would be foolish to ignore. However, while my convictions on it’s importance is renewed, I am not convinced that it would be best for us to pursue it at this time. We are a small church with limited resources. We must work with what we have and make the best of it for God.
Our movement’s history has a strong presence in the campus ministry. Campus ministry has always been a focus and as some pointed out many of our leaders worldwide came from one campus or another. I was converted on the campus of the University of Cincinnati in the summer of 1988 when we saw the ministry double in size (I think, my memory is a little fuzzy). J.S. and T.H. [Members of the church. I used the real names in me note.] were converted in the same ministry around a year prior. College students are just branching out, looking for their place in the world, exploring new ideas and looking for something to believe in. They are deciding if the faith of their parents is theirs or not. It’s a tremendous opportunity to reach souls who are searching.
Campus ministry is also somewhat of a ‘flashy’ ministry. It’s high profile, when folks within our fellowship look at our church they wonder about that ministry. It can also bring fairly quick and substantial success, because of the sheer number of people to share with and the fact that many of them are seeking. That can be a boon to the church, but it can also be a detriment. Campus successes can inspire and encourage the other disciples, but it can also take resources away from other more challenging and less visible ministries.
When I look at Jesus and God’s heart throughout the Bible, they are not concerned at all with what’s important or flashy. When selecting a new king for Israel, God said to Samuel in 1 Samuel 16:7:

“Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

I want us to make sure as we consider how to move forward at this time that we petition God and keep our hearts and minds open to what’s important to Him. While hiring a new campus minister right now would undoubtedly be a good thing, is it the best thing we can do to honor and serve God? I’m not convinced that it is. I really appreciate Bill’s reference to the scripture about the need for differences among us. We must bring these different ideas to the table so we can weigh and consider them and pray about them to determine which one has God’s approval.
God’s Heart
One thing I want us to think about in this is the heart of God throughout scripture. A while back, I began a study on what is God’s heart, or what’s important to him. The one obvious scripture that comes to mind is Matthew 22:34-40:

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. ‘This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

According to Jesus, we can do no better than to love Him and others. Everything we do, evangelism, serving, giving, sacrifice, must be done as a part of our love for God and others. If we focus on campus, it must be to honor God and take care of people. Our motivations should not be because the campus mission field is so large, though it is, or because their hearts are searching, though they are, or because of the glory to be gained (for God and us), though it’s there. No, we must make sure that it’s because we love God and the people around us and are convinced that this is the best way to act on that love.
The other thing I’ve thought about in this is God’s heart throughout the Bible for those who are neglected. Search for the terms ‘alien’, ‘widow’, ‘orphan’, ‘fatherless’ or ‘oppressed’ and you find many passages about how God cares for them The OT law commanded the Israelites to take care of them by prohibiting excessive interest, calling for the canceling of debts every 7 years, not harvesting to the edge of your field to allow the poor to take the rest and providing cities of refuge for the accused. God calls repeatedly for justice and condemns those who withhold it. He is “a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows” (Psalm 68:5). One of the most convicting passages in this regard to me is Isaiah 1 & Isaiah 58:

Isaiah 1
1 The vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah son of Amoz saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.
A Rebellious Nation
2 Hear, O heavens! Listen, O earth!
For the LORD has spoken:
“I reared children and brought them up,
but they have rebelled against me.
3 The ox knows his master,
the donkey his owner’s manger,
but Israel does not know,
my people do not understand.”
4 Ah, sinful nation,
a people loaded with guilt,
a brood of evildoers,
children given to corruption!
They have forsaken the LORD ;
they have spurned the Holy One of Israel
and turned their backs on him.
5 Why should you be beaten anymore?
Why do you persist in rebellion?
Your whole head is injured,
your whole heart afflicted.
6 From the sole of your foot to the top of your head
there is no soundness-
only wounds and welts
and open sores,
not cleansed or bandaged
or soothed with oil.
7 Your country is desolate,
your cities burned with fire;
your fields are being stripped by foreigners
right before you,
laid waste as when overthrown by strangers.
8 The Daughter of Zion is left
like a shelter in a vineyard,
like a hut in a field of melons,
like a city under siege.
9 Unless the LORD Almighty
had left us some survivors,
we would have become like Sodom,
we would have been like Gomorrah.
10 Hear the word of the LORD ,
you rulers of Sodom;
listen to the law of our God,
you people of Gomorrah!
11 “The multitude of your sacrifices-
what are they to me?” says the LORD .
“I have more than enough of burnt offerings,
of rams and the fat of fattened animals;
I have no pleasure
in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.
12 When you come to appear before me,
who has asked this of you,
this trampling of my courts?
13 Stop bringing meaningless offerings!
Your incense is detestable to me.
New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations-
I cannot bear your evil assemblies.
14 Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts
my soul hates.
They have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.
15 When you spread out your hands in prayer,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even if you offer many prayers,
I will not listen.
Your hands are full of blood;
16 wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds
out of my sight!
Stop doing wrong,
17 learn to do right!
Seek justice,
encourage the oppressed.
Defend the cause of the fatherless,
plead the case of the widow.
18 “Come now, let us reason together,”
says the LORD .
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
you will eat the best from the land;
20 but if you resist and rebel,
you will be devoured by the sword.”
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
21 See how the faithful city
has become a harlot!
She once was full of justice;
righteousness used to dwell in her-
but now murderers!
22 Your silver has become dross,
your choice wine is diluted with water.
23 Your rulers are rebels,
companions of thieves;
they all love bribes
and chase after gifts.
They do not defend the cause of the fatherless;
the widow’s case does not come before them.
Isaiah 58
6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

