BLOG 11/9/18. THE CHURCH IN ‘MISSIONARY CONFRONTATION WITH POLITICAL DARKNESS

BLOG 11/9/18. THE CHURCH IN MISSIONARY CONTRONTATION WITH POLITICAL DARKNESS

The national elections of this past week have revealed how pervasive is the ignorance of so many ostensible church institutions, and their inhabitants, about the essence of both the demands of discipleship, and of the essence and purpose of the Christian church/community. It’s enough to make one weep. Those whom Jesus calls into his new creation community, calls them, by virtue of that, into a community that is always in missionary confrontation with this present age, this immediate cultural, social, and political context and its realities. It is a calling to be the people of the Light in a culture and context of darkness, of rebellion against its creator.

This is another way of saying and demonstrating that the church is always counter-cultural. But, take note: that culture of darkness is incessantly and forever seeking to co-opt the church, to seduce it into a comfortable conformity with its darkness, … but in an ever so sophisticated seduction. The root of that seduction is the drift from absolute obedience to the ethic, the teachings, and the lifestyle of Jesus, … to “religious Christianity,” which embraces the external religious language, but seems not to understand that only those who hear Jesus’ teachings and practice them are truly his disciples.

So that when the political principalities and powers, the political candidates, the political parties, and the power structures of our local and national environment espouse policies that are alien to those of Jesus and his new creation/kingdom, Christ’s disciples quite intentionally seek those policies and candidates that most closely conform to Christ’s agenda of righteousness, of peace, of order, of care for the helpless, … and rejects the arrogance of those that are agents of wealth and power and indifference to those who are weak, or are victims of that very wealth and power. This defies traditional political loyalties, even while, of necessity, participating in them.

This misunderstanding has been palpable in these recent weeks of campaigning. Those who claim for themselves their identity as Christians, but become ardent supporters of candidates and policies of the darkness, … in so doing, forsake their calling to be salt and light. Labels don’t matter. It is the platforms and policies and character that come closer to Christ’s ethical teachings that matter (and these are often set forth by those who don’t profess to being Christian).

When Jesus came near the end of his earthly ministry, he laid out his own agenda, and it was built on his ultimate sovereignty as God’s anointed servant, God’s messiah, to initiate God’s new creation: Note his prophetic word, after Peter declared that Jesus was messiah: “This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out.” (Peterson: The Message, Matthew 16:18).

Ah, but then the battle was engaged. The darkness was not long in ferocious resistance, and efforts to domesticate that message. Within the first century God’s people found themselves up against humanly hopeless odds. And yet it is recorded that “they overcame by the blood of the Lamb, by the word of their testimony, and they loved not their lives even unto death.” Satan’s assaults, the gates of hell, were ultimately defeated by such lives given in joyous obedience.

The darkness is relentless, which means that those who are intentional in being Christ’s disciples must continually be rehearsing what are the demands of discipleship, and what is the essence of the church, and of its faithfulness in its missionary confrontation with its immediate environment. … The battle is not done!

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BLOG 11/6/18. ON THIS ELECTION DAY

BLOG 11/6/18. ON THIS ELECTION DAY …

“O where are kings and empires now

Of old that went and came?

But, Lord, Thy Church is praying yet,

A thousand years the same.”

                                                     (Arthur Cleveland Cox. 1839)

On this election day, in this confusing cultural and national context, for those of us who are the people of God in Jesus Christ, … it is also an appropriate  time for us to remember that Caesar is not God! … to remember that we have one Lord in Jesus Christ, who alone is the one who ultimately rules over all! Yes, and along with that, also to remember that the empire is not sovereign. We do indeed serve as salt and light in its midst, … we can be co-belligerents with all of those who are instruments of peace and order and righteousness, … but never captive, collaborators as they pursue the ethic of God’s new creation, but always answerable to our one Lord. We can seek to influence the policies of a political party, but never selling our soul to the principalities and powers that espouse prejudice, greed, unrighteousness, inhumane policies, and who demean “the least of these” who are the objects of God’s love.

And, yes, the privilege of voting is a stewardship, but it must not be mindless, but rather articulate. Referenda on environmental issues, and racial equality, and on the stewardship of resources should be part of our ‘salt and light’ calling. We should not be passive or indifferent to the implications in holy obedience to Christ our Lord.

As the hymn (above) states, Christ’s church has weathered and transcended the demise of many kingdoms and empires, and has often been a formative influence in the emergence of new temporal nations. So, yes, we can and should be co-belligerents with all the forces of good, but never conformed or captive to those which espouse policies of darkness.

