What is the Business of the Church?

I wrote the following response to Elwood Yoder’s blog post, “Let’s Get on With Church” published several weeks ago on “The Mennonite” website. The magazine has posted a shorter version of this piece, along with a response from Yoder. My original post is below in its entirety. Thanks to “The Mennonite” for linking to my original piece. — Jeremy

Every so often, an editorial in a church magazine or a blog post will express the desire to get past rancorous debates in the body of Christ and return to the business of being the church. These editorials lament the divisions within congregations and conferences. They call on brothers and sisters in Christ to lay aside their petty controversies. They urge the church to turn back to the essentials of what it really means to follow Christ. The church, they argue, needs to focus on the true business of the church and leave worldly concerns to the world.

Elwood Yoder’s editorial from a few weeks ago represents the latest example in this genre. In this piece, he describes a collegiate district meeting of the Virginia Mennonite Conference that did not focus on church-wide debates, such as same-sex marriage and the abuse allegations against Luke Hartman. To Yoder’s relief, the meeting instead focused on capital improvements, a powerful devotional and reports on local ministry efforts. Rather than feeling burdened by the “issues of the day in the denomination” Yoder left the meeting “refreshed, motivated, and inspired to be engaged in the work of the church.” As is typical in this genre, Yoder calls on Mennonites to “be about the business of the church, work together, and so challenge the shrill debates so commonplace in our wider culture.”

As a pastor, I am tempted by Yoder’s pastoral and pleasant description of a church meeting. I also sometimes experience controversy fatigue. But I reject Yoder’s implication that sexual abuse and LGBTQ inclusion are not an essential business of the church. When we treat people as if they are side issues or problems that the church can choose to ignore, we no longer follow the Jesus Christ who ate with prostitutes and healed lepers. When we ignore those whose identities and experiences make us uncomfortable, we no longer follow the Jesus who healed on the Sabbath and outraged the priests and Pharisees. When we choose our comfort zone as the basis of ministry, we no longer follow the Jesus Christ who died on the cross and told us to pick up our own crosses to follow him.

What then is the business of the church? What is our business in the aftermath of the Orlando massacre? What is our business following the police murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile? What is our business in light of the violence committed against Lauren Shifflett? When we define the church’s business to not include those violent realities that exist both within and around our congregations, we disembody the lived experiences of individuals and communities that don’t fit within comfort zones. We turn people into issues. Continue reading “What is the Business of the Church?”

What is the Business of the Church?

GeekCross 31: Straight Outta Patterson

Jeremy talks with podcaster and STEM advocate Shareef Jackson about diversity in STEM and spirituality in hip hop. Topics include: recognizing male privilege, growing up in a religiously diverse home, the distinctive beliefs of the Nation of Islam, life in a post-9/11 world with a Muslim name, and the origins of hip hop.
Straight Outta Patterson
Science Looks Good
Gaming Looks Good
Operation Cubicle
Neil Degrasse Tyson Cosmos
The Nation of Islam
Trailer for “Malcom X” (or scene where he changes)
New York in the 70’s
Afrika Bambaataa
DJ Kool Hurst
Grand Wizard Theodore
Toasting
Busy Bee
The Treachours Three
Straight Out of Compton Trailer
NWA
Postmodern
College Drop Out
Spirit in the Dark
5% Nation
The WuTang Clan
Charis One –“Spiritual Minded”
Shareef’s Recommendations to Start
Boogiedown Productions
Criminally Minded
Native Tongue Group
Tribe Called Q!uest
De La Sol
Jungle Brotyhers
The Flavor Unit
Public Enemy
Eric B and Raw Kim
Kendrik Lamar to pimp a butterfly
Outkast
Jeremy talks with podcaster and STEM advocate Shareef Jackson
topics include recognizizng male privelage, the distinctive beliefs of the Nation of Islam, life if a post-9/11 world with a Muslim name, the origins of hip ho
GeekCross 31: Straight Outta Patterson

GeekCross 30: ‪#‎PuttingtheNerdbackinMennoNerds‬

Jeremy sits down with author Robert Martin, co-founder of the MennoNerds blogging network, in what may be the geekiest GeekCross conversation so far. Topics include: the beliefs and theological distinctives of Anabaptism; cancer and the Beatitudes; J.R.R. Tolkien’s views on the relationship between God and creativity; why Christian movies suck; why themes in secular art resonate with Christianity; the the importance of friendship in the digital age; and what Christian churches can learn from Geekdom.

