Friday, April 02, 2010
Yo from sunny Philly. It's been a long time and believe me a lots been happening. Among them is an event that a few friends and I are putting together this coming June. It's called Revival 2K10 and you can find out more about it here.
This event has one main purpose. To launch a movement that seeks to restore a God centered focus to our faith, life and salvation. Below is a letter I wrote to several pastors in my denomination (Presbyterian Church in America) about the event and why I believe it's necessary. If you're in the area please consider attending the revival. If not, please keep it and us in your prayers.
Greetings brothers in the name of our Lord. I hope you, your families and God's people are doing well in Him.
In the sphere of religion, in particular, the present time is a time of conflict; the great redemptive religion which has always been known as Christianity is battling against a totally diverse type of religious belief, which is only the more destructive of the Christian faith because it makes use of traditional Christian terminology. —Christianity and Liberalism
These are the words which J. Gresham Machen used to describe the various forms of liberalism that presented a direct challenge to historic, redemptive Christianity. One of the things that made liberalism so dangerous was the way in which it used traditional Christian terminology to describe itself.
Brothers, myself along with a number of other black TE's within our church are convinced that a similar challenge now confronts orthodox Christian faith particularly within the historic black church. For the balance of the 20th century the mainstream historic black church while not reformed certainly held to the main tenets of orthodox faith. However towards the end of the last century the prosperity gospel (which in its various forms had always lurked near the fringe of the black church) moved closer and closer to becoming the central theology believed and practiced by the black church.
To give a little perspective on this imagine that the liberalism against which Machen wrote and he and other evangelicals fought against not only grew in prominence within theological circles but actually became the substance of the faith of many if not most of those within the pews. Imagine if relatives of yours who once held to the historic orthodox faith began articulating a full throttled liberalism even while continuing to use traditional terms. And imagine that they had little to no contact, input or challenge from evangelical churches that were countering this heresy.
That is the situation that most all of the black TE's within the PCA find ourselves. The churches in which we grew up or came to faith now spout this destructive form of heresy.
And this is where we need your help. A few of us are in the process of hosting an event that we pray will launch a movement to counter this heresy. Revival 2K10 is an event scheduled for June 4th through 6th at the New Song Community Church in Baltimore MD. The purpose of this event is to impact the black church and black community with historic, redemptive Christianity that is biblically grounded, gospel driven and Christ-centered. We are using the term 'revival' because so many within our community are familiar with that term. However, our hope is that in time more and more of our brothers and sisters in the Lord and in the flesh will attend this revival not too see sensational 'spiritual' antics but to observe and participate in Christ-centered worship that features sound, expository, passionate preaching. Moreover, our hope and earnest prayer is that having been exposed to worship that is Christ-centered, joyful and orderly they will listen to what we have to say regarding biblically reformed theology, mission and practice.
I've included the event schedule in this letter and am asking you to consider doing at least three things:
First, please pray for the speakers, the worship services, the breakout sessions and other activities connected with this event. I'd ask that either the session or one or more small groups within the congregation take some time to pray for these things on a regular basis.
Second, please consider annoucning the event to the congregation and encourage those who can to attend and worship the Lord with us.
Third, please consider giving us a one time donation to help offset some of the costs of this event.
In conclusion brothers please understand that we are in no way seeking to be exclusive or to just narrow our focus to the black church and community. We invite and welcome any who wish to be a part of this effort to bring reform to the black church. Our desire is not to cause any kind of separation. We only hope to see God work among our people who as we know have had little exposure to biblically reformed theology for over a hundred and fifty years.
Other than a $10.00 charge for lunch on Saturday afternoon there is no registration fee for this event. We are however asking people to register just so that we can have a count of whose attending. You can register by emailing New Song Community church at firstname.lastname@example.org (please be sure to put Revival 2K10 in the subject line) or via Facebook by searching for Revival 2K10: Worshiping God Through Preaching, Praise and Prayer and indicating your RSVP.
Thank you for your consideration and prayers.
Joyfully in Christ,
TE Lance Lewis
Pastor Christ Liberation Fellowship
Friday, September 18, 2009
Hey out there. It's been a few months but I think I'm finally getting back in the swing of things. Let's start off the fall season with a topic it seems everyone is talking or thinking about. What's that you ask? No it's not fantasy football (although I do have a pretty good squad this year), it's politics.
