Confederate Flag Controversy: What’s Your Worldview and Identity?

confed_flag SC_Statehouse getty miaden_antonovA few weeks ago, I had to apologize to someone in my church. This wasn’t an insignificant apology, like, “I’m sorry I forgot our appointment.” This was an issue when I deeply wounded someone in the body of Christ.

A whole bunch of thoughts were going through my head, as I walked into this mediated apology session:

  • Through my pride, I hurt someone who God cares about deeply.
  • I didn’t deserve forgiveness, but I needed to ask for it.
  • I sinned against this person, against others who were involved, and against God (Psalm 51:4)
  • God values peace, and I needed to do everything I could to make that happen.

But one thing I wasn’t thinking: I never thought that I could walk into this meeting and demand forgiveness. I wanted reconciliation, but I would have understood if this person wasn’t ready to give it to me. (Thankfully, they were a lot more gracious that I would have been, and I was forgiven immediately.)

Even though God commands us to forgive each other, just as we have been forgiven (Ephesians 4:32), I couldn’t insist on being forgiven. Forgiving is a choice of one who has been offended.

The Question at Hand

I am writing this blog post to my brothers and sisters in Christ, especially my white southern friends. Other people are invited to read this post, but I don’t think you’ll fully grasp where we are coming from. (Truth be told, I don’t fully understand these complex issues, but I’m working on it.)

Shortly after a recent racism-motivated massacre in Charleston, SC, many people were calling (once again) for the removal of the Confederate flag from the State House grounds in Columbia. Others said that people were using this tragedy for political reasons, and it was not the right time to bring this issue up. (But exactly when is a good time to discuss this? It’s been an issue for at least 20 years. Thankfully, Governor Nikki Haley has bravely called on the SC Legislature to remove the flag from the Capitol grounds.)

So, this is the issue: Should Christians support the removal of the Confederate Flag from our State House grounds? And if we want to take it further, we can ask: Should Christians freely display this flag?

Click here to keep reading…

Advertisements

Envy, Jealousy, and Allendale

House July2014

For the first time since 2010, we are not spending a summer in Allendale, SC.

For the first time since 2010, we are not meeting and fellowshipping with mission trip teams serving in Allendale.

For the first time since 2010, we are not leading summer camps in Allendale.

And we feel like we are missing out.

A team of students and leaders from Grace Church are leaving Allendale tomorrow, to return to Greenville. We are envious that they spent the last 5 days in our “home.”

I’d love for you to read more, on my guest post on the Culturally Engaged blog, titled Jealous for Allendale.

Related Links:

The Hope for Unseen Greenville

Unseen Greenville Panel

Since we moved back to Greenville a year ago (and especially since we now live downtown), I’ve learned a few things about our city:

Greenville does a great job “hiding” its problems (such as poverty).

And (as a result of this),

It’s easier to raise money and awareness for places like Allendale than it is for Greenville.

Now, both of these observations are vast generalizations. Most of us in Greenville are aware of real problems and needs in our community. And we have had lots of supporters for our ministry in Greenville.

But when most people think of Greenville, they think of all the Top 10 lists that our city finds itself on, for food, raising a family, and more. And we are so confident in our superiority that we boast of our hashtag #yeahTHATGreenville.

Still, if you hang around long enough and open your eyes and hear, you’ll see the unseen Greenville.

You’ll want to SEE this . . .

Humility in Our Gospel Mission

Matthew 28:19-20 is one of the most-used passages to justify foreign missions (and not always accurately so). Another similar passage is Acts 1:4-11.

In discussing this passage, Brian Dembowczyk points out that we (evangelicals in the USA) tend to have a proud, self-centered view of the gospel and of missions.

“And so when it comes to global missions – and local missions for that matter – we need to resist the pull toward missional pride and pursue missional humility instead.”

Keep reading…

What’s the Difference Between Race and Ethnicity?

We talk a lot about racial reconciliation. (Correction: I talk a lot about race and racial reconciliation (here and here and here, for starters. You may or may not.)

But we can do better than talking about race. We can be more thorough, and more Biblical, if we use the term ethnicity.

Grouping people into “races” began only a couple of hundred years ago, and has a limited number of categories (anywhere from 4-10, depending on who you ask). But ethnicity or people groups (ethnos, in the Bible) has many more categories.

For example, black Haitians and black Bahamians together live on some islands in the Caribbean. Most of us would look at them and label them as “black.” However, their ethnic cultures are very different and divided. Division between Haitians and Bahamians (or Israelis and Palestinians) is much bigger than that between middle class “whites” and middle class “blacks” in Greenville, SC.

Similarly, there is a very different ethnic culture for a white middle class family in the south compared to a white family who lives in deep Appalachia. Lumping them together into one group dramatically minimizes the cultural differences.

There are hundreds (if not thousands) of ethnic groups in the world. And when you think of that diversity, it makes the gospel and heaven more beautiful. Because now we are not talking about 5 or 10 “races” of people all worshiping God. We are talking about a thousand groups of people who all worship the same God.

And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.”  (Revelation 5:9-10)

After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. And they were shouting with a great roar, “Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb!”  (Revelation 7:9)

Using the terms “races” and “racial reconciliation” minimizes what God is doing and will do, in bringing us to unity.

Or am I making a big deal out of nothing? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the use of the terms “race” and “ethnicity.”

**image courtesy of Dave Meier via Picography

Everyday Discipleship

boat making-disciples-in-the-everyday-stuff-of-life desiring_god

From Jeff Vanderstelt:

When we see disciple-making as primarily done in classrooms or events, we end up leading others to see following Jesus as a study or a program instead of an all-of-life kind of thing. . . .

When discipleship happens in the everyday stuff of life, disciples learn how to follow Jesus in the everyday stuff of life, as well.

Want to know what this looks like in real life? Be sure to read the full article, and then check out these other ones:

Clubhouse Kids: By the Numbers

This is our last week of Clubhouse Kids after school program, before we take a break for the summer.

We could share lots of stories of how we’ve seen children grow and learn and be loved. I already have, here and here and here.

Instead, especially since I’m a math guy, I’ll just share some numbers of what’s been happening over the past few months:

  • nearly 150 hours of reading,
  • more than 250 hours of homework assistance,
  • more than 250 hours of exercise and physical activity by children (to say nothing of us adults!)
  • dozens of arts and crafts creations (all credit to my wife)
  • 180 volunteer hours (which is worth far more than the calculated $4152.60)
  • 520 snacks served to children, virtually all of which were donated
  • $2500 donated to send kids to summer camps

This doesn’t quantify the new relationships that formed, especially between kids from the neighborhood and outside the neighborhood (since they don’t go to school together).

And it doesn’t include the spiritual and emotional investment our team has made in the hearts of these children. As one mom told me:

“They come home talking about all kinds of stuff about the Bible that you guys are teaching them.”

To our volunteers, families, and donors, we give a big . . .

THANK YOU!!!

You are making an invaluable and eternal difference.