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The Unhurried and Unstoppable Mission of God

The Unhurried and Unstoppable Mission of God

For over two decades we have been committed in our church mission and organizational culture to narrow the Sunday to Monday gap so perilously prevalent in the American church. In the power of the Spirit and with biblical wisdom we have increasingly become a local church congregation with Monday in mind. As a church family we have never been more intentional or more committed to the primacy of vocational discipleship and vocational mission. Yet, I believe two of the most compelling realities for us to keep close to our hearts in narrowing the Sunday to Monday gap are gospel plausibility and proclamation, both of which are more important than ever in our increasingly secular age.

 

Seeing is Believing

The goodness of the gospel so often needs to be seen by others around us before it is truly heard from us. Taking the time to look back at church history reinforces this timeless truth. A particularly insightful church historian is scholar Alan Krieder. Like fellow early church historian Rodney Stark, the question of what enabled the early church to grow as it did against fierce cultural headwinds and formidable odds is one that captures their intellectual curiosity and disciplined research focus. In his excellent book, The Patient Ferment of the Early Church, Krieder puts it this way; “Why did this minor mystery religion from the eastern Mediterranean—marginal, despised, discriminated against—grow substantially, eventually supplanting the well-endowed, respectable cults that were supported by the empire and aristocracy? What enabled Christianity to be so successful that by the fifth century it was the established religion of the empire?”

 Kreider answers this question by pointing to several factors we are wise to emulate. First, he describes what he calls habitus, that is, the very down-to-earth reflexive bodily behavior exhibited in the mysterious mundane of daily life where the early Christians lived, worked, and played. Kreider writes, “Their behavior said what they believed; it was an enactment of their message. And the sources indicate that it was their habitus more than their ideas that appealed to the majority of the non-Christians who came to join them.”  The early church theologian Cyprian summarizes Christian habitus as a non-compartmentalized, comprehensive, and distinct way of life. What we might describe as an integral and coherent life embraced not only on Sunday, but also lived on Monday. Cyprian wrote, “we do not speak great things, we live them.” It was the early Christians’ distinct lives forged and formed in a highly relational community that spoke volumes of plausibility to a curious and watching world. 

 

A Curious Lifestyle

Kreider points particularly to the virtue of patience. At first blush this may be a bit surprising, but the early Christians viewed God’s sovereign mission as “unhurried and unstoppable.” The result was they placed less emphasis on bold strategies and more emphasis on morally and virtuously distinct lifestyles that would be organically and relationally influential over time. The early Christians were known and at times scorned and ostracized for their sexual purity ethic, sanctity of life ethic–particularly for the unborn and newborn, their diligent work ethic, their sacrificial caring for the poor, and for a lifestyle of non-violence. 

 

Working Together

The gospel and its transformational influence was primarily spread in the context of the marketplace. Ordinary Christians, not clergy, were the missional key. Kreider notes, “Christians followed their business opportunities.” Pointing out the witness of Christians, Kreider notes that non-Christians observed distinct Christian differences in the marketplace. Non-Christians “experienced the way they (Christians) did business with them, the patient way the Christians operate their businesses.” Kreider summarized the profound impact of vocational discipleship and vocational mission. “What happened was this. Non-Christians and Christians worked together and lived near each other. They became friends.”

 

A Distinct Lifestyle

While the early church was far from perfect, their pluralistic cultural context is in many ways remarkably similar to our 21st century western world. There is much for us to learn from the remarkable legacy they left behind in shaping the Christian church. Kreider’s helpful insights on the early church’s long-term impact resonate deeply with our church for Monday strategic emphasis. It is our hope that vocational discipleship will bring increased spiritual formation and with it a distinct lifestyle and bold verbal witness to our local, national, and global marketplace. 

While we desire to employ our best creativity and strategic thinking moving forward, we are wise to remember the early church’s patient ferment, knowing that in redemptive history as it unfolds in front of our eyes, God’s mission is unhurried and unstoppable. With a tenacious trust, an unhurried pace, and a patient posture, may we not only speak great things, but also live them before a curious and watching world.

How Does the Church Value Them Both?  

How Does the Church Value Them Both?  

