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Christians need to embrace changing family definition…


By Laura Kenna

No one is from here.

It’s a saying commonly heard in Washington, D.C., a place with changing political administrations, students and interns who come and go, and a workforce of upwardly mobile professionals.

It seems like so many people here are either brand-new to the area or on their way out. A city report this year found that, according to tax rolls, fewer than 1 in 4 people who moved to the District a decade ago remained residents eight years later.

In such a transient place, the church’s special role in creating a sense of home is tangible. Our relatives are far away. We may feel isolated, lonely, or overwhelmed. Through my church community, I quickly discovered an uncomfortable yet extraordinarily comforting fact: My husband and kids and distant relatives aren't enough. I must depend the friends I make, the people around me, as our “practical family.”

When babies arrive, parents fly in for a visit, but they aren’t on hand to watch your older kid when you go into labor. That’s what practical family is for. When your apartment doesn’t have room for a blow-up mattress for your sister to come stay, you call someone from the congregation. The same when your car battery dies in a parking garage, when it’s your birthday, when you need a ride to the ER, or when you don’t land the big promotion.

In other settings, these responsibilities fall to family or lifelong friends, but my husband, my kids, and I don’t have that support network here. Instead, the people God put next to us become the family we need for getting through hard times, for celebrating everyday joys, and for learning to live out our faith. Our practical family is not only a help for our physical needs but also spiritual ones, offering discernment in job situations, marital counseling, and parenting wisdom.

It runs counter to the American nuclear family, but in three of the four Gospels, Jesus affirms that the faithful are a truer family than our biological ones. When Mary and his brothers arrive, Jesus responds, “‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother’” (Mark 3:33-35 cf. Matt. 12:46-50 and Luke 8:20-21).

In John, the only Gospel to omit that story, Jesus leaves his biological mother in the care of his disciple John (19:26-27). Though Mary has other sons, Jesus invites his friend into a special relationship with his mother, for him to adopt her and she him.

Similarly, one way Christians can become “practical family” for each other is through naming godparents—especially ones who aren’t already your relatives. Rather than being done out of tradition, ceremony, or even necessity (in some circles “godparent” is a designation for those who would take legal custody of your kids), appointing godparents celebrates these special Christian friendships.

Baptism marks our entrance into the new covenant and into the family of God. We believers are now blood-related through Christ’s death and resurrection. Baptism cries out that water is now thicker than blood. This covenant-making moment is the perfect opportunity to recognize godparents. They become adopted into a family as part of a celebration of God adopting all of us into his family...

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Yes and Amen 5 Surprising Characteristics of Churches That Are Actually Reaching the Next Generation -Nieuwhof


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Not Politically Correct: Governments Kill People

Gun control should start with drones, your government agencies in the US, and foreign policy, then I would not be cynical Mr. President. Genocides are not lead by lone unstable actors but unstable governments and their agencies. Oh yes you support a deal with a country who once again has promised to kill 6 million Jews in Israel and all across the world through terrorism. So Ill get behind you when you stop being such a hypocrite on violence. Lone unstable shooters are concerning but it's the supposedly calculated murders by institutions that concern me more. #schoolshootinghypocrisy #notpcfriday #governmentskillpeople

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Why are White Millennials Leaving the Church?

good stuff here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/theologyintheraw/2015/09/why-are-white-millennials-leaving-white-church-in-droves/ "We don’t normally see our church as “a place where we are not a minority.” But we are the minority. We’re Christians. We are the 8-10% who have not bowed the knee to Caesar or Baal and have confessed Jesus as president and Lord. Our white culture has blinded us into thinking that we are just like everyone else out there. But we’re not. We’re different. We’re exiles. We can speak Babylonian but we are not of Babylon. (Or at least we shouldn’t be.) And we can learn a lot from our Black brothers and sisters who have been living this way for hundreds of years."

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Mega Churches = Athletes on Steriods

As someone who lifts - but does not use "enhancements" this was a great analogy. Of course you know who is natural and who is using steroids, etc. in the gym - it's pretty obvious. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tim-suttle/the-megachurch-is-like-athlete-steroids_b_8152798.html

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Syrian Crisis MCC Giving Opportunities

Global Anabaptists all most all participate in MCC - a para-church group for compassion ministries. Here are ways to respond through supporting MCC's work.

