23 countries of Birth in One Church

Saturday Musings

Settlers on the landSettlers or Sojourners? is the fifth and also the second shortest book that I have written. But it has a long history. About 15 years ago, I was invited to speak at a symposium on multi-ethnic ministry. The church I was pastoring at the time had been a pioneer in multi-ethnic ministry in a suburban context. By the time I ended my tenure there, the church had a congregation that was about as diverse as any church could be. Twenty-three countries of birth were represented in its membership and its ministries had a decidedly urban texture to them which allowed us to proclaim goodness and set the captives free.

  • The church gave away 23 tons of food a year through it food pantry.
  • 900 square feet of its building were devoted to a clothing closet that put warm clothing on children and appropriate job interview clothing on adults.
  • 1,800 square feet were devoted to a health clinic with an all volunteer staff of doctors, nurses, receptionists, optometrist, and prayer warriors. The clinic now serves over 2000 patients a year and has served well over 6000 patients total.
  • Will County social services housing coordinator officed out of our building (she was also a member of our church and a great intercessory prayer warrior).
  • An indoor playground gave a free place for young mothers to meet one another and also a place for their children to play without the pressure to buy food that you might have at McDonalds.
  • Biblical Counseling was offered free of charge.

God did and continues a significant work through the congregation and its leadership. The story of that congregation appears in the 22nd chapter of John Fuder and Noel Castelanos’ book, A Heart for the Community: New Models for Urban and Suburban Churches (Moody, 2009). What does that have to do with my short book(let) Settlers or Sojourners? (The Sojourning Press, 2015). Well, it was while leading that church that much of the thinking behind Settlers or Sojourners came about. 

In January, I had some wonderful conversations with a number of different agency representatives who we hosted at Trinity Church. They were all in our building as a part of MARC (Multi Agency Recovery Council) seeking to give help and hope to victims of the recent flooding on the town’s West side and managed to work both books into the conversation. (It’s what authors do!)

The community I serve now is different. There isn’t much ethnic diversity in the community surrounding  Trinity Church, but it is heartening to know that some who are non-white are beginning to find a home in our church family. It is also great to see, that this church and others in our community are willing to sacrifice for the community. We can always do more but it is great to see us act in ways that are consistent with the sacrificial example of our Savior. As I said in Settlers or Sojourners:

The most important thing about us, no matter what our ethnicity or culture, no matter what our socio-economic status, no matter what our attainments or  education, is that we are Christ-ones, purchased by His blood, imitating His sacrifice for us, in the sacrifice of our lives for others. It (the cross-boughtness and cross-shapedness of our lives) is the reason why we live as sojourners in the land.

The most important thing about me is NOT that I am a white, middle-class, seminary educated, easterner, married, father of four kids, who now resides and pastors an Evangelical Free Church in Illinois. The most important thing about me is that I belong—body and soul, by virtue of Christ’s sacrifice of His life’s blood—to God. I have been bought by Him and now my life is shaped by His sacrifice. It ought to look like a sacrifice of love to the world.

Settlers of Sojourners, page 15.

So what’s the point?

This morning in my devotions I ran across a verse in Luke 12 that I have read a hundred times but saw something in the context that I had never seen before. I had always assumed that Jesus was talking to the twelve, that the verse was meant for them in particular, for their very particular ministry in starting the church. But its not. It was addressed to the crowd of would-be-followers.

“Fear not, little flock,  for it your father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide for yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and moth destroys.”    [Luke 12:32-33 (ESV)]

I think I have some things to sell. 

Every day with Jesus is a new adventure.

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