I have always admired much about the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. A couple of years ago while in Atlanta for a conference, Liz and I carved out an afternoon to visit Dr. King’s longtime faith community, Ebenezer Baptist Church where he was baptized, ordained and served as co-pastor with his father until his tragic assassination in 1968. Standing in the historic sanctuary, the words of Dr. King pressed into my mind and heart. Dr. King said, “The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.” [1]

Dr. King’s insight as to the church’s timeless role in the world has guided my understanding when it comes to the church speaking out on injustice and compelling moral issues. While Christ Community has sought to avoid any hint of partisanship or political co-opting of the local church by any party, we do not abdicate the proper and right role of being the conscience of the state when the cultural moment calls for a graceful, but prophetic word of biblical truth.

In the midst of our grief for the unborn, we are called to share Christ-like love for every person…. With great compassion, we recognize the unique challenges and difficulties unplanned pregnancy often brings, especially for the mother. We care deeply about those impacted by unplanned pregnancy…

 

Image-bearers of Christ

Legalization of elective abortion-on-demand [2] is not only a moral issue, but also an issue of justice that compels the church to lovingly, but boldly speak up as the conscience of the state. The arguments, justifications, obfuscations, and massive economic gains of the elective abortion-on-demand industry are powerfully similar to the legalized slave trade in our nation’s past. Then and now, we are called to defend the lives and rights of our fellow image-bearers of Christ.

Looking back at the evils of the slave trade we are shocked and ashamed that it was culturally and legally legitimized. We are incredulous that a nation, as well as many churches and Christian leaders, could so willfully be blind for so long. We currently face the evil of legalized elective abortion, which destroys the life of an unborn child, a person made in the image of God. Dr. King and his niece, Alveda King not only prophetically spoke out against the evil of slavery and racism but also about the evil of abortion. Alveda King declared “How can the dream survive if we murder the children. Every aborted baby is like a slave in the womb of his or her mother.”  

It is hard to imagine what Dr. King would say had he lived to see an estimated 63 million [3] babies aborted following the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. What would he say to learn that the babies aborted in this country are disproportionately minorities? We cannot ignore the explicitly racist and eugenic roots [4] of the abortion industry. The impact on the Black population is well documented on both sides of the issue. Where are the Dr. Kings in our nation today? As Edmund Burke said when he called out the perils of passivity and indifference in the presence of evil: “All it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.”  

This [Value Them Both] amendment would not ban abortion outright. Instead, it would overturn the Kansas Supreme Court’s ruling that mandated a “right” to abortion and thus permit our elected state representatives to enact limits on abortion.

 

Affirmation of Life

Holy Scriptures are authoritative for Christ Community not only in doctrinal matters but also for all of life. The Scriptures give us moral clarity and an unwavering commitment to the sanctity of every human life from the moment of conception. If we view the Holy Scriptures as an authoritative and guiding moral force, then we can see from the earliest chapters of Genesis that the Holy Scriptures speak with consistent clarity about the intrinsic value of every born and unborn image bearer of God. In Psalm 139, David declares, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” The prophet Jeremiah declares the revelation of God saying, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born I consecrated you.…” The Scriptures prohibit the premeditated taking of another human’s life, declared unambiguously in the Decalogue, ‘You shall not murder.”

Both morally and scientifically the unborn are human persons with rights and any human reasoning of viability, ensoulment or other justification for an unborn person to be destroyed is arbitrary. Every human life, from the moment of conception, shares the same human rights, the first of which is the right to life. Our society rightly protects other young children, adults, and senior citizens. Are we unwilling, under the cover of legalized legitimacy and the right to choose, to protect the precious and vulnerable lives of the unborn who are given no voice? Who could be more vulnerable and in need of protection than an unborn child? The moral goodness of a society is best seen in how it protects and cares for its most vulnerable people.

In addition to the Holy Scriptures, advances in science and medicine continue to affirm the life of the unborn. We now know that the unborn child’s heart begins to beat a few weeks after conception — her body, along with sections of her DNA are unique and distinct from her mother’s. By 12 weeks, the child is fully formed. She has arms, hands, fingers, and toes. Many of us have seen this on an ultrasound. Yet in the second trimester, dilation and evacuation abortion (called “D&E,” or dismemberment abortion) is still lawful and performed in Kansas, by tearing the child’s body apart and removing her from the womb piece by piece. These truths are painful and difficult to hear, but we cannot turn a blind eye from the science of life in the womb and the grim reality of elective abortion procedures. Euphemisms obfuscate the moral and scientific truth.

