Friday, April 15, 2011

what i really meant to say. really.

Well, this past weekend certainly stirred things up.

Last week I upset a number of people at the Vineyard in a talk that was scheduled months ago on compassionate action and social justice in response to living open lives before Jesus. My feeling is that social justice—or for that matter, any mercy work that we do—is confusing if it isn’t undergirded with empathy. I tend to think incarnational Christianity is rooted in that; that before we wag our fingers and pronounce judgment on individuals or groups, let’s first try slipping into their shoes. At least attempt it. Oddly, it seems way easier to spot the splinter in someone else’s eye while missing the two-by-four in our own. My own ten-year journey in a small group with pastors who are African-American has had a profound effect on how I see American culture.

Anyway, it made some folks hopping mad. In each of the four celebrations, I noticed several people walking out of the auditorium during one particular segment. There’s no way that isn’t painful when you’re speaking, no matter how thick-skinned you are.

After reading and unpacking our text from Mark 6 about the feeding of the five thousand, I returned to a particular thought about the story, specifically how the disciples had not eaten all day either. Here’s the rest of the transcript from one of the celebrations, all in blue. This isn’t a post…it’s practically a book. Sorry. A brief post-furor comment follows the transcript:

…But here’s the deal: this isn’t a story about extreme poverty. These people could return to their homes…very hungry, but they’re not going to starve. But perhaps there’s a bigger story about the heart of God. And perhaps it’s a story of what can happen when we’re hungry along with the people who need to hear Jesus…when they’re hungry, when we feel what they feel. And that’s part of the story of the incarnation. The apostle Paul says in Philippians 2: Your attitude should be the kind that was shown us by Jesus Christ, who, though he was God, did not demand and cling to his rights as God, but laid aside his mighty power and glory, taking the disguise of a slave and becoming like men. And he humbled himself even further, going so far as actually to die a criminal’s death on a cross. (Philippians. 2:5-8 Living Bible)

Jesus had all the power and all the privilege and rights with His Father. They were One in the same. But something remarkable happened because of love. He slipped into the skin of a slave. He knows what we feel because He did the unthinkable: He became one of us. That’s the responsibility of the one who has the power.

I believe that incarnational Christianity is what each one of us is called to do—to slip into the skin of someone else, that we might feel what they feel and see what they see, and so love them to the fullest. That’s the real thing. That’s why it says in 2 Corinthians 8: You know how full of love and kindness Jesus was: though he was so rich, for your sakes he became poor.

What I want to do is engage your sense of empathy. The beauty of what God wants to produce in us is incarnational Christianity. God slipping into the skin of humanity, into the skin of the species that would pin Him to wood like some grade-school insect experiment, that kind of love is nearly impossible to wrap your brain around. But He modeled it, and then says to us, “Just as the Father has sent me into the world, I’m sending you.”

And that’s the idea behind the Biblical concept of social justice. When you feel what someone else feels, it will cause you to set things right if they have been marginalized, discriminated, or hurt in any way by the greed, racism or any other evil in the systems of this world.

Now I’m going to get on my soapbox here, so give me some grace.

One of the things that we try really hard to do here at Vineyard Cincinnati is avoid politics. Personally, I don’t think either of the political parties neatly holds all the truth. What’s more, my job is to introduce you to another government: the Kingdom of God. It’s not a republic, it’s not a democracy, it’s not a socialist structure, or parliamentarian, nor communistic. It’s a dictatorship, or to say it more nicely, a monarchy. You don’t get a vote. What’s more, you are a servant in its governance structure, and the only way you get any power in it is by become the least and the last. My true citizenship is in that Kingdom. It comes before everything else.

As a matter of fact, Jesus said that we were to pursue that government first—and get this—above everything else in life. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have responsibilities in the country we live in and shouldn’t work for justice or be grateful for where we live, but it does mean that it is kept in perspective. We have spiritual brothers and sisters in every country on the earth, and our allegiance to them and the common Kingdom we live in is greater than any nationalism or patriotism.

