Friday, July 29, 2011

Matt Papa, This Changes Everything

Matt Papa - This Changes Everything
Record Label: Independent 
Release Date: August 2, 2011 
                     
Authentic indie rock music that is gospel-centered is hard for one to find. Often what is found instead is an attempt to be like another band or to fit into a stereotype of "Christian" bands that are only almost as good as "secular" music, but not quite. But then there is Matt Papa, an artist who possess this authenticity that is displayed through a thirteen song collection that makes his third full length album This Changes Everything. 

The moment that I started to play the album, it was not only music that I enjoyed rocking out to, but it put me in a state of worship of the Savior Jesus Christ. I mean how could it not with tracks such as, "Our Sovereign God", "Jesus is Lord", and "The Glory of God." Overall the music itself is difficult to put into a neat and tidy category as it ranges from soft melodies to heavy beats, perhaps the best description would just be rock. This album even features a little surprise rap/hip hop with guest artist Shai Linne on the song, "The Lord Is a Warrior." 

Unlike many other Christian acts out there today, Matt Papa doesn't short us on songwriting creativity and theologically rich lyrics that are Christ centered. All of the songs are rich with gospel proclamation, standing as short sermons within themselves. The third song on the album, "It is Finished", that released as a single earlier this year is a prime example of this with lyrics such as: The earth shook and trembled, the sun bowed it's head. The veil of the temple was opened for man as Jesus went down in the cold of the grave, defeated the darkness when He overcame. The keys of the kingdom were placed into hands, of children and priests and of fishers of men. Through all generations His voice will be heard, creation resounds the victorious words.... IT IS FINISHED...' 

Matt Papa explains the name behind the album by saying, "The heart of the album is that "This" is the reality that Jesus is alive and Jesus is Lord and that reality changes everything." The album and the title track will speak to a lot of people like myself who grew up in the Bible belt where there is a lot of proclamation of Jesus as Lord, but often times what is being lived out is practical atheism. This album reveals that if Jesus is truly alive then it should change everything in our life. 

This title track was convicting and challenging to me with lyrics such as: 'Oh lord have I become a man, too scared to be a child again. Too comfortable with amazing grace, too familiar with the empty grave. 'Did i miss something, or have I begun to lie? Do i really live, like "Jesus is alive"? 'If this is true, this changes everything, If this is real, then i've got to tell the world. If He is God, then I have a choice to make, If I believe, then I must follow Him..'

I find myself liking all thirteen songs on this album more and more as I continually listened to them. My personal favorites are "It is Finished", "This Changes Everything", "The Lord Is a Warrior", and "The Glory of God." Matt Papa really sends a challenge forth to the Church with this album by revealing that for far too long we have been asking the wrong question, "Would you like to accept Jesus into your life?", when the question should be, "Has Jesus accepted you?" And if He has then your life should look differently then it did before because this truth, this reality of the gospel changes everything. 

Overall, this album is my top choice for the summer as the music is marvelous, but each song points to the One who is Marvelous. There is something for everyone in this album as it is convicting and challenging, but worshipful to the core. Matt Papa has yet released another must buy album that aims to make King Jesus famous. His own prayer for the album is this, "My prayer for you is that as these songs bring you into collision with the greatest, most central reality in the universe, namely the Gospel ..." I highly recommend you purchase this album when it releases on Tuesday August 2, 2011. The best way to do so is on his website (www.mattpapa.com) or from iTunes. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Necessary Shift In Missions

In June I blogged on everyone embracing their role as an everyday missionary by leveraging their everyday opportunities for the gospel. This weekend I was spending some time reading over the archive from Dave Black's blog, http://daveblackonline.com/and came across some quotes that I believe capture the shift that needs to take place in the thinking of missions in the church as a whole, specifically in my own background.

Here are some excerpts from Dave Black's blog: 

In other words, once the idea that every Christian is a fulltime missionary is accepted, the work of missions will advance with much less hierarchy -- and much less wasted money. In time, I think we will see a new equilibrium emerge in which professionally-trained missionaries will work side-by-side with an army of volunteers in a low-friction environment that enhances cooperation.

The bottom line of what I am saying: It's time for us to wake up to the fact that there is a fundamental shift talking place in the way many of our churches are thinking about missions. As missions becomes flattened, local churches will realize they can plant other churches or send out missionaries themselves.

