Neighborhood Pastor – Missionary – Advocate

I have for about the last 13 years been working at defining the work that I have been charged with at Drexel Gardens Christian Church. The following is a summary of where I am at in that process as of today 5/10/17:

 

I am the pastor for the people of Drexel Gardens Christian Church, meaning that I am called to care for all of those who share in our fellowship here. I am a teacher, I am a preacher, I am a facilitator of care giving, I am one who disciples, I am a disciple; I am a lover of all the people here.

I am a neighborhood pastor, which to me means that I am called to care for and love all of our neighbors who are a part of our neighborhood.

I am a missionary to neighborhoods, meaning that the work that I am called to do, while primarily for the Drexel Gardens Neighborhood, also includes work in other neighborhoods and/or communities where restorative work is needed.

I am an advocate for not only our neighborhood, but also for the very idea of what it means to be a neighborhood.

I am a firm believer that we are and I am called to “seek, work and pray for peace in the place where God has sent us, for in its peace we will all find peace.”   – paraphrase of Jeremiah 29:7

 

About Drexel Gardens Christian Church Today.

About us today:

We are a small church with a mostly older congregation, which has a lot of wisdom to share with the coming generation; we are active in our community as an advocate for our neighborhood. We have developed strong relationships with the MSD Wayne; The Wayne Township Trustee’s office; IMPD Southwest District and also have developed strong relationships with those in state and city government, so that our neighbors in Drexel Gardens can be better served. We are also in partnership with the Drexel Gardens Neighborhood CrimeWatch which meets in our church every other month and was founded by one of our members 5 years ago and is now led by a husband and wife team who do a great job in representing our church and neighborhood throughout the city. The church has also sponsored and hosted Neighborhood Cleanup and Community Day’s in the spring and summer for the last five years. These things are all part of our work here in the neighborhood, of Seeking, working and praying for peace in this place.” – (See Jeremiah 29:7 below). But our primary mission here is simply to be the Church (The Body of Christ) in this place where God has sent us. The work of seeking and saving the lost; the work of making disciples; work of restoration and reconciliation; these things are at the heart of everything we do. We love our neighbors here, it is what we are called too, our ways may seem a little unorthodox to some but it is who we are and what we do. We are simply working with God’s help to be his Presence in this place.

While we are growing closer in our relationship to God and each other and while we are also building relationships with our neighbors, it hasn’t really translated into church membership growth and may not for sometime, it is a slow process and church really should be slow shouldn’t it. – Peace, Pastor Gary

 

But seek the welfare (peace) of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare (peace) you will find your welfare (peace).Jeremiah 29:7-ESV

Pondering… Numbers and Community

It has long been a concern of mine that people have been reduced to numbers and statistics. It has come more to light recently in the debate over the proposed Indianapolis (2014) city budget. I personally admit to not liking numbers, because at times they can be overwhelming to me in the light of some health issues that I struggle with. But since this is not about me, let me get on to what I believe the point is.
The point is that we can make the/our numbers say whatever we want them to say as we nuance them to fit what we are trying to accomplish.
It is disturbing to me that this is often done at the expense of the very people those numbers represent. We have seen one whole new people group being created; *the free and reduced lunch students group and we use our numbers to represent that group, these kids need our help we say and again we nuance our numbers to meet our agendas, saying it is all for them. I am left to wonder how we are truly serving that people group.
One wonders how any work can get done at all in a political arena that functions under these conditions, instead of serving people we are serving groups/numbers, and most everyone seems to have their favorite. We have depersonalized a process which was never meant to be depersonalized. We have made it about different groups/numbers and not about the overall community, and in this process we have destroyed any real sense of community; a community which is both God ordained and constituted in the founding documents of our republic. We all are a people created for community, but that very community is being destroyed through a political process of number manipulation; people have been conditioned to believe that they are all different and that they cannot exist outside of their own people group (and some have been lumped into several different groups so that any sense of identity has been lost). Their only hope is that someone will be there to fight for them, let us fight for you they have been told and in the end they relinquish the power to fight for themselves. This ultimately leads to a cycle of perpetual hopelessness, destroying communities and neighborhoods. It is at point that the tables are truly turned over on them, they are told that if you would only come together as a community or neighborhood we will come to your aid. But they have no knowledge, ability, power or resources to do so, and so we abandon them on this island of despair that we have created for them. Numbers never lie they have been told and you just don’t have the numbers. But we are more than numbers they pleadingly say and their cry falls on deaf ears, until the time comes again when their number might be needed.