In the midst of our grief for the unborn, we are also called to share Christ-like love for each and every person affected by unplanned pregnancy and abortion, including those who have chosen abortion. With great compassion, we recognize the unique challenges and difficulties unplanned pregnancy often brings, especially for the mother. We care deeply about those impacted by unplanned pregnancy, and we recognize the many wounds that legalized abortion on demand has had on so many. The church is to be a people and place for healing and hope for each person, including those who have chosen abortion. As the hands, heart, and feet of Jesus who welcomed the little children to himself we want to provide support for women who find themselves in the challenges of an unplanned pregnancy. And we do so with love, grace, and generosity.

 

Neighborly Love

What does neighborly love require of us? As a church we avoid partisanship or endorsement of any political party or candidate, and we welcome people into our church body of any (or no) party affiliation. However, in matters of moral injustice, we continue to speak biblical truth and work toward ending injustice. The church’s response to abortion is to be the vocal conscience of the state. How will we respond as Christians and people of good will? Who will stand up and give voice to the voiceless?

The overturning of Roe v. Wade at the federal level does not change the state abortion law in Kansas. The law in Kansas, as pronounced by the Kansas Supreme Court, currently gives less protection to the unborn than Roe v. Wade ever did. Kansas residents have the opportunity to be salt and light by addressing (through the August 2 vote) the possibility of a future of virtually unrestricted access to abortion from conception to delivery.

Prior to 2019, Kansas was one of the most pro-life states in the country. But in 2019, the Kansas Supreme Court issued a ruling that gave protection to what was termed an “inalienable” right to abortion in the Kansas Constitution. In other words, the court declared an almost limitless right to abortion in Kansas — one even stronger than the “undue burden” standard from Roe v. Wade. This ruling went beyond Roe v. Wade to remove protections from the unborn. Kansas Courts have used this ruling to strike down a ban on dismemberment abortions. [5] [6] [7]

Because of the Kansas Supreme Court’s ruling, the rest of Kansas’ pro-life laws protecting the unborn are at risk, including restrictions on abortions up to the moment of birth. The 2019 ruling provides the legal framework to strike down pro-life laws once they are challenged in court. As the abortion industry continues to bring lawsuits challenging pro-life legislation — as it did with the dismemberment abortion ban — Kansas’ laws limiting abortion will continue to be struck down under the law set forth by the Kansas Supreme Court. This puts the unborn of Kansas in greater peril now than ever. Misinformation about this issue is rampant and we must not be distracted or deceived by lies that seek to make Kansas a legalized abortion-on-demand destination for our nation.

Every Kansas law with abortion limits has always safeguarded medical intervention for women who may experience things like ectopic pregnancies, septic uterus, miscarriages, and other health issues.

 

We must be informed and discerning 

Support for the Value Them Both amendment would reverse the Kansas Supreme Court’s abortion decision. This amendment would not ban abortion outright. Instead, it would overturn the Kansas Supreme Court’s ruling that mandated a “right” to abortion and thus permit our elected state representatives to enact limits on abortion. Every Kansas law with abortion limits has always safeguarded medical intervention for women who may experience things like ectopic pregnancies, septic uterus, miscarriages, and other health issues. The Value Them Both Amendment does not in any way prohibit these exceptions.

If passed, this amendment to the Kansas Constitution will allow democratically elected representatives to determine abortion law in Kansas, not the Kansas Supreme Court. The amendment would effectively undo the Kansas Supreme Court’s ruling that enshrined a false “right” to abortion in the Kansas Constitution. If passed, the amendment would also protect the pro-life laws that already exist in Kansas, which are at risk of being struck down by courts in light of the Kansas Supreme Court’s ruling.

 

Be the Church

For such a time as this, we are called to be the church. Through programs and partners, such as Advice & Aid and CarePortal you can come alongside and help women and their families make educated decisions. These partners offer various programs and counseling options that bring emotional, practical, and spiritual support to what can be a very stressful situation.

