Fifth and final article in the amazing series “Electing to Follow Jesus” by Randy Harris you will want to read and share

After hearing Randy Harris speak at the 2016 Pepperdine Lectures, I wanted to share the message of the lectures in print form, got his permission, transcribed, then re-worked the material into five articles, with deft editing help from Karissa Herchenroeder.

We published the five articles about the church and politics in a series called, “Electing to Follow Jesus,” and we ran these articles at Charis Magazine during the run up to the election and shortly after.

We kept the principle names of candidates out of these articles. Why? We want these articles to be more timeless and serve a generation as a primer for understanding our own baggage, how we can take a prophetic stand but still be wrong, and how some Christians have chosen to engage or not engage politics.

We believe the articles will have a long-term impact. Thank you to Karissa Herchenroeder and Charis, the Center for Heritage and Renewal in Spirituality (CHARIS) at Abilene Christian University (Abilene, TX, USA).

Here are the links to the articles on Charis Magazine.

Claiming Our Baggage

The Gospel of Jesus vs. The Gospel of Peter

How to Be a Loser

Strangers in a Strange Land

Prophets of Justice and Mercy

This series represents a collaboration between Randy Harris and Greg Taylor, co-authors of Daring Faith: Meeting Jesus in the Book of John.

Randy Harris is spiritual director for the Siburt Institute for Church Ministry and College of Biblical Studies. He also teaches theology, ethics, preaching, and biblical text courses in the Department of Bible, Missions and Ministry at Abilene Christian University. Randy speaks at numerous conferences and churches throughout the year and has authored and co-authored several books, including the newest, Daring Faith: Meeting Jesus in the Book of John.

Greg Taylor is preaching minister for The Journey: A New Generation Church of Christ in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Greg is author of several books including “Lay Down Your Guns: One Doctor’s Battle for Hope and Healing in Honduras” and “High Places: A Novel,” and has co-authored several books.

Howard and Sam Dig For Gold in Tennessee

Howard Claude in 2004

Ron and Gidget lived in a trailer park on Nolensville Road in Nashville, Tennessee called Claude Country Village. It was the owner and namesake of Claude Country who introduced me to the Marcinkos. But before I tell you more about Gidget and Ron, I want to set the scene and show you this village where they lived and give you some background that only the owner of the trailer park could give. This is a story about many people but this particular chapter is about two men from Arkansas seeking their fortunes in Tennessee. One was a born-salesman named Howard Claude and the other was founder of a rising star in retailing; a man named Sam Walton.

When I lived in Nashville, Tennessee, I commuted past a large trailer park that most people barely noticed. Virtually invisible to bypassers, the residents lived in mobile homes tucked back in a holler with a bluff behind that overlooked about forty acres of land. I asked many people who drove along Nolensville Road daily, “Have you ever noticed a trailer park near the corner of Old Hickory and Nolensville Road?” They would invariably say, “There’s a trailer park there?”

There was a rumor a big box retailer wanted to buy the land the trailer park sat on, and I wanted to know what would happen to the nearly one hundred residents if they had to move to make way for a new development.

I finally noticed the park in 2004 because I read the Tennessean daily, and the business section was reporting that Walmart was looking for a new location to build a Supercenter. Land in Nashville over the past few decades had become like gold but the terrain is very rocky and hilly and often very difficult and expensive to develop.

Over months of considering different large tracts of land, the news came out that Walmart developers were considering purchase of a mobile home park on Nolensville Road. City Council Member Parker Toler had already made some enemies with his aggressive push for development of a Target and shopping center on a wooded knob near I-65 on Old Hickory. Now he was quoted calling the little trailer park on Nolensville Road a blight, a clear set up for removal and development of this land for a large retailer.

In addition to Claude Country, a bar called Eddie’s Southside Bowery, and a Phase One Used Auto Sales flanked the entrance and were included in the assessment by Toler, that this area was drug and violence infested and needed to be removed and businesses developed and tax base improved.

One day driving by the park I decided to pull in and talk to the owner and find out if the park was indeed for sale. [following the new model of, where readers pay 99 cents to finish a good story, you can tape four quarters to a postcard and mail to me if you want, or just click below and read free].

Continue reading

Outsider Interviews

From Publishers Weekly: Inspired by and supported with a foreword by David Kinnaman, author of the bestselling unChristian, this tandem book/DVD puts faces on Kinnaman’s findings on Christianity’s image problem. In four cities, the authors interviewed Christians but also agnostics, atheists, Muslims, gays, and other groups Christians are believed to reject. At the heart of the problem, they’ve discovered, is a Christian “swagger” that repels would-be Christians. They advocate the persuasive power of listening and truly liking people, choosing to use the word “like” rather than the overused “love.” In their words: “Jesus is the God who likes people.” Each chapter includes tie-ins to the DVD interviews and a reader’s guide for discussion. The book’s narrative, which recreates the road trip the authors took to do their interviews, seems self-indulgent and boring. But the combined impact of the book and DVD is stunning: the authors have heard and noted important ways Christians can improve their outreach by being more like Jesus, who meets people where they are. (July)

Debating what moral issues are . . .

This debate is important . . .

Jim Wallis: Dr. Dobson, Let’s Have a Real Debate

Last week, James Dobson and a number of other Religious Right leaders wrote a letter to the National Association of Evangelicals, claiming that work on climate change was a distraction from “the great moral issues of our time.” I responded on our God’s Politics blog on Friday, with the piece Dobson and Friends, Outside the Mainstream. So far this week, we’ve had several other good responses from Brian McLaren, Bill McKibben, and Lyndsay Moseley. And, I’ve invited James Dobson to a debate on the question, “What are the great moral issues of our time for evangelical Christians?”

