I watched the video. I shouldn’t have.
But I did.
And it broke me.
A young man, the same age as many of my students, shot in the street because neighbors thought he might be a person who matched a vague description of a reported thief.
He wasn’t armed. Nor was he carrying anything. He wasn’t even running at a pace to get away from anyone. He was simply jogging.
As he approached the truck parked in the middle of the street, he simply went around the truck and they shot at him. The altercation that followed could have been any man fighting for his very life. But there, on the video, Ahmaud Arbery is shot at point-blank range, and crumbles to the ground.
No take-backs. No post-movie resurrection stories. Just the reality of a life ended. The reality of the utter disregard of a man’s life.
It’s hard not to read this event in light of the last few weeks. We saw viral videos of High Schoolers joke, laugh, and make denigrating claims about our black brothers and sisters. We saw images of a man in a KKK hood shopping in the grocery store. We watched armed men overrun the capital building in Michigan to forcefully express their demands to re-open the economy while carrying nooses, swastikas, and rebel flags. And on a street in Brunswick, GA – even before the quarantine happened - a young man was shot while jogging.
All of these events carry unbelievable signals to minority communities. Are they men and women created in the image of God? Do their lives truly matter? Does justice matter? Does rule of law and common respect for fellow humans matter?
The entire scriptures uphold a fundamental truth – humanity is formed in the image of God. That very nature as image bearers brings us to a place where life is valued from conception to grave. There is no person who is “less than” or “unworthy.” The entire moral code of Scripture is built from the standpoint of honoring God and therefore, honoring one another who are made in the image of God. We do not lie, we don’t take things that belong to others, and we do not kill.
We don’t have to be reminded we live in a fallen and broken world. We work for justice, however imperfect this side of eternity. We work to uphold the law, however much it is a shadow of true ideals. We uplift the downtrodden, the weak and the poor because the Scriptures show us how Jesus did the same. And we do all this while we still understand that the ultimate answer for the brokenness of this world is found is the healing balm of the Gospel.
So we wait, clutch our sons and daughters closer to us and with broken hearts pray, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus.”
During the July 4th weekend, a group of academics and thought leaders in the US gathered in the city of Chicago for a strategic conference. The aims were clearly stated in the title - Socialism 2019: No Borders, No Bosses, No Binaries.
Over at the National Interest, editor Jarrett Stepman recounts his attendance at the conference where he noted some things about the new socialism movement. This is, of course, of interest to anyone watching our current political moment as we hear voices pull toward "democratic socialism" or "anit-totalitarian" socialism which are supposedly different than socialist movements of the past, but attendees at the conference did little to hide their affection for Marx or other socialists of the past according Stepman.
For Christians (and even conservatives) who have long argued that the basic unit of a society is the family, Stepman pointed out the ongoing attack on the traditional family. "Traditional family structures propped up oppression and the modern transgender movement plays a critical part in achieving true 'reproductive justice,'" stated a panelist at the "Social Reproduction Theory and Gender Liberation" session. The traditional family is what maintains capitalism and must be destroyed. Thus, panelist Corrie Westing advocated for "connecting the issues of gender justice as integral to economic and social justice." Only then can a non-binary personhood be established which will free humanity from the enslavement of the family.
Stepman went on to recount the strategic partnerships of the conference with media that has influence on young adults including a panel hosted by Teen Vogue. The News and Politics editor, Lucy Diavolo boasted, "I encourage you to read Teen Vogue's coverage of social justice issues, capitalism, revolutionary theory, and Karl Marx, or you can check out the right-wing op-eds that accuse me of 'clickbait communism' and teaching your daughters Marxism and revolution." When the crowd responded enthusiastically, Davolo boasted, "the barbarians are beyond the gates. We are in the tower."
In the tower, indeed.
Baptists have long understood that ideas matter. This is why Baptists have long argued for freedom of religion in the social arena in order to give all people the right to express their ideas while at the same time, giving Baptists the right to express their thoughts as well. It is also why Baptists in America sacrificed and invested in creating educational systems - both at the collegiate and graduate level.
Along with Stepman, I would be willing to bet that many of the ideas of the Communism 2019 conference would receive quick rejection by the average American as rather far from what we believe. We are well aware that the basic ideas of the Communism 2019 conference have long haunted the halls of academic idealism. The true realities of communism in history are painful scars of political brutality and economic ruin. But give those ideas, now made popular, another generation to marinate in Universities, High Schools, and grade schools, and see if we don't have further problems down the road.