Please pray, be informed, get involved, and make your voice heard on August 2. Visit ValueThemBoth.com to learn more about the amendment. In this challenging and sobering cultural moment, let’s remember Dr. King’s compelling words, “The church must be reminded it is not the master, or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state.”  

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1 A Knock at Midnight, June 11, 1967

2 Every Kansas law with abortion limits has always safeguarded medical intervention for women who may experience things like ectopic pregnancies, septic uterus, miscarriages, and other health issues. The Value Them Both Amendment does not in any way prohibit these exceptions.

3 The Guttmacher Institute and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The CDC publishes yearly, but relies primarily on voluntary reports from the state health departments. The Guttmacher Institute contacts abortion clinics directly for data but does not survey every year. Because it surveys clinics directly and includes data from all fifty states, most researchers believe Guttmacher’s numbers to be more reliable. Their numbers yield an estimate of over 63 million. [source NRLC.org]

4 https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/21/nyregion/planned-parenthood-margaret-sanger-eugenics.html

5 Appeal No. 114,153: Hodes & Nauser, MD, PA et al. v. Derek Schmidt, et al. April 26, 2019

6 https://www.ksrevisor.org/statutes/chapters/ch65/065_067_0009.html

7 District Court of Shawnee Hodes & Nauser v. Norman, 2011-CV-001298, December 3, 2021

Sabbath: A Day Set Apart

Sabbath: A Day Set Apart

In the Christian tradition of my early formative years, one day each week was uniquely different. That day was Sunday.  As a farming family, we got out of our work clothes, put on our Sunday best, crammed into our car and made our way to a small country church. After church we had a scrumptious family dinner, and unlike many of the farmers nearby, my father would do only essential farm work in tending to our animals. I remember my mom saying to me, “As Christians, Sunday is our Sabbath, a day of rest.”

Sadly, in the years following my childhood the weekly rhythm of a Sabbath day was in many ways lost. Looking back I realize there were several blinding factors that contributed to Sabbath neglect in my life, including overcorrecting Sabbath legalism, a penchant toward workaholism, and perhaps most surprising, was my pastoral calling. When I became a pastor Sunday became a workday and another day of the week was not intentionally and diligently set aside and protected for Sabbath rest. The good news is after years of neglect, building a more consistent Sabbath rhythm in my life has become increasingly important and life giving. I also believe that a weekly Sabbath rhythm is really important for the flourishing and formation of every apprentice of Jesus. So what is the big deal about a weekly Sabbath day? Why a Sabbath day?

 

Why A Sabbath Day?

 

Let’s take a look at what the Bible says regarding the Sabbath. Sabbath is a Hebrew word that means rest, tranquility, peace and delight.  A Sabbath day is actually built into the very fabric of original creation, described for us in the very first book in the Bible. After original creation, before sin and death entered God’s good world, God rested on the seventh day. In Genesis chapter 2 we read,  “And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done. And he rested on the seventh day from all his work he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy…”

In his classic book entitled, The Sabbath, Abraham Joshua Heschel reminds us that embedded in creation design is the truth that we were created in time, but with more than time in mind. Sabbath points us to eternity deeply planted in our hearts. Heschel writes,

“The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time. It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation; from the world of creation to the creation of the world.”

The importance of six days of work and one day of rest was anchored not only in the gracious rhythms of creation design but also reinforced to God’s covenant people in the giving of the Ten Commandments. In the book of Exodus we read that the fourth commandment set apart the seventh day of the week. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy (set apart). The Bible recounts how God’s covenant people tragically corrupted the inherent goodness of the Sabbath day. The problem was that God’s covenant people lost sight of the big picture of Sabbath. They made Sabbath about adherence to a bunch of soul-suffocating religious rules, to the point of virtual absurdity. Instead of the Sabbath pointing to the pursuit of a growing intimacy with God, it became a soul-suffocating yoke of works righteousness seeking to merit favor with God. Rather than a day of joy and restful delight, it became 24 hours of prideful self-righteous nit-picky drudgery. But Messiah Jesus made it clear that he was Lord of the Sabbath. Jesus framed Sabbath not first and foremost as a day we set aside each week as good and life-giving as that is, but ultimately Himself as the one and only Son of God we know and are deeply known by. The Sabbath ultimately points us to a person, the person of Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath. The New Testament writer of Hebrews reminds us Jesus is our Sabbath rest. Through saving and life-giving faith in Jesus our Lord and Savior “there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.” This Sabbath rest Jesus invites us to experience as we put on his yoke of apprenticeship. It is in his yoke we find true Sabbath rest for our souls. It is this Sabbath rest that woos us to our future ultimate rest in the New Heavens and New Earth. When we carve out a Sabbath day from our busy and distracted lives, it allows the fresh and hopeful breezes of eternity to blow in our longing hearts. Sabbath rest is an appetizer for heaven. So how do we better experience a weekly Sabbath?

