Theology, Thoughts & Coffee

Sundays, 8 a.m., Zoom

This fall we are reading Healing Our Broken Humanity: Practices for Revitalizing the Church and Renewing the World by Grace Ji-Sun Kim and Graham Hill. All are welcome to come and join in the conversation as we discuss this timely and important book.

For Zoom information, contact Dr. John Franke.

Reading and Class Schedule

  • Sept. 12: Opening Gathering and Class Overview
  • Sept. 19: Introduction, "Nine Practices that Heal Our Broken Humanity"
  • Sept. 26: Chapter 1, "Reimagine Church"
  • Oct. 3: Chapter 2: "Renew Lament"
  • Oct. 10: Chapter 3: "Repent Together"
  • Oct. 17: Chapter 4: "Relinquish Power"
  • Oct. 24: Chapter 5, "Restore Justice"
  • Oct. 31: Chapter 6, "Reactivate Hospitality"
  • Nov. 7: Chapter 7, "Reinforce Agency"
  • Nov. 14: Chapter 8, "Reconcile Relationships"
  • Nov. 21: Chapter 9, "Recover Life Together"

Introduction, "Nine Practices that Heal Our Broken Humanity"

Download pdf of Introduction notes

“We are living in a broken world. Western societies are struggling with the rise of racism, misogyny, nationalism, conflict, violence, and more.”

Many people of color believe that political, judicial, policing, and other systems are stacked against them. Hundreds of thousands of people are displaced globally due to poverty, discrimination, climate change, or political and religious upheaval.

Significant numbers of people feel disenfranchised from the political systems that are supposed to be the vehicles for change but instead seem to support wealthy individuals and institutions over against the majority of the population.

In this context, people feel anxious and worried about what the future holds. They are angry and disoriented. They are searching for others to blame. Unfortunately, many Christian leaders and communities are caught up in these currents and going along with them.

“The church is no longer at the center of culture, power, economics, and politics, as it was in Christendom. Some Christian leaders are anxious about their waning influence. They worry about their loss of power and status.” This has led too many Christian communities to participate in the very actions that are tearing the world apart.

Of course, it doesn’t need to be this way. The church is called to speak hope and life into these circumstances as it proclaims and embodies the way of Jesus. To show the world an alternative ethic and way of life that has the power to transform humanity and help change the world.

The way the church embodies this new way of life in the world is through its shared practices. Another word for the development of these practices in the lives of individuals and communities is discipleship. The practice of living a disciplined life in the way of Jesus. “Discipleship involves learning a myriad of skills through personal disciple and by immersion in community. We also learn a language—words such as faith and hope and love take form in our mouths and shape our hearts and minds. And, so, discipleship practices and new ways of conceiving and speaking about God and the world shape our life together.”

Nine Transforming Practices

Reimagine church as the new humanity in Jesus Christ.

Renew lament through corporate expressions of deep regret and sorrow.

Repent together of white cultural captivity, and racial and gender injustice, and of our complicity.

Relinquish power by giving up our own righteousness, status, privilege, selfish ambition, self-interests, vain conceit, and personal gain.

Restore justice to those who have been denied justice.

Reactivate hospitality be rejecting division and exclusion, and welcoming all kinds of people into the household of God.

Reinforce agency by supporting people’s ability to make free independent, and unfettered actions and choices.

Reconcile relationships through repentance, forgiveness, justice, and partnership.

Recover life together as a transformed community that lives out the vision of the Sermon on the Mount.

How to Get the Most Out of This Book

Pray for open hearts

  • Read the chapter
  • Journal your thoughts
  • Discuss what you are learning
  • Act on the suggested practices
  • Reflect on what you are learning
  • Encourage each other to change and grow
  • Grow through further reading

“With God’s help, we can recover our humanity and pursue love, peace, justice, and reconciliation. These nine practices help encourage us to transform the world into God’s world.”

Discussion Questions:

  • The authors offer several examples of the numerous ways in which the humanity is broken. How have you experienced this brokenness? What stories do you have to tell?
  • The authors also suggest that the church has often been complicit in contributing to the brokenness of the world. Do you agree with them? Why or why not?
  • In what ways do you think the church needs to be revitalized?
  • What do you think of the emphasis on practices in the book? What difference can practices make in the life of the church and the world?
  • What commitments and changes are you prepared to make in your own life to contribute to the revitalization of the church and the renewal of the world?

Chapter 1: Reimagine Church

Download pdf of Chapter 1 notes

“Jesus calls us to reimagine the church as the new humanity in Jesus Christ. This is about learning together and anew about injustice and division in the church and the world. It’s also about learning mutually and afresh what it means to be the new humanity in Jesus Christ.”

What is the “New Humanity in Christ?”

When Paul uses this terminology, he means that Jesus Christ has done away with the old divisions and enmities and united Jews and Gentiles as one new and undivided humanity in him through his death and resurrection. God has created one new people out of two (Jew and Gentile) and “abolished the old divisions based on culture, politics, race, religion, law, gender, social standing, and so on.”

“This doesn’t rid us of our Jewish or Gentile (or American, Korean, Australian, Chinese, Rwandan, Brazilian, Native American, etc.) cultures, identities, and unique contributions. But now our primary identity is in Christ and in that he has made us ‘one new humanity in him.’”

Our Christian identity is rooted in Christ and not in nationalism, ethnicity, partisan politics, economic status, gender, etc. This identity is developed in the act of discipleship as we learn what it means “to be a distinct people with an alternative way of life together.

