the way of the Cross

The Cross of Jesus Christ demands my life. All that I am, all that I say, all that I do. By yielding to the Cross, taking up my own to follow Jesus, I lay aside all that hinders. This is no small matter. It can not be done in my own strength. My flesh desires that which is contrary to God’s purposes. My heart is deceitful when left to its own devices. But I have been crucified with Christ, so that it is no longer I who sets the agenda, but God. In Christ, there is a poverty of willfullness, and a wealth of obedience. In Christ, there is joy which is inexpressible. In Christ, there is hope, not despair. Sin is exposed through confession and repentance, liberating us into irrepressible victory for God’s glory.

As I look ahead into the years to come, the future is opaque. I have no idea what will happen. I only know that I feel called to the margins, to the forgotten, to the hopeless. I have no need of titles, recognition, or accolades. In the margins, those things mean nothing.  Young people at risk of gang recruitment care little about them. Nor do young children and parents whose first language and culture are vastly different than my own. They care far more about me being real, being present, and being accessible as an ambassador for Christ.

It is the way of a missional life. It is the way of the Cross. It is the way of the Lord Jesus whom I will follow all the days of my life.

who?

I dutifully walked to the apartments this morning. Rubbish lay strewn about the parking lot and sidewalks. Satellite dishes– four in all which feed their signals into an army of ubiquitous flat screen tv in most of the apartments– betrayed the appearance of wealth. No small irony in a section 8 (government subsidized) low income apartment complex. It was 9:30 am, my customary time to check in on specific homes to see if children wanted to come to church. Only one person responded by opening the door. Her son was still in bed.

So I struck out this time. And it should be no surprise. What motive is there to wake that early on a Sunday? Sometimes they will rise up and attend. But mostly they do not. Not when the decision is up to the children, and they often must take initiative to dress and feed themselves since their parents typically are still asleep.

Although we will continue making the attempt as we have promised specific families in the apartments, I know that we cannot rely solely on such an effort to reach them with the gospel. The gospel needs to be embodied among them through the lives of believers who speak their languages and do life with them. But who will go? Who will the Lord send?

Basketball Camp 2010

Basketball Camp 2010

We recently concluded our 2010 Basketball Camp at Portland Open Bible Church. In all, 13 children participated for two or more evenings. Three additional children made one time appearances. All but two of the children were from the Lents neighborhood, specifically the apartments across from and adjacent to our church property.

We had a great time. Continue reading

when a child believes: a case study in missional discipleship

Yesterday my church offered a family service in our gymnasium where our children’s ministry normally meets. Because we knew numbers would be down due to the holiday, we decided to bring those that remain together to celebrate the Lord and our nation’s birth. It was an inspiring time of worship, declaring our allegiance to Christ first and foremost, and also to the USA. It was also a time of authentic community.

Round tables with chairs were set up so that people could communicate with each other, especially during the serving of the Lord’s supper near the end of the service. Most of the children were seated with parents and guardians. Except for two sisters. They walk to church alone each week from their apartment next door on the same side of the street. The older girl is in 4th grade; the younger is in preschool.

They love coming to church every week. They brave wind, rain and cold. They smile each time they come. They feel like they belong. And yesterday, for the first time, understanding began to dawn. Continue reading

missional social trails

Photo by Glen Alan Woods

The sign depicted in this photograph is located near the trailhead at Devil’s Backbone in Colorado. Those who maintain the park clearly want to retain the natural beauty of its environment. When hikers attempt to go off of designated trails it puts them at risk and it damages the fauna and scenic beauty.

When I encountered this sign I understood and appreciated these points. But I also related it to the mutual pushback between emerging church leaders and traditional church leaders. Specific vocal writers and speakers in both general camps see each other as wandering off the reservation in a capitulation to culture, creating harmful social trails which damage God’s purposes. Dr. Jim Belcher chronicles this problematic way of viewing each other quite well in his book Deep Church, which I have nearly completed. He rightly acknowledges that both have some valid concerns, as well as very real blindspots.

I am intrigued by the notion of social trails which divert from the prevailing cultural norm of those in ecclesial power, locally, regionally, and nationally. Continue reading

rooted or uprooted?

Photo by Glen Alan Woods

The roots in this tree have been exposed. It is a scene which evokes conflicting emotions in me. On one hand, it suggests that the tree may topple over in the future since its support system seems to be losing its grip in the soil below. That makes me sad. Not in some toxic political sense, but simply in the sense that what long has flourished deep in this forest will soon cease to live. On the other hand, the scene demonstrates the complexity of tree root systems and their importance for anchoring trees, as well as providing nourishment.

It brings to mind the struggle Christians seem to be having in recent years, especially within evangelicalism. There is a historical rootedness which dates back 2,ooo years in terms of theological orthodoxy and ecclesial orthopraxy, but much of it is being deconstructed in some idealogical streams as in an ecclesial version of extreme home makeover, sans any substantive respect for that which was. In other idealogical streams portions of the history are uncritically accepted at points most sympathetic to specific cultural preferences and theological perspectives, while conflicting portions within the rubric of orthodoxy are disregarded at best as anomalous tertiary ecclesial expressions, or at worst as heresy.

And so, as protestants long have done, we continue to divide, and then divide some more, ever seeking doctrinal purity, if not reconciliation. We seem to disregard primary Christian orthodox doctrinal tenets in favor of our tertiary distinctives. I do not suggest that secondary matters are not important. To be sure, they are. But why do we call an authentic brother or sister in Christ a heretic if what differentiates us doctrinally is a tertiary matter? In other words, why do we not allow what we agree on in terms of primary orthodoxy and its resultant faith practices to bind us together in love for God and each other, serving as a kind of root system for our common faith? Instead our evangelical roots are exposed. And that is not a good thing. Continue reading

doing life with others

Today I attended two soccer games at two different locations in the city. At the first one I got to see an eight year old boy from my church have fun playing the game. At the second I watched his ten year old sister do the same. During both, I spent time with their father (mom is away on a church women’s retreat) and their  cousin, plus her father. A typical Saturday, doing life with others. Continue reading