Thursday, July 27, 2017

troll theology | our bigot in chief | keep your eyes on the pearl

So let's be really clear. The president of the United States of America is trolling the American public, distracting us (quite successfully) by blowing a very loud dog whistle.

His goal: displace headlines on the collapse of the ACA repeal and collusion with Russia.

His dog whistles: transphobia, the culture war, anti-government propaganda, and religion.

If it were pure politics, I might not enter the fray. But this kind of politics gets up into my space, the space of religious faith. It also uses messaging about a community I love (the queer community) as a tool.

When you use bigoted language for your own power purposes, you are yourself a bigot. Pure and simple.

What we now know is that the tweets Trump threw up the equivalent of pyrotechnic chaff. They're either a profound misunderstanding, or an actual lie. But they're posted as a tool of distraction.

Trump wrote in a series of three tweets,
"After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail."
This precipitated a statement from chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff,
"There will be no modifications to the current policy [on service of transgender people in our military] until the President's direction has been received by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary has issued implementation guidance. In the meantime, we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect. As importantly, given the current fight and the challenges we face, we will all remain focused on accomplishing our assigned missions."
See how this works? The military has no current plans to make any changes to policies around transgender personnel, but the president posted three long tweets about it, and all hell broke loose.

Which then makes you wonder... after a dog whistle on transgender, what's the next topic.

Of course, the answer is religion.

Just as many of our largest Christian organizations in the United States make sure they publicly express exclusion of the transgender community in order to maintain their base, so too Trump knows that after the culture war, the biggest focus of his base is "God" as they understand it.

In other words, Donald Trump has learned from the Christians their two main goals: worship God, and hate on queer people.

It has been good to see many religious organizations go public immediately after Trump's bigoted tweet, expressing support for the transgender community. It's essential. One of the best came from the UCC:

The United Church of Christ and the Open and Affirming Coalition stand today with our transgender members, neighbors, friends and family throughout this country.
This morning, President Trump imposed a total ban on service by transgender Americans in the United States Armed Forces. The action was announced less than 24 hours after the Texas Senate voted to bar transgender people from public bathrooms that conform to their gender identity.
Our transgender neighbors live in a climate of fear. Transgender women of color are dying on the streets of our cities, and 30 states fail to provide any legal protection for transgender citizens from discrimination in housing, employment or public services. The President has now banned transgender Americans from military service “in any capacity,” including more than 15,000 who are currently serving their country on active or reserve duty.
Discrimination in any form violates our values as followers of Jesus Christ and as Americans who believe in liberty and justice for all. Transgender citizens in uniform have proven time and again their dedication to this country. They deserve our support and respect.
In 2003, General Synod affirmed “the participation and ministry of transgender people” in the United Church of Christ and pledged support for “their civil and human rights.” Acting on this resolution, the UCC’s national officers and the Open and Affirming Coalition urge congregations and other settings of our church to stand publicly with our transgender members and neighbors in this urgent time, and whenever and wherever their dignity as human beings and their basic rights as citizens are threatened.
Together, we strongly affirm the work of United Church of Christ chaplains in the armed forces, who are faithfully serving our transgender neighbors in uniform. Their ministry is needed now more than ever.
The Rev. John C. Dorhauer
General Minister and President
United Church of Christ
The Rev. Mak Kneebone
Open and Affirming Coalition of the United Church of Christ
I wish my own denomination, the ELCA, had a public statement up already, but alas, they do not. A major ELCA affiliated ministry, Reconciling Works, does have something up, though, which is good.

They write, "ReconcilingWorks’ celebration of the 750th Reconciling in Christ (RIC) community comes in the midst of this morning’s announcement to discriminate against transgender people by banning them from serving in the military. As transphobia increases at the local, state, and federal level, your faith community’s voice is needed to speak a truth of love and inclusion. It is holy work for Lutheran communities to make a public commitment to see, name, and care for LGBTQIA+ people and their families."

When the leader of the free world trolls the American people, abusing the trans community in the process and flashing the "worship God" card to justify it, communities of faith find themselves in a difficult spot. They of course need to directly respond to the messaging itself, and express in very clear ways their continuing love and support of communities who contribute so much to our shared life and faith.