I'm sure you've either gotten into or at least overheard a political discussion in the past few months. It seems that this country is growing more and more divided and hostile with each passing day. Most all of us have strong political opinions whether they fall on the left or the right. Below are just a few thoughts that I find helpful to remind myself just as a particular discussion is getting heated and I'm tempted to lose my religion just to score a few polticial points. Hope they're helpful to you.
My primary calling to my ethnicity and this country is one of witness, influence and discipleship. My main calling is to promote the King's agenda to all people. Am I particularly concerned with African-Americans? Yes I am just as Paul was particularly concerned with Jewish people (see Romans 9). But my concern for black folks doesn't and can never center on striving to see that we get our piece of the American pie. I must first concern myself with the souls of black folks for their souls will far outlast their sojourn in this country.
Does my concern for African-Americans lesson the concern I have and should have for others? Of course not, no more than Paul was less concerned about Greeks or Romans just because he yearned to see his own people embrace Christ. I am an American citizen and am therefore concerned for the overall well-being of this country just as I'm concerned for the overall well-being of those blacks who reside within it. However, just as I'm not primarily focused with the temporary fortunes of African-Americans so I'm also not devoted to America maintaining its military and economic dominance. While I wish no harm to America and certainly don't wish this or any country have to suffer undue hardships, I am not devoted to its continued world supremacy.
My real and lasting citizenship is in heaven. For now I live in a fallen broken world. And even if everyone whom I wished were elected and able to manage this country in the exact manner I believed it ought to be managed I'd still live in a fallen, broken country where things went wrong. I will only be completely safe, content, fulfilled, free from pain, sorrow or worry in the kingdom that is to come.
Those who oppose my political positions are not necessarily anti-black, anti-American or anti-Christian. I may believe they're wrong but that doesn't make them stupid, foolish or evil.
I really do have more in common with believers with whom I disagree politically than with unbelievers whose politics line up with my own.
Because I first and foremost represent the King and not a particular ethnicity or country I'm bound by His example and word to speak to, speak about and treat everyone with a measure of dignity, respect and kindness. And I must pay particular attention to how I regard and respect my elected officials. For me to belittle, demean or seek to humiliate anyone for any reason is to promote and endorse the very thing my King is against.
Regarding my political positions I could be wrong. I don't have all the information, cannot possibly with 100% accuracy predict the future, cannot be absolutely sure of everyone's motives and intentions and therefore should approach any political discussion with a measure of humility.
While I hope and would work to see that my politics reflect biblical principles I must admit that the application of those principles will differ depending on any number of factors. Thus a brother or sister in Christ who disagrees with my politics isn't necessarily unbiblical or even wrong.
I need to take the biblical mandate seriously and not put my trust in men no matter how sincere, competent and well-meaning I believe them to be. At the end of the day they are men.
The eternal kingdom of the living God is in no way dependent on a particular country for its inevitable growth and progress. If the U.S. dissolved tomorrow God's kingdom would roll on.
This is prime time for God's people. We live in a deeply divided country at a time of great uncertainty. What better time then to show the world what biblical reconciliation is. Since Christ reconciled His enemies by the cross I know we can show love and respect to those who differ from us politically. In the face of fear, frustration, uncertainty and division we present and proclaim Christ the one who drives away fear, has complete sovereign control of His world (and our lives), is a sure and certain hope for our souls and unifies men and women, blacks and whites, soccer moms and basketball moms, working income and middle income, city dwellers and suburbanites, and yes even republicans and democrats into one eternal family by His cross.
Finally, while I take politics seriously I do so with a grain of salt. I need to remember that the worst thing that could happen to me is not that my party fails to gain power, or that my people fail to take our place in America or that even America loses its worldwide influence, power and status. No the worst thing that could happen to me, my people or America is that we take this world so seriously that we completely neglect the world to come. That I'd be so convinced of the rightness of my arguments and the justice of my cause that how I spoke to and treated others didn't matter. The worst thing that could happen to me is that I would lose focus on the reality of the eternal yet to come and allow the reality of the temporary now to dominate my mind, heart and actions. The worst thing I could do is to so identify with black folks, or America or democrats or republicans that I actually replace the pursuit of God's eternal kingdom and agenda with the pursuit of their temporary agenda. The worst thing that could happen to me is that I pour all of my energy and efforts into a country destined for destruction and fail to tell the people of that country of a far better country with a far better destiny and far, far better King.
To Him Who Loves Us...