This is why our Baptist Universities must continue to be on the forefront of teaching clear economics, philosophy, history, and an honest understanding of the right ways to exercise compassion and justice within a biblical framework. This foundation in the liberal arts is why our universities continue to turn out students who think well, but are unafraid to engage the challenging dialogue of today's culture. At the seminary where these students enter my graduate classroom, I'm always thankful for the college professors who understand that ideas matter while at the same time advancing life answers that are Biblical, well reasoned, compassionate, and just.
Ideas matter. Ideas have consequences. Let's continue to advocate for what is right.
For Jarrett Stepman's article, click HERE.
For Socialism 2019, click HERE.
For resources to educate yourself or your student about alternate ways of thinking about compassion, justice and economic structures, visit the resource-rich Acton Institute.
“What’s this item in the budget marked, ‘Cooperative Program?’”
As the new interim at a church, I was working through budget details with the finance team. James, a long standing member of the church, but new member of the committee, had questions:
“Do we ever pay off this bill?”
“What does it go toward?”
“We could really use that money to help hire a better pastor!”
James considered himself a long-time Southern Baptist. He was proud of the stands the SBC took for the inerrancy of Scripture, for addressing social issues like abortion, and the effective work of Disaster Relief ministries. But James didn’t know how all of that came together. How churches of all shapes and sizes cooperate together for the sake of the work of the Gospel.
Perhaps it wasn’t James’s fault. Like many pastors, James’ former pastor talked a lot about missions in general, but he never connected the congregation to their participation in the greatest missions-sending structure on the globe. Where was James supposed to learn about the IMB, NAMB, six seminaries, the work of our state conventions, or the work of the ERLC? In the absence of pastoral leadership and communication, our shared work for the advancement of the Gospel falls into a black hole of “missions” dollars with no clarity on the specifics of how those resources combine to allow us to do even more!
In a recent book I authored with my colleague Robert Matz, we wanted to give churches a tool to help their people understand why we are Better Together – that our churches cooperating together for the sake of the Gospel accomplishes so much more!...
See the rest of the article over at Small Church Shepherds...
or get a copy of the book here.
This fall, I had the opportunity to preach in chapel and share a message I had worked on from James 3 about the Power of the Tongue...
Click the image below to view...
My phone rang with an unknown number.
On the other end of the call, Dr. Jason Allen, the new president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, spent some time talking about the vision he had about gathering a team for a high-risk revitalization project in Kansas City.
“We have 5 years to show the SBC why we need a seminary in this region!” he explained. “And I want it to center on the reason a seminary exists – to be for the church. Will you join us in the work?”
As a full time pastor who left teaching at a sister seminary because I wanted to embrace this very ideal, my heart soared. Our seminaries and Southern Baptist entities are at their best when we see them connect to the heartbeat and baseline of our cooperative work, the local church.
But therein was the tension. I loved the local church I pastored. God gave my family such an amazing congregation to be a part of. I enjoyed preaching the Word and shepherding the people. I delighted in regular baptisms. I cherished new ethnic church plants and ministry to refugees. How could we possibly leave?
Over the course of several months God began to set in motion things that only in retrospect make sense. In our prayer and Bible reading, my wife and I began to sense God was making a change in our ministry assignment. When we finally agreed, we did so knowing we were fully trusting the Lord.
And we are ecstatic about what God has done as we trusted him. Only once in a lifetime do some have the opportunity to be a part of something that can only be explained through the direct work of the Holy Spirit. There have been days of struggle for sure, but what an amazing place to serve where God is at work.
November 1, 2018 marked our 5 year anniversary at Midwestern. Time really does fly past. Our kids have grown, our ministry has expanded, and God continues to provide in ways we could only have imagined.
Reflecting on this, I thought about 7 key things that we have experienced at Midwestern that shape how I think about academic leadership.
Jarvis J. Williams and Kevin M. Jones, Removing the Stain of Racism From the Southern Baptist Convention.
A much needed volume to speak to the pervasive issue of race in our broader culture and the SBC particularly. The chapters connect pastors and church leaders to the Gospel mandates that fundamentally re-order our thinking when it comes to the challenges of race. The historical overview of the SBC’s willingness to formally address the problem of racism is worth the cost of the book alone.
