missional Posts

Refugees, Immigrants, and the Law of Love

Turkey syrian refugees kurdsa recent post for the IMB – Dr. Jeff Warren

North Dallas is known as a place of prosperity, posterity, power, and position. Though not as endearing, some would add privilege, even pretention to that list. I serve as the senior pastor of an amazing church in the center of North Dallas. The Park Cities Baptist Church is located in the township of University Park, one of the most affluent zip codes in the nation.

Now, come with me on a trip less than two miles to the east on Northwest Highway and you will experience another neighborhood of North Dallas. Go past North Park Mall, across Central Expressway, and we will come to Vickery Meadow. Take a walk around the neighborhood and you will meet people from around the world. As you pass by the aging apartment complexes, you will likely hear one of the 50 languages spoken here. Listen and you will hear songs in Arabic, Spanish, Somali, Burmese, or Hindi. You’ll catch the aroma of Ethiopian, Indian, and Mexican food unlike anything you’ll find in the upscale restaurants, of the Park Cities or Lake Highlands, just minutes away. No wonder this slice of North Dallas is known as the “Little United Nations.” 35,000 people live in this 3.3 square mile area, the highest density of people in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Nearly every resident lives in an apartment and 60% speak Spanish, though only 10-15% are from Mexico. Vickery Meadow has the highest population of U.N. resettled refugees in the U.S.. 99% of the people live below poverty level and over 50 different languages are spoken at Conrad High School. It was here that the Ebola virus first showed up in the United States, contracted by a Liberian man visiting immigrant family members. It is here, as Teri Heard, one of our ministry champions in this area noted, “God is bringing the nations to us.”

The rule of love

In light of recent debate over issuing bans and building walls, our church family has been faced with the very real question: What is the Christian’s response? How do we live in this tension between upholding the law and displaying love to the most vulnerable among us? Augustine spoke of the profound unity of Scripture, reflected in his famous “rule of love”? According to Augustine, whoever “thinks that he understands the Holy Scriptures, or any part of them, but puts such an interpretation on them that does not tend to build up the twofold love of God and our neighbor, does not yet understand them as he ought” (Christian Doctrine, 1.26.40). Love of God and love of neighbor is our final exegesis. It is, in fact, the final proof that we are followers of Jesus.

We must always follow the rule of law while always practicing the law of love.

Jesus’ challenge to “render unto Caesar”, challenges us to ask two questions: “What does not belong to God?” And, “Doesn’t Caesar himself belong to God?” I’ve told our congregation that we will leave the security and safety of our nation to our governmental leaders. But we do not need politicians to tell us how to treat outsiders. 1 Peter 2:14 says that those who govern over the nations are “sent by Him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.” The first priority of government is the safety and security of its citizens. We believe that we must live in a land of law and order. There must be a rule of law.

Chosen leaders are called to protect their citizens.

As Christians, we know too that we are citizens of another kingdom and we are ambassadors of another King. Exodus 23:9 says, “Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt.” Jesus told us we are to invite the stranger in. We are to give to the hungry, the thirsty, and the stranger who is sick or needs clothes to wear. In fact, He so identifies with the outsider, He says when we serve them, we are serving Him (Matthew 25:25-36). Galatians 5:14 says, that “the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Paul tells the church to “walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:5-6).

The rule of law and the law of love

John 13:34-35 says “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” We are filled with the Spirit, united in the Spirit and we love all people as Christ has loved us. Exodus 34:6-7 says, “the Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness… forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty…” The rule of love has order built into it.

Our church family is constantly confronted with the fact reality, “to whom much is given much is required” (Luke 12:48). One of the core values that drives us is, “overflowing generosity”. Our church is filled with generous Christ-followers who are eager to give away and to share with others. We’ve been blessed to be a blessing. Our members have been serving the Vickery area for over 30 years. I t all started as God prompted a few of our members to start a Bible study for a small group of Spanish-speaking women. After years of ministry in the area in a variety of ways, we began a Bible study in our mission office that soon grew into it’s own service and finally became one of our five venues on campus every Sunday morning. It is a bilingual service, but the members are integrated into our ministry programs, mission efforts, camps, Wednesday night opportunities, and Connect groups. In every way, this a portion of our congregation, are valued members as much as any other group within our church family. We have several deacons who have come out of the “PCBC En Espanol” portion of our congregation. They are a vibrant part of our family who are teaching the rest of our congregation how to pray, serve, and worship the Lord with great passion and energy.

