I can remember time after time leaving the church service on Sunday, hearing one of the older saints in the church yell out that “we really had some church today”, or actually “chuch” would be the more accurate vernacular. Typically that meant that when the believers had gathered together, everything was right on point. Worship was inspiring and God-adoring, the choir sang their hearts out, and the preacher stirred the congregation with a Word that was really powerful. New people probably even came forward and asked Jesus to come into their hearts as their very own personal savior. That sounds great doesn’t it…. sounds like a day full of church doesn’t it? Or was that really good church after all? On our best day, when we have our best voices singing in harmony, people are lifting hands and clapping, is God pleased? When have we had some good church?
Honestly, I question our understanding of good church. Do not get me wrong, I think God desires for us to come together regularly in His name. In fact Hebrews 10:25 tells us that we should not neglect coming together, however we should not so easily skip over verse 24 as many are in the habit of doing.It says “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (TNIV). The emphasis of the verse doesn’t seem to care as much about the nature of our coming together, but the fruit of our coming together. It seems clear that the fruit of our coming together, is the producing of a community that is loving others and is doing good deeds. Our gatherings are not for the purpose of feeling good on the inside nor merely just becoming better people.
It goes way beyond that, we gather to get something going, to jump start a movement. When we gather we are supposed to be inspired, provoked, and ignited. However we are not provoked merely on how to pray better or read our bible more. (Important things to do, don’t confuse what I am saying). If our coming together only provokes our personal piety, personal spiritual lives, and personal morality without breaking into the sphere of loving others and doing good deeds then we have missed it. It seems that our coming together regularly should be shaping us as a people that go out into our communities bringing relief to those with aids, adopting children who have been neglected, standing up against injustice, living counter-cultural lives that challenge powerful institutions that oppress their workers.
Our gatherings need to be formed for the very purpose that “we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” And if that is not happening when we gather, then we have hardly had some “chuch”. Maybe our having good church is less about what goes on inside the walls of our facilities that we gather in and more about what happens once we leave. Maybe it’s about our engaging our neighbors with love, helping that elderly woman fix that broken faucet in her house. Mabye it’s about taking some time to spend with that young boy who wanders the streets at all hours, without any guidance and mentors involved in his life. Maybe it’s spending the time to help someone create a good resume and help them network to get a job. (Since getting a job is more about who you know, than what you know.)
Hardly do we see Jesus inside the synagogue, and the few times he was, there were attempts or at plots on his life because he taught or stood up for justice. If Jesus spent most of his time and “ministry” outside the walls of the church engaging people, meeting them on their terms while trying to liberate and empower them from the burdens, sin, and sickness of life, why have we revolved our lives around what goes on inside the church. I think its time for us to encourage one another that we can’t spend all our time at church meetings and services throughout the entire week, but instead urging each other to be active in our communities as salt and light as we love and do good deeds. Once the church has left the building, and we are in our communities serving and loving folks. We can call each other up on the phone and talk about how “we had some church today!!!”.
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.
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2 thoughts on “We Had Some Church Today”
I think we use Sunday as our primary teaching opportunity. It’s the day we get the most folks (certainly more than on wednesdays)and have the most time to convey Biblical Truths. Proof: Most of the pastors I know like to go through a book on Sunday mornings. If you ask the typical congregant what’s the most important thing that happens in church on Sunday, I think you’ll hear them answer, “The message.”
On Sundays I’d personally like to see more time spent in worship. By that I mean time spent in things that are directed to God. I guess everything we do on Sunday could fall into the general category of worship (greeting time, sharing time, etc.) but I think we sometimes dilute the Bible’s definition of worship.
The best way to change what goes on outside of our four walls is to change what goes on inside of them. Just my opinion. I could be wrong.
Yeah I agree, to change what goes on outside the four walls you change what goes o inside of them. That’s really what I see in Hebrews 10:25, it was the gathering time that was shaping a people for mission. Just as a side note, this is not about MBF specifically, just churches in general, since I’ve been to a lot of them when I was a Messiah student. I think MBF tries to challenge its people to be outward, although like every church there are areas that we can improve.