It’s an annual event our house - the celebration of the day our children became part of our family forever. “Gotcha Day” or “Adoption Day” features ice cream, pictures, favorite meals, and a recounting of their unique adoption story.
Like most families, we share these moments online. But this year, our celebration angered individuals in the recently emboldened alt-right movement. The alt-right or “white nationalists” as some call them, are a grouping of far-right individuals that truly believe the best solutions for our country comes from separating races. Some have blamed the rise of the alt-right on the current political climate, others on the rapid expansion of politically-correct cultural change. Whatever the rationale, the trolls from the alt-right assured my racially mixed family that I was a disgrace to whites everywhere and that I was most assuredly “going to hell” for violating God’s racial laws. Even worse, according to these individuals, I was "cucked."
Perhaps you aren’t familiar with this term, but it tends to be a favorite of the alt-right to refer to Christians who take a stand for racial equality. Historically the term “cuck,” or “cucked,” implied a lack of masculinity and virility – particularly to a husband of an adulterous wife or to men who unwittingly invest parental effort in raising children not connected to them genetically. Creating familial relationships through adoption that bridge the racial divide are case-in-point. Even integrating churches or ministries that work with refugees are seen as cowering to the Political Culture and therefore, weak. Churches taking Biblical stands on these issues become demonstrative of “Cuckservative Christianity,” “Cuckianity,” or “Cucked Christianity.”
For the alt-right, white nationalist, race is tied to cultural expression so that certain races inherently possess cultural markers. For those cultures to then flourish and reach their natural ends, the races should be separated and become their own nations. For many, the white, European race needs to reclaim its uniqueness and primacy and therefore protect its cultural heritage. It’s the grand reversal of the identity politics of the left.
This isn’t a new idea launched during a 2016 political campaign. Incredibly prescient, Carol M. Swain identified this Nationalist impulse present in American culture over 15 years ago. Her book, The New White Nationalism in America: Its Challenge to Integration deserves a close read by anyone seeking answers to the longer history of this movement. Swain, quotes Dan Gayman, leader of the Church of Israel, a Christian Identity/white nationalist movement located in Missouri, “Most white Americans believe in their hearts in the doctrine of racial separatism even if they are too intimidated by its current disfavor in the media and elsewhere to openly acknowledge their beliefs.”
In a post-2016 election cycle that empowered many of radicalized groups on both sides of the aisle, the cultural filter Gayman referenced has lifted. It’s gone. The attacks have gone mainstream.
Swain argued that a variety of economic as well as cultural currents could ultimately lead to the challenges we are facing today. Her suggestion? The solution has to come from the church.
Because the Gospel doesn’t change. Because the need for all of humanity to be reconciled to God doesn’t change. Because once we trust Christ, our identity changes fundamentally as part of the family of God – we are all adopted sons and daughters and share in the inheritance of the Gospel!
But this concept is often missed by many in America. The Gospel decimates our broken and sinful concepts of race! Jesus' victory on the cross ended the hostility between Jew/Greek, male/female, black/white/Hispanic/Asian. It doesn’t erase our ethnic heritage or unique attributes – this is not an “I don’t see race” proclamation. Instead, it is a new vision that despite these differences, we are placed into a new family where we become one because of Christ. Ephesians 2:14 is especially poignant: “For He (Christ) himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” We are one in Christ. Period.
But every Sunday, we bring our wretched, broken souls into the gathering place of our churches carrying discrimination against each other or those outside of our doors. How should pastors respond to this reality?
Christians must hold to the higher standard that all believers are one, new race in Christ. This is our identity that supersedes all other markers. When it comes to a question of the alt-right, they are wrong. Attitudes of racial superiority or even discrimination are morally wrong according to what we are told in Scripture. Pastors and churches must guard against this cultural moment and continue to point people to the cross where we are made new.
 Dan Gayman as cited in Carol Swain, The New White Nationalism in America (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 57.
 Swain, 381.
Navigating the waters of the tech world requires help from godly resources. At Midwestern, we have an incredible tech team led by David Meyer. I thought I would pick his brain a bit about parenting, technology and resources we can all use for our families.