It was Martin Luther King, Jr., who when charged with violating the local laws (on segregation), responded: “I appeal to a higher law!” He, along with many others became forces of change, and of the repeal of the laws that were contrary to God’s design for humankind.

This battle is never done.

We have watched, in recent time, acts of violence and rage which took many innocent lives. We have seen the power of lobbies that protect the possibility of such violence (like, gun control). It is at such moments as this that we need to remember that God’s design for human governments is peace and order and justice, … and that’s where our focus as God’s new creation people, i.e. kingdom people, needs to be, and where our participation is essential if we are to truly be salt and light.

“Unshaken as eternal hills,

Immovable she stands,

A mountain that shall fill the earth,

                    A house not made with hands”         -ibid-

______________

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BLOG 11/2/18. GET REAL: THE PAST IS NOT COMING BACK!

BLOG 11/2/18. GET REAL: THE PAST IS NOT COMING BACK

For some reason, there seems to be a nostalgia, a longing for ‘the good old days’ (which never really existed for all too many). We tend to mythologize the past. Of course, there were many blessings for which to be grateful. Even so, to seek to reclaim yesterday is a vain pursuit. The future emerges irresistibly, like it or not. For the church, it is even more critical to look at the shifting culture, and at the emerging generation. This past week many churches celebrated both Reformation Day, and All Saints /All Souls Day which look back at persons and events that have been models of faith and obedience. This is all very appropriate. There are treasures from the past that need to be owned, to be sure. …

But, … the cultural landscape has gone through a radical change in the past generation, or so. Some have described it as a cultural diastrophism—that phenomenon which takes place when the subterranean tectonic plates shift, and everything on the surface is altered. For two millennia, since soon after the emergence of the Christian faith into human history, western civilization has been considered as a Christian-influenced (dominated?) culture, and designated as Christendom. Take note: this has all eroded and ceased to be a reality in very recent history. Post-Christendom has quietly but (again) ineluctably emerged. The church’s influence as a culture-creating force, and as a respected institution has begun to dissolve before our eyes.

Yet, those seeking to reclaim the past in the church have refused to open their eyes to that reality, have continued to seek to create the church institutions, and denominational expressions of Christendom without opening their eyes to the fact that the younger generations, produced by this post-Christian culture, have become more and more immune to its influence, or even cognizant of Christian faith and Christian church.

Missionary-theologian Lesslie Newbigin sought to alert the church to this a generation ago, when he returned from a distinguished missionary career in India, to his native United Kingdom, only to find that it was more difficult to communicate the Christian faith in England than it was in India. He became a prophet and his works were heralded and studied by church leaders widely—but even they found it difficult to translate into church structures formed by Christendom assumptions. I was part of one of the ‘think-tanks’ that grappled with this reality, where it was obvious that most of the participants could nod approvingly at Newbigin’s thesis, but were, albeit, still captive to the patterns and structures of Christendom.

Ah! but the younger generation, now on the scene, Generation Z, has come on to the scene, and the moment of truth has emerged that, overall, the Christian faith and church are not even on their scope. I first became graphically aware of this in my practice of hanging out in a coffee shop near a major university, and inhabited by young urban professionals, and university students. In conversation after conversation, while sharing current involvements, when I was asked what had been my career, my answer that I had been a teaching-pastor to the church (now get this), they respond: “What is the church?” or “What is a teaching-pastor?” These were not dummies; they were bright successful students and professionals.

In response, I wrote a book: What on Earth is the Church? in an attempt to explain to the utterly ‘out of it’ and secularized younger generation something of the reality.

More recently I have been made to realize that we are dealing with the first truly post-Christian generation. In coming blogs, I will be pursuing this theme. Meanwhile I commend a brilliant study: Meet Generation Z, by scholar and pastor James Emery White, and I will be piggy-backing on his consciousness-raising insights. “Forgetting those things that are past, and pressing forward …” Stay tuned.

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BLOG 10/30/18. I SEND THIS BLOG THROUGH MY TEARS

BLOG 10/30/18. I SEND THIS BLOG THROUGH MY TEARS

The news of the massacre of the Jewish worshippers at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh brought me to tears. It was also sobering about the larger context of prejudice in this nation. I was, however, greatly heartened by the insightful and prophetic voice of the Jewish leaders of the Squirrel Hill neighborhood, … to the president of the United States. Invoking their own Torah, they challenged him on his own culpability in creating a climate for such hate-crimes. It ought to be persuasive to all those followers of Jesus Christ who are being formed into his image. I quote their communication herewith:

“President Trump: Yesterday, a gunman slaughtered 11 Americans during Shabbat morning services. We mourn with the victims’ families and pray for the wounded. Here in Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood, we express gratitude for the first responders and for the outpouring of support from our neighbors near and far. We are committed to healing as a community while we recommit ourselves to repairing our nation.