In the end, my Father is the King over it all, and He’s not an American, He’s not a white European, He’s not even a “Christian”, per se. He’s God, the Creator of an entire universe for His pleasure, who gave His own Son for the redemption of every tribe and nation on the planet. And so I’m careful not to share my personal political persuasion. I’m here to help you find your way into that Kingdom.

Now let me offer the flipside of that. It’s hard to talk about justice—and social justice—without mentioning this next cultural issue. And here’s where it gets dicey.

Last year there was a lot of huffing and puffing, debating and name-calling on the internet about the phrase social justice. It turns out that a popular political commentator said that if you see those words anywhere on your church’s website, “run (away) as fast as you can.” He later backtracked a bit, but largely stuck to his guns. Now let me clarify something: that religious advice came from someone who’s personal religion is founded by a man in New York who wrote an additional book of the Bible based on words he saw written on golden tablets he found that could only be read with special glasses about how Israelites came to America before Jesus and how at one time there were great civilizations with armies and chariots in North America who fought against each other even though there’s never been a single bit of archeological evidence to support it. Not a single bolt from a chariot has been found here.

What a person wants to believe is up to them and I don’t mean to demean anything—we have our own particular idiosyncrasies in Christianity—but those are frankly the factual roots of it.

So how about I as a religious leader stay away from giving you political advice and you avoid religious advice from political commentators? Whatever liberal or conservative, Democratic/Republican/libertarian commentators you want to listen to is your business…and there is definitely a wide range of opinions in this place. But please get your theology from people who are called to shepherd the Body of Christ and your political advice from whomever you want. I think you’ll understand Jesus and the Kingdom of God better. But this idea of justice being linked to societal systems is all over scripture.

In Israel, even with a king and governance structure in place, they were to hold a major event every fifty years where not only were all debts forgiven—and remember, if someone owed you $175,000 and it’s year forty-nine, you’re getting nervous—but any land that had been bought fair-and-square had to be given back to its original owner, even if the previous owner was a lazy slob, never farmed it and got himself in debt. What’s more, all people who were indentured employees because they owed their boss money were set free. Jubilee was a massive social security system—a huge act of social justice and wealth redistribution—that may not seem fair to us free market capitalists but it was vital for Israel…and it reminded them that everything actually belonged to God and He was loaning it to them. It kept them from taking an individualistic approach to their relationship with God and reminded them they—Israel—were a community. I’m not saying it’s possible to emulate that, but I am saying it reveals something about God’s heart.

This idea of community justice is all throughout the scripture. At one point, God spoke through the prophet Isaiah about how religious and moral and observant of religious rules the nation of Judah was, and how they spiritually sought after Him and were a nation that did righteousness…and then during one of their fasts, God suddenly tells them:

“Do you think this is the kind of fast day I’m after: a day to show off humility? To put on a pious long face and parade around solemnly in black? Do you call that fasting, a fast day that I, God, would like? “This is the kind of fast day I’m after: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts.” Isaiah 58:5–6 (Message Version)

Let me take you further, all throughout the Old Testament is the concept of shalom. We translate it as peace, and it’s more than the absence of war.

In his book, Not The Way It’s Supposed To Be, author and theologian Cornelius Plantinga describes shalom as “The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight…(it) means universal flourishing…a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied…Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.”

It’s God’s justice fully manifested. It’s relational in its roots and not as individualistic in approach as we make it.

Even in the New Testament, the word we translate peace usually comes from the Greek word eirene. It’s in almost every book in the New Testament, and in most cases it refers to relationships. The word is rooted in a Greek verb that means literally to join…as in being glued together. It implies a healthy social fabric where everyone is connected…and no one falls through the cracks.

When we created the Healing Center, that was the hope. That the Kingdom of God would come to people who had no clue. People who would never step into a church because churches aren’t often seen as safe places or somewhere to get help. To them shalom would be introduced…and that broken people would be woven into the fabric of our community…our part of the Body of Christ.

A few months ago I got a remarkable email from someone named Sandra. I don’t know her at all. Apparently, she first came to the Healing Center years ago for some food and married to an undocumented immigrant. After years of physical abuse, she made the scary decision to run away from her husband while six months pregnant with her fourth child. She packed up her kids and took off. Can you imagine what that must have felt like? Can you imagine the fear and uncertainty? Can you empathize with that? Homeless and out of work, she was in a crisis.

