Not Different but Faithful

I had a great conversation with some friends and our discussion found its way to the discussion of church. I know, me talking about the nature of the Church, surprise surprise!!!  Anyways, one friend knowing my long term goal to do a church plant, asked how I would ensure that I did not fall into the routine of what most churches fall into, and how I would ensure I would be different.

I am satisfied with the answer I gave, I basically said that my goal is not to be different. My main critique of some of the emerging dialogue going on is not with approach or style, but with the goals it has. This is not the first person to articulate a desire to be different. And I know beneath that there are stronger convictions that recognize that the church indeed has not always been faithful nor relevant to God and the communities it serves. However, it still seems to be a reaction centered type of thinking to me.

I too am very frustrated with the Western Church as a whole and especially American churches. However, my main focus is not on how to be different than them, it is more on how to be faithful to God. For me I must ask the question, “What does a faithful Church look like in the 21st Century?” And after continually going back to God’s Word, praying, and being shaped by other believers in Christ who are asking the same question, a Kingdom imagination breaks forth, from which the Spirit gives discernment on what that might look like. And then I repeat the process again.

For me I want to make sure that I am lined up with what God is doing, and do not become just another approach that happens to be very different. I desire that God direct me on how I and my ministry can align with what God is doing. Everything centers around what God is doing first, and then me being a faithful participant in God’s doings.

Published by Drew G. I. Hart, PhD

Drew G. I. Hart is a theology professor in the Biblical & Religious Studies department at Messiah College with ten years of pastoral experience. Hart majored in Biblical Studies at Messiah College as an undergraduate student, he attained his M.Div. with an urban concentration from Missio Seminary in Philadelphia, and he received his Ph.D. in theology and ethics from Lutheran Theological Seminary-Philadelphia. Drew was born and raised in Norristown, Pa and has lived extensively in Philadelphia and Harrisburg, PA as well. Dr. Hart’s dissertation research explored how Christian discipleship, as framed by Black theologies and contemporary Anabaptist theologies, gesture the Church towards untangling the forces of white supremacy and the inertia of western Christendom which have plagued its witness in society for too long. As two traditions that emerged from the underside of violent and oppressive western Christian societies, he found Black theology and Anabaptism each repeatedly turning to the particularity of Jesus in the gospel narratives. From that arises an ethic of solidarity with the oppressed and pursuing liberation in Black theology and an ethic of radical peacemaking and ecclesial nonconformity in the Anabaptist tradition. Each challenge the violent and oppressive logics of mainstream western Christianity and salvage the call to follow the way of Christ. Together in dialogue they deepen our analysis of the churches failures and the need for Jesus-shaped repentance. His work beyond teaching and writing has included pastoring in Harrisburg and Philadelphia, working for an inner-city afterschool program for black and brown middle school boys, delivering lectures and leading anti-racism workshops, collaborating with local faith-based organizers and activists in his city, and doing a broad range of public theology. He is also a co-leader for a local Harrisburg faith-based relational network called FREE Together which has collaborated with POWER Interfaith, MILPA, the Shut Down Berks Detention Center movement, and a little with the Poor People’s Campaign. Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism by Drew Hart, has received great reviews by Publisher’s Weekly and Englewood Review of Books. Endorsing this resource, Shane Claiborne said, “This book is a gift from the heart of one of the sharpest young theologians in the United States. Hold it carefully, and allow it to transform you--and our blood-stained streets.” As a text, Trouble I’ve Seen utilizes personal and everyday stories, Jesus-shaped theological ethics, and anti-racism frameworks to transform the church’s understanding and social witness. Trouble I’ve Seen focuses on white supremacy as an overarching framework for understanding racism, with careful attention to its systemic and socializing dimensions. However, unlike sociology textbooks on the subject Dr. Hart also considers the subversive vocation of Jesus and the nonviolent yet revolutionary implications his life ought to have for his followers today. His newest book project is entitled Who Will Be a Witness?: Igniting Activism for God’s Justice, Love, and Deliverance and will be published September 1, 2020. Who Will Be A Witness? invites the church to liberate its centuries long captivity to supremacist practices, and to expand its restricted political imagination in view of Jesus’ messianic reign. The book guides disciples of Jesus into joining God’s delivering presence through scriptural reasoning, historical reflection, practical theology for congregational life, social change theory, and the Christian call to love our neighbor. It is written for congregations, leaders, and students that understand that pursuing God’s justice goes way beyond waiting around for electoral seasons to come around. It is about the ongoing vocation of the Church right now, at the grassroots level, seeking after the wellbeing of their neighbors through faithful, strategic, and concrete action. Drew recently joined the Inverse Podcast team serving as a cohost along with Australian peace activist Jarrod Mckenna. Together they interview interesting people and explore how scripture can turn our ethical imagination and the violent and unjust systems of our world upside-down, which contrasts with interpreting the Bible as a tool for the status quo. Dr. Drew Hart was the recipient of bcmPEACE’s 2017 Peacemaker Award, a 2019 W.E.B. Dubois Award from a Disciples of Christ congregation, and in October 2019, Dr. Hart was chosen as Elizabethtown College’s 2019 Peace Fellow. Each award recognized him for his local and national justice work and public theology. You can find Drew Hart on Twitter and Facebook, or you can catch him as he travels and speaks regularly across the country to colleges, conferences, and churches. Drew and Renee, and their three boys (Micah, Dietrich, and Vincent) live in Harrisburg, PA and attend Harrisburg First Church of the Brethren.