This unified identity is not the opposite of diversity. The church is intended to be diverse as we learn what it means to understand Christian life as a social revolution that transcends difference while honoring and enjoying it. The church is called to be “less monoclutural and more multicultural” in keeping with the commitment to welcome all as we have been welcomed by Jesus.

It is not sufficient to simply talk about unity in diversity. Rather, we need to act with intentionality in order to promote this in our communities. This will require a deeply engrained vision of unity and diversity rooted in, and shaped by, the gospel of Jesus Christ, scripture, and theology. Diversity without genuine biblical and theological substance is often shallow and difficult to maintain.

The Qualities and Conviction of New-Humanity Churches

New-Humanity churches “know that they are one body, with one Messiah, one Spirit, one life, one table, one politic, one righteousness, one peace, one mission, one faith, one hope, and one love.”

One Body: “Jesus Christ calls his church to be one unified and diverse body…As one body, our unity in diversity is under Christ and witnesses to him. It witnesses to his redemption and to his restorative future for all creation and humanity.”

One Messiah: “Our unity comes from our Messiah, Jesus Christ. We are united with him in his death and resurrection as his body. He has created this new humanity and is the source and sustainer of our new life in him.”

One Spirit: The Messiah unifies a diverse church in the power of his Spirit. The Spirit establishes, fills, empowers, and renews the church as his ongoing and dynamic creation.”

One Life: “The Messiah unifies and renews his church through his divine life…The Messiah doesn’t just offer the church new life—he infuses the church with his very life-giving presence and power. People from every nation, tribe, and tongue join to receive this life, made one in the Messiah.”

One Table: “The new people that Jesus had in mind are a hospitable, welcoming, open, and generous people. We have responded to Jesus’ welcome at the table, as we are recipients of Jesus’ divine hospitality. We invite people of all nations, languages, cultures, and colors to our tables.”

One Politic: “God calls God’s church to be a distinct people, with a distinct ethic, a distinct story, a distinct peace, a distinct community, a distinct diversity, and a distinct witness…As the new humanity in Jesus Christ, our life together is political…Together, as God’s new creation, we display a new and redeemed politic before a watching world.”

One Righteousness: “This new people is made holy and righteous by God’s grace. God purifies God’s people and cleanses them from sin. God sanctifies them so that together they are God’s holy and righteous bride. This is all God’s work and all according to his grace, a righteousness by faith in Christ alone…The Messiah is righteous and makes his people holy, pure, and just through faith in him.”

One Peace: “God calls the church to be a people of peacemaking and reconciliation. The Messiah is our peace, and he has abolished the conflicts and enmities that divide people. Peace and reconciliation are at the heart of the new humanity in Christ. Jesus calls his church to express peace and unity, to be a peaceable community.”

One Mission: “Being missional means alerting everyone everywhere to the universal reign of God through Jesus Christ. We do this through word, sign, and deed. The new humanity in Christ integrates proclamation, evangelism, church planting, and social transformation in a seamless whole.”

One Faith: “Our faith is in Jesus the Messiah and his gospel of salvation. This new people—formed as Christ joins Jew and Gentile together as one in him—embraces confident faith in him and his gospel.”

One Hope: “Since our hope is in the age to come, we should seek to be that church now.” The church is called to be a sign, instrument, and foretaste of the hope we have for the world through Jesus Christ as a provisional demonstration of God’s will for all people.

One Love: “What does this love look like? Pray for those who persecute you. Forgive those who have wronged you. Seek the welfare of your city and neighborhood, including those who oppose you…Care for creation. Give away your time, goods, money, and gifts, Stop judging others. Imitate Christ’s humility.”

Practices, Challenges, and Activities for Small Groups

Serve with other groups in your community: “Find practical and tangible ways to collaborate with Christians from a variety of backgrounds. Do this in your local community…Now expand this out to collaboration with non-Christian groups that are trying to make a difference in your community.”

Visit with Christians from a different race and ethnicity from your own: “Once every eight weeks, visit a worship service, Bible study, discipleship-training event, prayer meeting, or mission program conducted by Christians from a different ethnicity from your own. Mix it up over a two- or three-year period.”

Start “listen and learn” nights: “Invite someone from different faith, ethnicity, theological perspective, and so on to come and share. Invite them to share their story and their views in an attentive, nonthreatening environment.”

Discussion Questions

  • Why (and how) do we often root our Christian identity in nationalism, ethnicity, partisan politics, sociopolitical-economic status, gender, and other such things? How can we change this?
  • What’s most difficult about expressing or living into the full diversity of the church? What’s rewarding?
  • What needs to change for you and your church to reimagine the church as the new humanity in Jesus Christ?
  • What steps will you take to apply this practice fully and in the long term? Think about how you can apply this practice in your life, family, small group, church, and neighborhood.

Chapter 2: Renew Lament

Download pdf of chapter 2 notes

“The resurrection of the church begins with lament.”—Emmanuel Katongol

“This is difficult for many Americans and others living in the Western countries to grasp. Our culture teaches us to embrace a triumphalistic and success-oriented posture. Thus, we avoid lament. Americans are prone to move quickly to try to fix things, and often we need to lament, mourn, and grieve first to fully experience and understand what has taken place.”

“Scripture teaches us that we can’t move toward hope, peace, transformation, and reconciliation without going through sorrow, mourning, regret, and lament.”

“Prayers of lament are central to Scripture and especially the book of Psalms. More than a third of the psalms are laments…these psalms of lament focus on deep regret and sorrow for the sins and travails of a nation and as a cry for God’s intervention.”