A long-lasting legacy of love

Out of this single Bible study years ago has come multiple Bible studies, women’s groups, and mentoring for children through the years. Annually we have served the community at the beginning of the school year. Most recently we provided 1,200 backpacks, 350 teacher supply boxes, 300 eye exams, 100 athletic physicals, and 500 immunizations. We have had 15 different teacher appreciation lunches and breakfasts in Vickery Meadow schools. We have distributed food backpacks on the weekends for the most needy children. We also provide a kind of Spring cleaning, refurbishing, and landscaping. We currently support eight refugee congregations: Burmese, Nepalese, Kenyan, Indian, Arabic, and several Spanish-speaking congregations.

God’s love for this community is leading us to the completion a 6,500 square feet, Community Care Center for training refugee and immigrant pastors, ESL classes, after school care, church planting, healthcare, women’s groups, and a ministry among the Royhinga people group, of which, there are no known believers. Jana Gardner, one of our church members, started Healing Hands, a Christian clinic for the uninsured. Last year Healing Hands served 12,000 patients, nearly all refugees and immigrants. Over 100 people have come to Christ, and they are ready to plant a church for the new believers.

Most recently, our church hosted a city-wide leaders’ meeting for those who serve refugees and immigrants. Our purpose was to equip ministry leaders with accurate information, resources, and best practices for caring and serving those in need. Among the leaders present was Mike Rawlings, the mayor of Dallas, our county judge, pastors, ministry organizers, volunteers, and others who simply want to get involved. It was a wonderfully diverse gathering that brought factual information to many who are misinformed. We also heard from a refugee family, the struggles of a father and his children, who were present as well. Leaders shared best practices and we provided opportunities to get involved. We experienced again, the very presence of Jesus, who told us that when we serve the most vulnerable among us we are actually serving Him.

I challenge every pastor, church planter, ministry leader, and every church to pray, look around you, and see if God is calling you to serve refugees and immigrants. We care and serve, all in the Name of the One who was Himself an immigrant, living in a foreign land. He came from the very top, all the way down to where we are, to lay down His life so that we too might live. The Gospel drives us to go do likewise. May we follow Him, and none other, to be salt and light to the misplaced and marginalized, to the immigrant and refugee.

 

 

 

 

 

Christ and Culture

There is a great need in these days for followers of Christ to think more deeply about how to effectively engage culture as we join God in the renewal of all things. Richard Neibhur was arguably the most important Christian theological-ethicist in the 20th Century. For several decades he taught at Yale Divinity School and in 1951 he wrote his classic work, “Christ and Culture”- which is still used today to help frame the Christian’s cultural engagement.

Neibhur’s five typologies (or categories) offer a helpful framework as we consider how followers of Christ relate to culture at large. Below is a (far too simplified, but perhaps helpful) explanation of how Neibhur’s categories allow us think more deeply about our role in culture. One way to understand and apply his categories is to think of a more widely known principle: Christians are to be “in the world but not of the world” (actually based on Jesus’ words in the High Priestly Prayer of John 17).  Each of the five approaches is essentially a variation on the application of that often-referenced phrase. Here they are:

  • Christ against Culture – This is the “exclusive Christian” who sees history as the story of a rising church up against a dying pagan civilization. This approach, ultimately leads to an “us against them” approach- it’s the Church against the world.
  • Christ of Culture – This is the “cultural Christian” who sees history as the story of the Spirit’s encounter with nature and culture. Taken too far this could be described as “in the world and of the world” where there is no real distinction between the believer and the non-believer.
  • Christ above Culture – This approach might lead some to think we are to be in the world and over the world. That is, us over culture. This approach would say,  “We better get our man in the White House or we’re doomed (God is not going to know what to do) and the Gospel will cease to advance.” History proves otherwise.
  • Christ and Culture in Paradox – This is “the dualist” approach in which history is a struggle between church and culture and the constant tension that will only be lifted when Christ comes again. Taken to extremes this approach can lead to disinterest and apathy regarding cultural renewal, believing that God will make all things right in the end. The tendency is to disengage– to not be in the world.
  • Christ Transforming Culture – This is “the conversionist” who says, history is the story of God’s work in the world and humanity’s response to Him. Conversionists live more in the divine “now” than the followers listed above. This approach focuses more on the presence of God in time and would say it is Christ in usin the world but not of the world. Christ brings about the transformation of culture through us, as we live as a “faithful presence” in our particular sphere of influence. This is the belief that there is a divine possibility of a present renewal, while at the same time, we prepare for what will take place in a final redemption and restoration of all creation.

Niebuhr doesn’t “land” on any one approach- as his work is more descriptive than prescriptive. I believe that Scripture (and experience) points us to the last one: Christ transforming culture through His followers as we live incarnational lives in every domain of culture. Is this God’s plan to change the world? If so, are you allowing his Spirit to live in and through you in your particular domain or sphere of influence? Are you practicing the faithful presence of Jesus in your life?  What do you think?

