Tag Archives: social justice

“Excommunicate me from the church of Social Justice”

This article, published by CBC Radio, is probably the saddest thing I read last week.

The contemporary “Social Justice” movement is a thinly disguised self-salvation project. Rooted in noble (but naive) intentions, it’s been co-opted by an ideology that cannot be sustained without demonizing “the other” and viewing all of life as an oppression matrix.

Worst of all, the ideology of Social Justice offers no propitiation for sin, and no mechanism for atonement and/or cleansing. It offers a strict, suffocating moralism that grinds people down through shame and guilt, and seeks to control them through the pursuit of ideological purity to the cause.

I believe that only justice initiatives grounded in the gospel of Jesus can save us from the exhaustion, joylessness, and shame that comes from seeking the fruit of the kingdom of God without surrender to the King and cooperating with him–on his terms.

Without Jesus’ gospel, even our highest moral ambitions can quickly become idolatrous. And as Andy Crouch wisely observes, every idol follows the same pattern: it demands more and more while giving less and less. Until the idol demands human sacrifices be made.


Prayer As Incubator of Mission

I think it’s telling that Jesus takes time to prayer with Peter, James, and John between a series of missional moments.

Earlier in Luke 9, Jesus has sent out the twelve disciples into kingdom mission.  Then Jesus helps them address a potential hunger crisis by miraculously providing food for five thousand people and having them distribute the food.  After Jesus’ mountaintop prayer retreat, the disciples are immediately confronted by a boy with a demon.

Prayer is inserted between two hugely important tasks: addressing tangible human needs and confronting evil and oppression.

Prayer is crucial if we are going to faithfully “live lives of mission”; that is, addressing enormous needs and confronting evil in Jesus’ name.  While we often see prayer as a secondary calling to the more “productive” missional activities of social justice (i.e. doing justice and confronting injustice), Jesus teaches through his actions that without prayer our best efforts will eventually sputter out and fail.  In Mark’s account of the confrontation with the demon-possessed boy, Jesus’ disciples can’t figure out why they can’t get rid of the demon, and Jesus tells them that “This kind can only come out through prayer” (Mark 9:29).  Far from being unproductive, the lesson we must learn is that there are some things that simply cannot and will not happen unless we stop to pray.

Prayer is an incubator for mission because as we prayer—especially for others and the situations they’re involved in—our hearts change.  God does something in the silence and the surrendered posture of prayer.  I’ve found that the more consistent my prayer life, the more I’m compelled to act to bring God’s love and grace into the lives of those I pray for.  Pray consistently, and you won’t be able to just “go through the motions” in your Christian life.  Prayer grows a passion for spreading the gospel of Jesus to others.  It’s an incubator that softens the heart and activates the imagination.  I think one of the surest signs you’ve settled into a compromised, watered-down, counterfeit expression of Christianity is you don’t bother inconveniencing yourself to pray for others, and you don’t inconvenience yourself by praying that God would open up ways for you to serve/bless/help others through your time/energy/money.

Prayer helps us process our experiences of mission and prepare us for what’s next through “dreams and visions” (Joel 2:28).  Prayer changes what we believe is possible through God’s power.  God often uses times of prayer to give us a renewed vision for our lives and the particular situations we are navigating.

One of the truths that God has graciously but firmly put in front of me over the last few weeks has been the conviction that I’ve slipped into a very reasonable, conservative, short-sighted vision for what’s possible for Grindstone.  Partly due to my personality, partly due to a lack of faith, and partly due to the fact I’m in a state of sleep deprivation and can’t count to 10 without great difficulty most of the time, my imagination is pretty stunted when it comes to what God may want to do through our church.  I don’t think expecting God to always show up in huge and overwhelming ways is healthy, but I’ve gone in the other direction.  As long as things are healthy and the main ministry markers are solid, I’m ok with letting the weeks roll over each other.

Prayer is the place that helps you arrest that kind of stagnation in your life and your heart.  It’s the place where you can say, “God, is there something specific you want from us?  From me?  How can we further your kingdom, not just keep our church running smoothly?  Who are the co-workers, neighbours, friends that you are wanting me to pour into?  What opportunities to love and serve my family have I missed because I’ve been too busy?”

Jesus is inviting us into the adventure of living lives of mission. Everyday I’m more excited to say “yes” to that offer.  But Jesus is teaching me that in order to have a deep and significant kingdom impact, I’ll need to go off with Jesus to lonely places regularly and let him change and prepare my heart through prayer.


Four Questions from Ron Sider

If you check out this month’s Relevant Magazine you’ll find a great article featuring Ron Sider.  For those who are unfamiliar with him, Ron Sider started making waves within the North American Christian community of the 70’s and 80’s.  This was primarily due to his outspoken messages on the need for Christians to rediscover the biblical teachings on justice, peace, and compassion towards the poor; values that Sider believed where almost completely off the radar of most Christians at the time.  His most famous and important book, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger: Moving from Affluence to Generosity, continues to influence Christians and introduce many to the importance of social justice for disciples of Jesus.

In the article, Ron Sider poses four questions to the emerging generation of Christians and church leaders.  The questions emerge from Sider’s concern that while many young people are eagerly embracing the social justice dimension of the gospel (“love thy neighbour as thyself), the central themes of the Christian faith seem to be eroding.  Here are Sider’s four questions:

1. Are you in danger of neglecting evangelism in your passion for social justice?

2. Are you in danger of abandoning an affirmation of moral and intellectual truth?

3. Will you honour your marriage vows?

4. As you seek to respect the dignity of gay/lesbian people, have you wrestled carefully with the Church’s teaching on homosexuality?