In these passages, particularly Isaiah 1, God lays out the Israelite nation. He calls them evil, rebellious, murderers, sinful, rebellious and Sodom and Gomorrah. Throughout this rant, their sins are not what you might expect. They are mainly sins of the neglect of the helpless. He calls them to repentance, saying “Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.”
I am not comparing our church to the Israelites in the book of Isaiah, but I want to see God’s heart. He longs for people who will stand up for the unloved, poor and neglected. In that light, is the campus where God would have us focus our limited resources right now? There are many needs in our city going wanting, many benevolent projects that could be run to take care of them. What sort of impact could we have on this community and it’s people if we put that money we would spend on a salary toward meet some of those needs? What sort of honor could we bring to God’s name? How many tears does He cry because there is no one to take care of those hurting children of His?
Certainly that’s a harder road than campus ministry. It takes more that just money. It takes people willing to invest their time and energy and willing to get dirty. It takes searching for those needs. It takes planning. It will not bring us notoriety and recognition, but it will pay dividends with God and in our own hearts as we become more grateful for what we have and are softened to the plight of those around us.
Taking Care of Our Own
We must also look at our church family and think about the needs of our brothers and sisters as well. Family has always been important to God’s people. In the OT, men were commanded to take care of a brothers widow and to marry her. If they refused, they were disciplined (Deuteronomy 25). Frequently, if a person was blessed (Rahab – Joshua 6) or cursed (Achan – Joshua 7), his entire family was blessed or cursed. In the NT, we see in Acts 2 that the believers were completely devoted to one another. Galatians 6:10 calls us to “as we have opportunity, [to] do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” In I Timothy 3 we are told that to judge a man’s fitness to be an elder we should look at how he leads and cares for his family.
In considering our spiritual family, we must consider that we have not only the 3-5 campus students in need of leadership, but 15-20 singles in the same plight. Why should the campus get attention and those singles not? In light of the scriptures above, it would seem wrong to pursue a thriving campus ministry while neglecting the singles. Are we showing preference to the easier, more high profile ministry? Perhaps there’s an opportunity to hire a leader to oversee both. A ministry of 25-30 people should not be burdensome at all. The activities of a campus ministry would be happening throughout the day and even late at night, while the singles activities would be mostly in the evening.
Conclusion
I hope in the strength of my words I have not offended anyone. I also hope that my many words have not been too much. I don’t have a specific answer to this, only some thoughts. I realize some will disagree, and that’s OK. I fully expect that I will not completely agree with some of what I’ve said after our discussions are done and other’s opinions are heard. I also realize that in the end the consensus may be to hire a campus minister. I am prepared to stand behind the decisions and conclusions of the group, even if I disagree with them. I only hope that the process will involve considering many different ideas, even radical ones, so that we may discern where God is leading us.
I’ll see you Monday night.
Love in Christ,
Doug Schaefer