1:8 Day – serving as a lifestyle

The Six Styles of Evangelism

Dwight L. Moody, the great American evangelist/pastor, was known for his powerful preaching and evangelistic fervor. He preached in America and England and saw thousands of people come to faith in Christ. He became the pastor of the Chicago Avenue Church in Chicago and preached throughout the United States in the mid to late 1800s. On one occasion a woman challenged him, saying she didn’t like his way of evangelism. As he talked to her, he asked how she shared with Christ others and over the course of the conversation she had to admit that she really didn’t. To that, Moody answered, “Well, I like my way better than yours.”
What is your way of telling others about Jesus? If you are a follower of Jesus, you are the light of the world. Jesus says that you are not to hide out, but you are to let your light shine before others. So how are you intentionally doing this?
I thought about entitling this post, “Being Yourself” or “You’ve Got Style”. There are actually as many “styles” of evangelism as there are people, because it takes all kinds of believers to reach all kinds of unbelievers. Do this exercise: Read through each one thoughtfully and decide which one best describes you (most of us will lean toward more than one but you’ll discover yourself in one style primarily). Determine which one you are and then hone that “style” and the skills/gifts that God brings with that particular style. The six styles below are adapted from “Becoming a Contagious Christian”, by Bill Hybels. A wonderful, practical guide to personal evangelism.

1. Direct Style
Biblical Example: Peter- Acts 2
Characteristics: confident, assertive
Theme Verse: “Preach the word; be prepared in season & out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage-with great patience and careful instruction.” 2 Tim. 4:2
Examples: Billy Graham, Greg Laurie, Tim Tebow
Cautions: Be sure to use tact when confronting people w/truth – Don’t offend!

2. Intellectual Style
Biblical Example: Paul- Acts 17 (while in Athens- his challenge regarding the “unknown god”). Paul is regarded as one of the greatest intellectuals ever known.
Characteristics: inquisitive, analytical, logical
Theme Verse: “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” 1 Peter 3:15
Examples: Josh McDowell, N.T. Wright, Tim Keller
Cautions: Don’t substitute giving answers for sharing the Gospel Message. Don’t become argumentative and learn to be a good listener.

3. Testimonial Style
Biblical Example: Blind man- John 9 He’s healed by Jesus and they ask him, “Was this man a prophet?” He responds by telling his story. “I don’t know. All I know is I was blind and now I see!” No one can deny your personal story.
Theme verse: “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ.” 1 John 1:3
Examples: Corrie Ten Boom, Lee Strobel, Joni Erikson Tada, “I am Second” website. Caution: Talk about Jesus and what He’s done- not simply about yourself. Bring glory to Him.

4. Interpersonal Style
Biblical Example: Matthew- Luke 5:29 He invited all his tax-colleting buddies over to his house for a party in order to meet Jesus.
Characteristics: Generally a warm personality, conversational, friendship-oriented
Theme Verse: “To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” 1 Corinthians 9:22
Examples: Much has been written about “Lifestyle Evangelism” and how to open your life to those around you. I love a book called, “Questioning Evangelism” by Randy Newman (he proposes that asking questions is the primary means to share the Gospel- not unlike Jesus’ “rabbinic method”).
The caution: Do not value friendships over truth-telling.

5. Invitational Style
Biblical example: Woman at the Well- John 4
Characteristics: hospitable, relational, persuasive
Theme verse: “Then the master told His servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.” Luke 14:23
We see another example of this in John 1. Here we see a sequence of events, one person inviting another person to meet Jesus. In John 1:40 it says the first thing that Andrew did was tell his brother Peter. Then the next day Philip invited Nathanial to come and see Jesus. Nathanael asked, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip said: “Come and see.” Sometimes we just need to say, “Come and see!” Just come. Imagine this: If you know anything about Peter’s role in the early church- What if Andrew had never invited Peter to meet Jesus? A single invitation can change a life, or many lives.

6. Serving Style
Biblical Example: Dorcas- Acts 9:36 (a.k.a. Tabitha) “She was always doing good and helping the poor.”
Characteristics: Others-centered, humble, patient, caring.
Theme verse: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16
Examples: We see this approach to evangelism in ministries like Buckner International, World Vision. So many examples within our church family.
The caution: Actions are no substitute for words (Rom. 10:14). Nowhere in the Bible does anyone come to faith without words- even the Ethiopian Eunuch (who was reading the Scriptures) needed Philip to explain it to him and share the Gospel.

So, what’s your style? Put it to practice.. today.

The nations are coming to London 2012

Come join us!


For more information:
http://www.pcbc.org/london2012