Recently, I took our church’s teens on our annual amusement park trip—a cornerstone event in all of my youth ministries. I have to admit it though, I do not like amusement parks. Now, I do like aspects of the park, but the reason most people are there is what I do not like. Nothing about roller coasters excites me. I do not like rides that offer a slow incline only to drop participants almost straight down with the encouragement to lift hands in the air while screaming. I do not enjoy corkscrew turns, riding upside down, or rides that take a person to the highest heights just to drop them from those heights in a matter of seconds. How was this ever dubbed as amusement?
When I was a young Christian, I was led to believe that “worldly” identity and attachments were sinful and all that mattered was worshipping Jesus Christ “in spirit.” Taken to an extreme, the idea meant to me that cultural aspects of this earthly life were temporary and, therefore, obstacles in the way of our eternal and spiritual identity. Perhaps the most memorable example of this came with the push in our youth group to destroy all of our “secular” music and the expectation we would only listen to Christian music. Perhaps another tacit assumption was that the “strong” believers would limit their participation in “secular” clubs and sports, and would devote more time to church activities (student leader board, church choir, youth group, etc.).
The Native American sits next to the Congolese man to discuss the Pan-African/Swahili group. The Nigerian man greets the Anglo woman while the Myanmar-Burmese man speaks with the African American woman. The Rwandan and Eritean men take their seats and prepare to meet. This is not the opening of a United Nations session. This is the leadership team at my church in Buffalo N.Y. sitting down together to ask the questions that will guide and shape their ministries.
The Cross and Gendercide: A Theological Response to Global Violence Against Women and Girls
I often say as I listen to preaching that I can tell where the theological thrust of focus of the preacher is. We preach what we believe. My core belief, the one thought that I hope and try to convey to persons in every sermon that I preach is this: God’s grace is real and available, without qualification or precondition or any stipulation. It is “good to go.”