Monday, February 8, 2010

When Helping Hurts (Interview with Authors)

Next week I will be posting a review of "When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without hurting the Poor and Yourself," which I believe to be one of the most significant books on poverty and social justice written in the past decade. It is a true gem for the church and I wholeheartedly recommend it for Church mission leaders, deacons and deaconesses, pastor and elders, non-profit leaders, and the lay person who desire to redemptively help the poor and see chronic poverty broken.

Here is an 8 minute interview with the authors.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Social Concern on the Scope of the GARBC?

Apparently so in 1970. I recently uncovered a document from the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches on their web page dating back to forty years ago. At the GARBC's national conference in Denver Colorado, their messengers voted on to adopt a resolution on Social Concern. Here it is in its entirety.

Social Concern
WHEREAS our nation is afflicted with innumerable social problems such
as drug abuse, alcoholism, crime, violence, immorality, delinquency,
divorce, social injustices, and poverty; and

WHEREAS Christians are to do good unto all men because all men,
however sinful they may be, are made in the image of God and are
objects of His concern; and

WHEREAS Christians have experienced the love of Christ and are by
that love constrained to care for those who suffer and sorrow; and

WHEREAS Christians alone have the message of hope for sinful and
suffering humanity because Christ alone is the Good Shepherd Who
provides for those who become His sheep;

BE IT RESOLVED THAT we the messengers of the General Association
of Regular Baptist Churches, in Annual Conference in Denver,
Colorado, June 22–26, 1970, acknowledge the obligations of love in
Christian concern for all those fellow citizens who are enduring social
ills and afflictions; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we encourage our constituency to
render to the needy members of our society assistance of which we
are capable by the wholehearted support of our approved social

Denver, Colorado
June 22–26, 1970

So what's the big deal about a group of Baptist Churches adopting a resolution about Social Concern? For one thing, these Baptists happen to be separatist and fundamentalist with a history of reacting against any type of social mandate as sliding towards the social gospel. For my interest, it's the association of churches that I grew up a part of as well as the association that my current church fellowships with. Moreover, one of the reasons that the GARBC church which nurtured me as a teenager dropped my financial support for some missionary work that I was doing 17 years ago had to do with adding "social concern" activities to go along with the evangelism and discipleship that I was already involved with. They were fearful that I was being led astray by "neo-evangelical" types and would soon embrace the social gospel.

Nevertheless, I'd also like to make a few observations about the resolution.

1. It acknowledges both individual sin such as drunkenness, immorality, and drug-abuse and systematic sin such as social injustices.

2. It emphasizes God's Image in humanity, the love of Christ in us, and the scriptural command to "do good to all" as our motivation for engaging these social problems.

3. It emphasizes the gospel message as the hope for "sinful and suffering humanity."

4. It assumes a response of loving compassion towards those who are suffering as a result from these social ills.

5. Therefore, the church embraces both evangelism and a form of social action (compassionate service) when engaging these pressing issues of society.

This document will give me some historical ammo in March when I teach a workshop at a GARBC church ministries conference called "The Poor are with you always: helping break chronic poverty in the lives of the poor in your community through the gospel."

Maybe the GARBC's emphasis upon social concern in its past can act as a gateway to a future GARBC emphasis upon social concern.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Familiar Divide?

A familiar divide is back again within the North American evangelical church. Its origin goes back one hundred years ago when the social gospel won over large segments of churches within mainline denominations. Yet a century later, after the fundamentalist-modernist battles in the 1920’s and 1930’s, the emergence of a new evangelicalism in the 1940’s, 1950’s, and 1960’s, the church growth movement of the1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s and the emerging church movement of the twenty-first century; after all these years, we Christians still can’t seem to resolve its tension. Social gospel slippery slope assaults are still lobbed from the right. Accusations of pie-in-the sky, other-worldly pre-occupations are hurled from the left. Both sides have dug their trenches and hunkered down, waging a theological battle over what constitutes the mission of the church. Its impact is swaying most evangelical entities, including mission agencies, churches, seminaries, denominations, para-church ministries, and relief/community development organizations. Even the late Dr. Ralph Winter (one of the 20th century’s greatest missionary statesman) recently bemoaned that the biggest trend in global mission happens to be “the polarization of mission agencies between those that focus on evangelization and those that concentrate on relief and development.”

However, UTM has always made every effort to resolve this tension in mission between evangelism/discipleship and social concern/justice as we serve the urban poor. In future blog posts, I will share a variety of theological, historical, and socio-cultural reasons that the mission of the church should wholeheartedly embrace both. Since I am blogging rather than writing essays, these rationales will be random, reflecting my ADD thought-patterns.

But before I begin to share my views, I’d like to hear your beliefs as to what comprises the mission of the church. Any thoughts?

