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Yesterday, I “preached” my second sermon sitting at my desk at Converge Church. It is very strange not preaching during the Sunday Morning Worship Service. May the church be the church and may the followers of Jesus be salt and light in this world. Last week, I began a sermon series on the Gospel of Mark. Below is a link to today’s message:

Setting the Stage for the Arrival of Jesus

Based on Mark 1.1-8.

Bryan

 

 

Church Cancelled Tomorrow

In an abundance of caution, the elders have decided to cancel our services tomorrow.  No, our city has not seen the ”community spread” that is feared.  However, in view of our significant senior demographic, in a spirit of cooperation with our community, and to help keep down the potential impact on our medical community, it seems prudent.

The elders have already initiated a conversation about how to continue to minister to you depending on how this plays out.  We are so blessed with online teaching and inspiration, as well as the ability to connect with each other using various digital means.  I encourage you to reach out to at least one person you will miss seeing tomorrow in church!

Please remember too, that at our web site (Convergechurchomaha.org) you have the opportunity to listen to past sermons and continue your regular discipline of giving.  Thank you for your faithfulness in that regard.

In the days ahead, we’ll be monitoring not only the news, but what we’re hearing from you.  Please feel free to reach out to Pastor Bryan or Pastor Mike—or any of the elders for that matter!  That’s especially true if you have any contact with this virus or are having difficulty because of the disruption.

Thanks for your patience and grace as we work our way through this together.  We’re all being forced to make decisions without much precedent.  President Trump has called on people to pray tomorrow.  That is NOT a difficult decision!  We are especially prepared to serve our country in that respect.  Let’s pray for a merciful reduction in the spread of this virus.  And let’s pray that the fear and heartache people are experiencing will open hearts for revival!

“The physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer.”

~. Dietrich BonhoefferLife Together19

January 10, 2020

American evangelicalism

“One of the dilemmas that pop American evangelicalism is having,” said Jethani, “is a lot of especially younger people…are looking at the leaders they’ve put on these pedestals, and they’re recognizing they have really rotten fruit…And then what ends up happening is you meet someone from another tradition, whether Christian or otherwise, who holds very different theology, and you go, ‘Oh my goodness. They have more compassion and love and grace and maturity and fruit of the Spirit than I’ve found in my evangelical tradition, so I’m going to jump ship from that one to this one.’”

Deconstructing from American Evangelicalism

It’s helpful to note that people use the term “deconstruction” in different ways. Some, like Joshua Harris, have used the word “deconstruction” to mean leaving Christianity. Another author defines it this way: “Deconstruction is a careful and deliberate examination of one’s beliefs from the inside. It’s about coming to terms with what you believe outside of your inherited beliefs. It’s about growing INTO your faith, not out of it.”

So at its most simple definition, deconstruction is a modern way to describe doubting or questioning. Whether or not it means leaving a belief system entirely seems to depend on the person using it.

American Evangelicalism, the Marketplace and the Medieval Roman Catholic Church

Jethani believes the word “evangelicalism” “has been problematic for a while because it’s become associated with a certain cultural expression of Christianity that is not solely gospel-centered.” In the same way that social media reveals the negativity that has always existed in human nature, evangelicalism has always had what Jethani calls “ungodly undercurrents.” Now, certain events in culture have revealed evangelicalism’s unhealthiness.

According to Jethani, the evangelical church in the U.S. has somewhat ironically fallen into some of the same errors as the medieval Roman Catholic Church. “The abuse of power, the exaltation of leadership, the financial shenanigans that went on, the selling of indulgences,” he said, are all abuses of which we can see parallels today.

One example of what he is talking about is the celebrity pastor. During the Reformation, the Protestant church got rid of the Catholic priesthood and replaced it with the priesthood of all believers. But, said Jethani, “We have completely abandoned the idea of a priesthood of all believers, and so many American evangelicals now live their faith vicariously through their celebrity pastor.” So when a leader like that dramatically fails, as many have, the consequences are devastating.

We can see an unhealthy focus on money and power, says Jethani, because American evangelicalism tends to value pastors for their charisma, influence and giftedness, instead of their spiritual maturity or their strength of character. Jethani said that when he was involved in Christian publishing a little over 10 years ago, an executive once told him, “In today’s Christian publishing environment, Eugene Peterson never gets a publishing contract.” The reason was that, while he might be doing good work as a pastor, Peterson did not have the kind of influence modern evangelicalism values, such as a megachurch or a lot of followers online.