Friday, June 26, 2009
Come on in ya'll it's about to start. My cousins and I (all between the ages of 5 and 8) dropped what we were doing, ran into the living room, quieted our voices and together with our families gathered in front of the t.v. to watch the Jackson 5. We were mesmerized, enthralled, entertained and impressed all at the same time. And little Michael Jackson was the star of the show. Here was a kid just a bit older than we commanding the stage and giving hope (shortly lived for the vast majority of us) that we too could do the same. It's difficult to put into words what the Jackson 5 meant to me and most every other black child in the late sixties and early 70's. Their sound, dancing, songs, clothes and afros signaled one thing and one thing only. They were BAD!
For many within the Black community during that time the Jackson 5 were more than just a group of talented brothers from Indiana who happened to have one unqiue, extraordinaly talented brother. They were part of the Motown business phenomena that produced hit after hit after hit with multiple groups and singers. The same crowd that filled the Spectrum in South Philly to cheer the Jackson 5 returned for the Temps, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Stevie Wonder and the Four Tops. Motown, The Jackson 5 and Michael Jackson in particular were an important part of our lives. They provided the soundtrack that helped get us through the 60's and into the 70's.
But things change, music progresses and little kid stars grow up and move onto other things. By the end of the 70's Motown moved to L.A., the Jackson 5 broke up and Mike went out on his own. My musical tastes in the the teen years veered from Billy Joel, to Earth Wind and Fire and other grown up acts. In the early 80's just as the black community was getting used to a new form of music called rap, Michael Jackson roared back and became the king of pop. Michael Jackson went from child prodigy to a legitimate on his own mega-superstar that did what few if any had ever done. He literally dominated the mid eighties making him one of the few singers who enjoyed significant success in three separate decades.
Much will be said about Michael's troubling and turbulent life. But before we evangelicals wax eloquent on another life that had everything but Jesus let's keep something in mind. From the time he was a small child Michael Jackson was pushed into the massive celebrity and fame. While we can lament how his life unfolded we should at least understand how it could have unfolded in that manner and be humble enough admit that we too would have had a difficult time had we been blessed with such once in a lifetime talent. And as far as I know most highly talented, very wealthy and famous people live and die without Jesus. I don't know Steve Jobs but my guess is that he was closer to death than many and yet I don't know if the man has repented of his sins and placed his faith in Jesus. But I'm pretty sure that most evangelicals who swear by their Macs don't think much about that as they fire up their machines, listen to their ipods and download apps on their iphones. True, Micheal's life and story were tragic, but judging from the rest of the celebrities in our fame saturated and ravaged culture it was not unusual. Speaking of the cult of celebrity let's be sure to check ours before we excoriate the world who swooned over Michael and stoked the fires of his double-edged fame. As much as we try and separate from the world we too like our celebrities and we do indeed celebrate when one of our own gains a bit of notoriety among the culture.
Sadly Michael Jackson's life was tragic and his death perhaps even more so. But remember saints but for the grace of God there go I. We usually invoke that phrase as we pass the homeless soul begging for his daily bread at a major intersection. However, it's probably more appropriate to think about it when we lose someone of Michael Jackson's stature. His life and death highlight our need for God's grace because apart from it we'd be just as lost regardless of whether or not we had all the other aspects of our lives together which as we know Michael did not. Michael Jackson entertained and impacted millions of people during his life. They will celebrate his talent and mourn his death. Should our Lord give us the opportunity to do so let's mourn with them and if given the chance to talk about his life be sure to remember that we too would be broken, confused and lost apart from God's marvelous grace found in Jesus Christ.
To Him Who Loves Us...
Tuesday, June 02, 2009
"It's a terrifying thing," she said, "for a community to hear that two black men in a black Cadillac grabbed a woman and her daughter."
Now that's an interesting statement isn't it. One would think that it's a terrifying thing for any community to hear that a woman and her daugther were grabbed and then shoved into the back of a car in broad daylight by anyone. But for reasons we know all too well the terror level jumps off the scale when an overwhelmingly white community (Bucks County PA is nearly 95% white) hears that two BLACK men grabbled a woman and her daughter. But the report wasn't merely confined to a few people in Bucks County. It seems that as soon as the police received a cell phone call from a woman who accused two BLACK men of abducting her and her child the report hit the local Philly area newscast at warp 9 and by the time the evening news cycle hit that was the big story for the 4 plus Million residents of the greater Delaware Valley. The 'liberal' media went into overdrive posting the young mother's picture, interviewing neighbors and telling her story. Bonnie's apparent abduction quickly hit the national news and for a day or so the hunt was on for the mythical BLACK men who brazenly rear ended Bonnie's vehicle and then supposedly got out of their Caddilac, pulled Bonnie and her child from their car, shoved them into the the trunk (not the back seat mind you) of the Caddy and then drove off. This all in broad daylight, (btw is there any such thing as narrow daylight) during rush hour at a busy intersection. And yet, no one else saw this. In a society where everyone and their 10 year old brat has a cell phone two BLACK men were apparently able to cause an accident, kidnap a woman and her daughter and no one else called the cops. And for reasons still unknown to me the police didn't seem to find that in the least bit odd.