 

How Do We Experience A Weekly Sabbath?

 

How do we live more fully into a day set apart each week? For many of us that day will be Sunday. Whatever day you choose, let me offer six suggestions that I trust will be helpful, life- giving and healing for you and those you love.

First, block off in your calendar a weekly day for Sabbath. For many of us our week is overly scheduled so if we do not plan ahead, our Sabbath day will get crowded out. Let others around you know what your Sabbath day is and ask them to respect that commitment.

Second, embrace a technology fast. Minimize the distractions that come from screen time whether that is your phone or computer. I know many today who literally put their smartphones in a drawer for their Sabbath day. If you are married and have children, make this commitment as an entire family. It may sound difficult, but if you will practice this discipline the relational and wellbeing rewards will be soon evident.

Third, avoid any work related matters and emails. A true emergency may demand your immediate attention, but avoid any work related matters that are not of an emergency nature. Plan ahead as much as possible to cover work responsibilities so that a day of rest will not compromise the importance God places on the stewardship of your paid and unpaid work.

Fourth, embrace a slower pace of unscheduled unhurried time. Enjoy extended conversations, relaxing meals and fun activities with those closest to you. Allow for spontaneity in your day.

Fifth, spend an extended time with God. If your Sabbath is Sunday make attendance at corporate worship a priority, but also carve out some personal time to read the Scriptures, to listen to God’s voice and pray.

Sixth, put yourself in the path of beauty. For many, the healing aspect of beauty is found in extended walks in nature or enjoying nature in some way. For others it may be reading a book, playing or listening to music, enjoying an art museum, making a craft of some kind or playing a round of golf on a manicured golf course. In what place or activity do you feel God’s pleasure? One of the greatest gifts of Sabbath is experiencing God’s delight in you as his cherished beloved.

 

Our daily work matters, but our weekly Sabbath rest matters, too. Perhaps more than many of us realize. I love how Abraham Joshua Heschel prompts us to embrace Sabbath’s good and life- giving creation design.

 

“Six days a week we wrestle with the world, wringing profit from the earth; on the Sabbath we especially care for the seed of eternity planted in the soul. “

The Grave Injustice of Legalized Abortion On Demand

The Grave Injustice of Legalized Abortion On Demand

This January marks the 49th anniversary of the landmark United States Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision. On January 22, 1973, the highest court of our land circumvented legislative process and declared by judicial fiat that abortion on demand is legal. Discovering a constitutional right to privacy relating to abortion as well as drawing an arbitrary line around fetal viability, the court deemed the unborn less than human, depriving them of the right to life. 

I believe the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade was morally, legally, and scientifically bankrupt. In many ways Roe v. Wade tragically echoes the Dred Scott v. Sandford case decided in 1857, which declared that Americans of African descent were not American citizens and instead categorized as property. This immoral court ruling perpetuated racism and provided the ongoing legal cover for the cultural legitimacy of slavery. 

As a nation we look back at Dred Scott and shudder with visceral incredulity and moral outrage. How could this be? We wonder how the highest court of the land could legally sanction and codify such glaring injustice. We are aghast how a culture could be so easily deceived, callused, and morally blinded. Yet, as a nation for 49 years we continue to legally sanction abortion on demand, justifying it by sound bite pro-choice rhetoric and sleight of hand obfuscations. 

Make no mistake: dehumanization is the same deceptive force that fuels the taking of unborn life. The abortion industry is rooted in a history of eugenics that targets minority children for eradication. We cannot turn a blind eye to the compounding evils of Dred Scott and Roe and their lasting impact on minority and under-resourced communities in our country. 

