Bonhoeffer quotes

 “We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.”

“We have learned a bit too late in the day that action springs not from thought but from a readiness for responsibility.”

    Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Letters and Papers from Prison

Recently my brother has been going through some quotes that he has on his wall.  It’s quite a cool wall of quotes and he is doing a good job at it. (You can find his blog here)  I also had a wonderful conversation about justice yesterday with a dear brother in the faith!  It was one of those conversations where you leave feeling like you’re ready to change the world!  All this made me think of two quotes from the German Theologian who defied Hitler.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote letters and papers from prison to his students (he was a seminary professor) which they then collected and edited for publication.  Inside these papers and letters Bonhoeffer has some amazing quotes and two particular ones stick out to me at this moment. (They are quite well known, I don’t have a brilliant memory, these are quotes that I have seen many times.)

What some may not know is the background… that is what really brings these quotes to impact our soul.  Dietrich had been born a German citizen and had achieved his first PHD by the time he was 21 years old.  As the great beast of that age was rising to power, Dietrich continued his studies at Union Theological Seminary in New York.  He lived in Harlem.  It was there where he was confronted by our nation’s dreadful sin of racism.  There is an account in his biography (the old one, not the new one, I’d cite it but I don’t have it) where he and his friend (an African American Pastor) were kicked out of a restaurant.  Bonhoeffer tried to insist upon entrance, but to no avail.  They were forcefully removed.  Bonhoeffer began to recognize that the same bigotry existed across the ocean in his own homeland.  Convicted by the Holy Spirit, he traveled back to Germany and began to fight back with his intellect.

As the crack down on all who opposed the RiechChurch(NaziChurchwhere Hitler, not Christ, bore the title of Head) became greater, the powerful intellect of Bonhoeffer was convinced by friends to flee to England.  While there, he helped to formulate the Barmen Declaration along with Karl Barth, Martin Niemoller, and a great many ConfessingChurchpastors.  (you can find it here) Bonhoeffer began to wage a kind of academic war on the Riech Church that had taken over Germany.  There are exciting stories of visits to his home from German guestapo spies and narrow evasions of capture.  He stayed in England until his conscience could bare it no longer and he walked back into the fire of Germany.  This is when he started the illegal seminary in Finkenwald.  It is in this period that we find most of his writing.  Bonhoeffer believed that the Gospel could change the world.  So he dedicated his life to teaching the Gospel in its fullness.  His war on the Riech Church began to take a tole as he was banned from Berlin and forbidden to speak in the early 40’s.  He was arrested and locked in a military prison in 1943.  While in prison he continued to write and even used his influence to aid attempts to overthrow the Fuer.  Bonhoeffer was executed on April 9th, 1945 for helping to plot an assassination attempt on Hitler.  Two weeks after he was martyred, the prison he was being held at was liberated by theUS forces.

The common denominator in all (good) theologians who lived through the holocaust is this: Christians waited too long to stand against injustice.  We must be willing to accept the responsibility to deal with injustice on this earth as agents of the Gospel.  I’ll simply end with Niemoller’s famous quote as recorded by Leo Stein:

“First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.  Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.  Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.  Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

We MUST Speak.

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Influences pt 2

I posted a blog about random influences in the way I do ministry.  You can read the first post here.  It is necessary to state that my biggest influences come from my Dad, Mom, brothers, and sister.  However, each time I sit down to write about one of them I start sounding like a sappy little boy.  While, in comparison to some, I am still a boy (30 years old), I am NOT SAPPY!  So, that being said.  Here is the next installment.

Youth Pastors.

I had two fantastic youth pastors.  Both very different people.  The first was Ron Holman (New Orleans,LA).  Ron was a man of God who was disciplined and expected discipline from his students.  He took us on missions, introduced me to World Changers, and trained us to have a personal devotional life.  He was tall, athletic, and scheduled.  We loved and respected Ron, though as youth we were careful NEVER to let him know that.