“For the past three years your words and your policies have emboldened a growing white nationalist movement. You yourself called the murderer evil, but yesterday’s violence is the direct culmination of your influence.

“President Trump, you are not welcome in Pittsburgh until you fully denounce white nationalism.

“Our Jewish community is not the only group you have targeted.  You have also deliberately undermined the safety of people of color, Muslims, LGBTQ people, and people with disabilities. Yesterday’s massacre is not the first act of terror you incited against a minority group in our country.

“President Trump, you are not welcome in Pittsburgh until you stop targeting and endangering all minorities.

“The murderer’s last public statement invoked the compassionate work of the Jewish refugee service HIAS at the end of a week in which you spread lies and sowed fear about migrant families in Central America. He killed Jews in order to undermine the efforts of all those who find shared humanity with immigrants and refugees.

“President Trump, you are not welcome in Pittsburgh until you cease your assault on immigrants and refugees.

“The Torah teaches that every human being is made b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God.

“This means all of us.

“In our neighbors, Americans, and people worldwide who have reached out to give our community strength, there we find the image of God.  While we cannot speak for all “Pittsburghers, or even all Jewish Pittsburghers, we know we speak for a diverse and unified group when we say:

“President Trump, you are not welcome in Pittsburgh until you commit yourself to compassionate, democratic policies that recognize the dignity of all of us.”

______

Amen! The voice of bold wisdom out of the inescapable principles of Holy Scripture sent to the “principalities and powers” of this nation. God bless those leaders in these tear-filled days.

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BLOG 10/26/18. KOINONIA: OUR NEED AND RESISTANCE TO TRUE INTIMACY

BLOG 10/26/18. KOINOIA: OUR NEED AND RESISTANCE TO TRUE INTIMACY.

To be truly human is to be able to have intimate relationships with others. The creation story says ‘worlds’ about this need. God said: “It is not good for man that he should be alone,” so he created another, a woman, a complement in order that the person not be alone. But in that creation account/myth, the immediate result of their rebelling against their creator, was that the man and woman hid from each other, i.e., the loss of intimacy. Take note: the loss of their intimacy with their creator resulted in a loss of intimacy with one another. The deterioration of the human community is the continual saga of human history.

It should be obvious to us that the result of that ‘original sin’ was not just guilt and the penalty, but the loss of a vital component of true human community, or our true humanity. We still have that basic need for intimacy, of unhindered fellowship with another, or others, if we are to be truly human. Tragically, we continue to hide from one another (and, maybe, go to a psychological counsellor to tell us why we are so unhappy!).

But, enter the Son of God: Jesus our savior, our reconciler, the one who has come to recreate us, to call us out of hiding, and to recreate us into truly human persons, to begin that process of fashioning us again into those truly human persons, and to also recreate the human community, and to reconcile us to our Creator. It is his design to recreate us into the image of the Son of God (Romans 8:29). Enter, then, one of critical components of that community of God’s New Creation: koinonia: a Greek word that describes intimate relationships.

And the beginning place of that koinonia is a two-fold confession, the first of which is that we are real (not theoretical) sinners, that we deliberately come out of hiding and acknowledge that we are flawed and imperfect and guilty beyond our ability to conceive. And the other confession is that we embrace Jesus, that we take our place in his reconciling love, and choose to belong to him and to obey is teachings. When we do, so—when we embrace his word/teachings—we are made “free indeed” (John 8:36). One witty Biblical teacher observed that our Christian confession of ‘total depravity’ is the great democratizing principal of the Christian faith! Our confession of sin, which is at the threshold of our Christian faith, is our deliverance from our need to stay in hiding. It makes koinonia possible, even somewhat inevitable. “I know this about you and you know it about me.”

The New Testament writings contain those inescapable teachings, such as that we are to confess our sins to one another; that if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us; that if we do not forgive one another, neither will our heavenly father forgive us; that we are being delivered into the glorious liberty of the children of God—true humanity, New Creation humanity, community in which true intimacy is the rule and not the exception.