They also need to keep their eyes on the prize. Religion is here dredged up for a completely nefarious purpose: distraction from real and legitimate issues. While we talk about Trump's tweets, the Republicans are eviscerating health care coverage.

Providing quality health care for all people is a moral imperative. It's our responsibility. Christians of good faith need to be at the front lines of the conversation, not with libertarian agendas assuming each person for themselves, but rather with a kingdom ethic of shalom for all.

We are called in a moment like this, as much as we are being trolled, to love and protect and stand with those who experience collateral damage from the trolling, and then also keep your eyes on the prize, which is health care for all, and the maintenance of the integrity of our democratic system.

Religion (in my tradition anyway) isn't there as a tool for bigotry. It's not a rigid structure that enforces discrimination. It's there as a calling back to the ethics of Jesus, and the vision of the kingdom he articulated.

Matthew 13:44-46: "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in their joy they go and sell all that they have and buys that field. "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, they went and sold all that they had and bought it.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

What's a pastor to do? | APEST, Vocation, Alan Hirsch, 5Q

“In its simplest form, 5Q is the synergy of a holistic recombination of the apostolic, pro­phetic, evangelistic, shepherding, and teaching (APEST) capacities referred to in Ephesians 4.” (5Q: Reactivating the Original Intelligence and Capacity of the Body of Christ)
Vocation vs. APEST

I cut my teeth as a theologian among people for whom the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers was sacrosanct. Luther had famously observed that priests and monks had stolen the holiness of the many vocations of the people of God, requisitioning it all to themselves. In his bid to redistribute the holiness of the Christian vocations, he literally emptied holy orders of their holiness, and maintained that the daily vocations of the average Christian were themselves more holy than any vow or priestly act: changing diapers, cleaning shop, making chairs.

The great irony of this theological insight, one of the wondrous rediscoveries of the Reformation: it resulted in a reconsolidation of ecclesial power in the hands of the clergy. By and large, although many churches and denominations have spread authority more widely, and have at times even divested themselves of a professionalized clergy altogether (think the Quakers), by and large Christians of the Protestant variety still locate most of the ecclesial capacities for church leadership in the role of pastor itself.

What Ephesians 4 imagines as diverse giftings (apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, shepherding, and teaching), most churches imagine as located in one person--the pastor--or a group of leaders--the pastoral staff.

Of course, it's more complicated than this. Some of the laity identify these giftings in themselves and actualize them. Some clergy believe they do not have all five of the gifts, and focus on the ones they do have.

But nevertheless, the separation remains: there are clergy, and there are laity, and an altar rail divides them.

This is something Alan Hirsch laments. As one of our most gifted missional thinkers (missional: literally, considering mission in its ecclesial dimensions), Hirsch has expounded in considerable detail why a failure to celebrate the missional DNA latent in every Christian community results in an atrophying of the full capacity of the body of Christ.

How did the priesthood of all believers revert to a priesthood of priests?

I tend to think this is largely a sociological phenomenon. Organizations prefer to have leaders. Businesses have CEOs. Schools have principals. Cities have governors. Teams have coaches. The church has pastors.

So theologically, though we are committed to and believe that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are distributed throughout the entire body (think 1 Corinthians 12), in practice we still look to the head of any organization for "all the goods."

Furthermore, and this is where I part ways with Alan, even the APEST itself is still a set of giftings focused on church leadership. For example, he argues “ministry is the birthright of the entire Body of Christ—including all of God’s people—and not something limited to the roles of the so-called clergy” (109), but ministry is still "just" ministry, the aspects of people's lives related to furthering the work of the church and the message of the gospel.

But the average person, all those members of the body of Christ, the people of God, live lives that extend far beyond the beautiful proclamation of the gospel, receiving the gospel but not necessarily responsible directly for its perpetuation. So an APEST test, though intriguing, won't be of interest to wide cross-sections of the people of God whose primary vocation isn't even in the church to begin with.