The missions "connection" will move from vicarious support of foreign missionaries via missions giving to raising up local personnel and sending them forth.This is what happens when the missionary enterprise is no longer outsourced. Collaborative innovation flourishes -- and the result is expanded involvement on all levels in the Great Commission.

My own heart has been convicted in recent months that this shift indeed is what we need to see take place in missions. Hopefully what is described here will represent the future of missions where churches realize that they do not need to outsource to parachurch 
organizations in order to plant churches and send missionaries as we all can serve the role of a missionary by leveraging our lives for the gospel and the planting of churches.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Church Being The Church

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions were his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales to the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.
Acts 4:32-35

When the Church was birthed at Pentecost, in Acts 2, thousands of people had come from all over the Roman Empire to celebrate the Jewish feast. Many of these people became followers of Christ and unexpectedly stayed in town due to their now faith in Christ. There were only a couple of problems about these people that had traveled from all over deciding to stay.

First, they had no home. Second, they had no jobs. Third, they had no way of providing for themselves at this time. But what we see of the Church in Acts is unique to the church as we see an early picture of how the body of Christ takes care of each other by gathering all of their resources, selling their property, and providing for those in need.

This passage has become more real to me in the last week as the situation that my family has been temporarily placed in because of uncontrollable circumstances. We have no home, no jobs, and no real way of providing for ourselves during this time. It has not been an easy place to be, but it has been incredible to watch the body of Christ, specifically our local body, rise up and be the Church.

We have been offered two homes to stay in for as long as we have need and many people have blessed us with a meal or even some money to help with our provisions during this time. This is a true picture of the Church just as we see in the book of Acts. This is unique to the body of Christ as we hold all things in common for the building up of the church.

This is not the way that we see the world living and to be honest it is not the way that we always see the body of Christ living, but it should be. I am thankful to be part of a local body that this is their response when there is a need instead of complaining about it, they rise up by finding all things in common and providing for one another just as the early Church did in Acts.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Why Move to South Asia to Plant Churches?

People often ask me why I am moving my family to South Asia to plant churches when there are many places in the US that need churches planted. First, I do not believe that this is an either/or, but rather a both/and as there are needs for churches here and places around the world. Second, 2 out of 3 people on the planet live in the great continent of Asia. According to Desiring God International 70% of Asian's have still never heard of Jesus Christ, not even for the first time.

This video below captures the essence of why we are moving to South Asia to plant churches. "Missions isn't simply about winning individuals to Christ. The unique task of missions is to plant the church among all people groups."

Beautiful Feet from AsiaLink HistoryMaker on Vimeo.

I would challenge you to consider the challenge to GO to the nations in some capacity as the need is great, but the laborers are few as we are reminded in Luke 10.2: And he said to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Serve the City

Last week our church held their week of service for the community, ServeRDU, which serves as a catalyst for people to be involved with loving our city all year long. There are dozens of service projects throughout the city where as a church we serve and love our city by communicating to them that we are a church for the city. Most of these areas of service are involved in serving one of five areas: unwed mothers, high school dropouts, homeless, prisoners, and at risk children.

Our missional community had the opportunity through the SummitNRC to partner with the Raleigh Rescue Mission in reaching out to a community that is only a few miles from our campus. This community is made up of three apartment communities that in many ways has become one of the more poverty stricken areas of Raleigh where it is not uncommon to see drug deals happen in broad daylight. It has gotten to the place that the police do not even like to be in this area often or for very long.

As a church and a campus we have identified this area as part of our community and instead of turning a blind eye we have decided to engage, serve, and love this community. The name that we have chosen to give to this community as we serve them is I-58 that comes from Isaiah 58. Our focus is gospel proclamation in Word and deed for community transformation. 

As a campus we spent three days in this community last week, of which I was involved with two. We are just now starting our involvement with this community so much of the focus right now is on building trust with the people and building relationships. We were able to spend three days doing just that as we pressure washed sidewalks, had a clothing market, cleaned the inside of homes, and held kids activities.

By serving this community for these three days it allowed us to build some initial relationships with the people that will not only be followed up with soon, but we have five small groups that have committed to active, missional involvement within these communities as our focus is long-term not just one week.

Our involvement in this community brings to mind Luke 4:18-19: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim the good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. 