For many Black folks the issue isn't just that Bonnie Sweeten played the 'BLACK man did it card' again, it's the ease of which it was accepted by the Bucks County police and news media. It was only after Bonnie's story began to unravel that some unsettling details began to come out regarding her recent activities much of which appears to involve embezzling money from the accounts of former close friends.
I'm bringing this up with the hope that we can learn something about ourselves, our society and our witness. We may have come a long way baby, but we still have a long way to go. 'But Lance, this woman committed an isolated incident that's now in the past'. We'll never get past race if you and others keep bringing incidents like these up to highlight our differences'. Perhaps. It's just that in this case the Clyde to Bonnie's caper included an eager police force and news media. Once the story broke the news media repeatedly declared that Bonnie had called from the trunk of a car driven by two BLACK men. After the truth came out all they seemed to say is the Bonnie committed a hoax. Perhaps I'm a concerned father about to send his BLACK teenage son to college and wonder what might happen if.... Perhaps we won't get past the issue of race/ethnicity unless and until we do actually talk about it. Perhaps if Bonnie was involved in a church where she regularly worshiped with, served with, got to know and love some BLACK men this ugly incident would never have happened in the first place. And perhaps the church should remember that the gospel cannot affect entrenched racial attitudes (whether they spring from blacks, whites or whomever) if we persist in being unwilling to even acknowledge they exist.
Whatever you think (and I'm sure I'll hear from some of you) there is one thing we can agree upon. Bonnie Sweeten set out to commit an act of fraud and knew that she could at least get a good head start by claiming that two BLACK men did it. And she was right.
Oh, and the quote that began this post. That was from Bucks County District Attorney Michelle Henry.
To Him Who Loves Us...
Monday, June 01, 2009
'In the 60's the government fought a war on poverty and poverty won'. I'm pretty sure you've heard that one before. It's usually the prelude to a homily on how the church either abdicated its responsibility to care for the poor or the government usurped that role for themselves. The line of thinking behind such statements is that God charged the church to provide for the poor and that government has no business fishing in that pool.
I believe this thinking is faulty on a number of levels. That doesn't mean that the church as the church (I'll explain in a minute) shouldn't engage in consistent acts of mercy toward the poor along with advocating for justice for the poor and less powerful. What did I mean that the church as the church should commit to consistent mercy? Simply that the church (either denominationally or locally) acts as the body of Christ, representing her Lord in the capacity of witnessing of His mercy and justice to the community in which she serves. That's different from saying that individual believers should do acts of mercy with the conviction that the church only acts in an official capacity when she gathers for the formal worship of our Lord.
The fact that I'm for churches advocating for the poor and doing acts of mercy doesn't mean however that I believe that suburban churches and believers should assume the responsibility of reversing the cycle of poverty that's gripped several generations of poor people who live in America's large cities. Why is that? To begin with it's unlikely that suburban churches would really put the resources needed to tackle the problem which is deep and complex. Most churches (whether urban or suburban) follow the normal institutional sociological pattern of using their resources on themselves. As they grow and develop they tend to hire and expend resources on people and programs that for the most part serve the needs and desires of the church. I'm not saying if that's right or wrong, just that it is. Since that's the case it would be nearly impossible for a single church to commit resources to serve their needs and the needs of the poor. Could a group of churches or denomination do this? Perhaps, but think about this for a moment. Over forty years have passed since President Johnson initiated the Great Society and well over ten have slipped by since President Clinton declared that the era of big government is over. In all that time few if any evangelical denominations or group of churches has stepped forth to grapple with the challenges of the poor head on. This may be a difficult point for us to accept because it means that even if the government retired from caring for the poor tomorrow we know that the church wouldn't immediately step up to fill the gap.
