Most churches seem to have their members on a short leash. Think about it, while most churches “teach” that the members need to go out and witness to others, they have everyone shackled and busy inside the church. Who are considered the most faithful people in the church? Usually they are the ones who commit the most time serving and ministering inside the church. Shoot, there is Sunday service, and of course if you are good you also attend communion and Sunday School. Most churches have a wednesday night bible study at their church. Of course, if you are really serious you will give up your time and serve on some committee, comission, church board, or meeting once a week. Don’t forget rehearsal for the choir, worship teams, band, drama, etc. Then we got our fellowships for the men, for the women, for the young adults, for the youth. We also got singles stuff and stuff for married folks too. If you are a “faithful” church member, then you are lucky to have even a few evenings home with the family. At the end of each week, surprisingly we find no time to reach, serve, and love neighbors and strangers in our community. (I don’t blame the members, I blame us leaders for this problem).
This doesn’t seem to be what is going on in the New Testament. And please, don’t get me wrong I am not saying that all those things are inherently wrong. However, I believe the primary role of the church is to equip and unleash the Church for mission locally, regionally, and globally. And when I say that I am not thinking primarily of evangelism events and missions programs. What I mean is that the Church ought to be released to go out and interact and engage the community naturally as God’s people. Whether individually or collectively we are to be the voice, hands, and feet of Jesus in our community.
For the neighborhood I live in I imagine people spending time with neigbors on the block or on the corner. I imagine Christians out at the basketball courts hanging out, or choppin it up about current events in the barbershop. I see christians having their favorite local bar where everyone knows their name and where they are building relationships with people that most church members would never encounter regularly. This can never happen if we are on a tight leash spending most of our time keeping church programs afloat. More than ever I think it is time for the church to disciple and equip its people in sacrificially minded community (opposed to consumer minded communities) so that it may be unleashed to bear witness to Christ to a world that needs it.
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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