We must not be deceived by the seductive arguments of “my body my choice,” sex without consequences, and placing career and comfort above the lives of the unborn. Our culture, on the one hand, praises autonomy and self-indulgence above all else, while on the other, dismisses the real needs of women facing unplanned pregnancies. We must be counter-cultural. We must recognize the humanity and value of each unborn life and do everything we can to support each woman walking the difficult road of unplanned pregnancy and motherhood. We must show unwavering compassion both to the unborn and the brave mothers who carry them. 

We also must not be deceived by the supposedly noble goal of making elective abortion, “rare and safe.” Like the immoral slavery industry of old, we have an immoral abortion industry that has no vested interest in making abortion increasingly rare. This abortion industry is driven not only by an ideology deifying personal choice at the great expense of denying the right to life of the unborn, but also motivated by great economic gain. How should we respond to this grave injustice that leaves the innocent in the jaws of death? 

From the inception of Christ Community, we have had an unwavering commitment to uphold the sanctity of life for all human beings, unborn and born. Along with an unwavering commitment to the sanctity of human life, we are whole-heartedly committed to extend compassion to those who have been and continue to be so deeply wounded by abortion.

The Gospel of the Kingdom we embrace as broken sinners like you and me brings the heart-arresting hope of healing and wholeness. If you have been wounded by abortion and would like to talk with someone, please contact one of the pastors at your campus. You are welcome at our church. Our staff desires to be there for you in any way they can. 

How should we respond to the grave and glaring injustice of abortion? Let me suggest a few reflections for us to consider. 

First, we need moral clarity around legalized abortion on demand. We dare not confuse the legality of something with its morality. Legal legitimacy does not necessarily mean moral legitimacy. As followers of Jesus guided by the clear teachings of Holy Scripture, the unborn are image bearers of God, have unimaginable intrinsic worth and are to be cared for and protected (Psalm 139:13-16, Jeremiah 1:5). We are called to protect the vulnerable and give a voice to the voiceless (Proverbs 31:8-9). 

Second, in a highly rancorous partisan culture, we must not confuse legalized abortion on demand as a partisan issue. Legalized abortion on demand is first and foremost a moral issue. Regardless of our partisan views and commitments, addressing societal injustice is the responsibility of all of us, both as citizens of this nation and citizens of the Kingdom of God. 

Third, we must continue to advocate with tenacity in the public square, in the halls of government, and in the courtroom for moral laws in regard to abortion. 

Fourth, as the prophet Micah reminds us, we are called not only to do justice, but also to love kindness and walk humbly with God. Moral clarity and properly motivated justice zeal must always be forged and formed in intercessory prayer guided by kindness, compassion, and humility. The moral clarity of our minds must be shaped by the Christ-like love in our hearts, expressed in the truth-laden, yet gentle tone of our voices. 

Fifth, as a church family we have and will continue to work with and support crisis pregnancy centers like Advice and Aid that helps those with unplanned pregnancies and offers support for those healing from the wounds of abortion. We will also continue to advocate for adoption and support birth mothers and adoptive families. 

Sixth, let us pray for a spiritual awakening for our nation and not lose heart (Luke 18:1).  An awakening where the church and people of all goodwill might gain moral clarity and address the most compelling injustices of our time, including the grave injustice of the destruction of unborn human life. Pray also for the U. S. Supreme Court as it decides perhaps the most important abortion case of a generation, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. In this case, the Supreme Court has the opportunity to walk back, or even end, the constitutional right to abortion it pronounced in Roe v. Wade. 

For those of us in our church family who reside in Kansas, we have an important  opportunity this upcoming summer to support the Value Them Both Amendment. If you have not yet heard about the Value Them Both Amendment, I would encourage you to become informed and involved as the Lord may lead you. Even the smallest of steps of involvement will make a difference. 

Passing the Value Them Both Amendment is crucial to protecting pro-life laws in Kansas and preventing Kansas from becoming a safe haven for the abortion industry. In 2019 the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the Kansas Constitution provides an “inalienable” right to abortion–even more radical than Roe v. Wade. One consequence of this ruling is that Kansas’ pro-life laws are in danger of being stricken down by the courts. Another consequence is that if Roe v. Wade is overturned at the federal level, then Kansas will continue to recognize a nearly unlimited right to abortion. The only way to reverse this tragic course is to amend the Kansas Constitution, and we have the opportunity to do so with the Value Them Both Amendment in August 2022.  