Thoughts?  Which question(s) do you find most challenging?


We Are All Immigrants

The following reflection is an important one during this (U.S.) Thanksgiving holiday, especially in light of the debates that are occuring in both the United States and Canada related to immigration laws and reforms to the immigration system:

“Yahweh and the prophets repeatedly warned the Jews never to forget their own former status as foreigners in Egypt.  It is into this history that Jesus is born and becomes an immigrant in a foreign land himself along with Mary and Joseph in Egypt (Matthew 2:15).  It is astounding one-sidedness, and even chosen blindness, that allows pious Christians to forget and ignore this.

A Christian by identification with Jesus must by necessity identify with those that he called ‘blessed’ by at least four different standards (Matthew 5:3-6, 10).  He told us that if we did not ‘welcome the stranger’ we were ‘cursed’ (Matthew 25:40), and yet, this has had almost no effect on the typical Christian’s attitude toward outsiders in almost all countries. 

I have little patience with people who call the USA a Christian nation when I see our attitude toward the very poor who are doing all the hard jobs that we are unwilling to do. Such self serving hypocrisy will meet a firm judgment later, and deserves our judgment now.

‘Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.’  (President Franklin Roosevelt to the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1939).  Remember, the Pilgrims we Americans celebrate on this National Day of Thanksgiving were immigrants, too!”

~ Fr. Richard Rohr, A Lever and a Place to Stand (CD) and Contemplation in Action (book).

We are all foreigners, and we are all called to show hospitality.  We are all strangers, and we are all called to welcome and bless.  We are all immigrants, and we are all called to build community–and hope–with our neighbours.



Do Churches Need to Target the City?

Matt Pamplin forwarded me this great article from The Christian Post’s coverage of the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization recently hosted in South Africa. 

The article summarizes Timothy Keller’s presentation on the need for churches (and by implication Christians) to move into cities.  Keller’s main argument is that the city should be a non-negotiable front-line focus  for churches because:

  • Cities are where churches can reach the next generation (young adults want to live in the city).
  • Cities contain more unreached people.
  • People are “far more open to the Gospel in the cosmopolitan city than in their hometown.”
  • Cities are where the cultural creatives (filmmakers, authors, businessmen, etc.) live, work and shape the world.
  • Cities are emerging epicentres for the marginalized, poor, and oppressed (about one-third of city dwellers live in shanty towns).

Below is The Christian Post’s article in its entirety. 

CAPE TOWN, South AfricaNew York pastor Tim Keller awed the crowd Wednesday evening with his well thought-out argument on why churches around the world need to move into cities.

Keller, founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan told attendees of Lausanne III that if Christians want human life to be shaped by Jesus Christ then churches need to go into cities.

Cities are where churches can reach the next generation (young adults want to live in the city); reach more unreachable people (people are far more open to the Gospel in the cosmopolitan city than in their hometown); reach people who have a big impact on the world (filmmakers, authors and businessmen); and reach the poor (about one-third of city dwellers live in shanty towns).

“Human beings, according to Genesis 1, are made in the image of God and reflect God’s glory more than anything else in creation,” said Keller, whose Redeemer City to City has planted more than 100 churches around the world.

“In these cities you have more image of God per square inch than anywhere else in the world,” he said. “So God makes the numbers argument.”

The influential pastor known for his deep thinking shared a story about a missionary friend. Keller’s friend once quipped that the country is where there are more plants than people and the city is where there are more people than plants. And because God loves people more than plants, He has to love the city more than the country.

About 300 years ago, less than three percent of the world’s population lived in cities. Today, more than 50 percent of the world’s population lives in cities and the number is growing rapidly. It is estimated that eight million people, or about the population of Bangkok, move into cities every two months.

“The people are moving into the cities faster than the church is,” Keller emphasized. “If you love what God loves then you will love the cities. If you want to go where the people are you got to go into the cities.”

But churches that want to go into the cities need to be contextualized in order to be effective, he said. Just like how urban China is different than China and urban America is different than America, an urban church is different than a church in the countryside.

An urban church, which has people from many cultures, is required to be extremely patient about accusations of cultural insensitivity and should expect to be accused of such. Pastors of urban churches need to accept that they can never fully solve complaints of cultural insensitivity, but that they can learn from criticisms.

Churches in cities also need to show people how their faith relates to their work because jobs are a much bigger part of urban dwellers’ life, Keller said.

“I had only known how to disciple people by bringing them out of the work world and into my church world,” the New York pastor shared. “But if you are in an urban church you can’t do that. You have to help people apply their faith to their work.”

Urban churches also need to expect disorganization and changes; be intensely evangelistic but at the same time famous for its concern for justice; be committed to the arts; and cooperate with other denominations and faith, he said.

“Look at the cities of this world. Look at the masses of these cities, God says. Why aren’t you moved by them? Why aren’t you going there?” Keller asked. “So let’s go.”

The Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization, also known as Cape Town 2010, has drawn more than 4,000 Christian leaders representing over 190 nations to Cape Town, South Africa. The conference was founded by American evangelist Billy Graham in 1974 in Lausanne, Switzerland, to bring together the global body of Christ for world evangelization.

This Congress is unique in the diversity of its attendees and for discussing a wide range of global problems faced by today’s church, including secularization, Islam, HIV/AIDS, prosperity gospel, nuclear weapons, and environmental concerns. The conference program will conclude on Sunday.

What do you think?  Should churches “target” the city?  Should urban ministry take precidence over rural ministry?  Will the gospel be stifled if Christians refuse to (missionally) enter into urban environments?