*any people group and comments on that group can be included here

Bonhoeffer and Community: more than an Idea

“Humanly speaking, we could understand and interpret the Sermon on the Mount in a thousand different ways. Jesus knows only one possibility: simple surrender and obedience, not interpreting it or applying it, but doing and obeying it. That is the only way to hear his word. He does not mean that it is to be discussed as an ideal; he really means us to get on with it.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Community must move from being just an idea to be coming a real place(s). But in order for it to make that move, do we have to begin with some idea about what it is? I think so, but maybe not… 

I took out “the Sermon on the Mount” from the above Bonhoeffer quote and replaced it with “community” to help me to try and process this. 

   “Humanly speaking, we could understand and interpret community in a thousand different ways. Jesus knows only one possibility: simple surrender and obedience, not interpreting it or applying it, but doing and obeying it. That is the only way to hear his word. He does not mean that it is to be discussed as an ideal; he really means us to get on with it.”

Hear O Israel(Church): The Lord our God, the Lord he is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. … And you shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these. (Mark 12:29-31) 

I believe that we were/are created to live in community, it is at its very core part of who we are. Love God, love your neighbor everything flows from those two commands and so does community. 

Peace

 

  

Community as a Way to Save the World

The recent government shutdown and all the turmoil it has caused whether perceived or real has got me to thinking, for those who know me that is sometimes a source for concern. I am one who tends to think out loud, trying to process through certain scenarios, my wife is most often the target of these thoughts that I throw into the air, I sometimes catch a glimpse of her as she receives these thoughts and I notice great concern in her eyes and I remind her that I am just thinking out loud.

A lot of the talk around these debates or lack thereof seems to me to center around groups of people who are represented by the legislators in Washington DC. They say they are just staying true to the ideas of the people that elected them, their constituency back home (their community).

 If that is indeed the case, I have some grave concerns about the direction our country is headed in. We as a country who has as a founding principle of being/becoming a strong community; these “United States”, has lost its focus, it is and has in my opinion been trending for some time now in the direction of more individualized communities that have become the primary focus and concern of our elected legislators (whoever has the strongest community supporting them is the one who gets elected), and if my community elects me then I need to stand up for them; after all they elected me .  I agree with all of that in principal, the problem comes however when we lose sight of the big picture community; as in what is good for the entire community, not just my group, but my town, my city, my state, and my  nation and ultimately the global community.

Our view of community has become much to narrow; we have become communities of exclusion, which in reality is not community at all, because they betray the very notion of what true community is.

I am one who believes that the restoration of true community is the only way to save our world; all of our world, but first we have go back to the basics of teaching the meaning of what true community really is: it is many coming together as one, using their combined gifts to improve the quality of life for all.  We must teach this first and foremost at the local level; in our families and in our schools and if we teach it there first and we can get it to stick, it is something that can be translated into a generation of people who truly care about each other as a community, and a generation whose primary goal will be improve the quality of life of all who live in community (and that would be all of us); and in turn they will become a community that has as its goal, the saving of our world.  

It is time, that we all take the time to learn along with our children the importance and value of becoming a true community. For it is their future that is at stake, if we say that we love and care for our children, then we truly have no other choice.

Just me thinking out loud or pondering true community …      

  

Learning Community – Definition (Always a Work in Progress)

Learning Community:

A place where our children, along with family and other community members learn the intrinsic value of sharing life together, not only, but first in a local place, after which it has the capability of expanding to more universal applications.

CommunityMany coming together as one, for the good of all.  

Com together/with;

munserving/gifts;

ity – state or quality

Community – A place where every decision you make will either enhance or diminish life; that being said, it is also a place where all outcomes whether good or bad are used to improve the quality of life in the community as a whole.

E Pluribus Unum –  “Out of many, one.”

Why do we do what we do, why do we learn what we learn?  We do it all for the sake of improving the quality of life in our community. 

Still pondering …

 

 

 

 

 

     

Speaking the Truth in Love: Treating Gay the Right Way

This topic has crossed my path numerous times recently, so I thought that maybe I could/should address here…

It is mostly based as response to a question about the best way to teach a teenager about what the Christian faith or God has to say about homosexual or same sex relationships.