They provide a model for contemporary for lament. In them, the people:

-Address these laments to God.
-They describe a lamentable situation
-Confess their sin and complicity and sorrow
-Call on God to intervene and change the situation
-Offer thanksgiving and praise to God in trust that God can and will bring change

The book of Lamentations consists of five distinct poetic laments regarding the destruction of Jerusalem which follow a similar pattern to the psalms of lament.

Lament is a demonstrative, strong, and corporate expression of deep grief, pain, sorrow, and regret that deals with issues of the heart and paves the way for outer change.

“Lament is about regretting and mourning the past and then moving toward repentance, justice, and new life together…Lament becomes a crucial practice as we embrace the new humanity in Jesus Christ. We must enter lament and repentance to experience reconciliation, justice, unity, peace, and love.”

The genre of lament is that of a funeral dirge. Lamentations deals with a funeral, not a hospital visit. “We cannot pretend that racism is solved by a hospital visit: a quick prayer and the person will leave the hospital eventually. Our racial history is littered with abused, beaten, murdered dead bodies of black men and women. If you do not acknowledge the long history of dead bodies, you are only playing the game of reconciliation.”

The personal nature of lament is important. But lament is best when it’s both individual and corporate. The psalms and Lamentations offer a model for present-day lament and suggest that lament typically consists of nine elements.

Invocation: We address our lament to God
Worship: We describe who God is and how God promises to be with us
Description: We describe the lamentable, sorrowful, and shameful situation
Connection: We connect the lamentable situation with individual and corporate sin
Repentance: We express sorrow for the sins of our people and our desire to change
Confession: We confess our sin, complicity, sorrow, and desire to change
Petition: We ask for God’s intervention and mercy in bringing change and hope
Trust: We express our trust in God (based on God’s character and past actions)
Praise: We offer thanksgiving to God believing that God can and will bring change

Practices, Challenges, and Activities for Small Groups

Write a group lament: Following the nine elements of lament, spend some time in your small group writing and sharing your laments. 1) Choose an issue that angers or grieves the group such as racial injustice or environmental destruction; 2) Brainstorm why the issue is important; 3) Write a lament together structured around the nine elements listed here; 4) Ask one or two people to read the completed lament; 5) Spend time together in prayer over the themes in the lament; 6) At the end of the time of prayer, have someone read the lament aloud again; 7) Distribute the lament to everyone in the group and consider asking your pastor to share the lament a Sunday service

Organize a lament table liturgy: 1) Send out invitations to a small group asking them to join in an evening of lament; 2) Ask those who are coming to write their own lament following the nine steps outlined above; 3) At the beginning of the evening, share a meals around a common table; 4) Create holy space by praying the a liturgy of lament; 5) Commit to finding fresh and creative ways to engage and practice lament. Further details: https://www.practicetribe.com/lament/a-lament-table-liturgy/

Discussion Questions

  • Why do we need to lament before we can experience reconciliation, healing, peace, transformation, and hope?
  • Does our church practice lament? Does our culture? Why is lament a foreign idea to so many of us who live in Western cultures? How can we recover lament in our gathered worship and private lives?
  • What things does our church and culture need to lament?
  • What needs to change for you and your church to renew the practice of lamenting together?
  • What steps will you take to apply this practice fully and in the long term? Think about how you can apply this practice in your life, family, small group, church, and neighborhood?

Chapter 3: Repent Together

Download pdf of chapter 3 notes

“Our world is plagued by the pursuit of power and control, and by injustices, exploitations, and racial disparities. These are political, social, and racial problems. But they are also personal and social sins.”

“As God’s people, we must embrace repentance and change. These are the right responses to racism, sexism, greed, and other forms of social and personal sin. But what is repentance?”

“Repentance involves key changes in people, groups, and communities. It includes our minds, hearts, and wills. Repentance can be personal, but it can also be corporate. Repentance includes metanoia, a change of mind and a turning around.”

“There are individual sins and corporate/community sins. As individuals we sin by ourselves and come to God for forgiveness. We are very aware of our individual sins, as we commit them personally. Corporate sins are committed by society and institutions that we as individuals become complicit in. We fail to speak up against institutional sins such as racism, sexism, and injustice in the criminal justice system. We therefore need to repent of our social sins as well. ‘Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord’ (Acts 3:19).”

The authors describe repentance as a four-stage process:

  1. Conviction: “We recognize that that one or more of our attitudes and behaviors are wrong are wrong. They are broken and sinful, and they can damage us and others. This conviction of sin grips our hearts and minds.”
  2. Contrition: “We lament, regret, and mourn our mistakes and sins. We feel sorrow and remorse for these attitudes and behaviors, for their effect on people and on the earth, and for their offensiveness to God. Contrition is a godly sorrow that moves us to action.”
  3. Commitment: We decide to turn away from our sin and commit to new, God-honoring, and redemptive attitudes, postures, and behaviors. This is changing our minds, changing our attitudes, changing our purpose, changing our desires, and changing our ways.”
  4. Change: “We practice a new way of being in the world. This is the way of repentance, righteousness, humility, justice, love, and reconciliation. Godly sorrow leads to faith, hope, and love.”

We need to repent because we, individually and corporately, so often desire and long for things we shouldn’t that bring brokenness and pain to ourselves and those around us. “Sometimes this brokenness comes through no fault of our own. At other times it’s a direct consequence of choices we’ve made, values we’ve embraced, and behaviors we’ve adopted…But the good news is that there’s hope for a new and full life through the path of repentance and change.”

