Church Experience #41 – October 30, 2011
Living Stones Ministry – Chattanooga, TN
Don’t Read This
Race is an interesting topic in society today. It can be controversial, a cause of hate and anger, a story of love and acceptance, or a complete non-issue. You can look at different races and point out scores of differences and then just as easily come up with an equal number of similarities. Within the realm of Christianity we are called to a higher standard than society in general when it comes to our view on race. Our calling is one of unconditional love, just as our savior, Jesus Christ, provided us with the ultimate example. My point of view is that race does not exist, but culture does. No matter what pigmentation a person’s skin contains, they will more than likely be a reflection of the culture they have been exposed to for the majority of their formative years. Of course there are innumerable factors at play here, and probably just as many exceptions as there are inclusions, but for the basis of this article I want to be very clear about how and why I formulate my thoughts and hopefully avoid any offense. For me, race is not a sensitive topic and I fully believe God has given me the ability to see people as people regardless of their race. I do see differences in cultures and I will be commenting in this article about my experiences and observations of these differences. My comments are not meant to be stereotypical or come from any type of bias or discrimination. They are simply my experiences and observations. Sorry for the long “disclaimer”, but this week’s church visit brought out some pretty powerful feelings and emotions in me that a lot of other people probably will not agree with. My wife did not agree with some of my sentiments and became frustrated with me when we were discussing them. Hopefully I do not frustrate even more people, but instead, my hope is that anyone who reads this will consider why I felt these things from my point of view without interjecting your own point of view into my situation. In fact, if you would like to get some real honest insight into how you really feel, I would recommend putting yourself in the same situation and make your own observations from your own experiences. In the end, that is really the purpose of my blog anyway. It is not for Chattanoogans to live vicariously through my experiences…this blog is an encouragement for you to get out there and have some experiences of your own. I am just pointing out the obvious…that interesting things are happening all around us in church every week, you just have to be present and open to experience them! OK, sorry about the rant (not really…but I kind of am…but no, not really). So if you are still reading, here is how my church visit went this week… Read more...
Church Experience #28 – July 17, 2011
Church of the First Born – Chattanooga, TN
To Gain a Better Perspective
At the beginning of the summer, I visited Union Chapel (also known as “The Little Brown Church“) and was exposed to an inner city pastor named Alfred “No Middle Name” Johnson for the first time. The article I wrote about that church experience dealt in part with observing the contrast of a black inner city pastor preaching at a white Signal Mountain church. For the purposes of ChurchSurfer this provided great content because, in my mind, talking about how the love of Christ allows His people to rise above things that do not make sense to the world (all they see is the paradox of an inner city black man teaching wealthy white people), is a great way to glorify our Lord. I felt like that article, although limited to just one speaker in a church that hosts a different speaker every week, did a good job capturing the essence of what the Little Brown Church is all about. What the article did not do, however, was capture a clear picture of what Alfred Johnson was all about. I was greatly impressed and intrigued with his sermon at the Little Brown Church in the way that it basically called to attention the current generation of youth that we, as Christians, are failing to reach in so many ways. A sharp sermon delivered by a fiery preacher definitely gives insight into the man and his ministry, but it does not give a complete picture of either. In order to get a more complete picture I knew I would actually have to see him in his ministry. I needed to visit Church of the First Born, where Alfred Johnson serves as Pastor and see him in action in his own environment. I always look forward to visiting churches where I am an ethnic minority anyway, because I feel like if I really want to gain a deeper understanding of other cultures and grow in my ability to truly love and connect to all people, I need to be exposed to people who are different than me. If you really want to discover your own capacity for love, you cannot build walls and limit your contact to what you know…you have to explore the unknown. So here is how my experience at Church of the First Born went… Read more...
Church Experience #11 – March 13, 2011
New Philadelphia Missionary Baptist Church, Chattanooga, TN
One of my sincere desires out of the ChurchSurfer journey this year is to find and experience what would be considered “fringe” churches that don’t fit into the norm of my middle class, suburban-dwelling, American bubble. It’s not that I don’t expect to have powerful experiences or get interesting content for my blog articles from the “inside the bubble” churches, but I know that in order for me to grow, to gain understanding, to increase in wisdom, compassion, and love, I will need to venture outside the bubble. I’ve probably already done this more than most during my life…I spent a year driving around the country with my friend Michael Cruze, living out of tents and a car, mingling with the homeless, and trying to reach out to anyone God put in our path. I just haven’t experienced these different environments inside the local church. I actually believe my experience as a nomad has equipped me with the ability to go into various “outside the bubble” churches and instantly relate to people in their environment (they probably struggle more to relate with me because I’m out of their norm). So it’s a natural fit for me to explore all these various church environments and allow others to experience them with me through my writing. You’ve probably guessed by now why I’m leading in to this week’s church experience with this intro…this is one of those “outside the bubble” church visits.
Beauty Is in the Eye of the Beholder Read more...