This Is What The Gospel is Good For

Bill is an average guy. Well, an average father of two who owns three businesses, one of which is struggling and takes him out of the state 4 or so days a week.
Last week, that trip also took him 17 feet in the air to do some maintenance work for the shop when he reached out to steady himself on a piece of equipment. Unfortunately it had been mis-wired and the equipment frame was ‘hot’, as in electrified, just waiting for Bill to come along and complete the circuit. With his own body.
As the high voltage went through him, unable to breathe or let go, he prayed that God would give him the strength to pull his hand off the machine. Somehow he did it, but in the process fell the 17 feet into a nailer machine. Fortunately for Bill, a horse had trampled on his right leg a few years ago, so when it hit the machine the titanium rod kept his leg from breaking. He received only a pretty nasty, deep cut in his leg, but he was alive.
Like I said, a regular guy.
But this is not about Bill, really. You see Bill and his wife, family and businesses to run, have taken care of LJ for the past few years. LJ is a member of our church.
He’s a 60 year old single guy living in a basement efficiency apartment, smaller than my living room. He works across the street at Damon’s making sure the 4 big screens are showing the right games for the folks who come to watch, eat and drink. He’s got congestive heart failure and diabetes. He’s on blood thinners, so he can’t shave. He’s always got pain in his back and finds it hard to sleep, so he’s always tired. He has little family and who he does have is hundreds of miles away in Kentucky. He’s just trying to make it to retirement, so he won’t have to walk across the street to work any more.
Bill makes sure he gets to church. He (or his wife) makes sure LJ gets his groceries and doesn’t have to carry them home. He makes sure he’s got money if he needs it. He, and others, get LJ to his doctors appointments. Tonight, I was fortunate to be the one to make sure he got to church and to make sure he got some groceries. He promissed he would pay me back after payday, but as far as I’m concerned I’ve already been paid.
LJ is one of the bright spots of the church. He smiles often and it warms the room when he does. He knows that Jesus loves him and he loves Jesus too. My kids, and others, just love LJ and he loves them. They run to him and give him a big hug. For years, LJ played a very convincing Santa at the church Christmas party.
Apart from the church, LJ would be a lonely man in a tiny, crowded basement apartment. He’d have no one and nearly nothing and no one would care. He’d walk to the store and back with his groceries. And few, if any, would be warmed by that smile.
That’s what the gospel is good for.

T’bird Links

Since I’ve begun posting stuff about my Thunderbird, I decided to add a category of links to Thunderbird sites to my blogroll. These are sites with info or message boards, not parts vendors.
The Thunderbird Cybernest is the host of several Yahoo Groups dedicated to the various iterations of the Thunderbird. I get a lot of info and help from the folks on the Squarebirds list.
Squarebirds.org is a site dedicaated to the 3 years of Thunderbirds like mine, 1958-1960. It has a bunch of technical info and an active message board.
The Thunderbird Registry is a project by LOVEFords to try to document where as many Thunderbirds as possible are today. As of this writing they’ve registered 27,685 Thunderbirds. Mine is Registry Number 20,128.
Probably not of interest to most of you, but oh well.

Before and After



They’re he-ere! After 11 weeks of waiting (6-8, eh Boyd?) my wheels finally arrived on Thursday. The tires came in yesterday afternoon and I had them put on this morning. They really transform the look of the car. I’ve long felt, like many car guys, that the wheels make the car. The old gal went from just ‘neat old car’ to ‘cool car’. They give it a nice, aggressive look.
Now I just have to get them cleaned up. They got all smudged during the installation and the tires need a good coat of tire shine on them. And since they’re polished bare aluminum, I’ll want to get a coat of aluminum wheel wax on them pretty soon too so they don’t oxidize. I’ll do the insides too.
Then there’s the new rear seat cover to put on, the new top to install and the suspension kit and new shocks that I just bought. And while I’m at it on the suspension, I’m going to paint the brake drums so they look better between those shiny spokes.
Then, after I go the wheels on and the old wheels and covers out of the trunk, one of the rear deck cylinders decided to spring a leak. It actually started leaking at the tire shop. So now the top won’t go down. Probably will be fixed with adding fluid, but it’s still annoying. It’s always something with these old cars.

New Links

I’ve added a couple more links to the Blogroll at left. This is sort of my ‘favories’ list on my near daily walk through the blogscape, so I try to add links that I find pulling me back again and again.
The first is Cerulean Sanctum. The author, Dan Edelen, is from my home state of Ohio, although the SW corner. It’s a nice blend of thoughtful reflection and plain common sense.
The second is A Ministry of Reconciliation, a group blog of some former, and perhaps current, members of the Salf Lake Christian Church, an ICOC congregation. Thomas Rasmussen, one of the members, also blogs as Didymus.
I’ve also removed the Rwanda Missions link. Greg and Sara are back home safely from their Rwanda trip and that Blog has served it’s purpose. You can still read Greg at his regular blog.

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