The myriad of needs that challenge the poor and less powerful are a another reason that the church is not equipped to fully address this issue. A child born to an impoverished black family today will face a daunting maze of challenges to rise from that status. The church would have to find a way to connect with that child and his or her family and begin to see to the proper nutritional, social, emotional and intellectual needs even before they began formal education. Being that home schooling is an unlikely option some other type of academically challenging education must be sought and to give you an idea of what that could entail my son's private Christian school will charge nearly a thousand dollars per month to educate an elementary child in the coming school year. Take a breath for a moment. I've merely mentioned an avenue to begin helping one child out of one family. I haven't even dealt with health care needs, a stable home environment, setting aside money for college, developing non-academic interest etc. Nor have I delved into how to serve the rest of that family, their immediate neighbors and community.
Aside from directly serving the poor and less powerful there are the many factors that impact them that the church would have to at least consider. These factors involve the entrenched disinvestment in America's large cities, the ever changing world economic landscape, the complexity of large scale economic systems and the difficulty in addressing the effects of long-term, generational poverty among others. Addressing the needs of the poor is far, far more complex than giving a family a dinner basket on Thanksgiving or a child a toy on Christmas. A substantial portion of America's population was caught in the grip of cyclical poverty long before President Johnson suggested the Great Society. That will not be reversed in a season, year or even perhaps a decade.
One more thought on why the suburban church will most likely not ride to the rescue of the poor. The prevailing line of thought among of many evangelicals with respect to the poor is that they must do what is needed to lift themselves from poverty. Many evangelicals believe in less government (except for the military and law enforcement sectors) because of their convictions that government is by nature inefficient and ill-suited to do much more than the basics of protecting the country from outside harm and insuring a general degree of law and order within the land. Added to this is the evangelical conviction that the problems of the poor have much more to do with unwise choices and personal irresponsibility. While I don't want to debate these things now I do think it's helpful to highlight that the mindset that believes the poor should take much more responsibility for their own lives may be less likely to want the church of which he is a member to expend resources to assist them to do so. For them the issue isn't should the government or the church help the poor, it's why aren't the poor doing more to help themselves.
There does however remain a way the church could potentially make a substantial impact upon the poor, but that's for the next post.
To Him Who Loves Us...
Monday, May 25, 2009
Just lookin' out of the window
Watchin' the asphalt glow
Thinkin' how it all looks 'hand-me-down'
Recently, Justin Taylor over at Between Two Worlds posted a link to an article that touched the age old (okay maybe it's not that old) suburban vs. urban debate. Part of the article states that for some it's cool to love the city and loathe the suburbs. As one who was born and grew up in the city, went to live in the burbs for a bit and have since returned to the city I thought I'd chime in on the subject. Some of you probably recognized the lyrics above from the closing song of the 70's show 'Good Times'. Many of us who were raised in poor black areas of America's large cities can readily identify with that song. Growing up in these areas I never met anyone from my family, friends, classmates, or anybody else who actually wanted to live in the city. As far as the city went the mantra of my parents, relatives and other adults in my life was 'get an education, get a good job and get out. My wife was the first black person I'd ever met who was raised in the city and still had a strong desire and determination to live in the city.
Over the last couple of decades much has been said about the mandate for Christians to move from the suburbs back into the city to bring the gospel to bear on the many challenges faced by those who live in the city. There has been however a fair amount of mythology that has also grown up around this subject. With that in mind then I'd like to do a short series of posts to expose and challenge some of these suburban myths.
Myth #1 - It is the church's responsibility to provide complete and comprehensive care for the poor. I call that a myth because while the church can and should certainly offer ministries of mercy toward the poor the entire problem of entrenched, generational poverty is not something we can or should try to solve on our own.
Myth #2 - White suburban evangelicals are indispensable to the recovery of our major cities, especially the poor black and Latino neighborhoods within those cities. I say this for three reasons. First, I don't want to ignore the ethnic dynamics of this discussion because it is still the elephant in the room. Second, I'm certainly not saying that suburbanites aren't welcome because they are (see next myth). Third I want to caution suburbanites against embracing a messiah complex with respect to the city.
Myth #3 - Moving into the city is the only way suburbanites can engage in effective ministry within the city. As Col. Sherman Potter would say 'that's horse hockey'.
Myth #4 - Ministry among poor blacks or Latinos is the only way suburbanites can participate in meaningful ministry. Trust me, having lived in the burbs I can tell you first hand that there are plenty of opportunities to serve the gospel among middle to high income suburbanites.
Myth #5 - The church can serve the poor most effectively by giving practical biblical advice and setting up practical anti-poverty programs.
In my view these are some of the myths that have grown up around the the urban vs. suburban ministry debate and thus must be addressed if we are to continue to work together to serve faithfully wherever our Lord has called us to serve.
To Him Who Loves Us...