She wrote: “Dave, “I thought you would like to know this: in the past year, many things happened: very good things, thanks to the Healing Center and the Vineyard! After being homeless for two years, I got a home for me and my four kids, I found a job, and I went to school. I will be graduating in only six weeks and have a better future for my kids. I also found out my graduation ceremony will be held at the Vineyard in May! Funny! My life makes sense…now I can see a future! I have made some sacrifices and it has not been easy, but with the help I got from the Healing Center, it’s just so much better!

“God has been very good to me and I hope soon to be able to somehow pay it back. It’s hard to volunteer, but I do try, and hope some day to have the money to give more than what I give now…but for now I can say THANKS! My life is better thanks to the people of God who have seen me and not turned their backs! God bless all you do and the hands and feet who serve at the Healing Center and the Vineyard! I am more than ready for what’s next!”

I had never read an email with so many exclamation points.

But I love it that Sandra said, “…thanks to the people of God who have seen me and not turned their backs…” She recognized more was at work than the Vineyard or the Healing Center. She saw it as the people of God who saw me and didn’t turn away. As we say, vineyard, shminyard. What counts is God getting the credit through the mechanism that He wants to redeem the world through: the people of God.

Shaina Horner, who is on our staff at the Healing Center, gave me a little back-story to this in an email:

“Sandra has worked hard to complete her GED and met with a job coach at the HC. Another worker helped her apply to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services for benefits. In the meantime, she began volunteering at the Healing Center and is a great addition. Sandra is a hard worker and a great help in the warehouse. While going to school, she found a job in a nearby daycare where her children could also attend. She worked 30-40 hours per week, and with the help of Food Stamps and Medicaid, was been able to create a fairly stable life for her kids. Last year she took Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace course to manage the little money she had. Because of that, she established a $1,000 emergency fund. She regularly tithes 10% to VCC. She also transfers $10/mo into a Savings account for Christmas. She is learning good stewardship and is beginning to make good choices.

“In July she went back to school to become a Medical assistant. With the help of financial aid and continued State benefits, she spent the last 8 months in school with and just finished her 160-hour externship at Lincoln Heights Medical Center…and just applied for a job there.

“In March she applied to Mom’s Hope, a mentoring program for single moms. The investment of a mentor will make a significant difference in her life. She needs someone who can walk alongside her, helping guide and challenge her as she grows.”

A couple of days ago I got an update from Shaina: “Good news! Sandra was offered the full time Medical Assistant job at Lincoln Heights. She starts Monday at 11.50/hr. She is coming to volunteer at the Healing Center on Saturday and will pick up a new pair of scrubs. She is very excited.”

When people come into the Healing Center, we can meet some needs. But in the end, it’s them coming in contact with the Kingdom of God and being woven into the Community of Christ that really changes lives.

Let me close with these two verses from Proverbs. Proverbs is an odd book, isn’t it? It’s contextual…meaning you can read one verse to mean one thing, and the next verse to mean the opposite, is in this classic from Proverbs 26:4 & 5:

Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.

It’s all context, folks.

But the book of Proverbs reads mostly along these lines: here’s what a smart person does…and here’s what an idiot does. It tends to use the terms wise man and fool, but you get the drift. It has a lot to say about the poor, and sometimes things that bring on poverty, such as decrying laziness as in Proverbs 6:10 & 11 (and oddly repeated again in 24:33 & 34): A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest—and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.

But poverty is not all individualistic. There are complex and systemic reasons as well. Proverbs addresses our response to that as well in social and theological ways:

You insult your Maker when you exploit the powerless; when you’re kind to the poor, you honor God. Proverbs 14:31 (Message version).