  • MennoNerds
  • Ryan Robinson
  • Tyler Tully
  • Ben Corey “Formerly Fundie” blog
  • Dru Hart
  • “Camp Followers” Tim Nafziger
  • Anabaptism
  • The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7)
  • MennoNerds on what is an anabaptist
  • The Caregivers Beatitudes
  • The Beatitudes
  • Alan Black, seminary Chapel Hill Greek Prof
  • #puttingthenerdintomennonerd
  • Return of the King Animated
  • Prydim Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander
  • Isaac Asmov
  • Doctor  Who
  • World of WarCraft
  • Left for Dead
  • On Faire Stories By Tolkienm
  • “Space Trilogy” by C.S. Lewis
  • Left Behind
  • This Present Darkness
  • “God’s Not Dead”
  • “Liar, Liar”
  • “Mad Max Fury Road
  • Geek Cross Fury Road
  • Christianity Today
  • “Grand Turino”
  • David and Bathsheba
  • The Call of Abram (Genesis 12)
  • Mark 8
  • Prodigal Christianity by David Fitch
  • Lewis Tolkien Movie
GeekCross 30: ‪#‎PuttingtheNerdbackinMennoNerds‬

GeekCross 29: A Horrible Experience of Unbearable Length

Jeremy sits down with Zeph McLearan, producer of GeekCross and other fine podcasts, to discuss the 1986 animated “The Transformers: The Movie.” Topics include: the appeal of “Transfromers”; why the animated movie does not feel like a cynical attempt to sell toys; Zeph’s thoughts on Pope Francis; online harassment; the joy of small cons; and advice on how to enjoy the Michael Bay movies by abandoning any hope for story and characters.

GeekCross 29: A Horrible Experience of Unbearable Length

GeekCross: 28: The Accidental Activist

GeekCross CoverJeremy speaks with activist Tanya DePass, creator of #INeedDiverseGames and cohost of the gaming podcast Fresh Out of Tokens. Topics include: “accidental” activism; the one year anniversary of Michael Brown’s death; race in America; the Emanuel AME shootings; the beliefs and practices of the Ásatrú faith; and representation of Norse paganism in Marvel comics and films.

Direct Link
iTunes
YouTube


Note:
Tanya will be on two panel discussions at Wizard World Chicago, August 22-23, 2015

GeekCross is a McLearan Production

GeekCross: 28: The Accidental Activist

GeekCross 27: Can You Explain Tentacle Porn to Me?

GeekCross CoverJeremy talks with Seventh Day Adventist minister Kevin Kakazu on Adventist beliefs, diversity in the church and the giant robots of Kevin’s childhood. Topics include: the “disappointing” origins of Adventism, representation of Japanese culture in geekdom, anime’s broad thematic range, the connection between faith and geekdom and the importance of Sabbath.

Direct Link
iTunes
Youtube


GeekCross is a McLearan Production

GeekCross 27: Can You Explain Tentacle Porn to Me?

GeekCross 26: Playing Mega Man on the Sabbath

GeekCross CoverJeremy talks with Isometric’s one and only Steve Lubitz about representation of Judaism in Geekdom. Topics include: contemporary experiences of antisemitism; Jewish stereotypes in pop culture; secular Judaism; celebrating Chanukah in a Christmas world; parenting and video games; the Jewish X-Men; and antisemitism in GamerGate.

WARNING: Contains Spoilers for X-Men: First Class.

Direct Link
Itunes
Youtube


GeekCross is a McLearan Production

GeekCross 26: Playing Mega Man on the Sabbath