I agree with Alan's focused disruption of a hyper-focusing of the ministerial gifts in just one person--the pastor. He writes in an appendix about the exiling of the APEs (the apostles, prophets, and evangelists). As someone whose primary giftings are in the apostolic, prophetic, and evangelistic, but who is anticipated to focus especially on the shepherding and teaching, I get it--it's simply too much to expect that the Holy Spirit would place on just me, or just one pastor, all five gifts. We can do much better in the church celebrating the breadth of these giftings, and we have movements seeking to do so (in the ELCA, a reclaiming of ministries of word & service in partnership with word & sacrament is one such example).

There's one other gap here, worth naming. A significant gift in the body of Christ focuses around "diaconal" ministry, and ministry of healing. I do not find this anywhere in Hirsch's APEST. As a result, APEST shifts us back (unintentionally, I think) into more antiquated and "gendered" ways of thinking about church leadership. I'd like to see him work on this issue more.

Is there just one key to Scripture and ecclesiology?

But the gifts Hirsch analyzes are not the key to the whole of Scripture, or the complete solution for a robust ecclesiology. To see if you agree with me, test this out. Read this list:

  • Apostle: Mobilizing people toward action and pioneering new missional frontiers
  • Prophet: Helping everyone hear and know truth, and creating a depth and integrity of culture
  • Evangelist: Encouraging and equipping people to share, and speaking/sharing the gospel
  • Shepherd: Loving others into fullness of life, and demonstrating the love of God to those who don’t know him
  • Teacher: Creating depth and maturity in the word of God, and creating access points to truth and for truth to be expressed to those that don’t know God”

Now, ask yourself, can every Christian in a faith community find themselves under one of those five categories? Should they? I'd answer no to both questions. My wider sense of Christian vocation includes many callings in daily life that are not directly related to any of these per se as primary callings.

Would most Christians benefit from a review of these categories, and a process for cultivating the gifts in their lives, and their communities of faith? Yes. Is this the key to everything? Well, I'm suspect of any proposal that purports to be the key to everything.

Nevertheless, I express deep thankfulness for Hirsch's calling the church back to its missional impulse. It's quite a burden, most days, for pastors like myself to walk around expecting ourselves to be able to operationalize all five of the APEST gifts, and hubris to assume they don't exist as latent capacities among many more in our communities of faith.

Similarly, it can be very empowering for communities of faith to seek, find, and strengthen such gifts among a wider set of people in the body of Christ.

I am particularly taken with Hirsch's challenge to develop methods whereby communities of faith can  hone practices/capacities in line with APEST. We need the people of God to know who are the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds, and the teachers, and what to expect out of them. That we mostly don't is indeed one reason why the church is lamentably less robust than it might otherwise be.

As a Lutheran committed to the concept of vocation, I simply can't give up on the notion that there is even more there there than APEST itself. It's a Christian calling to clean windows, design electric cars, write novels. These do not need to fit under APEST in order for them to be Christian, and indeed Scriptural. Hirsch's 5Q, properly situated in a broader vocational hermeneutic, can perform the admirable function of diversifying the special role of leadership among the priesthood of all believers. The spirit-hood of all believers, if you will.

Broadly defined, APEST is as follows (Alan asks us to mark this page, so I quote it here):

  • The apostle/apostolic: In Greek, the term apostle literally means “sent one.” As the name itself suggests, it is the quintessentially missional (from missio, the Latin equivalent) ministry. Interestingly the French translation of the term apostle (envoy) picks up this sense of commission much better than the English transliteration—an apostle is an envoy. It is very much a pioneering function of the church, the capacity to extend Christianity as a healthy, integrated, innovative, reproducing movement, ever-expanding into new cultures. It is also a custodial ministry … a guardianship. This ministry is therefore also profoundly interested in the ongoing integrity of the core ideas (DNA, organizational principles, or meta-ideas) that generate and maintain systemic health across the organization.
  • The prophet/prophetic is the function tasked with maintaining an abid­ing loyalty and faithfulness to God above all. Essentially, prophets are guardians of the covenant relationship that God has with his people. The prophetic is also passionately concerned with living a life morally consistent with the covenant—a simple and authentic life of justice, holiness, and righteousness. The prophet proclaims God’s holiness and calls for a corresponding holiness in his covenanted people (1 Peter 1:16).
  • The evangelist/evangelistic involves the proclamation of the good news that is at the core of the church’s message. Evangelism is therefore all about the core message and its reception in the hearts of people and cultures. As such, the evangelist is the storyteller, the all-important recruiter to the cause, the naturally infectious person who is able to enlist people into what God is doing in and through the church.
  • The shepherd/shepherding is the function and calling responsible for maintaining and developing healthy community and enriching relationships. This involves a commitment to form a saintly people, nurture spiritual maturity, maintain communal health, defend the community against breakdown, and engender loving community among the redeemed family of God.
  • The teacher/teaching is concerned with the mediation and appropriation of wisdom and understanding. This is the naturally philosophical type that brings comprehensive understanding of the revelation bequeathed to the church. It is a guiding and discerning function. In the biblical tradition, emphasis falls on wisdom and not simply on speculative philosophy. Teaching, of course, also involves integrating the intellectual and spiritual treasure of the community and encoding it, in order to pass it on to others and to the next generations (paradosis, or tradition). (pages 62-63)

