Christian Reformed Church

Rediscovering Jesus

When I was 4 years old my mother asked me what I would do about Jesus. More than six decades later, I'm still asking myself that same question. What does it mean to say that my life will be defined by his?

In seventh grade, when I was leaving in the morning to walk to Lincoln Junior High School, my mom would pray with me each day at the front door: "Dear Father, help Wes today to put Jesus first, others second, and himself last."

It's a prayer I've often dissected, and never forgotten. The various paths I've traveled since then are ways that I've wandered and searched to discover what to do about Jesus. The evangelical subculture in which I was raised was infiltrated by pernicious racism, captured by right-wing nationalism, absorbed with rampant materialism, and defended by haughty self-righteousness. But it taught me to ask the right question. What about Jesus?

Early in my journey, my responses to that question began to challenge my subculture's answers. The ensuing dialogue, however, echoed my mother's prayer: What does it mean to put Jesus first? Our problem is that we have domesticated Jesus and lost the radical challenge that question poses.

The central task of North American congregations, denominations, and Christian institutions in our day is to resurrect who Jesus is. We need to hear anew the call of what it means to be a disciple of his in this time and place. And then we must create and nurture communities of those who are claimed by this call and are willing to follow, traveling to unexpected destinations anticipated only by God's providence.

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July 2011 Sojourners
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News Bites

  • Praise Band. The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, which networks with 15 million U.S. Latino evangelicals, launched the World Hispanic Evangelical Alliance last spring to connect national evangelical communities in Spanish-speaking countries. The World Alliance will meet in Puerto Rico in 2008.

  • Peace Day. October 2, the birthday of Mohandas Gandhi, is now the International Day for Nonviolence, according to a declaration in June by the U.N. General Assembly.

  • Worker World. "The universalization of labor standards should not be considered a burden on trade agreements," said Catholic Archbishop Silvano Tomasi at the June conference of the International Labor Organization, "but rather a concrete support for the human rights of workers and a condition for more equitable competition on the global level."

  • Good Year. After a 37-year battle, the Christian Reformed Church decided at its June synod to remove the word "male" as requirement for holding "ecclesiastical office." The synod also moved that the CRC publicly repent for personal and corporate sins of racism.

  • Gordon Rules. U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown proposed to parliament in July to remove the power of the prime minister in choosing bishops for the Church of England. Some Catholic leaders hope Brown will soon remove archaic anti-Catholic laws as well.

  • People's War? More than 180,000 civilians are working in Iraq under U.S. contracts, compared with 160,000 soldiers and a few thousand civilian government employees stationed there, according to the Los Angeles Times.
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    Sojourners Magazine September/October 2007
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    Reforming Welfare

    If you visit Ottawa County in Western Michigan you will find no able-bodied person on welfare. This quiet community has plenty of jobs and a good economy, and was the first in the nation to achieve the goal of moving everyone on welfare to work. It also has something else—a strong network of Christian Reformed churches that organized to provide support for families making the transition.

    The Good Samaritan Ministries, which coordinated the church-based safety net for families, has been around for 30 years doing what they call "relational ministries." Concretely, that means that for a long time Ottawa County churches have been doing a lot more than clothing drives. They have been engaging in the kind of intentional relationships with poor people in their area that truly transform lives—for those in need, but just as important for those who respond. In fact, Good Samaritan Ministries executive director Bill Raymond says their main client is the church, and he believes that ministry is essential to reviving faith.

    When welfare reform came down the road, a whole new challenge presented itself. Raymond and other church leaders there are quick to point out that it is not the role of the churches to replace government. However, when Ottawa County was targeted as one of the first sights for Michigan’s aggressive and ambitious Project Zero welfare reform plan, they knew they had to do something. CRC pastor David Kool said, "We can look at a 700-person caseload and see we can do it." That meant that any family making the transition from welfare to work was offered the option of entering into a mentoring partnership with a church. About a third of the families made that choice.

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    Sojourners Magazine March-April 1998
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