Unity and Reconciliation in Bizarro World: Johnson University Black History Month Celebration with Efrem Smith and Gary David Stratton

Johnson University’s kickoff to Black History month provided black and white perspectives on Unity and Reconciliation in the body of Christ from Efrem Smith, CEO & President at World Impact, and Gary David Stratton, Johnson University’s Dean of Arts and Sciences

Efrem Smith, President and CEO, World Impact, Inc.
Efrem Smith, President and CEO, World Impact, Inc.

Efrem’s personal and professional story paints a compelling picture of an urban church leader of deep faith who has managed leaders and budgets, transforming people and ministry wherever he has served. His track record in leading Christian Community Development efforts, serving as a Pastor, Church Planter and leader of the Pacific Southwest Conference of the Evangelical Covenant Church, have prepared him for this moment. Throughout his career, Efrem has had a passion for the urban poor, theological education, and training indigenous leaders for service in the Kingdom.

Serving as founding pastor of The Sanctuary Covenant Church, a multi-ethnic church in Minneapolis, MN, Efrem also co-founded and was President for The Sanctuary Community Development Corporation.  As an itinerant speaker and preacher with Kingdom Building Ministries and the Evangelical Covenant Church, he has been a keynote speaker for such events as Athletes in Action, Campus Crusade for Christ, Youth Specialties, Compassion International, Thrive and CHIC. He is the author of Raising Up Young Heroes, The Hip Hop Church, and Jump. Efrem’s latest book, The Post-Black and Post-White Church, was released in August of 2012.

Efrem is a graduate of Saint John’s University and Luther Theological Seminary and a doctoral student at Fuller Theological Seminary. He and his wife Donecia, along with their two children, Jeada and Mireya, live in the San Francisco Bay Area. Efrem has received many awards such as the Role Model Award from the Hennepin County Community Coalition and the Community Service Award from Saint John’s University.

For more information about Efrem, visit his website and blog. (If video feeds are down, click: http://livestream.com/accounts/2746937/events/4294386)

Advancers of the Kingdom in Bizarro World (2/2/2016)

Efrem Smith, CEO & President at World Impact, Inc.

(Efrem’s message starts at 25:00 minutes.)

 

The Power of Meeting with Jesus (2/3/2016)

Efrem Smith, CEO & President at World Impact, Inc. 

(Efrem’s message starts at 8:30 minutes.)

 

Jesus’ Final Request: Porch Lights, Laments, and Listening in Love (2/4/2016 Communion Service)

Gary David Stratton, PhD, Dean of Arts and Sciences, Johnson University 

(Gary’s message starts at 19:25 minutes.)

 

Why White Terrorists Attack Black Churches, by Matthew J. Cressler, PhD

The lines that divide the religious from the political have always been more porous than Thomas Jefferson’s imagined “wall of separation” between church and state. Black churches exist as simultaneously religious and political institutions, and that has made them targets.

By , Ph.D. • College of Charleston • Slate

hotographs of the nine victims killed at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. are held up by congregants during a prayer. (ABC)
Photographs of the nine victims killed at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. are held up by congregants during a prayer. (ABC)

On Monday I searched for a new home in Charleston alongside my wife and young daughter; in the fall I begin my first year teaching religious studies at the College of Charleston. On Wednesday I drafted my African American religions course syllabus, featuring a visit to Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church—a church affectionately known as “Mother Emanuel” for its centrality in the history of black Charleston and the South. On Thursday morning I awoke to news of immeasurable loss facing the Mother Emanuel and greater Charleston community.

In the immediate aftermath of tragedies on this scale, talk quickly turns to the senselessness of violence. President Obama expressed his “deep sorrow over the senseless murders” and noted that “there is something particularly heartbreaking about the death happening in a place in which we seek solace and we seek peace, in a place a worship.” South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley invoked similar terms in a statement that offered prayers for the “victims and families touched by tonight’s senseless tragedy at Emanuel AME Church.” She continued: “While we do not yet know all of the details, we do know that we’ll never understand what motivates anyone to enter one of our places of worship and take the life of another.”

Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, martyred pastor of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the oldest AME Church in the South.
Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, State Senator and martyred Pastor of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the oldest AME Church in the South.

The harsh truth is that this act of terrorism was not senseless. The language of “senselessness” implies lack of logic or purpose. The true terror of Dylann Roof’s attack on Emanuel AME is the fact that it fits neatly into an ongoing, blood-soaked history of white violence against black women, men, and children in religious institutions. Roof reportedly told a survivor, “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country, and you have to go.” Do not be mistaken. This attack embodied white supremacy at its most blunt and brutal. And it is neither inexplicable nor a coincidence that it happened in a “place of worship.”

We often imagine religious spaces as set apart from other spheres of life, which makes an attack on a church seem especially abhorrent. But the lines that divide the religious from the political have always been more porous than Thomas Jefferson’s imagined “wall of separation” between church and state. Black churches exist as simultaneously religious and political institutions, and that has made them targets….

Matthew J. Cressler, Ph.D., will be assistant professor of religious studies at the College of Charleston beginning in the fall. He specializes in black Catholic history and is currently at work on a book manuscript titled From Conversion to Revolution: The Rise of Black Catholic Chicago. Connect with him at matthewjcressler.com.

Can a church be too big to fail? by William Vanderbloemen

No matter what you think of the personalities involved in the latest headlines, they highlight the need for leaders thinking about transition.

“True leadership is measured by what happens after you die.” – Dr. Myles Munroe

By William Vanderbloemen • The Washington Post

Mars Hill Church, then led by Mark Driscoll, held its Easter service at Qwest Field in Seattle, Wash. on April 24, 2011. (AP Photo/The Seattle Times, Greg Gilbert)
Mars Hill Church, then led by Mark Driscoll, held its Easter service at Qwest Field in Seattle, Wash. on April 24, 2011. (AP Photo/The Seattle Times, Greg Gilbert)

The designation “Too Big to Fail” usually makes us think of large banks, propped up by taxpayer funds during the 2008 financial crisis. But the central questions it raises—When do we have a responsibility to save an institution? And who should be on the hook to save it?—apply beyond the finance industry. Each of us has our own ideas and interpretations of which institutions are the most valuable to society, and what the possible failure of an institution would mean in our daily lives.

For me, that resonates nowhere more profoundly than with our country’s churches. Megachurches, those with over 2,000 regular attendees, are a large piece of the American religious landscape. And as the big get bigger, they also have farther to fall.

Twenty years ago, there were only a handful of megachurches in the United States. According to Hartford Institute, now there are 1,300 churches in America with more than 2,000 weekend worshippers, and 50 churches with more than 10,000 weekend worshippers. Those numbers appear to only be growing.

We recently got a sense of their massive influence by witnessing the reaction when two major pulpits were vacated. Dr. Myles Munroe from the Bahamas Faith Ministries International died recently in a tragic plane accident. And Mark Driscoll, who led the multi-site megachurch Mars Hill, resigned over a leadership controversy—leaving behind a weekly attendance of over 12,000 people.

So what happens when these charismatic pastors, who galvanized their congregations’ growth, disappear?

Continue reading

William Vanderbloemen is the author of Next: Pastoral Succession That Works and President and CEO of Vanderbloemen Search Group.

Becoming Matthew McConaughey: INTERSTELLAR Reflections on Fatherhood, by Aaron Niequist

How Interstellar is making me rethink work, parenting, and wanting to save the world. 

While he was off trying to save the world, Cooper’s kids had to grow up without a father.  It didn’t matter that he loved them…because he wasn’t there to show them.

by Aaron Niequist 

I still haven’t recovered from one scene in Interstellar.  (Spoiler alert).  When space pilot Cooper, played by Matthew McConaughey, returns to his ship after their first mission, he discovers that just a few hours on that planet actually equalled 27 years on earth.  So while it was the same day to him, his children at home had lived 27 years.