You can take a 5Q Test here.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Does the Church Have the Courage to Oppose the Outlawing of Dreams (On DACA)?

The acronym DACA is short for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. It's administrative relief from deportation. It protects eligible immigrant youth who came to the United States when they were youth, offering them protection from deportation and a work permit.
Hundreds of thousands of the most productive Millenials in our nation are here because of the wisdom of DACA. Ideally, our nation would sort out and improve its immigration process, offering a path to citizenship for all those currently protected by DACA. 
However, some of the highest officials in our nation, including Secretary Kelly and Jeff Sessions, together with a host of xenophobic attorney generals (inclusive of Arkansas's attorney general Leslie Rutledge) have of late filed lawsuits seeking to phase out DACA, and have also begun processes to deport DREAMers (DREAM: Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors). In other words, rather than seeking solutions offering a path to citizenship to this vital portion of our population, they are taking regressive steps that create fear and anxiety, and threaten hundreds of thousands of young Latinos.
Here's a quote from Inside Higher Ed:
In the letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the 10 state attorneys general (including Arkansas's Leslie Rutledge) said that if the administration refuses to phase out the program, which they describe as "unlawful" in that it "unilaterally confers eligibility for work authorization and lawful presence without any statutory authorization from Congress," they will amend their lawsuit against DAPA to challenge the DACA program as well. 
Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, condemned the attorneys general who sent the letter, saying in a statement that "their evident xenophobia is not remotely consistent with the trajectory of our nation's history and future progress."
And here's a press release from one of our most prominent Latino congressman, Luis GutiĆ©rrez: 
The following is a statement from Rep. Luis V. GutiƩrrez, a Member of the Judiciary Committee and Chair of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
I think we have to prepare for the worst and get ready to fight mass deportation.  We showed up at airports to fight the Muslim and Refugee Ban and now DREAMers and people who have lived here legally for decades with TPS are in imminent danger.
Secretary Kelly determines the future of TPS and basically told us he is not sure if he will extend it for hundreds of thousands of people. He also said that the future of DACA is up to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, America’s leading advocate against immigration, so Kelly was basically telling us DACA is facing a death sentence.  They actually want to take millions of people who are documented – with our own government – make them undocumented, and then go after them and their families. 
So, I fear for anybody currently with DACA or TPS. 
This was a wake-up call that Trump, Sessions and Kelly are serious about mass deportation and are anxious to get started.  It is a call to action for people who oppose mass deportation and turning the documented into undocumented so that they can be deported.
Upon questioning, Sec. Kelly made it clear he does not understand how his agency works or how the Congress works.  He stood by his past remarks that Congress should change the law if we don’t like it, as if Democrats have not been fighting Republican obstruction for years, and asking for a vote on immigration reform, the DREAM Act and other legislation.  Sec. Kelly says it is up to Congress, but his party is the obstacle standing in the way of a modern immigration system.
Sec. Kelly said he could not help people and their American citizen children who have no criminal record and are being deported, as if he doesn’t understand that he has the power under current law to spare people through his prosecutorial discretion.  I told him straight up that he could prevent the August deportation of Francisca Lino – the wife of a U.S. citizen and mother of U.S. citizen children in Chicago – just by picking up the phone and he seemed not to know he has that power. 
He either does not understand his authority under current law or was stonewalling or doing a very convincing job of playing dumb – or maybe some combination of the three.  He is playing along with Trump’s agenda to deport millions and pretending to not understand his powers to do something about it.  ‘Just following orders’ is not a valid defense, especially when you have the power to prevent a tragedy for millions of American citizens and their families.
Trump, Sessions and Kelly want to take 800,000 DREAMers with DACA and hundreds of thousands with TPS who are registered with the government and in compliance with the law and make them into criminals, felons, and deportees in the next few months.  Anyone with a conscience who thinks legal immigration is an integral part of who we are as a country just got called to action.
How should and can faith communities respond to these regressive and immoral moves on the part of our own elected officials?

