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.