James Dobson’s letter attacking Rich Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals has caused a firestorm, and maybe the beginning of a really good dialogue. Brian McLaren’s post yesterday pointed out that the letter from Dobson and friends actually acknowledged that there is a real debate among evangelicals about the seriousness of climate change and the reasons for it. So instead of calling for Cizik’s resignation for saying global warming should be a moral issue for evangelical Christians, why don’t Dobson and his friends accept a real debate on whether climate change is, indeed, one of the great moral issues of our time? A major evangelical Christian university should host just such a debate.

But I want to focus on the following very clear statement from Dobson’s letter:

“More importantly, we have observed that Cizik and others are using the global warming controversy to shift the emphasis away from the great moral issues of our time, notably the sanctity of human life, the integrity of marriage and the teaching of sexual abstinence and morality to our children.”

That is indeed the key criticism, and the foundation for the real debate. Is the fact that 30,000 children will die globally today, and everyday, from needless hunger and disease a great moral issue for evangelical Christians? How about the reality of 3 billion of God’s children living on less than $2 per day? And isn’t the still-widespread and needless poverty in our own country, the richest nation in the world, a moral scandal? What about pandemics like HIV/AIDS that wipe out whole generations and countries, or the sex trafficking of massive numbers of women and children? Should genocide in Darfur be a moral issue for Christians? And what about disastrous wars like Iraq? And then there is, of course, the issue that got Dobson and his allies so agitated. If the scientific consensus is right – climate change is real, is caused substantially by human activity, and could result in hundreds of thousands of deaths – then isn’t that also a great moral issue? Could global warming actually be alarming evidence of human tinkering with God’s creation?

Short-term missions

Adam Langford joined a long-term mission in Jinja, Uganda, in part, because of short-term experiences in Honduras and Uganda.

My friend, Johnna Raymond, said, “We challenged our interns to give it over to God, all of it. Adam did.” Adam Langford and Moses Kimezi died January 16 as they worked to take good news to the poor and proclaim the joy of Christ. Both Moses and Adam were like that: the spirit of Christ oozed from their pores and their quick laughing smiles.

Literally millions of people in the United States and worldwide are preparing right now for short-term trips, particularly on spring and summer breaks.

Missionary hero of mine, Sam Shewmaker, asks, “Who are the 50 who will ‘replace’ Adam Langford in the mission field?” And who are the 50 who will ‘replace’ Moses? Indeed, we can’t replace Adam or Moses, but they have inspired us, called us once again to missional lives, to suffer with those who suffer, to take fresh water, healing balm, words of comfort, listening ears and learning hearts and serving hands.

Will you hear God’s call through this tragedy? Jason and Jody King already have. They had already made a short-term trip to Jinja and have been planning to go back for two years to Jinja and work with the team that Adam and Moses served with. Jason and Jody still need support. Will you hear God’s call to help support them? Will you either support short-term missionaries or long-term if you can’t go yourself? Or will you go?

Please, please do not go into a short-term trip light-heartedly or with the flippant spirit of “tourism for Jesus.” You need more than a passport and shots. You need the humble spirit of one who is willing to die for others, willing to be a transformed traveler, an incarnational presence of Christ as you discover the amazing diversity and learn deep truths yourself from Christians and God-fearers worldwide.

Here are some resources for you as you prepare. May God bless you, and please write me to find out more about short-term trips that make long-term missionaries. If you have any questions about how to support short-termers, train them, or go yourself, feel free to write.

The Kibo Group
Partners with creative people in both short- and long-term mission capacities to develop solutions for sustainable and community development in East Africa.

International Mission Internships (IMI)
Places university students with experienced missionaries for six-week-long internships that include a two-night bonding experience with locals.

Harding University at Tahkodah (HUT)
The HUT training village offers economic and cultural learning games to show what real life is like in a developing nation.

Mission Alive
Experientially trains mission teams and Christian leaders as evangelists and church planters.

Youth Works
Provides weeklong youth mission trips throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico

Youth With A Mission (YWAM)
Sends out twenty-five thousand short-term missionaries each year. Participants make God known through evangelism, mercy ministries, and discipleship training.

Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI)
Seeks to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness and to make decent shelter a matter of conscience and action. HFHI invites people of all backgrounds, races, and religions to partner with families in need through house-building projects.

Short-Term Evangelical Missions (STEM)
Offers training events, consulting, and publications to help churches and sending groups achieve maximum impact in their short-term mission programs.

Mission Year
Sends young people for one year to work in a poor urban neighborhood. In that time participants partner with a local church, volunteer at a social service agency, and develop relationships within the community.

Beyond Borders
Organizes reflective journeys and long-term apprenticeships that create opportunities for dialogue between the visitors and their Haitian hosts.

Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization (ECHO)
Helps those working internationally with the poor be more effective, particularly in the areas of agricultural advancements and developing technology.

Casas por Cristo
A nondenominational ministry addressing the needs of the poor in Mexico through partnerships with churches in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico (Casas por Cristo is Spanish for “Houses because of Christ”).

Source: How to get ready for short-term missions (Thomas Nelson, 2006).

Want a LIVE Christmas tree this year?

My mission teammates Mark Moore and Clint Davis, with the help of Kibo Group supporters, continue to come up with creative ideas and funding for development in East Africa. Clint is just back from a trip to Rwanda where he joined other board members of the Imbabazi Orphanage to set direction after Roz Carr’s death. Being involved and supporting the orphanage is one way Kibo impacts East African development, and another way is through a creative and earth-renewing tree planting project. Click the picture below to find out more.