The authors then turn their attention to the things we need to repent of, such as:

  • Worshipping Modern Idols and Pursuing Power and Control
  • Confusing Religious Patriotism with Christian Discipleship
  • Believing American Exceptionalism
  • Sanctioning Violence
  • Chasing Money and Status
  • Embracing Individualism
  • Fostering Disunity and Division
  • Cultivating Racism and Sexism
  • Closing Our Hearts to Refugees and Migrants

The authors conclude with a final example, repenting of the things we and our society have done to marginalize others or that contributed to their marginalization. Jesus is not only concerned for the marginalized, he identifies with them. He welcomes, hears, and prioritizes the poor, the sinners, the women, the sick, and the outcast. His concern for those on the margins is scandalous and in sharp contrast to the spirt of his age and uncompassionate religiosity of other religious leaders.

Jesus calls us to welcome, embrace, and listen to those who are marginalized by society for a variety of reasons:

  • Those marginalized because of their physical life (including the disabled, the elderly, and the sick)
  • Those marginalized because of their race, ethnicity, or gender (including indigenous groups, people of color, and women)
  • Those marginalized because of their religion, profession, or sexual orientation (including Muslims, sex workers, and same-sex-attracted persons)
  • Those marginalized because of their political persuasions (including those who hold different political views from you)

“In this process of repentance, we join Jesus in compassion, welcome and friendship. Jesus welcomes to table fellowship those who are usually shunned. Jesus was crucified because of the people he ate with. Our repentance leads us to the same table fellowship.”

Practices, Challenges, and Activities for Small Groups

Practice Conviction Together: Conviction involves recognizing that some of our attitudes and behaviors are wrong. 1) Pray as a group that God would fill our hearts with conviction; 2) Find ways to go into your neighborhoods and communities and be with marginalized people, as you get to know them, take note of the ways the Spirit is convicting you to repent; 3) List the things the Spirit is convicting you to repent of on paper and regularly pray and act on those things.

Practice Commitment Together: Commitment is about determining together to change our minds, attitudes, purpose, desires, and ways. 1) Ask members of your group to consider the list of the things you feel convicted to repent of and write down personal commitments to new behaviors and attitudes; 2) Share these commitments with each other; 3) Give each other feedback on these commitments; 4) Spend time praying together that God would help you keep these commitments; 5) Do this in a spirit of repentance, grace, forgiveness, love, faith, and hope.

Practice Change Together: Conviction and commitment must lead to change. Reconciliation and forgiveness demand a new way of living in the world. 1) Form small accountability groups; 2) Meet for regularly for accountability discussions; 3) Begin with prayer recognizing that change happens through the power of God; 4) Commit to confidentiality, empathy, listening, honesty, and accountability; 5) Discuss the list you have formed of things you feel convicted to repent of and the commitments you have made to change; 6) Hold each other accountable by asking hard and challenging questions about the commitments to change you’ve made.

Discussion Questions

  • Why is repentance important?
  • What do you need to repent of and how do you need to change?
  • What does your church and culture need to repent of?
  • What needs to change for you and your church to repent of white (or other) cultural captivity, of racial and gender injustice, and of your complicity?
  • What steps will you take to apply this practice fully and in the long term? Think about how you can apply this practice in your life, family, church and neighborhood.

Chapter 4: Relinquish Power

Download pdf of chapter 4 notes

“To relinquish something is to voluntarily choose to give it up. The church will never be the new humanity in Christ until it embraces relinquishment. The gospel of Jesus Christ calls us to relinquish (or give up) our own righteousness, status, privilege, selfish ambition, self-interest, vain conceit, personal gain, and power.”

Jesus practiced this relinquishment and Paul cites him as our example in Philippians 2:3-8: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.”

“For most of us our power (or powerlessness) is found in our wealth, education, age, intellect, cultural capital, social standing, gender, profession, religious status, political access, ethnicity, and race. Power can be destructive and divisive. But it can also be healing and nurturing when it is released, when it is used for other’ well-being and human flourishing.”

“We relinquish power when we truly listen to those who’ve been marginalized. We receive from them as we genuinely listen to them and respond. We relinquish power (and we use what power we have for good) when we use all our energies to make sure the marginalized are heard, respected, honored, and responded to…We relinquish power when we say no to opportunities so that others can be heard.”

Relinquishing Power and Embracing Powerlessness

Relinquishing Racial Power

Relinquishing Political Power

Relinquishing Religious Power

Relinquishing Linguistic Power

“Jesus call us to relinquish our power. He invites us to embrace a different kind of power—one rooted in powerlessness, weakness, and foolishness. After washing the disciples’ feet Jesus asks them, ‘Do you understand what I have done for you?’ (John 13:12). ‘Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you’ (John 13:14-15). The astonishing and countercultural power is the power of the cross and resurrection. We find this power in empathy, repentance, relinquishment, humility, integrity, justice, equality, diversity, reconciliation, and life together.”

Practices, Challenges, and Activities for Small Groups

Stop organizing all-white male panels and conferences, and stop speaking at them. Commit to developing a rich theology of diversity that deals with relevant biblical, theological, and missional themes. Commit to using the power you have to empower others. Begin to develop a list of names of people of color and women who can speak at events.