Our long range vision and mission in this community is five years or more if it takes that, where the hope is to see 1 Thessalonians 2:8 come true in the lives of these people: "We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us." 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Unexpected Occurrences

You always hear to "expect the unexpected" but you never quite take it to heart. Typically this is a phrase that people try to package as a nice way to say that the big decisions in life will not turn out the way that are you thinking such as marriage, children, etc. Being a few years into my adult years I have come to terms with that whole idea and learned that unexpected occurrences will pop up from time to time that you have no control over.

This past weekend my family has experienced one of those occurrences as we have set our lives up to move to South Asia. We have been told that we would go to for training at the end of July and be there for eight weeks. We have quit our jobs, rented out our house, gotten rid of all of our possessions, and our current insurance will run out at the end of this month. So everything is cool right? Wrong!

Thursday we get an email telling us that we will be going to training in October instead of next week. I was not only shocked by this unexpected occurrence, but I questioned whether or not it was a joke. Since I received this email I have gone through a mix of emotions as I realized the potential for my family to be homeless, jobless, and without insurance.

A couple of quick observations. First, this gives the organization a bad name, which ultimately reflects Christ giving him a bad name. Second, this puts a nasty taste in the mouth of those that are within the church, but especially those outside the church as they get a bad image of how believers sometimes treat each other.

In all of this I have not questioned God's sovereignty because I believe and know that God is sovereign over everything. Rather it has caused me to push forward to have hope that this can all be worked out so that we will be at our training at the original stated time. It does not surprise me one bit that the enemy would use any means of attack, including an organization, on us because of what we are about to go and do in the name of Jesus.

So if you are a follower of Christ then be ready to expect the unexpected occurrences in your life as God will call you to things that the enemy will attempt to stop. The important thing to remember is that God is sovereign over your life and every situation that you encounter. Learn to trust Christ in the unexpected occurrences realizing that Christ is what you truly need!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Evaluating What It's All Worth

I am two days away from moving out of Raleigh, where I have been for the last two years. The last two weeks have been full of throwing stuff away, donating stuff, selling stuff, and storing some stuff. At the end of two weeks I am left with the notion that we have so much stuff!

This has caused me to reflect on my life now and where we will be living in a few months. It has caused me to take a step back and evaluate what it's all worth. This isn't a rant on stuff and how you should or shouldn't have certain things, but it is amazing after living in a place for two years how much stuff you accumulate and then you start realizing how much of it you have never touched since you moved in.

I like how David Platt explains this  struggle in his book Radical as he says, "The lesson I learned is that the war against materialism in our hearts is exactly that: a war. It is a constant battle to resist the temptation to have more luxuries, to acquire more stuff, and to live more comfortably."

So deciding what to keep and what to throw/give away in the process of moving overseas has caused me to discern what it is that is really valuable to me. It has forced me to decide what is important enough that I almost consider it an essential to my life. 

I keep being reminded and returning to Matthew 6:21 "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

So I encourage you even if you are not moving to take a look at your own life and all of your stuff to evaluate what it's all worth and to see where your treasure really is because that is where your heart is also.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Everyone Engaged and All On Mission

This past Sunday was our last week with our faith family in Raleigh, specifically with our missional community. We took time to share what God has been doing in and through our lives in the last year, shared the family meal together (communion), and laid hands on one another recognizing specifically those that are being sent out from our group to other cities.

The teaching passage presented on Sunday is one that we have visited many times, but I felt like it was worth reflecting on it one more time before we were sent out to minister in other places. The focus for the night was to ordain every Christian to go out and be engaged and on mission just as we see the people of Acts 2 doing. 
The Fellowship of the Believers: 
   [42] They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. [43] Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. [44] All  the believers were together and had everything in common. [45] Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. [46] Everyday they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, [47] praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
(Acts 2:42-47) 

What sticks out in this passage, highlighted in yellow, is that everyone was engaged and all the people were on mission. I have focused on this aspect of Acts 2 and communicated to our community group from week one as each week I would challenge us to embrace our roles as everyday missionaries to Raleigh.

This desire to help others embrace and fulfill this role came from conversations that I would have with people who thought that it was great that I was moving to South Asia to be a missionary, as if I was doing something that they were not called to as well. The last thing that I want is for people to look at me and think that I am doing something special, but rather that we are all called to fulfill the role of missionary in whatever context it is that God has called us to. Alan Hirsch describes it this way, "Every believer carries the potential for world transformation in them. Every believer is a church planter." 


