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The Mother Emanuel Nine and the Parable of the Sower and the Soils

Sower and the SoilsSouth Carolina became my adopted state 30 years ago. Understanding and appreciating its culture is a continual journey of social and religious understanding. The story of the Emanuel Nine provides a new dimension of learning. This tragic incident is personal and impactful.

When Dylann Storm Roof entered Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston on Wednesday evening, June 17th and joined the Bible study taking place, he had no idea what he really joined or what he really started. The evil which possessed him and permitted him to carry out a horrendous series of murderous acts was already in the process of being overcome by good.

The dozen people present under the leadership of Rev. Clementa Pinckney were studying the interpretation of the Parable of the Sower and the Soils from the Gospel of Mark, chapter four. In this parable a sower goes out to sow seeds and some fell on the road, some of the rocky ground, some among the thorns, and some along good soil.

What Dylann did not know is that he had just connected with a group of people who overwhelmingly were part of the good soil. They got it. They understood the unconditional love of God through Jesus Christ. They were full of grace, mercy and love rather than judgment, cruelty and hate.

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Congregations Staying Contextually Relevant

Community outreachIt is extremely important for congregations to know with whom their Christ-centered, faith-based community can best connect, given the congregation’s gifts and skills and personal preferences. It is also important for them to be able to clearly evaluate whether or not they are being effective in reaching the people they say they are trying to reach.

It is not important whether or not a congregation is reaching a certain geographic community or parish, or if they are reaching certain target groups of people. It is important that they are clear on who they are trying to reach, and that they are effective in reaching them. If they are, then they have contextual relevance. If they are not, then they do not.

It is essential that congregations seek to impact their context. Both geographic communities and target groups of people need to be transformed by God’s empowerment displayed by compassionate followers of Jesus Christ. Contextual transformation involves making a revolutionary, Christlike difference in the place where your congregation lives, or among the people with whom your congregation dwells. To be relevant to your context, you must be part of God’s empowerment to make it more loving and just.

Congregations on the Edge of Christian Faith

Edge Church_srbWe need more congregations on the edge of Christianity who avoid becoming a churched culture congregation, but rather focus on the edge where the “gones”, dones, and nones dwell.

In a previous post entitled Are You Really as Progressive a Christian As Your Congregation? I talked about a progressive Christian congregation with whom I once had a consulting relationship. At the conclusion of that post I suggested this congregation had an important role in the constellation of Christian congregations.

In this post I want to describe their role and how it might be a role that is sustainable for some congregations. It is not necessary for these congregations to fit the category of progressive. Openness to progressive dialogue, however, may be an essential element of these congregations.

To give a focus I named this church Edge Church. It reminded me of postcards from the edge of Christianity, or faint radio signals from the horizon. Edge was composed of four different types of people.

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Mother Emanuel Nine: They Met to Read the Bible

First-scotsgoodphotoFirst Scots Presbyterian Church in Charleston, SC was the scene Sunday, June 21st of the performance of a song written in the past few days about the Mother Emanuel Nine. The newly composed song is entitled They Met to Read the Bible.

Here is the song. Prayerfully read and even sing it with a spirit of love, grace, and forgiveness.  Download They Met to Read the Bible.

My brother-in-law and sister-in-law are long-term members of First Scots Presbyterian Church and shared it with me. Please always honor the authorship and the copyright!

Are Your Really as Progressive a Christian as Your Congregation?

People in ConversationProgressive Christian congregations I encounter are very proud of being progressive. Almost too proud. They are glad they are not like other congregations who are less liberated. They almost sound Pharisaical.

When I have a strategic leadership coaching relationship with them–which is not very frequently–I discover only a minority of the congregation fits the category of progressive. Many of the remaining members are more centrist or moderate in their viewpoints.

Occasionally I also discover a very conservative to fundamentalist member or two in a progressive congregation. I wonder what they are doing there. I usually discover a legacy story that keeps them connected with this congregation.

One such congregation was a merger of two congregations. It had a great heritage. At one time it claimed one of America’s most outstanding preachers as their pastor. No longer gathering in the 800-seat sanctuary that was regularly filled many decades ago, they had about 60 people who gathered in a part of the building known as the living room. It was very much like a home. The adjacent room was the dining room which was connected to the kitchen.

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