One of the things I like to do when I speak at other places is to invite leaders to stay with my wife and me and immerse them in another church culture, drag them around to my leadership team meetings, stay up late at night to debrief, talk shop and drink a glass of wine. I have team coming from Pennsylvania tonight, as a matter of fact. A couple of weeks ago we had a 26-year-old woman from Switzerland staying with us. She had finished her university work there and was coming to the states for a few weeks to tour around. She stayed with us for about a week. On two of the days she served at the Healing Center on our campus. That night we all sat in the living room and talked. I asked her how it went.

She said, “It was amazing. I cried.” When I asked her why, she essentially said, “When people started coming in and we began serving them, it was like I was serving Jesus Himself.”

Isn’t that interesting? We tend to think when we serve hurting people, we’re bring Jesus to them. But what if it’s the opposite? Or how about when Jesus separates the sheep from the goats in Matthew 25, He says to the righteous, “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Jesus then says the righteous respond with, “Jesus, when were You hungry? We didn’t see that. Or when where You ever naked? No way! And You were never in prison—what could You have possibly done?”

And that’s when He tells them, “Whatever you did to the least and the last, it was like you did it for me.” Powerful.

We’ve got it backwards. One last verse from Proverbs: The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern. Proverbs 29:7 (NIV) 

They care about justice, not just charity. They care about what creates poverty, not just kindness for the sake of kindness. Justice demands action, both individualistically and systemically. Let’s pray…

That, my friends, is what made a number of people upset. And at the risk of creating another uproar, I will simply say this: when you touch a person’s idol, you make them very, very angry. Yes, I know that’s simplistic, but test it on yourself.

I’ve certainly been that way.


  1. Hi Dave-

    You are the first Evangelical (forgive the label if I'm presuming) I know of to gently warn Christians about Mr Beck (not Jeff, btw).

    I'm not surprised you've received a reaction from some; it's scary for many American believers to come to grips with the fact that their citizenship in heaven doesn't come with the privileges of being American and Republican; scarier still that so many equate being Conservative with being biblical.

    Thanks for being bold.

    Let me know when you find that Ludwig drum like Ringo played!

  2. To me it is absurd anyone would walk out on you for such a reason. That is exactly what is wrong with politics today.

    Thank you for being who you are and saying what you say. If you read my first post on my blog you will learn I appreciate it a lot.

  3. Dave,

    I LOVED your message last week. And I personally handed off a letter to you that should help put into perspective the flip side of the negativity you witnessed.

    Don't let it get you down - as you so often tell me - stay strong.


  4. You spoke the truth, bravely, thank you!

  5. Dave good word, you are walking it out and I agree with you bro' Keep it up.

  6. Dave I think you shared a wonderful message that we all need to hear and take to heart.

  7. I'm reading this through someone else's posting. I think this is excellent. Our small group just finished a book called, The Great Commandment Principle, and it is saying the same thing. The relational connections with others is really part of the heart of God. We need to comfort, encourage, stand by, believers and non-believers and bring people closer to the heart of God.
    Coralee S. from Oxford

  8. Republican? Democrat? As Mark Twain said, they are the right and left ass cheek of the same damn pig. Social Justice will never work and Jesus never was a proponent of it. Go back and read. Social Justice was the same gig Judas and his kind were pushing: "kick the Romans out now, by violence if necessarry."

    Politics is a broken system of a broken world. Our efforts would be much better served if we stuck to the basics of the gospel: see a need fill it, learn of a scratch, itch it, but the whole idea is to point the lost in the direction of the promise of the kingdom.

    Jesus fed the 5,000 to get rid of the environmental noise (growling stomachs) so that he could get them quiet long enough to know he was God.

    That is what kindness and mercy is about: providing a tangible example of the kingdom, in this case taste of what the kingdom will bring.

    W waste time when we talk about systems and solutions. We are spinning our wheels rather than advancing the kingdom. To be effective, by kingdom terms, we need to go out a serve somebody and demonstrate the kingdom to them. Complicating this easy model with rhetoric on systems and centers will only complicate the process by gumming up the works.

    The easiest way to keep from getting bogged down, is to make this our motto:

    "Serve them all and let God sort them out."