Watching all he had missed

And so he sat down to watch 27 years of video messages from his kids:  first talking about school homework…then sharing a college story…then introducing his newborn grandchild…and on and on….until finally, his middle-aged son whispers:

“Dad, I know you probably aren’t getting these messages.  We haven’t heard for you in so long.  So this is my last message…”

It was all I could do in that packed movie theater to not lay down on the floor and cry.

Because Cooper missed his kids’ childhoods. While he was off trying to save the world, his kids had to grow up without a father.  It didn’t matter that he loved them…because he wasn’t there to show them.  And by the time he realized his colossal mistake, it was literally too late.

——-

Many of our fathers did this.  And my friends and I are in the season of deciding whether or not we’re going to do the same.  None of us would ever consciously decide to miss our kid’s childhood, of course. Never!  But we are setting the patterns in our 30s that will make the choice for us.

This is especially dangerous for those of us in professional ministry.  As soon as we add “God called me to this work”, we can justify and spiritualize our workaholism.  At least Silicon Valley CEOs can be honest and say they are driven by ambition, success, and power.  We church workers, often driven by the exact same stuff, try to spin it as “humbly paying the price for The Lord’s work.”  No wonder so many pastor’s kids hate the church.  No wonder so many pastor’s wives hate the church.

Friends, we don’t have to do it this way.  There is a better way.  Our kids don’t need us to save the world; they need us to see their world, and join them in it.  They need us to be there.  Not just physically there, exhausted after work, but emotionally present.  WITH them.  Seeing them…hearing them…delighting in them.

This will cost us something.  We may miss out on certain work successes and perks.  We may not reach the peaks of our professional ambitions.  But honestly, are those peaks worth our kid’s childhoods?

There is another way.  And our children desperately need us to find it.  There is still time.

Aaron Niequist is a Chicago-based worship leader, songwriter, curator of A New Liturgy and The Practice. Follow him on his blog , facebook, or twitter @aaronieq.
Click here to listen to Kurt Edward Larson’s interview with Aaron on his podcast Bad Headshots.
Aaron Niequist plays his music for nearly 20,000 people every week. How did that happen? Aaron sits down to discuss his journey, his influences, and the pressures he does or doesn't feel when playing music for the masses. That, and how the faith part of the equation matches up with the creative part. Oh yeah, and  the record gets set straight on Pearl Jam vs Stone Temple Pilots.
Aaron Niequist plays his music for nearly 20,000 people every week. How did that happen? Aaron sits down to discuss his journey, his influences, and the pressures he does or doesn’t feel when playing music for the masses. That, and how the faith part of the equation matches up with the creative part. Oh yeah, and the record gets set straight on Pearl Jam vs Stone Temple Pilots.
 Reposted by author’s permission.

Religion in China – Cracks in the Atheist Edifice, The Economist

After simmering in the countryside for decades, Chinese churches are exploding among young urban college educated professionals. Chinese Christians now outnumber Communist party members. What’s an atheist state to do? 

“Christianity is hard to control in China and getting harder all the time. It is spreading rapidly, and infiltrating the party’s own ranks. The line is blurring between house churches and official ones, and Christians are starting to emerge from hiding to play a more active part in society. The Communist Party has to find a new way to deal with all this.”  -The Economist

It was too expensive to obtain permission to reprint this important article in the November 1, 2014 issue of the Economist, so we’re providing the link here: “Religion in China: Cracks in the Atheist Edifice.”

Hot faith: Beijing Pastor Jin Tianming was arrested in 2009 after preaching to hundreds of young urban Christians at an outdoor worship service (during a snowstorm), but such policies may now be changing.

See other post in ongoing series: 

Partnership not Persecution: A Modest Proposal for the Future of China and her Christian Intellectuals, by Gary David Stratton

Vibrant Faith Among Future Chinese Culture Makers: Christians Now Outnumber Communists, especially on Campuses, by Rodney Stark

A Critique of ALL Religions: Chinese Intellectuals and the Church, by David Jeffrey