Ron ran a typical Baptist, program oriented, youth group inNew OrleansLouisiana.  He was a full time youth minister who was going to Seminary on the side to get his degree.  On Sunday we had Sunday School, on Wednesday we had Wednesday night meal and youth Bible Study, and interspersed were various events (block parties, progressive dinners, D-Now, etc…) and weekend activities that were designed to attract students and develop community.  Ron worked hard and the events were effective at attracting students and developing community, once and a while we even came away learning.  With the leaders of the youth group, Ron met once a month and led us in personal devotions and taught us to keep a quiet time and study the Bible, in those meetings we learned a ton.  Wednesday night consisted of a game that my mom (the volunteer youth game maker) designed to go along with the lesson and then a lesson that Ron would communicate through various mediums.

So I remember one time when Ron was closing a Wednesday service.  It must have been a particularly hard night, none of us were attentive, all of us were selfishly making jokes and ignoring what Ron was saying.  Ron began to pray and there was a snicker at the back.  A boy had obnoxiously interrupted the prayer and said, “amen already.”  Ron completed his prayer and said Amen and bolted out of the room, hurdling some of the chairs that were in the way.  It was obvious he was mad.  As we looked around the room in stunned silence we realized the young boy had made his joke and then ran away.  Ron chased him down.  Don’t really know what ensued after that, but I do know that the boy kept coming and was much more attentive from that point on.  After the great hurdle, my buddyChadlooked at me and said, “uhhh huh…  that boy gonna die, you don’t mess with God in front of Ron.”

Ron was zealous for God’s name and he had a deep respect for the Word of God.  His deep love for Scripture was not always penetrating to us.  Most of us were too busy with our own dramatic relationships to be concerned with the divine drama.  But you couldn’t be around long before you recognized Ron was disciplined, zealous, and knew Jesus.  It is a testament to Ron that the boy he chased down kept coming.  Ron was careful to view all of us as sheep in God’s fold and he took his job to teach us very seriously.  While a shepherd may need to break a straying sheep’s leg occasionally, Ron was also faithful to do his best to point us to green pastures and still waters (please don’t read too much into that, it’s a metaphor.  I have never broken a students leg and neither did Ron.)  Thus, I learned discipline in my walk with Christ through Ron’s ministry.

 

In contrast to Ron, Kevin Banfield (Towson,MD) was a short stocky iron worker who sold insurance on the side and did youth ministry for free.  He and his wife Mary-Beth were a team.  Kevin would share a devotional and Mary-Beth would reaffirm it with an object lesson.  Kevin also worked at a typical program driven church with Sunday School, Wednesday night Bible study, youth choir, etc…  Kevin, like Ron, did many big events.  Further, Kevin and his family dedicated every Friday night to the youth group.  They opened the gym at the church every Friday from 7-11pm.  Kevin would sit in a chair in our youth room and just listen to students.  Nothing was planned, nothing was programmed, occasionally he had a game to play.  At 10pm he would call everyone into the youth room for a 15 minute devotional.  There was little to no organization and it was AWESOME!

Kevin never locked his door, his door was always open, and he never turned you away.  If his door was locked, the key would be in the bird bath or some other, not so obscure, hiding place.  (not to mention you could unlock most things in his house and even start his car with a screwdriver.)  He would sit and listen to students talk for hours, he would occasionally remind me that I shouldn’t tell girls to “suck it up, we got a job to do,” he was just kind of there.  He loved us and we knew it.  Kevin was not a fantastic teacher.  He was not a deep theologian.  He was not consistently organizing things for us to do (or at least that wasn’t the crux of his ministry).  Kevin was not a man who you heard preach and said, “I’d like to listen to some more of that!”  No… Kevin was the guy who sat in a chair and listened and laughed with you as you talked about whatever.  He loved his wife and you could see it because you were around them.  He made you feel like you were loved and he could pretty much listen to whatever you said without making you feel horrible.  Then he would challenge you with some question like, “How can we encourage (insert name of person you just ignored) to be like Jesus?”

Kevin is the reason I take students to lunch.  He is the one who taught me that the relationships you can develop with a few students are far more powerful in the kingdom than the sermon you can preach to 60.  Sometimes I forget this truth and become absorbed with teaching.  But, something always reminds me of sitting on that ratty furniture in our youth room talking to Kevin about Jesus while simultaneously feeling deep conviction over my selfish living.  So I try to take students individually to get sodas from time to time.  Just to listen and occasionally to deal with some issue.  (Just a side note: if you’re wondering why I’ve never taken your child out, just give me time… or you can ask me to.  Likewise, you can ask me not to, some parents prefer that, I won’t be offended.  Also, I ask other female leaders in the church to take out the girls.  It’s just not right for a man, who is not her father, to take a 15 year old girl for a soda.)