    As to the people that walked out, they are knuckleheads, but then you are a bit of a knucklehead too, since you made them walk out rather than preaching the simple truth about kindness and perhaps getting them to go out and show mercy and compassion to somebody in a tangible way, rather than storm out of their church and grumble over lunch about how misguided their church is right now.

    Sorry, but I call it the way I see it.

    Backing away from the keyboard and heading out to serve somebody.


  9. I think I'm agreeing with Ken's thought here.

    During my years at FOV, I pondered alot what Wimber said. Paraphrasing: It's not so much about social justice as it is about evangelism and spiritual warfare. I think he called it the "Lamb's War".

    I continue to wonder why Jesus would say that we will always have the poor unless it's for the same reason that you posit -- to motivate us to get out of our complacency and give something away - where elimination of poverty is not the objective. Rather the objective is identity with a God that transforms peoples' circumstances.

    Love your message. I miss our fellowship. My best to you and Anita. Keep up the great work.

    Geoff M.

  10. Well said, Dave. People who have issues with your message should take it up with Jesus. Keep up the good work!

  11. Hi Dave, M family and I are moving to Mason from Arizona next month. We have been looking for a church in the area. We ha planned to check out Vineyard after meeting someone that attends on one of our visits to the area. After reading your blog we are definitly going to check out Vineyard. It good to know that you will tell us what we need to hear and not what we want to hear. I am not always happy to hear it but I know it is what I need. Looking forward to meeting yo.

  12. All I am trying to say is that perhaps you may want to read a bit more Augustine and a little less Aquinas the next time you speak on this topic.

    The biggest problem with SOCIAL JUSTICE is that it is not very biblical. At its core it believes man to only be marred, rather than fallen and that the church with SOME cooperation with God is capable of reversing the consequences of the fall of man.

    Augustine saw the way the church was being influenced by political systems and even worse secular philosophy. He even predicted that somebody like Aquinas would come along and lead us down this road we find ourselves on: a church that thinks talking about the situation and changing the system will fix it.

    The reality is the poor will always be with us, because poverty was part of the curse at Eden. We can't undo that. All we can do is focus on charity, mercy, and kindness whenever the opportunity presents itself in a bent and twisted world, to paraphrase Augustine.

  13. @ Ken: I would have to disagree with you. Dave's talk was right on. We need to understand and empathize with the people we serve and serve them in practical and immediate ways, but we (as Christians) also need to consider how our personal participation in the culture in which we live effects the shape of the social systems that everyone our society lives in (i.e. who we vote for and what kind of laws they are likely to pass). We need to work for social justice. For example: not only do we need to support the children attending failing schools by providing them with tutoring services, we also need to make efforts to improve the school system so that it's not failing. Providing free meals/food to people in need is fantastic, but what is even better is helping them get to a point where they can be self-sustaining. Ultimately, that's one of the things that came across when I heard (and re-read) Dave's message.

  14. Dave Workman,

    I cant stand politics. God gave us a clear message of mercy and kindness and even as fallible as we are as humans with our human thinking, a quick read of the message Jesus gave us will remind all who do read it just what a responsibility we have to perform the act mercy in our deeds and in our hearts.

    I personal would like to thank you for a message like that one.

    If you ever want to get together for coffee and talk about it, I'm on facebook. Let me know.

  15. @anonymous

    I am afraid you miss the point.

    Social Justice was born out of human reason. It is basically blasphemy because it asserts, at its core, that human solutions are better than Kingdom ones. As followers of Jesus we are to give out of our own PERSONAL blessing and abundance when we encounter poverty, not depend on systems and organizations to do it for us.

    Even more important we are to do it secretly and not call attention to it. Political Action almost always runs counter to such kingdom principles--so do large organizations claiming to do corporate charity in the name of administrative convenience.

    It robs the follower of the transforming power of extending mercy to a person that needs it, and in the end has way too much distraction and overhead to deal with poverty.

    I suggest you read John Wimber's "The Way In Is The Way On" for the the original take the Vineyard had on this issue. We are supposed to respond to poverty PERSONALLY--not through social justice.

    That is what the blessing and abundance we experience is for--to personally minister to others, not expect other people to fix the problem. We should avoid getting bogged down in political action or the theocracies that social justice movements always leave in their wake.

