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Church Leadership hmm... thoughts

Rock that Quirky Church

dsc_0211I think some of my harsh criticisms of the evangelical church come from a love of our church. The mission of Harbor Mid-City is one that is quirky by design.

We have a hyper-qualified staff brought together despite significant theological difference who lean into that tension for the sake of the Gospel in the neighborhood. For my theologically savvy readers (aka Kristen) we have staff people from PCA, Salvation Army, Baptist, pentecostal, emergent-types, traditional evangelical and hard core liturgical backgrounds. In most communities these folks wouldn’t even get together to pray for one another… much less chose to work at the same church!

Toss on top of that theological stuff the language issues we experierience every week and you will start to see the quirks pop out. We offer the same service in both English and Spanish, meaning there are painfully long times of translation. But this is San Diego and people are used to hearing both languages on the radio and TV… so that’s no big deal. We also have a population of people who speak Korean, Vietnamese, and Swahili. Sometimes our worship music is in those languages. In fact, there tend to be as many non-English songs as English ones.

Ready for this? It gets more quirky as the design of the church allows minority cultures to have equal voice in our services. What that means is that we’re more worried about celebrating our worship service in a way that lifts up Latin American, Mexican, African American, Southeast Asian, and African cultures above the dominant white evangelical culture.

OK, one more quirk. There is a huge hodgepodge of socio-economic situations in our church as well. You have working class poor next to college kids from San Diego State. And you have immigrants next to upper-middle class folks who live just north of the church.

Is it perfect? No. Do I agree with every last bit of the theology? Absolutely not! Are there things about the church I really dislike? Yes! Am I comfortable in the service? Rarely. Are the messages challenging and encouraging to where I am at in my walk with Jesus? Not often. Do they offer all of the things I need for my family? No, children’s ministry is just getting organized. Youth ministry is in a pre-formational stage.

So why do we go? We go because we believe at the core of our being that there is tremendous strength in that diversity. I am not arrogant enough to believe that my evangelical expression of theology and worship is superior. I love to worship in a place that agrees on the essentials while allows gray areas to be interpreted through the lens of culture.

Don’t get me wrong. This place is solid theologically. In fact, I’m convinced that Harbor expresses in their worship many best practices of things believed across Christianity. This hodgepodge isn’t just the brain child of idealists. It is the brainchild of idealists who are stupid enough to think that it will work, have the training and experience to make it happen, and have a core of people at the church who are dreaming the same dream.

In these quirks I see tremendous hope for the Gospel across our country. Lives are changed as they are surrendered to Jesus. And as I think about it, much of what I rebel against here on the blog about evangelicalism is because I see Harbor doing something right while most of evangelicalism is doing it wrong.

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The injustice of grace

Define GraceHave you ever thought about what Jesus did and thought, “eh? I’ve been having this thought lately and I just can’t shake it:

It’s a complete injustice that I experience grace.

First of all, I need to be clear what I mean by grace since there are several definitions for this word… even the Bible uses it 5-6 different ways. By grace I mean “the active communication of divine blessings by the inworking of the Holy Spirit, out of the fullness of Him who is “full of grace and truth,”” (Louis Berkhof, 1949) In other words, grace is the good stuff we are blessed with because of our relationship with Jesus.

Have you ever been comped on something? You know, you show up to a place and because you are with “him” or “her” you get free stuff. That’s a practical expression of grace… and it’s a total injustice! In my life I’ve gotten comped on some very nice things. Rounds of golf, meals, retail stuff, vacations, stuff like that. It’s always a weird feeling as you of look at the person whom you’d normally pay and then flash a glance over to the “big guy” and the need to pull out your wallet goes away. (Sometimes a half thumb pointing at the big guy helps.)

Why is that an injustice? Well, you get stuff you can’t afford for free! Other people have to pay big bucks for the round of golf I play for free… that’s really not fair to those who have to pay, is it?

It’s the same way in a lot of areas of my life right now. God is granting my family a lot of injustice lately. When I look my kids I can’t help thinking… what an injustice, I don’t deserve this awesome family. Even as a family, there is so much good stuff happening to us and all around us we’re kind of left simply shrugging our shoulders and pointing at the “big guy” and admitting… “we’re with Him.” God is comping us on little things (stuff) and big stuff (a family who choses to honor God with what they do) and the only word I can use to describe it is overwhelming injustice.