Take a “power audit”: https://theglobalchurchproject.com/power/ The aim of this Power Audit is to enable people to realize the different types of power that they have and go beyond the idea of straight hierarchical power. The types of power listed in the Power Audit are a representative selection of the many different types of power. The audit can be adapted to the specific cultural context or country that it is used in, but some types of power will be across cultures. Being a disciple of Jesus involves acknowledging what power we have, giving our power away, using our power to confront injustice and the status quo, and using our power for the wellbeing of others.

Get involved in grassroots organizations seeking to bring change to your neighborhood or community that are seeking to build initiatives and actions that confront power that is authoritative, exploitative, self-serving, and so on. As you participate in these groups, talk with others about what you are learning about power and its redistribution.

Explore self-emptying power. Spend some time in group discussion asking questions such as: How was the power of God revealed in Jesus’ self-emptying and vulnerability? How can we pattern our own lives in this way? How does this powerlessness confront and subvert worldly and abusive expressions of power? Pray together for the courage to pursue a life of vulnerability, self-emptying, and submission.

Discussion Questions

What do we learn about relinquishment from the way Jesus gave up power?

Who do you know who models this well?

What kinds of power do you and the people in you church need to give up?

What needs to change for you and your church to relinquish power?

What steps will you take to apply this practice fully and in the long term?

Chapter 5: Restore Justice

Download chapter 5 notes

“Justice is a central and complex biblical theme. The Bible presents God as a just God who calls for justice among his people, for creation, and in the world. We know what justice is when we know who God is. The just nature of God defines our understanding of justice.

Micah 6:8
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

“God requires all of us to engage in the work of justice.”

“Justice is not an optional extra. It is our first activity. Justice is the first and primary demand that God places on his people. As a God of justice (or righteousness), he expects that we, his community, be his agents for bringing justice to bear in the world; to usher in a just society without discrimination and with fair treatment and equality for all.”

“Injustice is a contagious sin that breaks and angers the heart of God. God’s antidote to injustice is truth, love, grace, reconciliation, peace, compassion, and welcome. God calls the church to be a just community that pursues justice for all peoples and all creation by acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God.”

“Restoring justice involves listening to the concerns and perspectives of others even when these seem to address issues that don’t directly affect us. It involves standing up for the rights of others—even if their well-being or prosperity or flourishing seems only indirectly related to ours, and even when their well-being comes at our expense.”

“We must not be silent in the face of poverty, exploitation, injustice, sexism, racism, misogyny, torture, hate, division, conflict, and authoritarianism. We must choose to speak and act even when we suffer the consequences…Silence speaks volumes. When you or I choose not to act, we are in fact taking a form of action.

In her book, Roadmap to Reconciliation, Brenda Salter McNeil uses the acronym CARE to describe how we can work for justice in the world:

Communicate: Communicate what we have learned about a specific justice issue
Advocate: Talking isn’t enough, we must take action and advocate for change
Relate: We need to be part of a community that is committed to change
Educate: We need to keep educating ourselves throughout our lives

In his book Inclusion and Embrace, Miroslav Volf asserts that there is no forgiveness and reconciliation apart from justice. Following the way of Jesus means seeking both justice and reconciliation. However, forgiveness and reconciliation don’t only occur after complete justice is done since it is only rarely, if ever, fully satisfied. We choose to offer forgiveness and embrace as an act of grace even as we are seeking after justice.

Practices, Challenges, and Activities for Small Groups

Learn about a biblical theology of justice: Spend four weeks discussing a book like Chris Marshall’s The Little Book of Biblical Justice and discuss questions like: What do we learn about justice from the Bible? Why is justice a central theme in the Bible? How does out understanding of justice arise out of God’s just nature and actions? Wat are the key contours of biblical justice? How do we practice biblical justice as individuals and as a community?

Write prayers about justice: Having learned about a biblical theology of justice, Spend an evening writing prayers about justice. Try writing both individual and group prayers that focus on peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation as well as justice.

Collect and sing songs that focus on justice: Identify and collect your own list of songs that focus on justice and sing them regularly.

Write a series of justice commitments, and hold each other accountable for being justice advocates: Write a series twenty things you will commit to do to address injustice. Have five commitments in each of four categories: racial justice, gender justice, economic justice, and environmental justice. Then identify people to hold you accountable to the commitments you have made.

Go to a justice conference together: Attend a conference devoted to justice with friends such as The Justice Conference, the Beyond Festival, or Voices for Justice. Afterwards spend time debriefing together about how you will respond.

Support groups working for justice: Research and find groups in your community, neighborhood, city, or country working to bring about justice and change. Choose two that particularly challenge you and find out how you can support and get involved in their work. There are thousands of groups that you can choose from.

Make lifestyle changes that reflect the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals: The UN has provided a list of things you can do to help the world reach sustainable development goals: www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/takeaction

Discussion Questions

  • Why does justice involve walking in other people’s shoes?
  • What injustices are present in your neighborhood, city, and society?
  • Why is silence a form of injustice?
  • Why does our concern and action for justice need to be based on our understanding of God and God’s work in the world?
  • Why do we need partnership with other groups to achieve justice?
  • What needs to change for you and your church to help restore justice to those who have been denied justice?
  • What steps will you take to apply this practice fully and in the long term?

Chapter 6: Reactivate Hospitality

Download chapter 6 notes

All over the world cities, towns, and rural areas are rapidly becoming multicultural, multiethnic, and multilingual. This cultural diversity is not limited only to language and ethnicity. Our cities, towns, and rural areas have become “melting pots of religions, worldviews, sexualities, and lifestyles. The world is changing, and our cities and rural areas are changing. The world is only going to become more diverse and pluralistic due to immigration, refugees, and globalization.”

