I read this piece from former President, Jimmy Carter, over the weekend explaining his decision to sever his ties with the South Baptist Convention – after being an active member for six decades. While I don’t agree with everything he writes, I agreed with the crux of his column: Enough is enough.
Most of you are aware of my hermeneutics and convictions pertaining to the issue of equality of women and my full support for women in all levels of leadership in the Church. I’ve written numerous posts about the issue but here are some worth checking out:
Talk about a string of bad press! In addition to a write up in the Christian Science Monitor [The Coming Evangelical Collapse], a cover article of the Newsweek Magazine entitled “The End of Christian America,” a more readable and short article popped up last week on ABC News entitled, “Young America Losing Their Religion.”
Last Sunday, couple folks were baptized at Quest. Their stories of coming to faith in Jesus always moves me. With permission, here’s the story of Rosalind – one of only 30,000 Karaite Jews in the world and now one of two Karaite Jew believers. I want to encourage you to read it and be blessed.
“The Lord said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. ‘I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’ So Abram left, as the Lord had told him…” Genesis 12:1-4
It feels like my faith journey began before I was born. I guess that’s why my testimony might feel more like a history lesson than a story about God’s grace, but the fact that I’ve made it here is almost testament enough.
I am a Karaite Jew; a sect of Jews that has been around since God passed down his laws to Moses. Originating in Mesopotamia, the area between the Tigris-Euphrates river system (present day Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Syria, etc.), only 30,000 of us remain in the world today, 4,000 of which reside in the U.S.
But one of the joys of planting and pastoring Quest Church is that it’s one of the most unique and diverse communities I have been a part of. This isn’t meant to be a slam against homogeneous churches. In fact, I believe that every community is multicultural on some level – [Hint: think beyond race.] While I miss (very much) the uniqueness of my experiences in Korean-American churches – food, generations, languages, etc. (and still am involved in KA/Asian communities), I now understand why God called Minhee and I to venture out from our homogeneous suburban church into the city to plant Quest and Q Cafe.
While we have a long way to go, we’re thankful that Quest is growing as a multicultural, multigenerational, and urban faith community – with a desire to be an incarnational presence both in the city of Seattle and the larger world – teaching and living out the Gospel of Christ.
Questions: What are ways that you encourage your community to grow in diversity, community, and uniqueness?
These are my encouragements to fellow leaders and pastors:
Know the diversity of your community. Simply, do you know their stories? They may “look” the same but they represent different ‘cultures’ – if not ethnicities. We all have diverse stories. If you know their stories, are you making their stories known? FWIW, this is my story.
Nevertheless, have a vision of the larger Kingdom and the “future Church” and consider what it looks like to take “one step closer…” Even if your church community isn’t ethnically diverse, how are you personally building friendships and encouraging your congregants to live in friendship with neighbors and the larger community? How is your church serving “other” churches and communities – especially those that don’t look like yours? You don’t have to put all your eggs in one basket and think that “worshipping together” is the only expression. Think outside of Sundays and outside the building box.
Be committed to the truth that each person is uniquely created in the image of God. Consider the lessons learned from the story of Susan Boyle of Britain’s Got Talent and meditate on this quote from C. S. Lewis in The Weight Of Glory.
Time Magazine created a list of 10 new ideas that are impacting the world right now and #3 on their list – incredibly – is an old but new movement called Calvinism or “New Calvinism.” Listed as some of the movers behind this new movement are John Piper from Minneapolis, my neighbor Mark Driscoll from Seattle, and Al Mohler. I find it encouraging and phenomenal that this was on the list but think we’re missing something if we think the Holy Spirit is working exclusively through the “new Calvinists.” Despite our cynicism and reports of the collapse of the evangelical church, the Holy Spirit is working…
Mark – on his Resurgence blog – listed the distinctions between Old and New Calvinism. He cites four main differences:
Old Calvinism was fundamental or liberal and separated from or syncretized with culture. New Calvinism is missional and seeks to create and redeem culture.
Old Calvinism fled from the cities. New Calvinism is flooding into cities.
Old Calvinism was cessationistic and fearful of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. New Calvinism is continuationist and joyful in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
Old Calvinism was fearful and suspicious of other Christians and burned bridges. New Calvinism loves all Christians and builds bridges between them.
While I personally roll with the Covenant denomination, I am advocating that we never be an island to ourselves. I spent most of my early years in Reformed and Presbyterian Churches including two years in Korea at what I perceive to be one of the most influential [but completely unknown to Westerners] churches called Onnuri. I received my Masters of Divinity degree at Princeton Theological Seminary so I have a good deal of exposure and understanding of Calvinism and Reformed Theology. It’s clearly shaped a portion of my theology and ecclesiology.
So having said that, I like to think that we’re really all part of One Larger Team called the Kingdom of God. Thus, if those four traits are the characteristics and commitments of New Calvinism, we should all be BIG fans. I would certainly be and would genuinely love to see my co-laborers in the New Calvinism team be committed to being Missional, Urban Minded [and not just the Suburbs], led by the Holy Spirit, and Bridge Builders.