Missional Unity

Because the majority of people who read my blog also read my brother’s blog (all 6 of you) I thought I’d clarify some things for you. 

My brother discipled me, he taught me to read my Bible when I was 13 years old.  He has a deep love for Jesus and the Bible.  He is probably my best friend and he is one of the first people I would call for advice on church matters and most other things.  We’ve had fights with each other and we’ve fought against common enemies together.  That having been said, Jeff and I disagree on some things and while we recognize those disagreements, there are a few things we agree on that trump our disagreements.  These are the support for our work together in the Kingdom and our love for each other as brothers and Christians.  I would like to enumerate those for you below.

 

  1. The mission of God.  Jeff and I agree that God has a mission.  He had this mission before He had a church and that mission is to rescue His people and display His love (character) over the earth. 
  2. The job of Christians: The job of a Christian is to live ON MISSION with/ for Christ.  As a result we fiercely share our faith and try to live our lives like Jesus.  Even the things we buy for entertainment are to be looked at as tools for the advancement of the Gospel (sorry I went all churcheze on you just then.)  I mean for the advancement of God’s mission.  We are missionaries in this world, everyone of us.  Therefore our work and efforts are to be combined for the sake of His mission. 
  3. The Lordship of Jesus.  Jeff and I agree that you cannot persist as a growing Christian and not have a life lived on mission with Jesus.  Though that may come in different manifestations depending on your culture/ecology, Jesus is Lord!  That means that your heart is changed by your confrontation with Him.  You will grow and move and live in the power of the Spirit in the strength of faith. 
  4. Jesus is the only one who can save you.  Yeah….  No amount of work can defeat your sin, or rescue you from it.  He is the transforming agent in the human heart.  You must believe in Christ to receive salvation from sin. 
  5. The Bible is the Word of God.  No no…  I mean it.  It is God’s.  It is what He says.  It is His Word and it is His revelation of His mission and character with and to us.  It is how we get to know God.
  6. Principles never change.  Methodology always changes and indeed it must.  There are principles that never change: Jesus Saves, The Bible is the Word of God, God is Love, Mankind is naturally communal, Mankind needs Christ, Justice matters to God and should to us, people are wicked, etc…  How those principles are dealt with and addressed are through specific methodologies.  Example: Sunday  School, Small group Bible study, Personal quiet times, Sermons, devotionals, etc…  are all methods that are attempting to answer the principles that the Bible is God’s Word, and people need to know God.    
  7. You were made to work!  As a Christian you were made to work hard to live out your faith.  We are called a Kingdom of Priests in I Peter.  We are the priests in this world and we need to take the light into a dark and dying world.  You ought to think deeply about God, who He is, and how that affects the way you live.  You ought to challenge status quo.  You are to strive together in an effort to know the LORD deeply and follow in His mission.  We live in a fallen world and we have the answer.  So get to work!

 

Influences pt 1

I love working in the church.  I was thinking of some of the influences in my life that have shaped the way I do ministry.  The first and most powerful of course in Jesus.  Second would be my Dad.  If you know me, that’s obvious.  You can read about my Dad by glancing through this blog.  I thought I would take a post or two to talk about some of the other influences that have shaped the way that I do ministry.  We’ll see how much I enjoy this honesty before I am done investigating my influences.  Our influences often expose our weaknesses.  They are influences because they train us past weakness.  So I’ll try to be as honest as possible.  That said: here we go!

 Scott

One of them would have to be a young man I went to Dulaney High School with named Scott.  Scott was a strong-willed atheist who challenged my assumptions about God.  He was the most infuriating friend I had ever known.  I remember Scott would drive me crazy in high school, challenging of my understanding of the nature of God, the nature of man, the nature of love, and so on (when you’re in high school, everything that sounds smarter if it is proceeded by “the nature of”).  I vividly remember walking down a hall with Scott one day after school had ended, listening to his annoying mockery of my supposedly strong faith.  I had asked him to stop several times and was slowly starting to feel the anger rise in me.  You know the feeling… somehow your ears get hot, your jaw tightens, and your arms start to tremble.  The hallway seemed strangely dark as I stopped at my cold grey locker, trying to maintain my composure.  Suddenly something he said just sliced into me and I spun to Scott and said through gritted teeth, “you just don’t get it!”  Then I kicked him in the shin… it was pitiful.  I mean depressingly so.  It was not a strong response, it was just pitiful.  I had hit people in the past…  I knew how to knock someone over, I knew how to throw a punch, I knew how to strike someone correctly, and yet something inside me snapped and my anger was tempered by my attempt to maintain composure.  So I kicked him in the shin.  Again… pitiful.  If I had just let it go, I would have at least looked apathetic towards what he said.  But this was a crowning moment… I was pitiful.

