A Fabulous Fall
With summer slowly drawing to a close we’re turning attention to the start of school and to the fall. Hard to believe, isn’t it? What a summer we’ve had and what a fabulous fall awaits us.
This weekend we round off the summer with the concluding message in our worship series! On that note, please pray for our worship arts staff as they head to Nashville this week to put the finishing touches to an album we’ll release later this year. Throughout our current series, we’ve mentioned our belief that contemporary worship expresses what God is saying to us. This album will be another tool to help us do that.
On September 10, we celebrate the opening of our new Legacy and Student spaces. It’s going to be an incredible celebration as we kick off the fall with our full worship arts team leading us in worship! In addition to that, there’ll be lots of connection opportunities. You can both view and register for these opportunities at centralwesleyan.org/incommunity.
Join the scores who’ve already signed up to connect through our C6 groups! Another great option is one of two “With God” classes Pastor Steve and I will be teaching in October (Sunday and Wednesday options). We have over 25 classes and groups available for the fall season. Do take a look and be sure to get connected.
September 17 sees us kick off our six-week fall series entitled, “With All Due Respect: When My Views Clash With Yours.” Our intention with this series is to help people navigate the tension gripping our nation without losing sight of our mission. While the series will not directly address cultural “hot topics” (although we are adding a special feature! Watch for it!), it will offer a grid/template for engaging friends, neighbors and strangers with kindness, courage and conviction.
Based on the example of Jesus, our foray into the Gospels will reveal a country that had undergone such a drastic realignment that tension and conflict increased dramatically. Some call this a ‘culture war,’ and that wouldn’t be too far amiss. The reality is, however, that this culture war only really existed at thirty-thousand feet. It was the guardians of Rome and the religious leaders, the appointed, ‘trained’ and religio-politcally affiliated who were truly ‘fighting.’ The masses typically stayed as far from the ‘war’ as they possibly could. In that season, many of those who hadn’t lost faith in God had lost all hope in the religious establishment and wandered away (see our Messy Church series of August 2016 here).
Then Jesus’ ministry began. On at least nine occasions people sought to suck Jesus into the conflict. On each of these nine occasions, Jesus models the futility of getting caught in the either/or of a culture war. What we’ll discover over these six weeks is that Jesus never stepped away from sharing with people whose view of the world, God, and morality was at odds with his. He was a master, however, at not getting caught up in the culture war that was alienating people from the hope and life God was offering them through him. Without ever ducking the issues, Jesus got to the core of the human condition. This strategy endeared him to some while endangering him to others.
We are teaching this series because we believe that Jesus’ example has to become the expression of every Christian. Just as in Jesus’ day, we sense that our so-called ‘culture war’ is happening more at thirty-thousand feet than at ground level. It’s not that a battle isn’t raging. It’s just that this battle seems to exist more in the lives of the media and the activists than in the everyday lives of ordinary people. Justifiably, Steve Brint, therefore, ponders whether one can “have a war when two-thirds of the army are non-combatants?”
What concerns us is not the reality of the tensions or the scale of the problems we face. What concerns us is how the ‘culture war’ gripping America could influence the behavior of ordinary, everyday people – especially Christ-following people. We wonder how many of us are getting sucked into the either/or of a culture war? We wonder whether we are seeing a rise in what’s being called a ‘dissident’ culture where people opt out of politics, schools and even churches? So, rather than engage with the world it’s becoming more tempting to pull back.
As tempting as all of these things are, we believe these challenging times provide the Christian with incredible opportunities to be salt and light. We don’t win anything by disengaging. When Christians disengage with the world we actually put our kids and grandkids in greater danger. Cultural change often precedes legal changes, not the other way around. Where culture goes, so goes the law. Finding respite from the culture war today does nothing to shape a world where God’s rule and reign is experienced to a fuller degree tomorrow.
Foolishly engaging in a futile debate doesn’t do any good either. If the bitter culture war being found through mainstream and social media and on the streets has taught us anything it’s that tensions are high and intolerance higher. We must be both wise and intentional. So how do I safely navigate this culture war? How do I engage with people whose view of the world, God, and morality clashes with mine? How do I do all this in a way that demonstrates the heart of God for a broken world? These are the critical questions our fall series is seeking to address.
As anyone who has ever spent any time in a church knows, the answer to every question asked in church is ‘Jesus.’ This time will be no different. In a season of heightened tension and polar opposite opinions, Jesus navigated the culture war without alienating people or compromising his beliefs. We’re praying that the example of Jesus becomes our inspiration as we engage in our world!
We have an awesome fall ahead.