First, contact them. Most of them tweet, so reach out to them on Twitter. Call their offices. Write letters. Visit them in their offices.

Second, approach the issue as a matter of Christian faith. Most if not all of the attorney generals taking these hateful actions are posturing under the guise of "law and order," and most if not all of them are Christians. Surely they know that the vast majority of DREAMers arrived in our country because they came here with their parents. Their parents came for opportunity, to flee oppression, to make a better life. They themselves can and should also be offered a path to citizenship.

But the children of such immigrants definitely deserve our best and most hospitable treatment. We welcome the sojourner in our midst, as Scripture teaches, because we remember that we were once sojourners in a foreign land.

There's really only one reason why the attorney generals, and Jeff Sessions, and all these others, are taking these steps. They're doing it because they seek to "make America white again." It's racism posturing as law and order, Christianity falsely supporting nativism. It's our worst impulses clothed in religiosity.

Finally, connect with communities who are preparing to ameliorate the devastating effects of the criminalization of those who are undocumented. Join a sanctuary movement. Find out what local efforts are already in place to begin an underground railroad or other resources for the undocumented.  Connect with those actively protesting the actions of our attorney generals. Read faithful resources on immigration, like the ELCA social statement. Donate to Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.

This is real folks. It's not a drill. Our neighbors, vast numbers of Latino DREAMers, are waiting to see how the faith community responds now. They are afraid. Our action will be our testimony in Christ. Will we have the courage?

Sunday, July 02, 2017

On the immorality of politicians and pastors

Many politicians, or at least the ones I've been lobbying lately, seem completely immune to moral persuasion. 

These politicians lie routinely while claiming to be Christian. Virtually the entire field of national politicians (Trump chief among them) appear unaware lying is considered in Christian tradition one of the gravest sins of all.

Then as a pastor, I think to myself: How did we get here? How have these politicians drifted so far from any kind of moral center? Why won't they operate with integrity?

This was my Aha! moment. Because honestly, most pastors in a way exactly like politicians find themselves compromising their integrity daily. Every day pastors make choices that chip away at their moral center, degrading them as they compromise over and over and over.

For the most part, pastors do this to survive. Like politicians, they need political cover. If they don't have such cover, they choose not to speak a prophetic word from the pulpit for fear of losing their job. They choose not to volunteer with a worker justice organization for fear of losing parishioners. They avoid getting arrested for fear of frustrating their family.

Every single day, pastors like myself choose the political over the moral, doing the strategic thing rather than the right thing. Over time, this takes a toll. It chips away at the soul.

I'd guess that most pastors, like most politicians, are largely unaware this slow slide into insipid depravity is even taking place. We get so good at compromising in order to survive in the system it becomes second nature. We forget that failure to act is still to act, and we are as defined as much by what we don't do as by what we do.

I imagine this is what happens to politicians. They compromise once to gain a few more votes, they compromise again to get a few more, they stay quiet about a glaring wrong strategically in order to not alienate the base of their party, then compromise again for that large campaign contribution, and the whole process of compromise becomes so natural they lose sight of themselves.

No, they actually lose themselves.

Until the pastor, having once again not preached the sermon they wanted to preach, or doing the thing they believed was right, is confronted with the stark question: When WILL you do that to which you are called?

Politicians stop living in reality and start dying in political reality. They die little daily deaths that leave them haggard, alone, and scared. So do pastors.

The politician might say: I can't get elected if I appear to be X. 

The pastor might say: I won't be able to keep this call if I speak up about X.