These changes present fresh opportunities for the church to be the welcoming and hospitable community it is called to be by God. Instead of responding with fear to this this diversity or mourning the loss of cultural homogeneity, we can chose to be “a people of every nation, and tribe, and people, and tongue. We can choose to worship as one body, the one who calls women and men together from every nation in every part of the globe. We can be hospitable.”

Welcome and hospitality to all people is one of the centerpieces of Christian communities that are committed to being the new humanity in Christ (see chapter 1 for the development of this concept). New humanity churches make at least four commitments related to hospitality:

“First, they move away from ethnic segregation and foster diverse, multiethnic, or intercultural churches.” These communities have seven core commitments: 1) they depend on the Spirt to help them be diverse; 2) they take intentional steps to be multiethnic; 3) they empower diverse leaders; 4) they develop crosscultural relationships; 5) they pursue crosscultural competence; 6) they promote a spirit of inclusion; 7) they mobilize for impact.

Second, these new humanity communities intentionally “foster cultural intelligence among their leadership and in their congregation. Cultural intelligence (often abbreviated as CQ) is the ability to understand different cultures and function effectively in situations of cultural diversity. The Cultural Intelligence Center says that cultural intelligence requires four skills: (1) CQ drive: a passion and confidence to adapt to multicultural settings; (2) CQ knowledge: an understanding of the similarities and differences between cultures; (3) CQ strategy: planning for multicultural conversations, relationships, and interactions; and (4) CQ action: seeking out multicultural relationships, and adapting when relating and working interculturally.”

Third, they “commit to welcoming, fostering, and relishing diversity in all its forms: gender diversity, socioeconomic diversity, theological diversity, physical diversity, ethnic diversity, and so on. They are hospitable”

Fourth, they “are led by people who are committed to diversity and hospitality. These are lifelong learners about such things as leading multicultural teams, building multiethnic churches, and doing mission and ministry in pluralistic, diverse situations. This is transformative leadership. It refuses to accept the status quo. It is satisfied with nothing less than a diverse congregation and leadership team that reflects the new humanity is Jesus Christ.”

“Hospitality is challenging. We need the Spirit’s help to welcome and embrace the other. This requires many conversations…Hospitality involves our relationship to our home, to the earth, and to a local place. How we treat people needs to be extended to all of creation. We need to take these things seriously to be welcoming and hospitable, and to relish the diversity of God’s extraordinary banquet table.”

“Our hospitality needs to be free, generous, and active. John Chrysostom, the fourth-century bishop of Constantinople (in modern-day Turkey), charges the church to be given to hospitality. We welcome people into our homes in hopeful anticipation of our ultimate home. In welcoming them, we welcome Jesus Christ.”

Practices, Challenges, and Activities for Small Groups

Do the eight-week small group curriculum about multiethnic conversations. As a small group, read and take-part in a study of the book Multiethnic Conversations: An Eight-Week Journey Toward Unity in Your Church. This will help you grow in your understanding of biblical principles behind diverse, multiethnic congregations as well as issues of race, class, and culture. It will help you move toward becoming a multiethnic and multicultural group and congregation.

Consider doing a faith-based cultural intelligence (CQ) assessment. The Cultural Intelligence Center offers faith-based cultural intelligence assessments. Their surveys include questions designed to trigger reflection about religious issues and concerns and they provide online assessments and personalized feedback reports.

Listen to a selection of GlobalChurch Project videos and/or podcasts, and use the free small group discussion guides that go with each video. The GlobalChurch Project invites often unheard voices from around the world to enter into powerful conversations about the shape and future of the church in the twenty-first century.

Discussion Questions

  • In a recent book, The End of White Christian America, Robert Jones explains how a seismic change is happening in American Christianity because America is no longer a majority white nation, culturally or demographically. The fastest-growing Christian groups in America today (and in other parts of the West) are minoritized, diaspora, and immigrant groups. How does this make you feel? What challenges and opportunities arise from this change?
  • The authors quote Mark DeYmaz as saying “If (since) the kingdom of heaven is not segregated, local churches on earth, whenever possible, should not be either.” Do you agree that we need to move away from ethnically and racially segregated churches and foster diverse, multiethnic, or intercultural churches? Why or why not?
  • What is cultural intelligence (QC)? How can your church (and your ministry team) become more culturally intelligent?
  • How do diversity and inclusion make us a fuller, richer, and more Christlike people?
  • What needs to change for your church to reactivate hospitality while cultivating unity in diversity?
  • What steps will you take to apply this practice fully and in the long term?

Chapter 7: Reinforce Agency

Download chapter 7 notes

“Agency is the ability and freedom to make unrestricted and independent choices. Individuals and groups need agency to be able to express themselves fully. They need agency to contribute meaningfully.”

Social scientists often connect agency and structures/systems. Agency is the ability to make free, independent, and unfettered life choices and to put those choices into action. Structures and systems are those cultural and social contexts that influence, shape, and sometimes restrict those choices and actions. Examples of structures and systems include things like race, gender, class, religion, politics, economics, and traditions. These structures and systems often prevent personal and collective agency but also have the potential to function positively when they are ordered for human flourishing and the strengthening of agency within appropriate boundaries.

It is sadly the case that church structures and systems have often had the effect of squashing personal and collective agency for various groups of people. But when these structures and systems are transformed by the values and ethics of Jesus they can be liberating and empowering.