This response is not an attempt to solve the problem, it is more an attempt to provide a starting point for conversations to be held. which I think we don’t do well or often enough.

I think sometimes we overload our kids with way to much information. Here are some of my observations and thoughts:

I do believe that the Bible is the best resource for handling the problem that you are addressing, both for what it says and doesn’t say.

You can look up the passages of scripture that mention homosexuality or unnatural relations to get an idea of the context in which they were used these words phrases or ideas were used. Most of the time you find it in the context of being something that places a barrier between people and God.

My belief is that homosexual/same sex behavior is a sin like many other sins and all sin separates us from God, so anyone who practices sinful behavior; that person has chosen disobedience, separating himself or herself from God, God does not do the separating, we do. That person makes a choice to live without God. That may seem a little harsh but please read on.

I define sin as: Any behavior (and I mean any) that breaks our relationship with God, it is not simply missing the mark as some would, have and do say/said, it goes much deeper than that. 

God’s ultimate plan for mankind is the restoration of that broken relationship; today we in the church are called to be ministers of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:11-6:13), joining God in this work that he is already doing.    

My belief is also that God loves all of us all just the way we are and not the way others think we should be, that would mean that he loves the homosexual or gay person just as much as he loves you or me.

I just did a search for any form of the word homosexual in the ESV Bible translation on biblegateway.com and only two verses   were returned on that search (1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10) both of which point to the practice of homosexual behavior. I also did a search of the word unnatural and found only one verse; Jude 1:7. I also did a search on the word natural (as used in a sexual context) and found two more verse in Romans 1:26 & 27. Then I did a broader internet search (Google) on: “bible verses about homosexuality” and found passages in: Genesis 19:1-11; Judges 19:16-24 ; 1 Kings 14:24 & 15:12; 2 Kings 23:7; Romans 1:18-32, the rest from that search were passages that I already mentioned above. I hope these verses help you, you may have already found them.

I believe that homosexual behavior is sinful in the eyes of God, but I further believe that there are both physiological and psychology reasons that people practice this behavior; in some cases I believe genetics are very much involved (cases where children are born with both male and female reproductive organs for one),  I do lean toward the possibility that some people are indeed born that way (not that I like that terminology). But to me that does not change the fact that God calls the behavior sinful in scripture as mentioned in the scriptures above.

Some will say “love the sinner, hate the sin” but I personally dislike the phrase, because it seems as though we are placing some sort of condition on God’s love; which is the love that we are called to imitate, I believe that God loves us all unconditionally, and we are called to love others that very same way. In that regard, I applaud those in the younger generation who have chosen to love others without condition the way that God does. I believe that we need to both learn from and also encourage that type of love in our children and we need to trust God to sort those other things out for them in due time, it is most important that they know that they are called to serve a loving caring compassionate God who calls all of us to obedience, for it is only in that atmosphere that they can and will learn the consequences for disobedience , it is only in that atmosphere that they will come to know, trust and love God.

A separate question about evil:

I do believe like you, that there is evil in the world, with that being said though, I believe that a lot of times instead of being influenced by Satan that we simply give in to our own evil desire (James 1:13-15) . It is not always the devil who makes us do it, sometimes it is just us being disobedient and it is easy to cast the blame on Satan instead of taking it for ourselves.

As in all things I generally fall back on the words of Jesus who gives these commands as the most important ones:

37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” – Matthew 22:37-40

We shouldn’t pretend to have all the answers for our children, but we should be willing to sit down with our children and others to have open conversations about this topic and many others.

In closing a few a words of advice: Be patient, be persistent, but most of all be loving….

I know that both sides of this debate will probably have problems with what I have written here and I am perfectly okay with that , as long as it gives us a point to at least start talking about it.

To the Church:

15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. – Ephesians 4:15-16

Seeking, working and praying for peace in this place. 

 

Some Thoughts on Life and Love

Through the mother’s womb life and love are born.

Through the living out of that life love is precariously formed.

Through the command of God to love our life is indeed laid bare.

Through the consummation of that love we are shown how to truly care. 

From the beginning to the end it is life and love that we are called to share.

A few notes:

Love both forms us and transforms us.

Love moves from mystery to reality and back to mystery.