If you're in Canada the Government will match your donation up to $100,000. It is an awesome public-private way to give double towards the Syrian Refugee Crisis. MCC Canada is a registered charity: http://mcccanada.ca/learn/what/relief/syria ‪#‎gocanada‬ (here's the Govt. of Canada info:http://www.international.gc.ca/…/news-com…/2015/09/12a.aspx)

Here in the US (or Southern Canada if they ever pull out that 1926 invasion plan - haha see my earlier Face Book post this week): http://mcc.org/learn/more/syria-iraq-crisis-response).

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Ashely Madison

Some good follow up from Ed Stetzer and Dick Hardy: Ed Stetzer stimulated a bunch of chatter in the faith community and the press last week. I caught up with him on Saturday to get his take on the whole Ashley Madison hacking, the impact of the millions of affairs, and how we should respond. Watch Video (3:59)

He’s written four blogs at www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer

1. My Husband Is on the Ashley Madison List. What Now?

2. My Pastor Is on the Ashley Madison List.

3. I’m On the Ashley Madison List. Now What?

4. Life Is Eternal. Don’t Have an Affair.

So if any of those impact you or any other church leader in your sphere of influence here is what I recommend to do today.

1. Call the confidential (no caller ID) Helpline (11 AM - 5 PM Eastern) listed at the end of the video: 1-800-867-4011

2. Talk to a trusted friend and your spouse.

3. Read all four of Ed’s blogs and follow his recommendations.

4. Subscribe to his blog, one of the most valuable resources for pastors and church leaders in the market today.

5. Pick up copies of Hedges by Jerry B. Jenkins and make it required reading for your staff and volunteers.

The enemy may think he’s won, but even wounded leaders can recover because we serve a loving, forgiving, healing and grace-filled God. There will be pain in some journeys but God is there for you, your friends and church leaders.

Dick Hardy The Hardy Group

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Dan Betzer

I grew up listening to Dan Betzer's Dan and Louie Bible stories. Loved it. Today I looked up Dan's church, First Assembly of God in Fort Meyers, FL, being that I am now literally up the road a little ways.

Dan is still preaching and I learned something else. He started broadcasting years ago on WNAX. The bio says out of "Sioux City, IA" which was the "big city" just down the road from Yankton, SD, However, WNAX was/is actually based out of ...Yankton, SD my hometown. The bio simply used the larger city nearby.

Now I am curious to learn more about Dan's connections to Yankton and Sioux City. Fun Florida spiritual discoveries.

Here's a good example of Dan's preaching: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQ1YRfSFtWU


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Five Points of Bitterness Common in the Missional Church -Dan White

Shel: This is SO SO good! Enjoy:

Forging communities on mission has been a refreshing and exhilarating experience. I’m a strategist and futurist by nature, so I have the propensity to convince myself I’ve sized up all the challenges that will come my way, before they come my way.

There was one issue that I was not prepared to run into so regularly and widely… bitterness.

Over and over again, our team has collided with the thick smog of bitterness that saturates many conversations and any intentional gathering related to Christianity. I’ve studied up on Post-Christianity but nothing could ready me for the discipleship challenge of very real and raw people being riddled with bitterness and cynicism.
Outside the Tent

For as much theological space and diversity our community embraces, for as relational as our ethos is, for as organic as our church ecclesiology is, we’ve found no way around colliding with deeply entrenched bitterness. I had a bit of a fantasy that because we were unlike institutional, hierarchical, consumer-oriented, more conservative expressions of church we would avoid this reality.

But bitterness travels.

Our bitterness goes where we go and it paralyzes our energy for mission and community. Any team pioneering ministry outside of evangelicalism will suddenly find themselves outside the “Big Tent.” It’s out here in this wide open terrain, that does not appeal to church-shoppers, that you will meet countless people who’ve seen, experienced or been through Christianity. They carry massive wounds from that experience. For them the church was crueler and colder than expected.
Our bitterness goes where we go and it paralyzes our energy for mission and community.

The Prevalent Poison

A missional church must come to terms with the overwhelming number of people that carry a burning-bitterness. In many ways, their inner turmoil towards the church and its extensions are justified. There is no erasing the experiences that they lived through. Many of these angers have been untouched but quite possibly have been stoked by others who are just as turned-off and angry.

I am so thoroughly convinced that bitterness and cynicism is the most prevalent poison in our times. When we are hurt, dashed, and royally let down, a villain is erected. It becomes a sub-conscious controlling figure that clouds our choices, opinions and spiritual trajectory.