    The real evil of social justice is that in encourages to spend more time pondering than acting. It promotes procrastination. It is far more direct to simply give a hungry man part of your sandwich, not look around for who made the man hungry in the first place.

  16. Have to agree with Ken, and Dave W whom he quotes, "Serve them all and let God sort them out."
    People who listen to Beck know he is against institutionalized social justice, not against man serving man. He urges us to be leaders in these uncertain times and to be prepared for anything. And to help those who are unprepared. Please don't miss that point, don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.
    I love our VCC vision statement that says, "They link arms with anyone who tells the story of Jesus. They empower the poor, strengthen the weak, embrace the outcast, seek the lost... They are us."
    I'm proud to be "us." I'm proud to be associated with the VCC leadership and the people commenting right here.

  17. Uhh, Dave is quoting me when he says that. That quote goes way back to the 80's. He better not have trademarked it either!


  18. I don't think it's accurate to paint all those who care about social justice as people who don't believe sin is the root problem. Lots of solid evangelicals are active in social justice. And I don't think Jesus' healings were only a means to an end. He healed because he truly cared about peoples' bodies AND as a sign. But a sign to what? A sign that the kingdom is not just "spiritual" but as God rules on earth he heals and redeems every aspect of human life which has been destroyed by sin. Social justice is the loving thing to do. It's more complicated, more complex than just giving a handout. But has the potential to help people in deeper ways than handout. The Healing Center is a great example of this. The team of well-diggers in Nigeria is another. The International Justice Mission is another excellent example. It seems like part of the argument here is that ministry should be limited to only doing the exact things Jesus or the apostles did. That's one point where I disagree. We wouldn’t have church buildings, guitars or websites if that were the case. During the first and moving into the second generation of believers, the church in Jerusalem had already developed an organized system of providing help to widows. Way beyond what Jesus did. I think we have lots of freedom to be creative and resourceful, to show love and bring justice in every single way possible. I don't think we're prohibited from going beyond handouts, anymore than I would discourage someone from getting marriage counseling or mowing their lawn. (“It’s all going to burn you know!”) It would seem unloving to tell someone, "I will give you a handout, but don't expect me to help you get out of slavery." Of course mistakes have been made, but that's happened in every single method of ministry. Why not love people in every single possible way, all the while never stopping the proclamation of the gospel.

  19. Since we're quoting Wimber, here's another one. (I'm not saying he agrees with me in the way I see this issue, but he wasn't completely against helping to change society.) He talks about winning politicians to Christ. He says Christian politicians will "have a biblical philosophy they can take back to deal with the problems of abortion, drugs, or deceitful politics. In some instances they will even change the social structures (Eph. 6:12). They may even help change laws that condone abortion, alter social conditions that foster drug abuse, and transform governments that oppose the poor and deny basic civil rights." Sounds like he thought it was okay to do more than just evangelize. Although, he maybe isn't completely consistent in his argument.

  20. Carl, stop using the term social justice when you are talking about the Bible passages from Isiah and Deuteronomy. Social justice is what man can do for poverty, the passages that are often quoted were about GOD FIXING the injustice. We can't fix anything apart from god, no matter what the Jesuits think.

    I think you are taking the Wimber quote out of context. when you read the whole chapter out of the book, as i just did to double check, he pretty much sums up that we, as Augustine suggested, should focus on personal charity rather than corporate charity. several times in the chapter he reminds us of the words of Jesus: "The poor will always be with you."

    Like it or not, at the core of social justice is the belief that man is capable of solving the worlds problems, with or without God. Dig deeper and you will find it in the work of Aquinas, Taperelli (the guy that coined the phrase), Coughlin, Ryan and others.

  21. It's just dandy that you posted your whole message for folks to read Dave, but what it is missing is the sarcasm with which you decribed that "political commentator" and just how you felt about him and what he believes. I wonder... would you welcome Glenn if he showed up at Vineyard Cincinnati? He is loved by God too and I'm trusting God to reveal the Truth to him

  22. This comment has been removed by the author.

  23. I'm glad you settled who first said, "Serve them all and let God sort them out," Ken. I definitely think God wants people to get credit for their bumper sticker slogans.