If this is what we see of the lives of the believers in the book of Acts, then why should it be any different for us today?

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Apostolic Future of the Church

There are times that your read a book with great anticipation, only to be disappointed in the end, On the Verge is not that book. The authors, Alan Hirsch and Dave Ferguson, are very clear from the first page of the introduction that their reason for writing the book is for the church to embrace the call to recover its most beautiful form, the apostolic movement.

Hirsch and Ferguson assert that if an apostolic movement is not recovered and the church continues on the trajectory path that it is on now, particularly in the Western context, then it will lose its influence and fade into non-existence. This is perhaps observed the most in my current context of the Southeastern part of the US where you have a place that is saturated with institutional churches that are on the decline, many even closing its doors for good.

Although this decline of churches is happening, the authors point out that it does not have to continue as there is a paradigm shift of missional churches taking place that they refer to as Verge Churches. The problem that is brought up with the current, institutional model of church is that it is only being influential to a certain point. Though there is no hard evidence for the numbers, the majority of these can only reach about 40% of the population, which creates two problems. One, churches start to compete with each other for those 40% and second, churches tend to leave out their missionary role and ignore the other 60% of the people.

Hirsch and Ferguson point out that what makes Verge churches different is that they see the church more as a movement than an institution. In order to see Verge churches planted and developed it will require the institutional paradigm to be dislodged. Some take a statement like this and Verge churches to being a new way to doing church, which is not it at all. Rather it is returning to what Jesus designed the church to be, a movement not an institution like we see of the early church in Acts 2.

Hirsch refers to this new paradigm as "Apostolic Genius", which encompasses six elements of mDNA:
    1. Jesus is Lord
    2. Disciple-Making
    3. Apostolic environment
    4. Missional-incarnational impulse
    5. Organic systems
    6. Communitas

I appreciate that as early as the first chapter the authors take the time to answer one of the most obvious questions being, "How do I begin an apostolic movement in my church?" Their answer is referred to as movementum and encompasses four parts that are elaborated on throughout the entire book. These four parts are made up of the following: imagine, shift, innovate, and move. A shorter way this is described in the book is, "Multiplication Church planting + the Mission of all people everywhere = Apostolic Movement."

These four parts make up the major sections of the book. Hirsch wrote chapters 2-6 dealing with the imagine and shift sections as his background is a missiologist and apostolic theologian. Ferguson wrote chapters 7-10 dealing with innovate and move coming from his background as a church planter and starter of missional movements.

I believe that most people in the church will find this book to be a challenging one, but hopefully a necessary one. It is time for the church to get a way from an institutional model of doing things and quit making it about the "professional clergy" and equip everyday people to be engaged and on mission, where all people are ordained for the work of ministry.

After reading this book, I highly recommend it as Hirsch and Ferguson leave me with a hope for the church in the West. On the Verge is a game changer within the life of the church and it will help shift your paradigm to where it needs to be to assist your church as it transitions into the future.

Friday, July 8, 2011

God Doesn't Reveal Everything

In November I blogged a little on the life of David in 1 Samuel 16 and how I had never connected that God anointed him as king and then almost immediately he was back out in a field where obscurity, monotony, and reality set in. In that post I saw a connection in my own life as I was twelve years old when I "surrendered" to the call of vocational ministry, way before I ever fully understood what that even meant, not sure I even do today,;).

What I did know at twelve was that God had set me apart for something that He was going to use for Himself and His Kingdom. It is something that I have never given up chasing and something that nobody can ever take away from me as it is part of my story.

I never really understood until now that the last thirteen years have been my pasture, my time of obscurity, monotony, and reality just as David experienced. Since that time of surrender in my life, there have been so many times filled with uncertainty, questioning, etc. But one thing that I have always held onto is that I knew that I was clearly called and set apart for something great in the kingdom of God.

I have learned now that God doesn't reveal everything immediately because we wouldn't be prepared for it. Often what we get from God is a command and what is expected is obedience to that command. Although my call was strong and certain, the details were not, which caused me to seek God even more. It is often in our time of need that we seek the Father most so maybe that has something to do with it as I was confident in my call, but uncertain as to the specifics, which left me in need of the Father.