The debate about the relationship between agency and structure centers on the questions of which of the two has the most influence in determining the future of a person or group. Structures and systems will always be present and they will always have an effect on choices and actions. The goal is to help individuals and groups to express as much agency as possible within particular structures and to work at reforming structures so that they promote agency and human flourishing.

“As Christians two things can help motivate us to reinforce another person’s or group’s agency. The first is transformed theology of the church. The second is a renewed vision of what a healthy, missional church looks like. God calls the church to be a unified and diverse body. God invites the church to join with him in reaching and transforming every tribe, people, ethnicity, and nation. God works in and through racial, gender, linguistic, and generational diversity. This mosaic emerges out of God’s extravagant hospitality, welcome, and love. God is at work reconciling the world in Jesus Christ, calling every ethnicity, and both women and men, to join in the ministry. Since all this is true, how can we not reinforce the agency and voice of others?”

“This yearning for new life within the church then spills over into our hope and action in the world. God loves justice. God calls his church to work for justice in the world. This includes putting our energies into helping all people in society…to have an uninhibited and valued influence and input. Our goal as the people of God in the world, is to help people exert influence over their lives, circumstances, societies, churches, and destinies.”

Churches can embrace and incorporate practices that reinforce people’s agency both inside and outside the church. Some of these include:
-Providing occasions for minority and females voices and perspectives to be heard
-Invite minorities and women to develop ministries and practices in the church
-Worship in ways that are indigenous to all cultures and groups in the church
-Make sure minorities and women take part and lead in the ministries of the church
-Resist using theologies and models that only reflect majority culture(s)
-Invite minorities and women to shape their own theologies and ministries
-Give fresh weight to the ideas of those who are not part of the majority culture
-Seek to pursue diversity in unity, even when it is hard work
-Work hard for diversity in whatever area of influence you have
-Be willing to make the sacrifice of losing/sharing your role to hear other voices

Practices, Challenges, and Activities for Small Groups

Seek out marginalized and minority perspectives. Join a community or Christian group made from various ethnicities and genders, and listen and learn from their perspectives and experiences. Invite women, people of color, and marginalized people to present at your small group. Ask then to help you think about race and gender issues, and to help you understand faith, justice, and reconciliation better.

Talk about your own prejudices. In your group, talk honestly and openly about your prejudices, racism, sexism, and blind spots. Don’t be afraid to talk about this and pray for the courage to change, and make commitments to do so.

Advocate for those who’ve been silenced or denied agency. Speak up for those who have been silenced in your culture, neighborhood, or church. Talk with church, business, political, and other leaders. Write letters. Speak at events. Demand change. Become an ally for minorities and marginalized groups. Use your time, money, and voice to demand that others are heard.

Get involved. Your small group and church can’t do everything alone. You need to join with other groups seeking to make a difference.

Discussion Questions

  • Are you familiar with the term agency? What does it mean?
  • Why do those in power often treat minoritized or disadvantaged groups like helpless victims and rob them of their autonomy and agency?
  • How do church systems, traditions, practices, and structures sometimes squash personal and collective agency?
  • Look at the list of practices under the subheading “Embracing Corporate Practices That Reinforce Agency.” What would you add to these practices?
  • What needs to change for you and your church to help reinforce people’s agency, especially supporting marginalized and minority groups?
  • What steps will you take to apply this practice fully and in the long term?

Chapter 8: Reconcile Relationships

Download pdf of chapter 8 notes

“Reconciliation isn’t an easy or simple process. It involves lament, repentance, and forgiveness. It requires justice, authentic partnerships, and equality. Notice that reconciliation doesn’t come first. Reconciliation is only possible after lamenting the past, repenting of our complicity, seeking forgiveness, relinquishing power, restoring justice, relishing diversity, and reinforcing agency.”

Brenda Salter McNeil: “Reconciliation is an ongoing spiritual process involving forgiveness, repentance and justice that restores broken relationships and systems to reflect God’s original intention for all creation to flourish.”

Reconciliation happens at many levels: Human beings are reconciled to God, “but God also enables individuals, socioeconomic groups, races, and genders to reconcile, and humanity to reconcile with creation. Through this ministry of reconciliation, God shows the world what God intends the world to be.”

Revelation 7:9-10: “After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10 They cried out in a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!’”

“This is a vision of a new community worshipping God. This community comes from every society, ethnicity, gender, class, nationality, age, and it seeks to bring God’s peace and reconciliation to the world. This is a vision for human flourishing, of peace, and shalom, of forgiveness and justice, of faith, hope, and love.”

“Reconciliation is a process and journey aimed at transforming all humanity and creation, which requires lament and memory, and which needs the church to truly be the church. Reconciliation requires a certain kind of just, courageous, and peaceable leadership. You discover this kind of leadership through the work of the Spirit, as God transforms your heart and mind.”

“This type of reconciliation requires a personal and corporate change of heart. Only God can make this possible as he leads us to repentance, justice, humility, peace, community, and a transformed spirit…this kind of personal and collective change and transformation requires community practices for making peace.”

How Do We Practice Reconciliation?

Develop a biblical theology of reconciliation: It is important to have our thinking shaped by the teachings and stories of scripture

Pursue the five landmarks of reconciliation: Brenda Salter McNeil says that there are five primary landmarks in the process of reconciliation, they are:

-catalytic events

Embrace the practices of reconciliation: Sharing life together with people different from ourselves; practicing solidarity with those who suffer; working to see the world from below; subverting racial hierarchies in church and society; embracing new social imaginations; seeking God’s kingdom; and engaging in critical self-examination.