Bitterness slowly burns a consuming mark on our outlook of the future. Emotional disappointment, if unaddressed, renders us perpetually frustrated and disillusioned even if the scenery changes.
5 Common Points of Bitterness

Here are some tangible and personal points of bitterness we’ve discovered in the city we love. In no way am I trying to stereo-type or demonize. In some ways, this is an over simplistic presentation. I find it a privilege to be in the presence of people who are genuinely skeptical. Still, these are real-life touch points that our missional church has encountered up close and personal.

1. Bitterness Towards Leadership

A Christian leader really let them down, dashed their hopes, made promises they never followed through on, used power for personal gain, treated them like a number, or gave them bad counsel. Their experience with Christian leadership colors their whole feeling towards authority.

Missional Challenge: For as gracious, hospitable, trusting and peaceable that your current leadership might be, often times you will still be viewed through that skeptical lens created by bitterness. Their radar is on high alert looking for signs that you are not who you say you are. Often they are expecting the other shoe to drop, feeling spiritual abuse is just around the corner.

2. Bitterness Towards Christian Parents

Parents gave them a faith of obedience that gave little space for exploration, mystery and independence. Their parents went to church regularly and even had leadership roles but were judgmental, unloving and selfish.

Missional Challenge: There are sores around this paternal relationship making it hard for them to cozy up to church, because in some way it symbolizes the faith of their parents.

3. Bitterness Towards Structure

Institutional Christianity may have tried to push them through an assembly line to produce a cookie-cutter Christian man or woman. Church seemed forced with subtle manipulation. If they had doubts, there was no room for them. If they had questions, there were glares directed at them. The black and white presentations of the church did not fit with the complications of everyday life. The Christian music, events, sermons and Christian lingo seemed like a sheltered sub-culture.

Missional Challenge: These realities make people skittish about any type of intentionality; meeting on a regular basis, regular teaching, regular stewardship, rhythmic community or purposeful mission. It is hard for them not to establish a posture of overreaction to protect themselves against previous oppressive modes of church.

4. Bitterness Towards Stifling Theology

The Theory of Evolution was called heresy, woman were relegated to children’s ministry, God was a detached Almighty who controlled everything including suffering, the Bible was a rule book, God was first feared then followed, a personal relationship with God didn’t seem all that personal. There are embedded visceral emotions connected to this brand of theology that they perceived alienated them.

Missional Challenge: This is not a god they want to be associated with at all. Recovering a better image of God is hard because of their ingrained response to the God of their youth. They are a bit embarrassed to be aligned with God even though they are drawn to him.

5. Bitterness Towards Community

Christian friends let them down, they got offended, and then found no reconciliation. Their expectations were never met and they were perpetually disappointed with a lack of intimacy. It seemed liked few ever reciprocated when they reached out for connection.

Missional Challenge: Being connected with Christians seems to be more trouble than it’s worth. Their first position is one of distrust that keeps them cautiously distant. Unknowingly their thoughts on community are filtered through idealism and expectations no one can meet.
A Space for Recovery

Time does not often heal these issues. In many cases, time builds deeper tracks for bitterness to ride on.

Missional Communities need to become incubators of grace, patience and carefulness for the sake of long term healing. Eventually, you will need to address bitterness within discipleship. You cannot dance around this issue for too long because it eventually will sabotage partnering with God and each other.

Underlying cynicism often creates a spirituality that is afraid of connecting to actual people doing actual mission. Bitterness legitimizes keeping a distance from loyalty, giving us space to stay critical.
Underlying cynicism often creates a spirituality that is afraid of connecting to actual people…

To the degree that we are unable to admit we are bitter is the degree that we are impaired in our clarity of vision. When unearthing this, we might find we don’t want to let go of something that we feel justified to hold onto. In many ways, bitterness can get all intertwined in how we’ve identified ourselves being “against certain things and certain people”.

We desperately need to help each other pick through the clutter of past worship, bible-studies, sermons, relationships, and spiritual experiences to find something of value. We need to gently and patiently coach each other to forgive, to let go of grudges and discontinue our railing against the villain in our emotional memory.

This work cannot be avoided or we will fragment and choose an autonomous spirituality that doesn’t root in actual flesh-and-bone community. It becomes very difficult to submit to Jesus if we cannot make peace with the past. It becomes very difficult to work peaceably for His Kingdom if we are constantly bated by the present Christian buffoonery that assails overhead.

Cleaning the slate is mission imperative.

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A pastor-theologian who loves the questions…