The thing that is amazing is that God is sovereign over our lives and that he may not reveal everything immediately, but he has every detailed worked out. For example if you look at the life of Abraham it would appear that there was a lot of uncertainty in his life, but the reality is that God had everything covered and worked out.

In my own life I am seeing God's "will" or plan come to fruition as my family is on the edge of moving to South Asia to be church planters. It is now that I am starting to see more fully what God had called me to it at twelve and prepared me for the last thirteen years is starting to be revealed more to me. So many years I struggled with obscurity, monotony, and reality, but now I see the will of the Father more clearly.

I write this as a way to say that God has called you to something, but that everything may not be revealed immediately. And if your story is anything like my story then you may be in the pasture for sometime experiencing obscurity, monotony, and reality. But don't worry because God is sovereign and has every detailed worked out in your life. For now, follow Him faithfully wherever He may call you and rest assured that everything will be covered.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Erasing Hell - Francis Chan

There are many things that most of us read in Scripture that we do not understand and maybe wouldn't even choose for it to be that way. Hell is one of the most obvious topics that most of us would not choose and none of us truly understand, but we cannot just ignore the subject because it is there in Scripture. This past Tuesday Francis Chan's new book, Erasing Hell, released that explores what God said in Scripture about our eternity and discerns what things we made up about eternity.

Regardless of your view on Rob Bell and his book Love Wins, he at least caused the evangelical church to reconsider what they may have just believed about eternity for years, especially those within my own generation. It is often that people in the church blindly believe what is being taught without ever taking the time to study the Scriptures fully for themselves, hell being one of those topics.

I have not had a chance to pick up my copy of Erasing Hell but I plan to soon as I am interested to see what Chan has to offer from his diligent study on the topic. My immediate reaction based on the book trailer alone is that Chan at least seems to want to put everything from Scripture on the table in his study of hell. He seems to want to get outside of the what "we would do" mentality and to explore that "maybe the creator's sense of justice is more developed than yours and his love and mercy are perfect and that you could be the one that is flawed."

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Growing and Reproducing

I hear it a lot from individuals, groups, and churches about how much they are growing spiritually or numerically, how much the group is growing together, how large the church has become, but rarely do I hear how much they are reproducing themselves or planting a new group of gospel centered individuals. To be fair I do hear this talk often in my own current setting at the Summit Church, but my focus here is the church as a whole.

The reason that we often hear of growth, but not reproducing growth is because quite frankly we are self-centered naval gazers often in the church. It has become all about us and our kingdom, instead of about God's Kingdom. 

My question for you today is how do we get away from this mentality? How do we within our growth reproduce? 

For that I am going to return to the Five Reproducing Principles developed by Dave & Jon Ferguson. These principles will help you to not only see growth but reproducing growth that will help start a Missional Church Movement.

Five Reproducing Principles
1. Reproducing requires everyone to have an apprentice.
2. Reproducing is proactive; not reactive.
3. Reproducing is not about size; it's about leadership readiness.
4. Reproducing isn't about our kingdom; it's about God's Kingdom.
5. Reproducing happens on the edge and at the centers. 


To be honest I used to have the old mentality of being all about growth, but in the last five years that has changed. In my own small group these principles were implemented and the results have been that we are now reproducing from one group to three, where we will now influence different parts of our city with missional groups. We have also joined four other groups in identifying an area in our community where we want to see gospel proclamation in Word and deed for community transformation. 

My point is that if you are all about growing, but not reproducing then you are going to impact some, but not to the full capacity that you could. You will stifle any form of movement taking place, which is what you should be trying to see in all communities everywhere. So, what are some of the ways that you have seen growth and reproducibility implemented whether good or bad?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Transitioning Well

In recent weeks most all of you have learned that I am in a huge transition in my life right now as this Fall I will be moving my family to South Asia to plant churches. Part of the difficulty of this transition for me personally has been making sure that I transition well out of all the leadership roles that I serve in now.

The first of these roles that I have made the transition out of was my position as a shift manager for Starbucks. It took humility on my part to work for Starbucks when moving here to begin with and to be honest I complained about it a lot, but I cannot begin to tell you all of the stories of peoples lives that I have been able to speak the gospel into in the last two years from working here. My co-workers were a little surprised to learn of my leaving, but it has given me an opportunity to share with some of them further.