David, I’d like to start with a brief bio – tell us a little about yourself and your family…
I have been married to my awesome wife for 12 years and we have 3 wonderful children, Emily 16, Kaylee 10, and Evan 8. We belong to Lenexa Baptist Church and have been attending regularly for about 8 years. I have been in the technology field for over 25 years. I have worked in all aspects of the IT field, from the help desk to IT Director. My current role is Director of IT for Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. I am going on my 3rd year with MBTS.
You work in a world of technology at an institution that is passionately “For the Church.” How do you connect your tech role with ministry?
I feel as though God has me in this role to help those who are struggling and frustrated due to technology related issues. I see this as an opportunity to show God’s love and to witness to those around me. When someone comes to IT, people generally are not contacting me for something positive, but rather when they have a problem that needs to be solved. I always believe there are two ways to look at it, positive or negative, and I choose to take a positive approach to problem solving so the client has the best experience possible. I see this as an opportunity to serve. 1Cor 10:31 - "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
Help us out - How best should pastors apply technology in their congregations and personal lives?
Never before has technology been in a state of accelerated growth and advancement. This is both troubling and uplifting at the same time. Troubling in the context of material and ease of which to obtain it, uplifting on how many can be reached and by the ease and means of doing so. Pastors should embrace technology as a tool and means to convey the good news to others. I also feel that pastors should be aware of the need for tools to protect themselves from the troubling side of technology, to use them, and to share them with their congregations. I believe individuals in the church, especially parents, are searching for reliable safety features to compliment the advancement of technology.
Should Christian parents be encouraging their kids to pursue careers in technology?
Yes, absolutely! Christian parents should encourage the technology fields as a means of a potential career. Every component in our society will be touched by technology to some degree. Going forward, this is only going to increase and we need good, strong Christian young people driving that force to reach as many as possible for God’s glory. The stronger our force, the greater the development of tools and available communication will be, as well the ability to spread the Gospel.
What are the biggest dangers in the tech world today?
As mentioned previously, access is truly the number one danger in our world today. Never before have we been so challenged in protecting our core Christian values and beliefs. Pornography is literally everywhere and freely accessible with very little effort via technology. Predators can use the same tools to manipulate and trick our kids by hiding behind masked identities and or expose them to inappropriate material. We truly live in a very dangerous time in terms of technology but at the same time never before with such an opportunity to utilize it in a positive and meaningful way as well.
What safeguards should pastors and thought leaders be placing in their lives to avoid these dangers?
Personally, I have chosen to use layers of safeguards in the use of technology for myself and my family. I would suggest pastors and others to do the same.
On a more personal level, what do you do to help your family live with the ubiquity of tech in the 21st century?
It’s all part of the layers I mentioned before.
If you could caution all parents about one thing in technology, what would it be?
The one thing in technology that I would caution parents about is secrecy, especially with the “deep web” which is something many parents know very little, if anything, about. The “deep web” consists of hidden world from public search engines. Without going into technical details, Child pornography, arms trafficking, drugs, hired assassins, prostitutes, terrorism, etc., all make the Deep Web the largest black market ever to exist. There are applications that have a special keystroke and/or function to activate it known only by the user that installed it. Our kids are very tech savvy today and it is a constant “cat and mouse game” for us to stay ahead of the curve. We have to talk to our kids and make them aware of the dangers that are out there and what to look for so they don’t stumble across something they shouldn’t, or be tempted to hide things from us – if something has to be hidden, it is probably not a good thing. It is also important that we talk to them about what to do in case they do encounter something questionable. Just like drugs, there is a very real threat with technology and peer pressure is ever present. The safeguards I mentioned above are the key and the best chance of ensuring our family’s safety.
How can churches come alongside families to help them deal with the technology concerns of our day?
I believe that the church can come alongside families by inviting experts in these areas of technology to teach classes specific on the threats our kids face, what to look for, and how to prevent problems. Parents and church leaders cannot sit this one out. We must be vigilant in keeping up with this ever changing technology; we can be assured that our children are. I believe it would be prudent for the leaders of churches to review the different tools available and combine efforts with the companies to purchase and provide those at an affordable and realistic price to families. If offered in this way there may be a nonprofit pricing tier that could provide substantial savings. It would be a win/win for the company and for families if procured.
Thanks, David, for your service to our school, for your encouragement to me as a dad and your investment in us today!