Our deliverance into such glorious liberty is always in progress. That first-generation Christian community met together in public to hear the teaching of the apostle, … but then they were together, from house to house: “in the apostle’s teaching, koinonia, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers, and no one claimed that anything he/she owned was theirs alone” (Acts 2:42). That describes a fairly small community of true intimacy, not a religious hiding place, or a ‘safe’ Bible study, but a community of God’s New Creation in Christ.

As we move inexorably into this post-Christian culture, such true communities of love and intimacy—that grow out of Christ’s love in us and through us—will become a major factor in reaching those, who otherwise are totally immune to any religion: “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, in that you love one another as I have loved you.” Such communities of true intimacy in Christ are a major component of our message of salvation. Amen. [I love to hear your  responses, and to get your feedback. Thanks.]

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BLOG 10/23/18. WHAT, INDEED, IS THE WORLD THAT GOD SO LOVED?

BLOG 10/23/18: WHAT, INDEED, IS THE WORLD THAT GOD SO LOVED?

There are probably few verses in the Bible quoted more frequently than John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, …”  That being so, it behooves us to think soberly and intelligently about what compose the realities of this present world scene in which we live, and which God loves. How is that love that gave the world his Son incarnated, or made visible in our here-and-now? And, in the heat of this political season in these United States, how do we, who profess our trust in Jesus Christ, discern our responsibilities as citizens, what with all the claims and counter-claims, charges and counter-charges between parties and candidates?

Yes, and where does our priority lie between the lordship of Jesus Christ, and the authority of the nation to which we give allegiance? The apostle, Paul, used his Roman citizenship to his own advantage when it was necessary, … and yet he never affirmed that: “Caesar is Lord”, which was the claim of the emperor.

How do we appraise our responsibility as citizens of a nation in which the greed of the wealthy, and the humanitarian demands of such a multitude of refugees seeking haven from destructive forces in their home countries require a response? Stand in such stark contrast? At this moment of my writing this blog is the reality of a caravan of over 5000 refugees fleeing oppressive and destructive regimes in Central America which is approaching our southern boundary. These are more willing to face the uncertainty of what is before them than to go back to where they came from. Or the plight of over sixty-five million refugees abroad who have been uprooted from homes and profession, and thrust out into unknown places and circumstances.

Then, there are the political battles of the national budget, in which it is so obvious that the principalities and powers of wealth and greed determine more than do the humanitarian principles of justice and hospitality.

The inescapable fact is that if one is to profess that Jesus is Lord, … then the DNA, or the genome, of the life of God in them, then it is incumbent that his life and ethic must determine one’s choices and actions, even when it is costly. It might be critical that we recall some of those teachings of Jesus and the scriptures that speak to these questions:

  • “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.” – Luke 6:24-25.
  • “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” – Micah 6:8
  • “When the Son of man comes in his glory he will separate people as a shepherd separates sheep from goats … then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you …For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you visited me. … I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it unto me.” –Matthew 25:31 ff.

Those of us who profess that Jesus is Lord, are also part of his love for the world, and of a responsibility to show that love, both personally in the total missionary stewardship of our lives, but in supporting those governmental policies that reflect that ethic of our primary Lord. It will not do to give tax breaks to the already wealthy, and at the same time to deny making the costly expenditure that exhibit the humanitarian ethic of Jesus, and of those who share that ethic. To live and act otherwise is to demonstrate that we misunderstand our Christian calling into a very real and broken world. There, … our responsibility is inescapable, or escaped at our own peril.

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BLOG 10/19/18. “WHEREVER I AM, I AM THE GLORY OF GOD”

BLOG 10/19/18. “WHEREVER I AM, I AM THE GLORY OF GOD”

A dear friend for nearly fifty years, and one of my great civil rights heroes, is John Perkins. John is very unique in that, on one hand, he is quite modest and self-effacing, and on the other hand is bold as a lion. He grew up as a share-cropper’s son in rural Mississippi where he suffered all of the intense racial injustice and the indignities of those days. He was beaten by law enforcement agents and jailed for engaging in voter registration. He laughs that he was a “third-grade dropout, yet in recent months he has received his fourteenth honorary doctor’s degree—which says something of what has transpired in the intervening years.

His latest book is: One Blood: Parting Words to the Church on Peace and Love (which I heartily commend).

