Citizenship, Culture, and the Church

Citizens_SermonSeries GraceChurch

I have lots of thoughts on this week’s sermon, Citizens: Identity. If you haven’t seen it, you can watch below:

It’s important to remember the context of this message, that the sermon is primarily for Christians, the body of Christ. Likewise, virtually all of the Bible was written to those who follow God, or at least say they do.

As the pastor (Matt Williams) said:

“We have to train a culture of Christians to think courageously, and look at the Scriptures and apply them to us.”

Therefore, none of what I say here should be taken as “Those people should do this,” or, “What if someone else (not a Christian) wants such-and-such?” Those may be valid points and worthy of discussion. It’s just not the focus here.

What IS the focus? Click here to keep reading…

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How Do You Gain Trust: 5 Simple But Difficult Steps

Are you about to move to a new neighborhood, new school, or new job?

Or maybe you recently made a change? Or maybe you did a while ago, but you want to do better engaging those around you. Are you wondering how to earn the trust of your new community?

From our experience of moving (more than I ever thought I would), I have learned 5 simple (but difficult) steps to gain the trust of those in your new community.

The short list:

  1. Get on their turf.
  2. Be humble.
  3. Build relationships.
  4. Love and empathize.
  5. Trust in God.

For a more complete explanation, check out my latest guest post on the Culturally Engaged blog, called Neighboring: 5 Steps to Earn Trust.

I trust that you’ll find this useful. But I probably missed some tips and principles.

Let us know in the comments (here or the CE blog): What have you learned about earning the trust of a new community?

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Summer Camp: Mid-Summer Update

After week off, we are back at Summer Camp. We are thankful to partner with Long Branch Baptist Church, as it has been a wonderful opportunity for our family, and for 40+ children in this neighborhood and in this church.

This experience has been new for us — being leaders at a summer camp without being in charge of it. We are thankful that we haven’t been in charge. For one, it has helped us to step back and not carry such a big load. But even more, we see that the leaders at Long Branch have done a number of things so much better than we could have!

During the first few weeks of this camp, Joanna and I noticed how loving those leaders are. This church has some younger adults and college students serving, most of the ones involved are older. And while these folks might not have the energy level they once did, their love and passion for children is obvious.

Click here to learn more, and to watch a fun video of our campers…

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…

Mentor, Like Uncle Ricky

Uncle Ricky

Rick Sierchio was never obligated to do anything for my brother and I. Yet he became our “Uncle Ricky,” and our lives were shaped by his love and guidance.

Uncle Ricky wasn’t my uncle in the strict sense. He was the brother of my mom’s high school friend. At some point during my young childhood, he made a choice to invest in my brother and I, merely out of a deep-set sense of love and justice.

Click here to learn more about this special guy…

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 . . .

My Boys

Teens Greenville Trip 14May
Remember this reunion?

I miss my boys.

No, I don’t mean my sons. I mean the guys I was blessed to coach in Allendale. And I especially mean a handful of them who became particularly dear to my family.

Any coach or teacher knows that you ought not to have “favorites.” But it’s hard to avoid this.

We’ve had a dozen or more guys over to dinner. (Not at the same time. Good Lord. It was all we could do to prepare enough food for 3 or 4 at a time.) Some of them helped us with summer camps and spring break camps. I did a book study with four.

They played with my own kids — chess, Lego, Wii, soccer, baseball, whatever. (Hint: You ever want to win a parent’s heart? Love on his kids.)

And despite us looking nothing alike and having little in common, I treated them like my own kids. I was demanding (often) and sensitive (occasionally). I gave them practical advice, which sometimes sunk through their stubborn teenage skulls.

We laughed with each other, and we yelled at each other. I let them borrow my car, even after one of them wrecked his sister’s car.

I guess I’m thinking about “my boys” because a couple of guys (whom we were very close to) just graduated high school. A few them finished their freshman year in college. And a few are still in high school, and are getting ramped up for summer workouts.

For only having known them a few years, I’m amazed how much I think about them. I’m sure I’ll lose contact with most of them over the years.

That’s OK. They’ll always be “my boys.”

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