Community, Worship


The other week I was attending the Church of the Brethren Church Planting conference at Bethany Seminary in Richmond, IN. I got the pleasure of hanging out with some friends who I don’t get to see very often. One of these friends lives and ministers in Seattle, WA. Turns out he was doing a workshop the same time that I was doing mine, so unfortunately I wasn’t able to be at his. But he gave me the handout, which was a tour of the churches and ministries happening in Seattle.

One of the ministry he highlighted was Church of the Beloved and he mentioned that they had some free music on their site, so I went and downloaded the music. (You can do that here…

One song is called Peace and as I listened to it, I realized just how much our world, our families, our denominations, and our churches need this type of peace. Read the lyrics and pray that PEACE may start with you (through your relationship with Jesus and through the power of the Holy Spirit)

Broken conversations, broken people, we’re broken Lord.
Terrified illusions, seeking comfort, we’re seeking more.
We need each other more than we need to agree.
Father, Son, Spirit bless us with your love,
with your grace and peace.

Let there be peace.
Let there be peace.
Let there be peace.

Let us see and not destroy. Let us listen. Let us listen.
Let us suspend judgement for the sake of love, for the sake of love.
We need each other more than we need to agree.
Father, Son, Spirit bless us with your love,
with your grace and peace.

Let there be love. (among us)
Let there be love. (among us)
Let there be love.

Church Planting, Community, Ministry Formation

Guest Blog Post

The other week I was asked to be a guest blogger for my friend Lisa Colon Delay, who I went to Kutztown University with. I thought I would repost what I wrote for her blog on my blog. Would love to hear your thoughts on it.


For the last two and half years I’ve been planting Veritas, a missional community in Lancaster, PA. There are various challenges in this.

There’s the challenge of developing a Core Group for Veritas. There’s the struggle of seeking to do church in a whole new way in an area that has a fairly traditional view of what church is. There’s the challenge of balancing 4 part time jobs between my wife and me, a free lance job, two kids and keeping up with everything that comes with running a household. But the biggest challenge that I have been faced with revolves around the issue of identity.

All too often, whether in planting a new faith community, or just in life, we define ourselves by what we do. And we define our self worth from what we do, and whether we are “successful” or not. Maybe men do this more.

If I’m honest with myself, my self worth all too often is tied into how I perceive things are going. If we have a good Sunday, as far as numbers (even though we seek to define success by other metrics) I feel good about myself. If we have a bad Sunday, as far as numbers go, I feel horrible about myself and want to throw in the towel and give up. The biggest challenge I believe, at least for me, in this planting journey has been to remember this phrase, “It’s not what I do, it is about whose I am.”

Scripture says this about me, “he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will” (Ephesians 1:5), and “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”(Romans 8:15). Too often I say to myself (or Satan says) the very opposite of these words. I forget that I am a child of the King and that I am loved, not for anything that I can do, have done, or will do. I am loved period.

One thing that stuck from my years at seminary that has helped me confront this problem of identity is this simple statement, “There is nothing you can do to make God love you any less. There is nothing you can do to make God love you any more.” My identity is not in being a church planter, a father, a husband, or anything else that I try to define my worth in. My struggle is to remember that, and place my identity in the fact that I am a child of the Heavenly Father.


EneME — A blogpost by Eric Bierker

Pastor Ryan Braught posted a link to this blogpost from Eric Beirker who participates in Veritas Church. I love it! I found it very inspirational and got permission to share it here. In the beginning of the post, he tells the missional focus of the church during worship. Next, Eric tells a story of how it played-out in his life. Here’s a short teaser:

“So much of a church service can be pew passivity, this (Veritas’ missional) approach definitely encourages activity. And if not activity, really awkward silence. Really awkward silence…a shaming silence. I departed yesterday vowing to put my faith into practice more intentionally and no sooner had I thought more about “how?” a dude came out and asked for money.

I declined giving him cash but struck up a conversation with the man. I offered to buy him a cup of Lancaster’s finest coffee at Square One and he accepted the offer. No sooner had we started walking there, he went on good versus bad people verbal jag. . .”

To read the whole story, go to EneMe|bierkergaard.

Spiritual Formation, Understanding Context

Black Evangelicals, White Evangelicals, and Franklin Graham

I was deeply touched today by an article that was sent to by SOJOMail (3/2/12), a ministry of Sojourners. I think this is a very powerful commentary on cultural differences and perspectives of our Christian faith. Jeff

GUEST COMMENTARY by Lisa Sharon Harper

When Franklin Graham expressed doubts about President Obama’s Christian faith during an interview on Morning Joe last week, it reminded me of an uncomfortable dinner I had in the late ‘90s.

I sat down for a pleasant meal in the home of two great friends — one of them a white evangelical faith leader deeply committed to social justice. Well into the evening’s conversation — when we’d dropped all our pretenses and our exchanges moved well past mealtime niceties — one friend asked me something that caught me entirely off guard.

“Do you think Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Christian?” he said.

I was dumbstruck. I had never heard anyone actually ask that question before.

“Yes,” I replied. “What would make you doubt that?”

As he explained, it became clear: My friend wasn’t sure whether Dr. King was a Christian because King’s Christianity didn’t look like my friend’s Christianity.

Dr. King valued justice. My friend valued justice.

