Eric Bryant, the author of Peppermint-Filled Piñatas: Breaking Through Tolerance and Embracing Love, recently posted on “Hindus, Homosexuals, and the Hard to Reach.” He has written similar things before (see the audio file below) and I appreciate what he has to say; however, I also think there is room for critique. I have posted his seven points below and look forward to your thoughts; don’t forget to drop by his site as I know he would appreciate the feedback as well.
Principle #1: Cause creates community.
Our cause = moving people to become the person God created them to be.
Principle #2: Meet the needs of those around us.
We need to seek to meet the physical, emotional, economic, and spiritual needs of those around us. We should be pursue helping change the environment and change the individual who is looking for change.
Principle #3:Reach out to Xenos
Hospitality means loving strangers. A similar word, “hospice,” means “a safe place.” Our homes, our businesses, and our churches should become safe places for strangers to experience kindness and love.
Principle #4: Develop authentic friendships with those you know.
OIKOS is the Greek word for household (family, neighbors, co-workers and friends)
Principle #5: Allow people to belong before they believe.
We should never allow our convictions to become a litmus test for friendship. In fact, we should actively pursue friendships with people – even people with whom we may disagree. Go to http://www.mosaic.org/faqfor more on the staff process at Mosaic.
Principle #6: Raise up a team of leaders to replace you
MPAC = Ministry through a pastor, assimilator, and catalyst
We need to make decisions based on who is not yet here rather than who has been here the longest.
Principle #7: Start Over
Catalyzing Community: starting a small group, a ministry, a non-profit, or even a church (Download MP3 Here)
The other day Sok sent me a PDF of Capitol Hill’s principles of the church and community. I don’t have it handy, but one of the points was that the church does not have an obligation to do #2 above, only has an obligation to provide that for believers. I’ve been wrestling with that because I’m not sure that jives with what Jesus said in Matthew 25:34-46. I see Matthew 25 in point #3.
The principles also said there was an obligation toward good works, however.
I think we are too eager to search the Scripture to find excuses for #1-7.
I should say Sok sent me the file in regards to a faculty candidate we have coming in from this university: Fresno Pacific.
Oops, I meant this to go in the above comment. That university claims Anabaptist-Mennonite roots and has an interesting mention statement (which I linked) about how the university is prophetic (last part at the bottom). Anyways, back to relevant comments…
I agree with Point Four, which I guess is an assertions most churchgoers would vaguely pay lip service to, but it is a practice that churches tend to dismiss if not wholly ignore.
I would stop short of saying the church has an “obligation” to do Point Two, but I think “meeting the physical, emotional, economic, and spiritual needs of those around” us is one of the many ways Christians are called to respond to God’s grace.
When Christians emphasize meeting the material and emotional needs of others, they are usually dismissed as proponents of a “social gospel,” a derogative term that implies Jesus Christ has been usurped and replaced with a call to social action, but I don’t think that’s quite fair. Christians who seek to meet the needs of others in physical ways are not doing so because they believe the point of the Gospel is social action or that the Gospel itself is just a framework for social action, and neither are they doing so because they think their salvation rests in their “good works.” Rather, they are doing so because they believe that meeting the needs of those around them is something they are called to do out of faithfulness to God.
It is true that in a sinful word, no individual, no church, no organization will ever achieve an end to suffering or an end to hunger or an end to poverty, but I don’t think Christians who minister to others in tangible, physical ways do so because they actually believe their efforts will eradicate sadness, and even if they’re deluded enough to believe they can, they know their salvation does not rest in successes that are merely tangible and physical.
Similarly, Christians are called to live out God’s commandments, as expressed in the Bible, in regard to sex, but sexual ethics are not the focal point of Christianity, and even if we all achieved a kind of perfect sexual purity, our salvation does not rest in that. That said, I’ve never heard anyone accuse a pastor of proffering a “sexual gospel” when that pastor preaches at length about God’s standards for sexual purity and sexual conduct.
I would also say the church absolutely should respond in faithfulness to God’s grace by meeting the physical or emotional or economic needs of others whether these in need are believers or not. The ethics we practice in regard to how we treat others is not about who they are; it’s about who we are. Otherwise, ethics aren’t ethics; they’re just… hobbies.
I am almost finished with my critique of Bryant’s points and will post them sometime today.
Your reply rocked my socks, thanks.