As a church we have been, and will continue to be, non-partisan. However, in regard to legalized abortion on demand, this is not a partisan issue, but a moral one that transcends partisanship. I am grateful for a church family that embraces both uncomfortable truths and compassionate grace. How my heart longs for a day when the unborn will be valued, cherished, and protected. I hope yours does too. 

Does The Local Church Really Matter?

Does The Local Church Really Matter?

We may only be at the beginning of a major health crisis. But it may not be for the reasons that first come to mind. This is what two Harvard researchers are saying in our cultural moment. Tyler VanderWeele, professor of Epidemiology and director of the Human Flourishing Program at Harvard University and his associate director, Brendan Case, recently published an article entitled Empty Pews Are An American Health Crisis.  Noting the continuing decline in church attendance in our country, these two Harvard researchers point to a sizable body of research that speaks to how participation in a faith community strongly promotes health and wellness.  Here is what these researchers say. “…Americans’ growing disaffection with organized religion isn’t just bad news for churches; it also represents a public health crisis, one that has been largely ignored but the effects of which are likely to increase in coming years.”  The Harvard researchers offer this conclusion.  “Something about the communal religious experience seems to matter. Something powerful takes place there, something that enhances well being; and it is something very different than what comes from solitary spirituality.…The data are clear, going to church remains central to human flourishing.” 

A bold assertion about the importance of going to church coming from university professors and not from pastors or theologians may be surprising. However the idea that human flourishing and human belonging go hand in hand is anything but a new idea. The Bible tells us God designed the family and the local church to be the primary sustaining institutions for human flourishing. Jesus pointed to his called out community when he said, “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” 

Jesus makes the case that real faith not only rightly believes; it also deeply belongs. A primary metaphor of the local church in the New Testament is a body. The New Testament writers paint a beautiful picture of the body of Christ with its diversity, unity, interdependence and commitment to one another. As apprentices of Jesus our calling is not to just show up at church–that is an essential part–the goal is to truly belong to a local faith community. Martyred German pastor Dietrich Bonheoffer speaks of Christian faith as a belonging faith. “We are members of a body, not only when we choose to be, but in our whole existence. Every member serves the whole body, either to its health or its destruction. This is no mere theory; it is a spiritual reality” (Life Together, pg. 100). 

We are not only called to Christ; we are called to each other. We simply cannot grow to spiritual maturity, become whole, or truly flourish without embracing a belonging faith. While Sunday morning attendance is very important for a belonging faith, finding a smaller group of Christ Community brothers and sisters in Christ is also very important if we are truly going to flourish and help others flourish.

Do we have a small handful of other Christ Community members who we are doing life with? Are we taking the initiative to know others and be known by others, to share our stories more fully and truly? Who in our faith community knows our joys, hardships, heartaches, burdens, questions, doubts, dreams, and hopes? Who do we know is praying for us? Doing life together in spiritual community unleashes joy in our lives, but it can also be messy, hard and at times disillusioning. We are all broken with flaws and failings. We all look through a mirror dimly and we may see a good number of things differently. We must remember life together now in local church community is not the New Heavens and New Earth that await us in eternity. Embracing with both head and heart a daily kind of hopeful realism is the order of the day. As yoked apprentices walking in the Spirit, let us prayerfully exhibit sacrificial love, a ton of grace and lots of patience with our dear fellow brothers and sisters in our multi-site church family. Truly loving one another in word and deed forges a belonging faith and is the most compelling witness we have to a watching world. 

In this season of Advent let us not only thank God for the gift of the incarnate Son, but also the gift of our local church family. From both the realms of empirical research and biblical revelation we are reminded how much the church really matters in the world. If you have not yet truly embraced a belonging faith and made Christ Community your home, I would encourage you to do so. Reach out to one of our staff about some small group possibilities that are available at your campus. I also believe it is fair to conclude that one of the best ways to love your neighbor is to prayerfully invite them to join you at church. Advent would be a great time to take that loving step.