To love my enemies?

Two bombs. Three deaths. 130+ injured.

No motive. No answers. No one to blame. Yet.

My prayers go out to Boston, those affected, and their families.

How do we respond to tragedy like this? What is our paradigm for making sense of injustice like this in our world?

Blame? Revenge? Calls for Justice? This is often our first response. Shortly after the event, some vowed that those responsible would “feel the full weight of justice.”

And yet as Christians, our response must begin with prayer, mercy, and forgiveness.

Prayer for those affected: those injured, those who suffered loss, those whose peace has been taken from them. Prayer for those in authority: those who must oversee restoration of men and women, those who must restore trust, those who must lead us through. And Prayer for those who took these lives, that they might come to saving faith in Jesus Christ.

Mercy toward those affected: medical aid, housing aid, counseling, food. Mercy toward those leading: patience, willingness to follow, giving them the benefit of the doubt. And Mercy toward those who took these lives, that they may be given the chance to be reconciled to God rather than condemned to Hell.

Forgiveness. The story of the Good Samaritan teaches us to love our neighbor. But it also tells us that our neighbor is not only those like us, or those we like, but includes those who are the most different from us, those we hate. Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. And Peter reminds us that God desires that ALL might be saved.

What is our response to today’s events as followers of Jesus? To reconcile all things to God (2 Corinthians 5), including those who cause us harm. I am challenged to do this by Alex, a young Christian who forgave and prayed for salvation for the man who killed his parents.

Prayer. Mercy. Forgiveness.

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What’s in a Name? Part Two

Part Two of a Three Part Series

Since many churches are changing their names or considering doing so, it is worth looking at why they do so and whether it is necessary or biblical.  Two assumptions lie behind most church re-branding: the idea that denominational affiliation is a detriment to evangelism and the idea that church attendance is somehow equivalent to evangelism.

“Having Non-Christians AtteA Different Church Buildingnd Our Church is Evangelism”

While I don’t think any pastor in America would say it this way, our actions speak louder than our words.  Long ago a shift occurred from encouraging our congregations to share their faith to encouraging our congregation to bring people to our worship services.  The message lines up with American culture: let the experts handle this.  If you want your kids to be educated, take them to the teacher (expert).  If you want to become proficient in dance, sign up for classes with an instructor (expert).  And if you want your friends to know Jesus, bring them to hear your pastor (expert).

This isn’t exactly wrong.  In fact, the experience of Christian community and worship is an experience of Christ, and is a major step on the path toward entering the Kingdom of God.  However, this is only part of the picture, not the entirety.  The problem is that this trend has led us to a point where Christians never share their faith, but instead focus on inviting their friends and family to a church service or event.  We have intentionally or unintentionally taught our congregations that their part of evangelism is to bring people into a church building.

When people think this way, then they think that we need to do whatever it takes to get people to come to our church building/service/event.  Our church has to be named something that will get people interested or at least that won’t keep them away.  (As I mentioned in Part One, our assumptions about how people view our denomination leads us to change our name just in case it will keep them away.)

What this leads to is a focus on targeted marketing.  We have to understand the people in our community so that we can market our brand successfully.  And the goal of that marketing is to get them to visit our church building/service/event.  There is nothing wrong with presenting ourselves to our community, and we want to make sure we have a positive image and voice in our community.  But we are entering a world where people do not wake up on Sunday morning and say “Let’s go to church!”  In fact, the majority of people will never darken the door of a church according to Alan Hirsch.

Instead of doing what we can to get people into our church building/service/event, we should be doing what we can to get our church (people) into our community!  We are worried about what we can do to get people in the door.  But if we would worry about what we can do to get into the community – schools, community groups, our neighbors’ homes – it won’t matter what our name is.

People will become a part of our church when they have a relationship with us.  And if they have a relationship with us, they won’t care what our name is!

Re-branding our church in order to get people in the door isn’t wrong, it just isn’t effective.  People just aren’t coming, and it isn’t because of our name, it’s because of the culture we live in.

To move our communities into our churches we are going to have to move our churches into our communities.  Any ideas how to do that?