The politician might then justify it: Well, overall I will vote for better policies than my rival.

The pastor might then justify it: Well, I do have to be the shepherd of all these different kinds of people.

Pastors and politicians share one other thing in common: they gain exposure to the breadth of the human experience in ways different from other vocations. A politician might meet with constituents concerned about global warming in the morning, and cattlemen concerned about midwest farm policy in the afternoon. Pastors might bless a newborn baby in the morning and pray with an elder in hospice in the afternoon.

One could reasonably conclude, then, that the political and the pastoral life both have much opportunity for the enlarging of the heart and the feeding of the soul.

But that all depends on whether at the crucial moment the politician (or pastor) chooses the right thing over the politically expedient thing. Because such compromising choices color everything else. They become the whole. It makes the difference between a politician as empty suit or pastor as empty collar, or an integral moment when the people and community can say: That pastor, that politician, they're the real deal.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

A Complete Church Guide to Reaching Your Neighborhood

I've got a pastor friend who is spectacular at being in her neighborhood for good. The congregation is known by the neighborhood and is integral to it. They garden in their back yard. They use the basement as a shelter. Members of the parish are residents of the immediate geographical neighborhood.

As a result, this pastor often gets asked by newly called pastors and church outreach committees, "How can we reach out to our neighborhood more effectively?" Often these questions come from nearby congregations. As her friend, I want to step in to the conversation and answer, "Donate to her church. She's already doing it! Support her!"

That is in fact one excellent answer to the question. If you want to reach neighborhoods for good, you could do much worse than simply finding the churches already doing it, then donate cold hard cash.

But many congregations are asking this question, and not all of them are going to donate to neighboring churches (even if more should). It's not a bad question to ask.

So to reach a neighborhood, the real answer is, It will cost you. The first answer to the question, "How can we reach out to our neighborhood?" is itself a question: "How much are you willing to spend?"

Honestly, if you want to reach your neighborhood, you are going to need to be like your neighborhood. An upper middle class congregation will not be effective in reaching a poor neighborhood in which it is situated unless it divests itself significantly of its wealth and learns to live among and with the people it hopes to "reach."

This is why so many Christians form intentional Christian communities in specific neighborhoods.  They know that to do good ministry in a neighborhood, you have to join the neighborhood. Culturally. Economically. Linguistically. Spiritually.

If your congregation isn't willing to make ALL the requisite changes necessary to join the neighborhood, it won't reach the neighborhood. Full stop.

Neighborhoods are real places. So in addition to joining the neighborhood of people in their sociological location, a congregation that wishes to reach a neighborhood will need to think about the actual neighborhood. It needs to "find" itself in the neighborhood, as it were.

This looks like knowing the third places, knowing the people, knowing the businesses, knowing the public services, knowing the other churches, going door to door.

If you want to reach the neighborhood, spend time in it. It's really that simple. If you spend time with your neighbors, you'll hear their needs... especially if you ask. There aren't magical strategies here. It's really about time and conversation.

Finally, most neighborhoods are completely caught by surprise when a congregation actually impinges on their lives and makes a difference for good. People have become so accustomed to churches as quiet little "no-places" about which they know little, a gathering of folks they seldom see, that they are pleasantly surprised when the church actually does something for or with them.

I read your pastor's column in the newspaper this weekend! That water stand you set up for the kids after school was amazing! I love it that your church takes risks on behalf of the LGBTQ+ and stands with them. I heard your church has a little food pantry. Your church does social gospel well.

After a while, if your church does impact the neighborhood, the neighborhood starts to teach you your own mission statement. You hear echoed back in their vision of you what God is calling you to.

But in my experience, neighbors don't notice a congregation until it has been willing to be actually vulnerably, truly at risk, in order to connect with them. Surprise surprise, when Christ tells the church to take up its cross, that's actually one of the most missionary of expectations. It's how you reach the neighborhood.

Don't even start asking how you might get more neighbors to join the church until you've asked a much harder question in your community: How can we risk everything for the sake of our neighbors and their needs?

That's how you reach your neighborhood. It's rather rewarding, actually, although there's much sweat involved.

"Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet's reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward." (Matthew 10:40-42)