I remember his face… it was utter shock and was layered with disappointment.  He looked at me confused and then I calmly told him, “that’s enough.  Sorry I kicked you.”  I put my head down and walked away.  This was a one time outburst from me… but Scott was a daily challenge to me.

My friendship with Scott forced me to examine my own beliefs.  He pushed me to actually know my faith rather than just accept what I had been taught as a boy.  He could not have known that his arrogant attacks on my faith would lead me to invest years of my life in studying the text of Scripture.  There is seldom a time when I do not see a truth that I got wrong when answering Scott back then.  When I arrived in college, I stopped kicking people in the shin and started to study and write responses instead.  My faith had connected to my heart when I was 13… but it was not until Scott that my faith began to connect to my intellect.  Scott taught me that we (Christians) cannot ignore hard questions of the Bible.  We must engage them and deal with the difficulties.

However, while the intellect is incredibly important…  It must be sheltered in the Love of Christ for a lost world.  You see, I did a great deal wrong to Scott… but I did try to show him the love of Christ.  Scott was still a friend even after I kicked him (pitiful).  He was a friend who needed Jesus when my intellect failed him and when it failed me.  Love trumps intellect, I spent two more years trying to show Scott love.  Now I recognize that intellect is a tool to lift up our love for others and our love for Christ. (Or at least it should)

So now, I try to challenge the intellect of my students and struggle to invest myself in their lives and show them the love of Christ.  It is my hope that I can teach them to use their intellect to engage the world in love.  I no longer kick people in the shin… Now I research difficult questions and remember my desire to tell Scott the truth.  So, Thanks Scott… if you ever read this.  (I left out his last name on purpose.)

Types of Pastoral Leadership

I’ve been wondering a great deal about Pastoral leadership lately.  No real reason, I’ve just been analyzing the task a bit for fun.  It probably has to do with being in seminary.  So I’ve recognized that there are, in my estimation, 4 general types of leaders.  I am going to use sports analogies to describe the types.  (This should be interesting considering I don’t watch sports…  So please do not be disgusted by my gross sports inaccuracies before I begin… after I am done, you may feel all the disgust you please towards my sports ineptitude.) Side note: I don’t know where my pastor stands in this list and quite frankly I don’t want to analyze him…  I like the guy…  I think I’d say something about him being a golfer and therefore not on my list, but there you have it.

THE QUARTERBACK!

The first and most common type of leader in churches is the Quarterback.  This man is the star of the show/commander of the ship.  His vision is what matters most, and everyone must be brought in line with it in order to win (which he will usually, though not always, quantify in numbers).  He makes all the decisions and calls all the plays.  Even when he hands the ball off, it is because he has decided to do so.  This type of leader is the one who dispenses orders to the troops.  He takes command and leads his team by being the nature of his role as shot caller.

The strengths of this type of leader are easy to see.  He is usually a powerful personality and has a great deal of charisma.  Often this person articulates a clear vision with a strong since of direction.  People typically follow this man, if his ideas work the first couple times.

The negatives are equally visible.  This type of leader is the super-man leader, seriously, he wears a cape!  He is the type that makes the ministry about his persona and his ability to accomplish goals.  He forces people into molds to suit his ends and has difficulty accepting other strong leaders who do not fit into the mold.  He is the driver, therefore everyone else must be a passenger.

In order to be this kind of leader, one must be articulate, able to persuade, have a clear vision, and enjoy being the guy in front.  Crowds like good quarterbacks

 

THE POINT GUARD

The second type of leader is the point guard.  This is the man who sees himself as a coordinator.  His job is to pass the ball and start the play.  He is not always the key player, but he always starts with the ball.  This leader finds his strength in learning the strength of his team and playing to it.  If there is another member who is a great post, the point guard seeks to articulate that.  If there is a great shooter on the team, the point guard arranges things so that his team mate can make the shot.  He is a utilizer of talents.  (I totally just made up that word, utilizer.)

