pass.it.on


“Pass it on” card

Originally uploaded by xfracture

At Thrive, our passion statement is: Love God, love one another, and pass it on. That passion statement is constantly reinforced through our messages, through our small groups, through our literature, and through the various means of communication that we employ. We have a bi-lateral approach to the “pass it on” part of that statement. We believe that the leadership must, with the help of the Holy Spirit, organize “pass it on” events that the faith community can be a part of. We also believe that individuals, with the help of the Holy Spirit, must respond to opportunities to “pass it on” in their daily lives, on their own.

This photo represents a synthesis of that bi-lateral approach. Thrive invested in the printing of thousands of these cards that say “Someone just prayed for you!”, with the Thrive contact information (just in case). The idea is to help make it easier for our people to reach out and make a difference in the lives of others, by letting the card speak for them as they get used to the idea of performing intentional, but random acts of kindness.

social.justice?

The following is adapted/edited from an entry I made on another blog about the term “social justice”.

What is social justice? I have been struggling over this issue since I first noticed this blog soon after I started my own here. Please allow me to share my ongoing struggle with the “social justice” idiom.

Some qualifications first. As a NewStart pastor, it has been a high priority to teach and example personal involvement in the lives of people, especially those in your circle of influence, but also intentionally within those areas of society often purposefully forgotten and neglected. Our outreach is eclectic and reaches multiple strata. We are eager to be used by God in whatever capacity He directs us – homeless shelters, disaster victims, single parents, our literal neighbors, colleagues, and friends. We exercise the “social justice” component of holy living intentionally.

Having said that, I do take issue with the term because of its implications on society and the Gospel.

In terms of society, I feel that it enables what I see as a rabid victim-mentality that fosters all kinds of self-destructive tendencies (such as apathetic dependence and resolute entitlement) of those who are not experiencing “social justice”. This enabling is the result of the implied opposite term: social *injustice*, connoting that some actual or intentional act of injustice was perpetrated upon some segment of society. And while apathy does deserve a classification as antithetical to holiness, it hardly deserves judgment as an intentional affront. And, if it truly is our intent to help our fellow Christians discover this apathy, charging at them with pointed fingers will hardly result in a willful change of heart. Nor will a guilt-ridden approach. Words mean things.

The connotations of the term “social injustice” are not palpable as a bridge-building term. In my opinion, if our passion is to change people’s minds so that we can truly make a difference, we will get “there” with a more lasting result if we are not so confrontational out of the gate. What we need to do is to help people’s hearts break for what breaks God’s heart – to help people adopt God’s passions as their own. This requires an approach that is mutually edifying, not condescending or condemning.

In terms of the Gospel, we understand that we are part of a creation that has been crippled, fundamentally, by the Garden’s corruption. Jesus Christ is the remedy for that corruption. The “social justice” attributed to our Lord, has often been characterized, mistakenly, as an end unto itself. However, the thrust of Jesus’ ‘social’ ministry was always used as a vehicle towards heart change. Again, because words mean things, the term “social justice” falls short. It limits the scope of the Gospel to feeding the poor and looking after widows. Both of these things are good and necessary, but they are not the end of the Gospel.

The Gospel is also about heart change – a restoration of the relationship between a person and his/her Creator. Such a change will not come because we feed all of the poor. Such a  change will only come as people are individually confronted with the gospel, not in a shotgun approach, but in an approach that addresses each individual personally. However, that takes more time and commitment from us than a soup kitchen or feel-good legislation.

Additionally, the message of Christ is not that life on earth is to be perfected, as if fixing all the ills of society will somehow bring salvation, or that it is even possible with human effort. The message of Christ is that in the midst of earthly torment, our hearts can be perfected. While we are hungry, we can find satisfaction in the obedience of Jesus. While we are thirsty we are quenched by the love of God. When we are alone we are nurtured by the presence of the Holy Spirit.