Monday, November 16, 2009

About Tom Hammond

This past Friday the 13th, a close and personal friend of mine, Rev. Tom Hammond, who was the chaplain for Forgotten Man Missions’s Newago branch, was killed in a car accident. Tom was a role-model to me in doing life and ministry. As a godly father to his children, all four of them are now grown and serving Christ with their vocations. Serving throughout his life as a youth pastor, a missionary, a pastor and now a prison chaplain, Tom was gifted as an evangelist, pastor/shepherd, and discipler, which all stemmed from his genuine love for people. Tom exhibited a lifestyle of grace that was contagious to everyone around him. When he was the pastor of Kent City Baptist, God used him to help change the church from its fundamentalistic (in the worst sense) and legalistic tendencies to a church where they joyously loved God and authentically loved others (which continues even to this day). As a result, this dying church that barely had a heart-beat quadrupled in size. Moreover, I used to love talking with him about ministry, especially urban and poverty issues because he genuinely cared about how the gospel should be applied in these social-economic contexts. He often gave me great advice and I will cherish these moments for the rest of my life.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Our Family With Our Thursday Night Hype Family

Here is the Shaffer family with our family from Thursday Night Hype. As our kids grow older, our entire family (rather than just me) is able to take part in serving the 'hood. We took this picture and others to give to those whom we are reaching out to that are in jail and prison.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Review of "Theological Implications of Hip-Hop Culture"

I just ordered William "Duce" Branch’s Masters Thesis off the internet and read it yesterday. For most people, his name doesn’t mean anything, but for those who know Holy Hip-Hop, you might know him better as “The Ambassador” from the Cross Movement. That’s right...An emcee from one of Christian Hip-Hop’s foremost, progressive groups earned his ThM from Dallas Theological Seminary, including composing a seventy-nine page thesis. It is appropriately titled, “Theological Implications of Hip-Hop culture.”

Although I was somewhat skeptical of its contributing value to scholarship with its generic title, Branch gradually won me over. I believe “Theological Implications of Hip-Hop Culture” lays a solid workable foundation for the development of mission theology within the context of Hip-Hop culture. Duce constructs a compelling case for Hip-Hop culture as a legitimate culture, rather than a passing fad or remote subculture as some might argue. As part of developing this case for Hip-Hop culture’s validity, Branch relies heavily upon Hip-Hop scholars such as Bakari Kitwana and Michael Dyson, and some of Marvin Mayer, writer of "Christianity Confronts Culture.” Furthermore, he keenly traces the historical development of Hip-Hop culture over the past forty years to support his assertion.

Another positive aspect of “Theological Implications….” is when Duce develops a Christian perspective of culture, he rightly roots his theology of Hip-Hop culture in the doctrine of creation, centering upon the implications of the cultural mandate, including the insights of Reformed theologians Abraham Kuyper and Herman Dooyeweerd. Moreover, Branch perceptively points out the value of Hip-Hop culture in relationship to the church. He makes an intriguing comparison between Hellenistic culture of the first century and Hip-Hop culture of 21st, which I would like to see further developed.

However, “Theological Implications….” covers too much territory and too many themes. Consequently in my humble opinion, it did not go quite deep enough (although it goes deeper than the majority of available literature that attempts to address a theology of Hip-Hop culture). Yet maybe this was Branch’s intention from the beginning. By pressing the reader to think through the many theological implications of hip-hop culture, those who take both urban ministry and theology seriously might feel obliged to further unpack the plethora of themes that Duce alludes to within his thesis.

Overall, William Branch does the church and its theological community an invaluable service by doing theology that intersects with hip-hop culture. Not only have I enjoyed listening to “The Ambassador” as a hip-hop artist, but I also enjoy reading “The Ambassador” as a theologian doing mission theology within the context of Hip-Hop and the church. I look forward to reading more of William Branch's mission-theological works in the future.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Dr. Wittmer finally enters the Blog World

My former professor and friend of mine from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, Dr. Michael Wittmer, has finally created his own blog site,appropriately named, Don't Stop Believing. You can access it here. The Blog site is named after his upcoming book, which provides a thoughtful, balanced critique of several influential authors from the emergent church.

Dr. Wittmer already has begun stirring the pot in his first post by pondering whether the influence of Plato on the Worldview of Christians played any part in the economies woes. My favorite line from this post occurs in his ending as he reiterates the importance of Jesus being the Lord of our Money.
"So let’s hear sermons on greed and the sin of excessive consumer debt. Let’s talk to each other about the forgotten value of thrift—not just so we can protect our own nest egg, but as a practical way to love our neighbor. We may end up with less, but we will flourish more."

Another post coming from Wittmer provides links to a couple of critiquing articles that he wrote which addresses the theological deficiencies of the emergent church (while at the same time commending them for their Jesus lifestyle). I especially enjoyed the one from Western Theological Seminary's journal where he compared J. Gresham Machen’s critique of yesterday's theological liberalism to certain emergent author's beliefs of today.

Thanks Mike for joining the blog world. Your voice needs to be heard.