From time to time I do some writing that gets published in a variety of church related publications. It is also my personal policy that whenever I have something published that I share it with our entire congregation. I do this because I want you all to be aware of what I’m thinking about and working on, but also so that you know how I’m representing our congregation in the wider church.
Today I am sharing another piece that will be published soon by an organization called Dove’s Nest. While I am eager for you all to read this piece, I want to give you fair warning because the subject matter is important, but rather distressing: prevention of sexual abuse.
The back story revolves around an Eastern Mennonite University vice president named Luke Hartman. In January he was arrested for, and subsequently fired for, soliciting a prostitute (a charge that was later dropped). In the months after the arrest it has also come to light that he was in a highly abusive relationship with a young woman named Lauren. Lauren bravely told her story on a website called Our Stories Untold. Her sister Marissa then told the story of how the pastors and leaders at their church, Lindale Mennonite Church, attempted to “hold Luke accountable” but also kept the story quiet, eventually leading to what now appears to be a cover up of abuse. There are links to both of their stories in the article.
What I wrote came after reading Marissa's articles and is mainly reflecting on the question of how a pastor or leader begins to make a series of small choices that don’t seem like much at first, but ultimately lead down a road of keeping abuse quiet or covered up.
Again, I would invite everyone to read this article, but I want you to know what you’re getting into before starting in. If you are interested in talking more about this topic, I am very open to any conversations that you would like to have.
I am also aware that for some, this article may bring up difficult memories and experiences in your own life. If is the case, I am willing to help connect you with people who can help you get the resources that you need. There are people who can help.
If you click "Read More" you can read the article, or you can follow this link to read it on the Dove's Nest website:
There are some great things happening here at the First Church of the Brethren. I’ve talked about this in previous articles and I’ve said it everywhere from sermons to business meetings to casual conversations. I am seeing all kinds of wonderful things happening on every level of the life of this congregation.
I see people deepening their walk with Jesus and continuing to discover what it really means for them to follow Him. I see people working to help those in need in our community and around our world. I see people building relationships with our community and creating opportunities to work with others to create a better world around us. I see people caring for each other in times of crisis and providing strength and support to each other. I see people welcoming others who are new to our congregation with open arms. I see our congregation coming together to worship God on Sunday mornings. I see our congregation coming together to worship God and connect with each other all throughout the week in a variety of
locations. I see people asking deep questions about where God is leading us into the future and what kind of mission God calling us to. I see us celebrating the important
moments in people’s lives, from births to marriages to transitions from this life to the next.
There are so many good things going on here that it’s almost like we should tell someone about them! In fact, the time has come for you to tell someone about the good things that are happening here at our congregation.
See, there is a cycle that is built into the history of the church. It’s a cycle that is built into the definition of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. It’s a cycle that is often described by using four simple words: come and see, go and tell. All throughout the Bible and throughout Christian history the cycle is basically that people have some encounter with Jesus and then they go out and tell others what they have experienced. And as part of telling others what they have experienced they invite them, not just to believe what they’ve said, but also to come and see for themselves what they’ve experienced. Then when the new person has come and seen for themselves, then they go out and tell what they have experienced and invite others to come and see as well.
This cycle has kept the church going for thousands of years. It’s also a cycle that is not just the responsibility of one or two people in church; it’s part of the definition of what it means for all of us to be followers of Jesus. We are all required to tell others about the good things that we have experienced and what God has done in our lives. It takes every single one of us to share the Good News. And if you, like me, see the good things that are happening in our congregation then you have the permission, the opportunity, the responsibility, and the pleasure, to tell other people about the awesome things that are going on here and to invite them to come and see for themselves.
Now, I should say a couple of things about this as well. For starters, when I say that we need to tell other people about the good things that are happening here at our church, this is not really just an attempt to pad the numbers in the pews. It’s not even necessarily about “growing the church”. The core issue is that we want others to experience a piece of the grace of God and the wonderful things that we have experienced. For some people that might mean that they wind up in our church on Sunday mornings at 10:45am. For others that might happen at the coffee shop at 9pm on a Thurs-day. For others it might happen with our hands elbow deep in the garden. Our ultimate goal is not to simply get people to “come to our church”. The goal is to help others experience a piece of the goodness of God that we have experienced.
That said, I do think that when we invite others to experience what we have that our congregation will wind up more healthy and new people will probably show up. How-ever, that’s a side benefit to the primary task of helping experience what we have experienced
The other thing that I want to say is that we should not over think this. It’s easy to make things more complicated and intimidating that it needs to be. The best analogy that I’ve ever heard is that inviting people to come and experience what’s happening at our church is about like telling someone about a great movie that you just saw. Over Christmas break this year I saw a movie that I absolutely loved. Afterwards I told everyone that I knew that they should go see this movie…in IMAX. Now I know some of my friends don’t like science fiction movies, so I didn’t tell them. But anyone who I thought would like the movie I told them how much I liked the movie and I told them that they had to see it for themselves.
Telling people about the great things that God is doing in our congregation is the same thing. Sure there are some people who probably wouldn’t be into what we’re doing, but for our friends and neighbors who we think really would connect, we shouldn’t be shy about telling them the amazing things we’ve experienced. Or to put it another way: in the same way I told some of my friends, “Dude, you’ve got to go see this move; you’d love it!”, we all should be willing and eager to say, “Dude, you’ve got to check out what’s happening at this church, you’d love it!”
Each month for our newsletter Pastor Alan writes a short article on a variety of topics. At times he will also create a video version of the article.