    As someone who cares about social justice, it's silly and naive to think this is an either/or debate. I can serve a homeless child by tutoring him one-on-one, and I can leverage my college classes to raise money and awareness for homeless children, and I can vote for politicians who enact policies to help homeless children. Mature thinkers answer questions of social justice with both/and responses.

  24. Three Dollars Worth of God

    ...I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.
    Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep,
    but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk
    or a snooze in the sunshine.
    I don’t want enough of God to make me love a black man
    or pick beets with a migrant.
    I want ecstasy, not transformation.
    I want warmth of the womb, not a new birth.
    I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack.
    I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.

    — Wilbur Rees

  25. Dear dave,

    I had not realized this response would occur but then I sometimes fail to remember that others do not think as say "I" do.
    For example, politics was invented by "man."
    Religion was invented by "man."
    Idols have been placed on alledged "powerful" and "intelligent" people, money, expensive toys, sex, our own children (I am sure that one will get misconstrued), drugs and so on ... yes by "man."
    As I have determined in my 40 years here in this temporary place of residence .... "man" is a mess no matter what title he/she holds. Unless ..... of course ... he opens the door to our God.
    Even then it is difiicult because we are still "man" but there is a difference.
    The diference is an openess bounded with love, forgivness, understanding, and acceptance even with ourselves.
    It is a constant growth.

    I have always told my daughter growing up ... Stand your ground, even if you stand alone. Just make sure "your" ground is strong and righteous.

    Kudos to you Dave - I was cheering you on in aisle 3. :-)


  26. Dave,
    I thank you too for your message, but from a different perspective. I think that church members do need to know where their pastor's stand. It helps us understand the filters they might see through when reading God's Word. Face it everybody has filters, what one calls an idol, another calls good works. Heck, we can't even agree on what bible translation style to use;dynamic or formal equivalence? The differences in The Message and a more formal equivalence translation can be staggering. Anyway, I just wanted to add my thanks but for probably different reasons than those who have responded here. Your message clarified my next steps as I seek to be where God wants me.
    God Bless,

  27. I'm not a member of VCC, only a frequent blog reader after receiving a forward via a friend. As a life-long evangelical Christian (and Methodist Lay minister) I was SHOCKED to find out (well into my 30's I may add) that the idea of the church partnering with God to solve society's ills and usher in the millenial age was actually the foundation of this country. It's why missionaries were sent, it's Pilgrims came to the New World. To COVER the world in the justice of God.

    The relativly recent development of end-times, rapture awaiting theology has caused Christians to be much more insular in their thinking. More apt to look at social problems and say "Come Lord Jesus" rather then saying "Ugh, I better get to work" (for a great fictionalized portrayal, read the Lamb Among the Stars trilogy).

    The social justice fight is another way to have the Faith and Works debate. Sure, there's no way to work yourself to heaven but faith without works is dead. Having the church attack social issues isn't a subsitute for real, life-change but I'll be shocked to find a church engaged in real life-change that isn't involved in social justice.

    Thank you for blogging and for opening yourself and your message up for dissection. I hope your congregation (both in person and online) will be inspired to think.

