FOR LOVE OF THE PHARISEES

It is common to rail against the Pharisees in our churches.  Pharisees embody everything that goes wrong in the life of a “missional church.”  Pharisees gather herds of sacred cows and solemnly lead them to pasture, carefully tend their bruises, and eagerly exalt their status among the other, ordinary and mundane bovine.  Pharisees travel far and wide in order to entice the potentially scrupulous to join them, and then take delicious delight in denying them full entrance and frustrating them with endless hoops and hurdles.  Pharisees callously fail to see the hurting and if once they should see them mercilessly refuse to reach for them and help them.  Pharisees always assume that “it’s their own fault; they made that bed, …

On Security and Mission

I am writing from inside a secure compound in Eket where the Rev.  P. S. lives when she is in Akwa Ibom State of Nigeria, which is located in the south central region of Nigeria and is a city central to the established Free Methodist Church in the country.  We have armed security police stationed inside our compound, two for each of two twelve hour shifts for the six days we will be here.  Whenever we travel they accompany us.  For people whose lives are quite sheltered relative to much of the world it feels surreal. In a context where threats have been made and danger allegedly lurks about, especially for one of our Superintendents who has been targeted recently …

It’s a Slum … That’s why!

Our Kenyan friend, en route to the Church in Kagwangware, explained, “This place is a slum, not like Kibera (Kenya’s world-famous slum) but still a slum; that’s why you see these churches!” My mind did a quick rewind and replay several times in the next while.  I would never have expected this comment as part of the travelogue, but it was.  In just a moment or so, we arrived to joyful worship, warm and receptive brothers and sisters, and a sense of the Holy inside that tin-roofed, lean-to, worship center that made the slum outside fade while glory-generated hope on the inside captured and changed our focus.  In the light of that glory I could then say, “Of course, the …

Disturbing Contrast

Last week I read about the global church south and east of us, that is exploding in growth with aims of taking the gospel back to Jerusalem and boldly proclaiming the good news of Jesus all along the way, much of that way dominated currently by Islam.  When this church calls others to follow Jesus, they tell them it will cost them perhaps their very lives but will allow them to enter into God’s plan for the restoration of the whole world.  As they prepare their people to witness, they teach them how to witness in prison and under extreme duress. Then on Sunday we attended a growing multi-site church that by all western standards is fruitful and effective for the kingdom. …

Why No Time For Silence

A week ago, after George Zimmerman was found not guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin, my friend Patrick McNeal and I insisted that it was “no time for silence,” that the church should “talk about” what happened.  We meant more than to comment or share our opinion of the trial.  We meant that the verdict, and the way it struck people across the nation, especially people of color, offered us—church folk who would follow Jesus earnestly—an opportunity to listen to people who are different than we are, to learn from them and one another, to deepen our understandings, and then … what?  Well, often when people can talk together they can begin to see some things together better than before, pray …