I understand the resurrection of the term, but I find it limiting and confrontational. However, it has been difficult to offer an alternative that brings with it both the ideas of compassion and intercession in a way that invites others to join in the mission with passion and conviction. However, let us not allow the term (either as a champion of it or a detractor) to distract us from the purpose set before us – to make a real difference in people’s lives as agents of heart change.

Respectfully offered.

In His grip,

Pastor Herb

a.bridge.too.far?

I don’t know how many of you have been to a Sonic restaurant, but my guess is that more of you have seen the Sonic commercials on television. I think these are some of the most clever and appealing commercials on television. I eagerly anticipate new Sonic commercials.

There are a few things that I think make them so appealing. First, the humor is somewhat indirect and perhaps “silly” – there is an askew cleverness there. Second, the production quality is intentionally low and casual. You get the sense that they were shot by a couple of teenagers who hid a camera in their uncle’s car. There is a “YouTube-like” quality there. Finally, they are very approachable. You don’t see “perfect people” setting forth some superficial ideal of what life would be like if one eats at Sonic. Viewers feel as if they could be the characters in these commercials. I catch myself wondering what pedestrian idiosyncrasies would come through if I were one of these characters.

Romans 14:1-4
1 Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. 2 One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. 4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

Inspired by the incredible recent commentaries offered by Dr. Greathouse, I have been leading my group through Romans for many weeks now. A recent message I offered at Thrive Church dealt with the passage above.  The tenor of the message, given Paul’s overarching purpose of uniting the Romans around a mission to Spain, was how to enjoy healthy community. Three positions were offered: healthy community is the product of loving one another,  healthy community is the product of trusting God,  and healthy community is the product of open arms.

I don’t think many would argue with the need to reach people who do not yet count themselves a follower of Jesus. However, given the current debate over the efficacy and appropriateness of the so-called emergent church and its impact on church planting and church revisioning, there is a concern about how far is too far. How far do we take Paul’s example to be “all things” while also heeding his admonition to “be on your guard”?

As a church planter, responsible not only to represent God, but in my case to also represent the Church of the Nazarene, it is a difficult challenge to build an ecclesiology that is relevant yet historically faithful. Everything we do at Thrive is the result of careful thought and prayerful deliberation. Everything we do not do is also the result of careful thought and prayerful deliberation. The result is that while you can be confident that our teachings are as true to Wesleyan Holiness as this imperfect preacher is able, Thrive may not look like a Nazarene church in many ways. In fact, we appeal to a broad spectrum of Christian heritage and tradition, crossing denominational walls as if they did not exist.

This bridge is not built because we have watered down the Gospel – on the contrary, we preach Christ frankly and passionately. This bridge is not built because we watered down doctrine – the people of Thrive know the tradition from which we teach. But, I’ve reminded my people about the difference between dogma, doctrine, and positions. This bridge is built because we do not let positional beliefs become doctrine or dogma. We allow for a wide range of positions on things, and often call upon these differences in position to enlighten our own viewpoints.

Here is another quotation for you:

“In essentials, faithfulness; in non-essentials tolerance; in all things charity!” -Phineas Franklin Bresee

If we Nazarene church planters are going to build healthy communities, let us reach back to our denomination’s founder and exemplify his words. Remember the Sonic commercials? Approachability is the word to remember. Real people need a faith that is for real people. They need to look to pastors and laymen who are approachable. They need to be able to visualize themselves as being able to walk in our bend of the faith path.  Too many of us are spending too much time dealing with positional beliefs that we don’t address the real-life issues that people are facing. The average person trying to live life is not worrying over infant baptism or tongues and gifts. They are trying to make sense of making life happen in an often screwed up world.

A graduate of a Nazarene learning institution, I appreciate scholarship and reason and the application of the Wesleyan quadrilateral to matters of faith. But, I hope I never forget that the purpose of all that education is to give a relevant voice to a timeless Gospel. Sometimes I feel that we are all “grown up” and forgot how to hear the bell. The Gospel is sweet music to our ears, that penetrates our being with a sense of God’s love. It is not a set of codifications into which we herd people.