King professed personal faith in Jesus. My friend professed personal faith in Jesus.

And yet my friend still was hung up about King’s faith because, to his eye, King didn’t seem interested in “evangelism” as my friend defined it — i.e. the practice of calling sinners into personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ, whose death on the cross is payment for our sins.

Twentieth-century white evangelical understanding of the Gospel guided (and in many ways defined) my friend’s Christian walk. Therein lies the disconnect between his Christian faith and Dr. King’s.

According to sociologists Michael Emerson and Christian Smith (authors of Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America), only one thing separates white and black evangelicals, but it makes all the difference in the world: Vastly different experiences of structural and systemic oppression.

Black evangelicals have a long history of interaction with oppressive systems and structures. When African Americans read the Bible, they see the more than 2,000 passages of scripture about God’s hatred for poverty and oppression. They see God’s desire for systems and structures to be blessings to all of humanity — not a curse to some and a blessing for others.

And they see Jesus’ own declaration that he had come to preach good news to the poor, which, by the way, is decidedly not a reference to the “spiritually impoverished.” Jesus meant that he had come to preach good news (of liberation, freedom, and new life) to people trapped in material poverty.

White evangelicals generally do not experience such systemic oppression. According to Emerson and Smith, most white evangelicals don’t prioritize or even see the thousands of references in the Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament about structural and systemic injustice.

Accordingly, the Gospel — and by extension their evangelism — is about only one thing: Personal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, who died for their sins, and a personal relationship with him.

Black evangelicals also have personal faith that Jesus’ death paid for their sins, but their Gospel doesn’t end with personal (and individual) salvation. For Dr. King and Sojourner Truth and Fannie Lou Hamer and the Rev. John Perkins and Nelson Mandela and for hundreds of thousands of Black Christians around the world and for me, the good news of the Gospel is that Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection were for the redemption of both individual souls and the redemption of whole societies.

Franklin Graham’s father, Dr. Billy Graham, didn’t always understand this, either. The elder Graham’s revivals began as segregated affairs, but the Supreme Court’s desegregation ruling in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954) agitated his conscience and he quickly course corrected. From that point on, Billy Graham never again held a segregated revival.
What’s more, in 1957 Dr. Graham invited Dr. King, to share his pulpit for a 16-week revival in New York City.

For Billy Graham, Martin King was a Christian.

In the last decade or so, a new generation of white evangelicals — such as my friends Shane Claiborne, Kelly Moltzen, Josh Harper, and others — have intentionally displaced themselves, moving into impoverished communities of color in order to gain the experience their parents and grandparents lacked. As a result, their white evangelical eyes are open.

They see those 2,000 scriptures about poverty and injustice. And this new generation of white evangelicals is committed to fight systemic and structural justice because of the Gospel.

So, it grieved me to hear Franklin Graham’s doubt-filled commentary on President Obama’s faith.

Obama has described in his own words (and quite publicly) how he has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, how as a young community organizer in Chicago in the late ‘80s he walked down the aisle of a church during an altar call to make a public profession of that faith — a practice developed by one of the greatest American evangelists of all time, Charles Finney.

The president has clearly professed his belief that Jesus died on the cross as payment for his sins. And Obama repeatedly invokes the words of Jesus that guide his world view: “Just as you did to the least of these, you did to me.” (Matthew 25:40)

For a moment, Franklin Graham’s cynicism tested my own faith. I wondered if he had any idea that, when he questioned the president’s faith, it felt as if he were questioning my faith.

I wanted to know if the transformational power of Jesus’ death and resurrection, which is powerful enough to save our souls also could open Franklin’s eyes and soften his heart to the world and experience of his black brothers and sisters.
Repentance is sweet, not only for the sinner, but also for the world. It reminds us all of what is right; what is good; what is true. Franklin Graham apologized for his comments and repented this week.

This public discussion is now a lesson for us all. I have an abiding hope that, just maybe, the power of Jesus’ resurrection is powerful enough even to save the church.

Lisa Sharon Harper is the Director of Mobilizing at Sojourners. She is also co-author of Left, Right and Christ: Evangelical Faith in Politics and author of Evangelical Does Not Equal Republican … or Democrat.

Ministry Formation, Third Places, Understanding Context

Changing World, Future Church, Ancient Paths

The Church of the Brethren and Urban Express North American are co-sponsoring a webcast with Stuart Murray and Juliet Kilpin in collaboration with Pacific Conference Brethren in Christ, Pacific Southwest District Church of the Brethren and Pacific Southwest Mennonite Conference USA. It will be held March 10, 2012, from 10 am to 4 pm PST.

Stuart Murray Williams and Juliet Kilpin will be presenting on what does it mean to follow Jesus in a changing culture, in which the Christian story is no longer familiar and the church is on the margins? Post-Christendom is well advanced in most western societies and this is the emerging reality in the US too. How do we respond to the challenges and seize the opportunities? What role does church planting play as we search for relevant ways of being church in this emerging culture? And what can the Anabaptist tradition offer –- a tradition with centuries of experience on the margins in which many are finding inspiration and fresh perspectives?

Stuart Murray has spoken at previous Church of the Brethren events and has written The Naked Anabaptist and Post-Christendom.

The cost is $35 for the webcast and this includes CEU credit.

For more information or registration go to this link.

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