Posts Tagged ‘church mission philosophy ministry’

Scapegoating is on the rise these days. I believe we all have a need to find someone or something to blame. This is not anything new. It has been done to my people for years. Once we were emancipated from slavery, the embittered Southern poor blamed African Americans for all of their problems and they took us out in the woods and hung us on trees. They found their scapegoat. Recently it has been immigrants. Yes they are to blame for all of our problems. They overspent our federal and state budgets. They sanctioned and unjust war and let the economy wither and die. Now as we are approaching the anniversary of September 11th we find scapegoats to blame for that horrible massacre and we say its Islam and Muslims. We have pastors burning qurans and people marching on Washington. All in an attempt to find someone to blame….a scapegoat. Scapegoats can usually be identified by three characteristics:

They have to be weak and voiceless. To be a proper scapegoat you cannot be in the center of power. You must be at the margins. Those with power do not get blamed for the problems that we collectively face even though they collectively lead us. It is those who have no say so and no voice in the decisions that get blamed and are scapegoated.

They have to be different. The scapegoat has to be in the minority and be different. Uniformity is often equal to holiness. This is quite opposite of the nature of God who is three persons in unity and not uniformity. He is a unity in diversity and yet we see difference and diversity as a stain.

They have to be purged. In order to deal with this problem the scapegoat has to be purged. Whether its lynching them on a tree or deporting them back to their country or burning up their defiling books or holding them without due process for being a suspected terrorist, it is a way to rid the land of their unclean presence so things can be made “right”.

On September 11th I will not be scapegoating. I will be baptizing people as they make a commitment to the one who was the ultimate scapegoat. In John 11:50 Caiaphas the high priest says “You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” And so he died as a scapegoat for the Jewish people but also as a scapegoat for all of us. In so many ways I wish that was the end of this awful practice. Sadly it is not and all I can do is pray that we do not continue to blame innocent victims for our problems but work collectively to deal with the challenges that face us and look in the mirror at what needs to be purged and made right.


Right now Jason Clark over at Deep Church is doing a series on Re-imagining Vineyard values. I think it is interesting because many people who hear that our church is a Vineyard church think that we jump around like monkeys and bark like dogs all in an effort to be totally stoned in the Holy Spirit. That is not what the Vineyard is all about. Those are practices that were done by certain Vineyard churches but the Vineyard movement is much bigger than a practice. You cannot build a church on a practice any more than you can build a marriage on a practice. That’s why they tell you it’s got to be based on more than just sex 🙂 A local church has to be grounded in core beliefs and values and out of these core beliefs and values a vision is birthed and from this vision flows the practices that it is engaged in within its particular context. Some have built churches on healing and then when healing wasn’t the in thing (meaning nobody got healed) then there was no church. Some have built churches on prophecy and when the prophecies got old or didn’t come true then there was no church. Some have built churches with cool powerpoint, video and drama with the desire to be seeker sensitive but when the show does not entertain then there is no church. Some are now building churches on couches, candles and art but when it gets old and boring then there is no church. There are three reasons why practices are not the way to go

1) Practices are too temporal and change with the season. Sometimes the community around us and the culture that we live in changes so that a practice that worked well previously is no longer viable at the current time. For example: Tracts used to be high tech. It cost a lot to create a gospel tract or booklet back in the day. Part of the appeal was that something so costly would be given away. Nowadays it is not as costly. A similar practice with the same appeal would be to give a dvd away.

2) Practices are also bound by context. What works in one context does not work in another. I don’t know if having power point and a light show would be that viable or even work in Africa??? Plus in certain places you would have to lug around a generator.

3) Practices can become idols and distract us away from God and the things that he wants for his people. Sometimes practices become like magic and we begin to be deceived into believing that this particular activity will bring thousands to the Lord, cause greater spiritual growth, influence secular society etc. etc. The truth is only the Lord can do that.

It is essential to know the core beliefs and values and vision so that you can negotiate the practices no matter what context the church finds itself in. As a church right now we are in the midst of discerning our identity as we have moved our Sunday morning gathering from one location to another. I believe that the core dna is still there and now we have to uncover the values and beliefs and vision that brought us together in the first place. It definitely was not the place we were in-Awakenings Coffeehouse-but something much deeper that being in the coffeehouse represented. I believe this new season is not about a new vision but allowing the Lord to show us the fine nuances and details of our identity as a body. Our church does not consist of a practice or activity but something much deeper. I am grateful to the Lord that he has us on this journey as we once again discover who we are in him.