  28. DAVE, loved your message. For me, your message was right on! I wanted to stand up and cheer you on, but I didn't. in Acts 4:32-37 it say's: ALL BELIEVERS were of one heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.Sounds like the healing center.
    Jesus was a proponent of helping the poor- We advance the kingdom when our heart breaks for others in need and we do something about it. How did the apostles distribute what was given to them? Where did they store the furniture that was donated? or the food that was given? Figuring out the most efficient way to do this is not gumming up the works, but being a good manager.
    We are not spinning our wheels at the healing center, they are God's companionate ambassadors, who are SERVING the poor, helping them meet their needs, while spreading the good news of our Lord. The H.C. is demonstrating the power of Jesus Christ's love for all who enter.
    Dave did not make anyone walk out. It was their choice. Jesus did not worry about offending people when he spoke the truth.
    As far as Glenn Beck goes, I often wonder why a large group of Christians follow this guy. First because his biblical foundation isn't totally biblical. Second) Is it God or money? I don't know the mans heart, But I do question his motives at times. He may have shreds of truth laced with his" fear" message, for me, he invalidates his message of God by mocking others, instigating fear,.he is in the end, a business man.
    Our hearts should break for the poor, we are called to feed the hungry, visit the person in jail, visit and pray for the sick. Sounds like a system, people were working together, not each going out secretly meeting others needs, but collectively. We are to let our light shine..yet in Matthew 6: 1-3 we are also told to not announce our good deeds with trumpets. And our giving be done in secret. Could it be a heart issue? The healing center is NOT boastful of the work they do. We can talk about the good that changes people lives and how God has touched their lives and hearts within our walls, and community..because it is God after all changing hearts not people.
    What this system has been able to do is feed the hungry, cloth the poor, help people find jobs and lots of prayer, while with great power continue to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all.
    Social Justice is about not closing a blind eye to what is going on around us, and doing something about it. Squabbling over systems may be the enemy trying to stop Christians from doing good works. The enemy wants to divide and conquer, causing discord.
    I love what Dave said, our first allegiance is to our Lord and the Kingdom of Heaven, not a flag, not a race,not a political party, not a country but God who is all over this world.
    also. Pray that our relationships with Christians will show our country what the Love of God & Jesus really is. It's time that political parties stop saying they are the party of God, it's time people stop believing that God is so small as to be only in one political party.

  29. The Vineyard claims to be apolitical, but every time I hear a Vineyard pastor mention politics, they always come down on the left side of the aisle. Why is that?

  30. Anonymous commenters often seem to be conservatives but yet are not capable of using their real name when making accusations against a pastor.
    Why is that?

  31. Hi Dave,

    I would never walk out on a service...but the young family next to me did this morning at the 9 AM service...not sure why but I think they found the special music offensive. Actually, I didn't like it seemed more appropriate for American Idol and not for an Easter service at the Vineyard. I didn't understand one word Elliot sang. But the rest of the service was great and I wish the family had been more gracious.

  32. "One man's morality should never by way of ideology become another's
    legality, as many in the executive and the judiciary would have it" - Robert Ludlum

    This would be the response from the political "right" that believes the protection of personal freedom is the primary issue in all matters political. Ideally, social justice is not something that you would legislate but something that people would pursue voluntarily by their own actions and by freely giving to the church, to charities, or other institutions that promote this cause. None of us (I hope) look at another human being suffering in poverty and hunger or without access to education and opportunity and believe that this is the way the world should be. We all want to change the world for the better. We just can't agree on how best to do that, and that's why we need God.

    Honestly, I'm surprised that Dave's words stirred such debate. I didn't even hear him talk about politics. I heard him speaking Biblically. My observation would be that the words "social justice" and the allusion to Mr. Beck - while not really expounded upon by Dave - caused listeners to color his words and fill in the gaps with their own thoughts on these issues. The varied reactions this brought out in the comments here was actually quite interesting.

    I would suggest that anyone who walks out on a sermon is not doing so because of what Dave said, but rather because what they have seen or heard was a reflection of their own inner beliefs, and something about that reflection deeply troubled them.

    Please keep challenging us, Dave. Keep teaching us and drawing us back to God's calling. This is why we come each week. If we didn't need your instruction, your thoughts, or the example of your life we wouldn't be sitting in those chairs or reflecting upon what you said.

    Personally, I can't thank you enough for the work you do each week. Thank you - Thank you - Thank you. And God bless you.

  33. The message was not the issue - the topic was right on, the mocking disregard for another human being is where the offense fell. Come on Dave, you post this and wait to be confirmed by "yes men" . Remember the kindness of Jesus as you speak of others views. As the guy who stands in front of 6000+ each weekend - you are responsible for your message and the way you share your opinions about others - yes even the ultra conservative mormon deserves not to be mocked by "would be" men of God.

  34. Notice how Dave doesn't have the balls to respond to any criticisms. It's that "I walk on water" attitude of his.