To escape the violence of Mississippi, he and his wife moved to California, where John encountered Jesus Christ, through the witness his son, who was enrolled in a Christian club, and brought the faith home to his father. Whoever mentored, or ‘discipled.’ John did it very well. By that time John had moved up into a management job with a major grocery chain in that region. As he grew in his response to the life and teachings of Jesus, the more he became that he should move back and minister to his own people in Mississippi as both an evangelist and as a Christian community developer in the small town of Mendenhall. He saw the implementation of justice and of economic development as an essential part of the gospel he was preaching. He was very effective, and his reputation began to grow.

My wife and I met him in 1973 when he was speaking at a student conference in southern Mississippi, and we bonded instantly. That friendship has grown stronger over the years. He was so effective that the state of Mississippi later declared an official ‘John M. Perkins Day’ in his honor. As he trained a second generation of leadership to take over the work in Mississippi, John and his wife Vera Mae moved back to do the same ministry in a troubled and crime-ridden section of Pasadena, California. That is where the following conversation took place.

I was in Pasadena to engage in my own mentoring conversations on the campus of Fuller Theological Seminary, but I chose to stay with John. He walked me around is neighborhood, where he had made many friends, and provided educational resources for the youth. He also pointed out to me the drug dealers, and the local color. His wife, at that time was back in Mississippi with a new grandchild. The guest room in their house was also John’s study. On the wall were tributes, honorary doctorates, and even a picture of John in the Oval Office of the White House, with the president.

One evening we were eating out together, and as he was devouring his fish, I asked him: “John, how do you maintain your humility with all of the accolades you have received. He pondered for a moment, and then responded: “Bob, I have to remember that wherever I am, whether chopping cotton in Mississippi, or being received in the Oval Office, that there I am the glory of God.” Wow! Does that ever say worlds? I had grown up as a good Presbyterian kid quoting the answer to the catechism question, that: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” Here was a remarkable practitioner of that affirmation. I have made John’s understanding of that as a principle in my daily prayer disciplines ever since.

‘Wherever I am, there I am the glory of God.” (New Testament scholar Gregory Boyd is helpful when he defines glorifying God as our displaying the divine nature, or embodying the image of the Son of God in whatever the vicissitudes of our daily life might be.) God give us more men and women in this troubled present scene with John’s passion for God’s glory, in which reconciliation and economic justice are also essential expressions of the gospel, of our evangelistic calling. Amen and amen.

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BLOG 10/16/18. DYNAMIC CHURCHES CAN (AND DO) STAGNATE

BLOG 10/16/18. DYNAMIC CHURCHES, AND OF VIBRANT FAITH, … CAN (AND DO) STAGNATE

From the very beginning of its history, the church of Jesus Christ has always been engaged in a struggle to maintain its integrity, it has been warned not to conform itself to the norms of this age but, rather, to be continually transformed by the renewing of its mind. Even so, there has always been the subtle proclivity to (as one scholar put it) displace, dilute, or forget that very raison d’etre for which it has been brought into existence.

This was brought again to my mind after I wrote, in my last Blog, about the phenomenal growth of the Christian church in China. That growth was taking place in the cultural revolution under Chairman Mao, and continues into the present regime, in both its ‘registered’ church’, and more obviously in its ‘underground’ expressions (which are illegal). That being said, it is also true that current studies show that though China is still officially an atheistic government (where all religions are discouraged), it has swung between severe oppression, and turning a blind eye to the phenomenon. These studies also indicate that even the underground church has shown tendencies to stagnate, alas!

As China has emerged more and more into a strong economy, and a more engaged world power, the followers of Jesus Christ have been engaged more inescapably in the results of China’s emergence into the global culture. The observers note several reasons for this stagnation: 1) ageing congregations, i.e., those whose faith persevered and grew under persecution are now a former generation; 2) ‘chasing mammon,’ i.e. national prosperity has not left Christians immune to wanting to acquire wealth; 3) smartphone power, i.e., Chinese Christians can now not be isolated from the other cultures of the world; 4) nationalism, a temptation to put the ‘empire’ before the community of the kingdom of God, to put Caesar before Christ; and 5) false gospels.

Sound familiar?

Such seductions have been present from the first generation of the church. Vibrant Christian communities tend to remain so for one generation, then to become institutionalized and to survive even when stagnant and comfortable in this present age. In that first generation of the church, the apostle war the church to” “be not conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).

Strangely enough, the church has been at its best when it was under persecution. When you look at those seven apostolically founded churches in chapters 2-3 of last book of the Bible: The Revelation of John, it is only the two who were undergoing severe tribulation who receive no rebuke, but are praised for their faithfulness to their calling. The rest receive modest or strong rebukes and qualified praise. One has gotten so happily satisfied with its inner communal life that they forgot Christ (left him outside the door knocking). Others were infected by alien teachings, or other compromising factors.