I had always imagined myself walking out on my last day, throwing up a peace sign, and never going back, but that would be the wrong way to leave and damage any relationship building that had been done in the last two years. Instead I chose to leave as Jesus left by exemplifying grace and humility. 

The second role that I will be transitioning out of completely in the next week is as a small group leader, where I have really started seeing the group live more like a missional community. We planted this small group about a year ago and I knew from the beginning that I would be leaving so I communicated this to the group and immediately started looking for an apprentice from day one. Even that early on I wanted to start to set up the next leader who would come in behind me so that I could make this transition as easy as possible and allow them to come in as the leader and serve well.

This transition will be coming to fruition in the next week as I plan to leave the right way by not making it about me, but rather setting up the next leader well, pointing to Jesus, and stepping out of the way.  Now, this is the way to transition well!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Christianity Against or For the People?

I picked up a copy of Independent Weekly today to see what would be happening in Raleigh this weekend and read an article by Bob Geary, "Whose America? The Founding Fathers welcomed immigrants and religious diversity. Why won't the right wing?" Immediately this article intrigued me to see what it was all about as I was curious to how Christianity was mentioned in light of the discussion. As a side note, I do not believe Christianity is right or left wing, there are Christians who are both.

Overall the article was well written and brought up some valid points, but I also believe that it gave a larger insight to what people general think or how they view Christians and Christianity whether it is truly "Christian" or not. Early on Geary describes Fox News as trying to marginalize Muslim-Americans with their "conservative, supposedly Christian doctrine." I appreciate that he includes the word supposedly here because can a news station really be Christian? I mean, other than the 700 club? Okay, bad example. My point being that if Fox News or Christians claim that they are a news station portraying Christian doctrine then we are in serious trouble as followers of Christ in communicating the gospel.

Geary starts the next paragraph with this, "The treatment of Muslims, gays and immigrants is something to consider as the Fourth of July approaches and we prepare to celebrate America's-America's what?" Now, Geary here is referring to the country as a whole, but I believe that this is a question that the church should consider as well. How is it that we are treating the Muslims, gays and immigrants in our communities and our churches? I will step out and say that as a whole, the church in the US is not doing a great job at this, but hopefully that is changing.

Geary refers to the Founding Fathers writing of the Constitution, which guarantees the freedom to worship a creator or no creator that we as followers of Christ should be thankful for. We should be thankful that we live in a country where people have the freedom to worship as they choose. I for one am thankful for this freedom, but I am more thankful for the freedom that I find in my Savior Jesus!

Geary references historian Richard Hofstadter and how he points out in one of his books that "there's always been an anti-something movement in America." What got me here is that in many ways the church has gotten caught up in this. I may lose some of you here, but why is it that the church is always known for what we are against? And why is it that somehow right-wing politicians have come to be the representatives of Christianity? Yes, I believe that we need to call sin what it is and be clearly against it, but what if our churches existed for the cities we live in and focused more on what we are for and make our cities hate us for our brotherly love for one another and our cities and less for what we are against.

 Geary references that many right-wingers (supposedly Christian) that claim they're on their guard against a governmental conspiracy to destroy the American (dream) way of life. My immediate thought to this was if these are all true followers of Christ then they need to start by reading the gospels and the life of Jesus and what he calls us to and then probably wouldn't be a bad idea to pick up a copy of David Platt's Radical and get upset with him for trying to destroy the American dream.

Geary uses Jefferson's view on established religion as an example who said of it, "tends only to corrupt the principles of that very Religion it is meant to encourage by bribing with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments those who will externally profess and conform to it." I agree with Jefferson in many ways here in as far as it refers to religion, but what is missing here is Jesus and the gospel, which is both countercultural and counter-religious.

Towards the end of the article, Geary quotes a woman who describes how people are generally misinformed about Muslims through stereotypes, which is probably true. I would like to point out that most people I believe are generally misinformed in the same way about the gospel and what truly following Christ looks like. It is not their fault though, it is the church that has failed to communicate the message of the gospel in a clear and accurate way, whether through Word or deed.

So, this Fourth of July, I pray that all of you will take a look at your own life and your church and think about how it is that your community and city perceive you. Do they sense that you are against them or for them? Are you seeking the welfare of your city? If your treatment of Muslims, gays and immigrants is such that you are looked at as the intolerable one then please stop doing so in the name of Jesus, who would have spent time loving all three.

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