If you want more information from David, follow him on Facebook or LinkedIn
If you could take unwanted web material and filter it in your home, would you? What if it were really easy to do so?
I’ve talked with countless parents frustrated about how hard it is to help shield their kids from unwanted material on the web. You can pursue DNS blockers or router solutions, but often there is a certain level of technical know-how that is assumed before you can implement these safeguars. Additionally, they can be “fiddly,” as one parent put it.
Circle Media began with the hope of making tools available for families to easily manage their home’s web content and have more extensive conversations with children growing up in a digital universe. An initial Kickstarter campaign by Circle Media never quite got off the ground, but Disney saw an opportunity and got behind a re-vamped product.
Circle is a small cube that plugs into your existing router hardware. You set up the rest from your phone. In a very simple to navigate app, each device that accesses the web in your home is relegated to a specific user and then each user is assigned a category: Pre-K, Kid, Teen, Adult and “none”. Every time a new device accesses your network, you are asked to assign that device to a person or to a filter level. This helps even as your kids mature and their peers bring iPhones or other devices to your home.
When a user surfs over to content that is deemed inappropriate, they are met with a screen that says “You’ve been filtered” and offers alternative, age-appropriate (and often Disney sourced) material. Each filter level even allows for platform-specific filtering like Facebook, YouTube or Snapchat can be completely filtered out. Additionally, you can allow sites, but have Circle filter out ads, require Google Safe Search and YouTube Restricted – all welcome additions for families who care what their kids see and experience online.
Parents are also given tools that restrict access to wifi during specific times or after a certain time limit has been reached. If your kids attempt to access the web at night alone in their rooms (never a good idea), the web is completely disconnected until the next morning at a specific time. Additionally, Parents can manually “pause” the internet on any device in the system which is perfect for those families who like to have their children “earn” time on electronics only after chores are completed.
This is an incredibly helpful device that simplified so much of what we needed to manage in our home. Even with 6 people who are accessing the router at a single time, we have never experienced a major slow down in web speed either (thank you, Google Fiber).
With so many positives, there are a few difficulties, though.
Overall, Circle has become an integral part of how we aid our family to think wisely about how each person accesses information. If you are a concerned parent or even an adult who struggles with pornography, Circle can be a quick and easy solution that helps manage the wifi content in your home.
We strongly recommend it.
Does it ever feel as if your fight against the hoards of unwanted internet content is a losing battle? Not only does the constant barrage of near pornographic images in advertisements and media continually wear on me personally, but I have concerns about my teens and pre-teens who are learning to swim in this same culture.
A few years back I wrote on the encroaching of porn in social media venues. I discovered how hashtag searching within ubiquitous sites like Instagram, Facebook or Twitter could enable your children to access a plethora of images, videos and links to the very dark world of pornography. While these sites are doing an increasingly better job of filtering the content, the sheer volume of posts still means that new issues arise by the minute.
Adding to the challenge for us are the massive number of apps that appear on the scene regularly. Take Snapchat whose meteoric rise in the under 20 demographic has much to do with two factors: the images/videos disappear after a certain time and their parents don’t use the app. And it seems there’s a new app every day.
What’s a family to do?
We could propose a moratorium on technology and retreat into some form of supposed Luddite utopia. Ultimately, that’s not the best response as many jobs or even beneficial things require that same connectivity.
Our family has chosen to tackle this problem with accountability. We know full well that we aren’t perfect, nor are there perfect solutions to this issue. However, we have found some tools that help us navigate the issues we face.
Unfortunately, not all of these safeguards will keep your children (or yourself) safe. Last week as I read news on a variety of sites, it seemed as if most of the advertisements belonged in a specific issue of Sports Illustrated. As I was looking at a vehicle listing on Craigslist, I clicked on an additional link about the buyer that sent you into his “personals” ad. I wanted to throw up. I had no idea that people would publically try to negotiate sexual liaisons so graphically on Craigslist.
The battle is real. The casualties in the battle are real.
As parents and families, it’s smart for us to work together for the good of each other – even if the culture doesn’t understand.
Never give up the fight!
 http://expandedramblings.com/index.php/snapchat-statistics/ And, while parents may not use the site frequently, those photos don’t actually disappear. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/10/snapchat-photos-dont-delete-saved-on-phone_n_3248567.html
John Mark Yeats