The strength of this leader is in his team.  He makes others look good.  He is a strong director who calls plays, but trusts his team to make the play.  He knows the strengths and weaknesses of his teammates and as a result, others flourish around him.  He is an encouragement to those who serve with him and is certain to make clear that they serve with him and not beneath or above.

The weakness is that this leader is sometimes overlooked by people who come to watch the game when there is a great shooter on the team.  He is, for all intensive purposes, a background leader who may only touch the ball for a moment.  Although he will touch the ball on every play and his leadership is obvious to those who are on the team, those who are not playing the game may not take him seriously as a leader.  They may even think they can do his job better.  While his team may love him and the Coach may be completely satisfied in him, crowds often want a quarterback.

The secret for this leader is to include as many people as possible on the team and surround yourself with a team you can invest in and make great!  Teams love good point guards.

THE PITCHER

The third leader is the Pitcher.  For this leader, everything hinges on his actions.  Every decision is laid on his shoulders as the key player.  He has support staff around him that works well when a hit is unavoidable. For this leader, whatever is his key mode of communication is THE MOST IMPORTANT thing.  (I call this a mode of communication, because not all pastors/leaders use sermons/lectures.)  He views this opportunity as the most critical teaching moment of the week/month/year.  And his team is prepared behind him.  This leader finds strength in “strike outs!”  What I mean is, he finds strength in a measurable form of success.  He is going to count the number of readers, baptisms, commentors, conversions, complements, etc…  This type of leader views every other activity as back up for his communication.  He is a gifted communicator, in whatever medium he has chosen, and every one else is there to pick up the slack if things go wrong.  This leader is strong and independent.  He is capable of doing almost everything by himself and only needs support when his pitch is hit back.

The positives for this type of leader are that He can make the strike out!  He is talented.  Everyone focuses on him and watches closely hoping that they will not have to spring into action.  But it’s ok, because the team is united behind him and his pitching.  This leader has the support of those at his back: that is, assuming he is able to communicate the vision.

The negatives are that everything depends on his pitch.  As a result, he is framed as the success or failure of the team.  If the team is winning, he is on top of the world, but if the team is loosing, the team might quit on him… because it all hinges on his pitching.

In order to be this kind of leader one must have a brilliant ability to communicate.  He also needs to be very well organized so that he can strategically pitch the message in whatever format he chooses.  Ball clubs (people who own the team) love good pitchers.

THE MIDFIELDER

The fourth is the soccer midfielder.  Good soccer midfielders control the pace of the game.  They are acutely aware of others who are around them and acutely aware of where others are going.  Midfielders lead by hustle.  They don’t always have to touch the ball, but they do their role well.  They recognize themselves as role players and strive to perform with the team’s well being in mind.  A good midfielder will be noticed only because of their commanding presence.  They don’t need to be flashy or do anything remarkable to have that presence, they simply have it.  They will outrun everyone else, outwork everyone else, and everyone will look to them because of it.  When there is need to slow down so that your team is not exhausted, the midfielder will slow the pace.  When there is need to push, the midfielder will push.  This type of leader leads by solidly focusing on the mission at hand.  Thus, the pace he sets for the team is determined by the goal.

The strength of this kind of leader is in his work ethic.  He will almost destroy himself for the sake of the mission!  Further, the team will work WITH instead of BEHIND this leader, they are not support… they (collectively) are the team.  He cannot play the game by himself and needs the team in every aspect of the game.  Therefore, there is a lot of community buy-in with this kind of leader.

The negatives are that he will inevitably go unnoticed.  Some may even wonder what he does all week.  Unlike the point guard, this leader will not always touch the ball and therefore, may not be seen as a leader at all by the crowd.  While he may work tremendously hard, he is not usually the one making the shots.

In order to be this kind of leader, the person must be disciplined and focused.  He cannot waver his attention to the stands and he cannot lose site of the ball.  He must be aware of the talents of those around him and be able to sense whether or not to push.  He must be able to not touch the ball and yet still be a presence.  Coaches love good midfielders.

 

So that’s that…  feel free to offer your observations below.