Complicating this problem is the instability that pluralism has introduced to our society. It is healthy to question assumptions and to allow for diverse points of view. But the fewer common, assumed values people in a society have, the more choices they have to make about what they believe and, therefore, the more anxiety this introduces into their lives.

Eventually, people can get to the point where it’s easier to choose fundamentalism (whether on the liberal or conservative extremes) instead of thinking through their doubts and questions well. So some of the problems we’re seeing in evangelicalism simply arise from a desire for stability.

Help When Deconstructing

Jethani was careful to point out that all traditions have their own “unique problems.” Sometimes leaving a tradition is the right choice, but, “It isn’t just like, white American evangelicalism is toxic, and everything else is ok. We just have to diagnose the toxicity in each of these traditions and recognize and disciple accordingly.”

If you know anything about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, then you know he was no wimp when it came down to serving Jesus!

~ Bryan

10 Reasons Ministry Isn’t for Wimps

10 Reasons Ministry Isn't for Wimps

Pastoral Care Ministry Is Not for Wimps

Furthermore, always remember that God has called you to love His church—not merely His mature church, but His immature church, as well. Moreover, a call to ministry is a call to bleed.

Here are 10 things to remember if you enter pastoral ministry.

10. Not everyone will like you.

9. You will make people angry regardless of how godly you handle yourself; it comes with the position.

8. You will feel like a failure often, and when you do appear to succeed, the fruit that is produced cannot be accredited to you. God alone gives the increase (1 Cor. 3:7). Thus, there is little “sense of accomplishment in ministry” that you may be accustomed to in other vocations.

7. You will fight legalism and liberalism, along with laziness, ignorance, tradition and opposition. Yet, your greatest enemy will be your own heart (Jer. 17:9).

6. Not everyone will respond positively to your preaching, teaching or leadership. You will bring people to tears with the same sermon: one in joy, another in anger (I have done this).

5. You will be criticized, rarely to your face and frequently behind your back. This criticism will come from those that love you, those that obviously do not like you, and pastors and Christians that barely know you.

4. You will think about quitting yearly or monthly, if not weekly or even daily.

3. You will be persecuted for preaching the truth, mostly from your brothers and sisters in the pews. You shouldn’t be surprised by the sight of your own blood. You’re a Christian, after all (Matt. 16:24).

By Andrew Camp

6 Reflections on Community Inspired by Bonhoeffer

My church has recently launched a series on community called Better Together. In conjunction with the sermon series, I, in collaboration with my senior pastor, wrote a small group curriculum to complement the series. I love community, which is why I love small groups. Like many of you, I work hard on our small group system at my church to equip leaders and to help many in my church experience the fullness of community—the good, the bad and the ugly.

However, as I continue to reflect on community and work toward helping others experience community, I constantly find myself drawn back to and challenged by the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer from his classic work, Life Together. In it, he writes:

God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others and by himself. He enters the community of Christians with his demands, sets up his own law, and judges the brethren and God Himself accordingly…. When his ideal picture is destroyed, he sees the community going to smash. So he becomes, first an accuser of his brethren, then an accuser of God, and finally the despairing accuser of himself.

Because God has already laid the only foundation of our fellowship, because God has bound us together in one body with other Christians in Jesus Christ, long before we entered into common life with them, we enter into that common life not as demanders but as thankful recipients. We thank God for what He has done for us. We thank God for giving us brethren who live by His call, by His forgiveness and His promise. (pp. 27-28).

I don’t know about you, but I am constantly tempted to get so caught up in my vision, planning and execution of community, that I rarely stop to seek God’s heart for the community which He has called me to shepherd.

Please do not misunderstand me: I do not believe God wants you or me to be laissez faire when it comes to community either. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 14:33, “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.” Structure and guidelines are good as it relates to community; they can help foster an environment where people feel safe to be vulnerable.

So how do we draw the balance. Here are some preliminary thoughts:

1. Pray for your specific community. Thank God for placing you in that specific community. Don’t repress your frustrations about your community, but in the midst of frustrations, be thankful as much as you are able.

2. Listen to God. Don’t spend so much time in prayer for your community that you miss God’s voice to you regarding your community. Remember that God has already laid the foundation.

3. Spend time listening to your people—not just your leaders, but others as well. Know where they are at and what they need to continue to grow spiritually.

4. Get to know your place. What are the specific challenges your community faces? What is good about your place that helps foster community?

The Annual “Trunk or Treat” and Blood Drive will be today at Converge Church

April 2020
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