Later, in that same book it is written that in the teeth of persecution God’s faithful church overcame Satan “By the blood of the Lamb, by the word of their testimony, and they loved not their lives even if it cost them their lives” (Rev. 12:11). That overcoming capacity has been reproduced many times over the centuries, but always when extenuating, or severe circumstances made it go back to is founding purpose. The stagnation observed by these scholars of the church in China translates painfully to the churches in the United States that have too often become “stagnant pools of ‘religious Christianity’.” … Ageing, mammon, smartphones, nationalism, and false gospels. And this in the emergence of the first truly post-Christian generational culture, GenZ. Alas!

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BLOG 10/13/18. A HOLY NATION WITHIN A (NOT-SO-HOLY) NATION

BLOG 10/13/18. A HOLY NATION WITHIN A (NOT-SO-HOLY) NATION

Being “aliens and exiles” is nothing new to the people of God, … but it can get confusing if one is in any illusion about its context. It gets more confusing when there are those who identify themselves as the people of God, while at the same time, espousing those governmental personalities and policies that are totally at odds with the teachings of Jesus Christ. It is also challenging when there is a price to be paid in obeying those teachings, whether that be the scorn of acquaintances, or the penalties imposed by governing authorities.

This can readily be seen in China, where the governing Communist government does not placidly countenance anything that challenges the ultimate authority of the state, and only allows the Christian church to exist when it is registered by the state, and when it does not do or say anything that is in opposition to that autonomy. The ‘registered’ church is known as the Three-Self Church (self-government, self-support, and self-propagation), designed by the government to keep it free from foreign influence. (And, to be clear, this is aimed at Protestant churches, the Roman Catholics deal with the government differently, but still exists under government approval.)

Ah! but then there is the other Protestant church, which is the underground church, which, because it operates clandestinely and is unregistered is difficult to quantify. But, it is widely acknowledged that the Christian church in China is the largest Christian church in the world, with estimates ranging from 31 million to 67 million, and projected to reach 110 million by 2030. For our purposes here, it is essential to note that it is with this underground church that the exponential growth is taking place in apartments, homes, out-of-sight locations, and is a church that owns only one Lord, Jesus Christ, and is seeking to be formed by his teachings. Its members know they live under the state authority of the Communist Party, and participate as citizens as they are able, but seek never to forget or compromise their primary calling.

The official Three-Self Church, for the purpose of being able to be public and to meet in public, bows the knee to the Communist ideology. Since the time of the Cultural Revolution under Chairman Mao, the underground church has frequently prospered as communities forming in odd places such as concentration camps. A holy nation existing with an alien culture, not bowing the knee to any Lord but Jesus Christ, … often at the cost of their lives.

This is not new. The Christian church has always been at odds with the ultimate demands of the empire, going all the way back to its clash with the Roman empire at its birth. It the twentieth century it was tragically displayed with the vast majority of the Christian church in Nazi Germany, maintained its security by never challenging the horribly wicket policies of Adolph Hitler. The witnessing church in Germany was the exception, but it had to survive by being underground, and out of sight. Its major figure was the giant Christian leadership of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The political context became so extreme that Bonhoeffer felt he was justified in cooperating in a move to assassinate Adolph Hitler, for which he was ultimately captured and hanged.

The true Christian community is always a community of aliens and exiles. So, at this moment and in our day, it is not sufficient to hi-jack the designation of Christian or Evangelical to justify your legitimacy. The true Christian community is that company of people formed by their obedience to the teachings of Jesus, regarding justice, stewardship of God’s creation, peacemaking, care for the poor, rejection of the power of wealth/mammon, … but primarily by their love. It exists as a holy nation within a nation often anything but holy! This comes at a cost.

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BLOG 10/3/18. I OWE MY READERS AN EXPLANATION

BLOG 10/3/10. I OWE MY READERS AN EXPLANATION

I owe my readers and subscribers an explanation for my silence for these past weeks. Here’s what’s going on: I’m trying to be a good steward of the nonagenarian days of my life, and an interview about my life that took place earlier this year triggered in me some reminiscences that I had long since forgotten. As a result of that, I have set for myself the goal of putting into writing something of a record of the faithful and providential hand of my Great Shepherd in my life. I have had to focus on this alone. It has been a fruitful time of late-life self-discovery for me. I should be able to finalize it in a few more weeks. … then I shall return to my twice weekly Blogs.

That’s it. Peace.

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