7 thoughts on “Not Different but Faithful

  1. Pastor drew,

    Your title says it all. Not different but faithful.

    We should receive our mission via a direct download from God alone rather than creating our own podcast that preaches our own passions or views. I believe we all have callings and we need to be faithful and follow His 411.

    “What if Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t accept to head up the Bus Boycott, what if Abram had never left everything he knew to follow the voice of God, what if… I can go on and on”

    The spirit of God is with you.

    be Faithful. He will provide all your needs and bless many people through your ministry!

    In Christ Alone!

  2. I agree: Not different, but faithful. Here’s where I think the term different applies:

    Let’s consider mission and vision. The mission statement of a ministry should reflect its goals and why it exists. That’s the mission.

    Vision on the other hand is what it’s going to look like when it’s successful. In my years of ministry I have found that while mission may remain constant, what it looks like often evolves as God works out His plan. Our assembly has not changed it mission statement, but I’m sure it looks a lot different now than our elders envisioned it years ago.

    Whatever you see in your spirit right now may look a lot different before God is through.

  3. You are on point with this. God does not call us to try to be different, radical, or any other en vogue term. He calls us to be faithful. That faithfulness might lead us to being different or radical, but the focus is on us being committed to God, not us being different.

    On a different note. Few would actually say that every church in America has lost focus, but sometimes when we speak so much about the brokenness of American churches, we ignore some of the successes of both the American churches and American church. Acknowledging the good and the bad and having a properly critical view moves us away from pursuing different-ness to pursuing a faithfulness that may or may not have been present in our predecessors.

  4. I’m feeling that. We all know that “the church” has its points of failure. It’s not hard to point out what is wrong with the church. We need also to remember what’s “right” with the church.

    It has the right Founder: 1 Cor. 1:2

    It has the right Foundation: Luke 6:48

    It has the right Future: 1 Thess. 4:16,17

  5. Good post. Interesting. To be faithful, one must have a one-on-one relationship with Christ, by way of the Holy Comforter. Christ is a real ‘being.’ Though a part of the soveriegn Godhead, He is a Spirit person. No physcal body, but REAL all the same. Yet we treat Him as though He does not exist. No communication…no fellowship. No fellowship…no ‘faithful.’ 🙂 When we are truly faithful, we are allowing Him to work His heart and mind through our hearts and minds. The outcomes will be servitude performed in selfless LOVE.

    The ‘church’ is people…not buildings.

    Again, good post.

    Carolyn /internetelias.wordpress.com

  6. Brother Drew –

    I couldn’t agree more. John 17:16 notwithstanding, Jesus does not call us to be different, but faithful. Thing is, true faithfulness will always bear the fruit of an otherworldly Difference that is often known as “holiness” (roughly translated as “set-apart-ness”). Yet Difference, simply as an end of itself, will never guide a person upon a path of faithfulness.

    Yes, the world hungers for difference – something true, and real, and everlasting, and suffused with eternal meaning, in contrast to the ultimate transience of this world (cf. John 4:15). Yet as Christians, we must not answer the world’s call for “difference,” but rather heed Christ’s call to “faithfulness” – for that, indeed, shall make ALL the difference.

    Blessings on your ministry —

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