Practice peacemaking and nonviolence: Stanley Hauerwas says that peacemaking and nonviolence are “the hallmarks of Christian moral life” and that nonviolence is “integral to the shape of Christian convictions.” Peacemaking and nonviolence aren’t passive. They are active, courageous, and public exercises of forgiveness, love, and reconciliation.

Practices, Challenges, and Activities for Small Groups

Consider and respond to biblical passages. Reconciliation is at the heart of the gospel and of the Christian faith. Read the following passages closely as a group, and reflect on what they mean for your ministry of reconciliation: Romans 5:10-11; 11:15; 2 Corinthians 5:18-20; Ephesians 2:14-17; Colossians 1:19-22. Think about ways you can respond to these passages practically in your community and neighborhood.

Work through Roadmap to Reconciliation by Brenda Salter McNeil. Read the book in a small group over eight weeks and put into practice the exercises at the end of each chapter.

Watch movies and documentaries together. Develop a list of movies that stimulate discussion about race, justice, and reconciliation. Get together regularly with your small group for meals and to watch the movies on your list. Discuss what you learn from them. Consider inviting friends from minority groups to watch with you.

Discussion Questions

  • Do you agree with Brenda Salter McNeil’s definition of reconciliation? Would you modify it in any way?
  • Are you aware of forms of racism in your own life? How have they been expressed?
  • Why is the order of stages in reconciliation important?
  • Why do we need a biblical view of reconciliation that frames our purpose and posture in reconciliation? How do we develop this biblical view of reconciliation?
  • Looks at the core practices of reconciliation. What would you add to these practices? What would you change about this list?
  • What needs to change for you and your church to play your part in the work of reconciliation?
  • What steps will you take to apply this practice fully and in the long term?

Chapter 9: Recover Life Together

Download pdf of chapter 9 notes

“What do radical discipleship and community look like? How do we recover this life together and in the world? The Sermon on the Mount offers a profound insight into Jesus’ social ethic and into his vision for discipleship and his people’s life together.”

The “Sermon on the Mount” found in Matthew 5-7 is the longest speech of Jesus recorded in the Gospels. “This speech is a stunning description of Jesus’ vision for life, discipleship, ethics, prayer, reconciliation, hospitality, justice, and community. It includes the Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer, and it leaves his audience (ancient and modern) shocked and uneasy. Jesus calls his church to embrace a new, radical, and alternative way of life together in the world.”

This isn’t simply a picture of what an individual righteous life looks like, it is a social ethic. “This is a vision of a community of disciples who pursue lives together and in the world and who witness to him, to a new humanity, and to the age to come.” This isn’t a new legalism, but a vision of a community completely reliant on and empowered by God’s grace. “This is a vision of a people who mirror in their life together the nature of God. Jesus calls his people to pursue God’s ethics and morality with great enthusiasm and dedication, but also to realize that they are only able to achieve any righteousness through grace.”

The Blessed and Ethical Community (Matthew 5:1-12): In the Beatitudes Jesus describes the postures, outlook, and behaviors of blessed, happy people who please God. They display a compelling and distinct personal and social ethic that is rooted in the character of God. Such people are moved to bear the character of God and to depend on God’s grace to do so.

The Distinct and Life-Giving Community (Matthew 5:13-16): The church has a distinct identity and a unique social ethic shaped by the story of Jesus and Israel. The church is formed by the work of Jesus and embodies extraordinary unity and diversity in its life and mission in the world.

The Righteous and Just Community (Matthew 5:17-20): Jesus doesn’t abolish the law and the prophets; he fulfills them. Properly understood they reflect God’s will and purpose for humanity. They speak of a righteousness revealed in the love of God and neighbor in the pursuit of justice, compassion, mercy, and humility.

The Reconciled and Reconciling Community (Matthew 5:21-26): Jesus calls on his disciples to take conflict and resolution seriously. He says that God will judge those embrace and foster anger, division, conflict, and hatred. He calls on his followers to replace these with peace, forgiveness, love, and reconciliation.

The Holy and Virtuous Community (Matthew 5:27-37): Jesus calls on his people to be different in their life together, resisting and putting away addiction, lust, selfishness, moral failure, lies, corruption, and deceit. Pursue integrity and moral excellence.

The Relational and Enemy-Loving Community (Matthew 5:38-48): A focus on relationship is at the heart of Christian faith. God invites people to share in the life of divine love and relationship. This is expressed most profoundly in our love of enemies.

The Generous and Compassionate Community (Matthew 6:1-4): The church of Jesus is generous and compassionate, particularly to those in society who are poor, marginalized, and oppressed.

The Praying and Humble Community (Matthew 6:5-18): Prayer is at the heart of our life together. The prayer Jesus teaches his disciples to pray is simple, quiet, and unobtrusive. Every part of the Lord’s Prayer reflects the ethics of the Sermon on the Mount.

The Simple and Content Community (Matthew 6:19-24): The challenge of Christianity isn’t relating or being relevant to a secular, consumerist society. It’s about realizing how much Christianity has been assimilated by that society and then choosing to resist and follow another way. Live simply and be content so that others may simply live.

The Trusting and Dependent Community (Matthew 6:25-34): The church of Jesus is a community that has learned to trust and depend on God in the midst of the anxieties of life. Such communities embrace the practices of peacemaking, prayer, and hospitality.

The Gracious and Welcoming Community (Matthew 7:1-6): Instead of being critical of others, highlighting their faults, and judging their failings, Jesus calls on the church to be different. We are to be a gracious and forgiving people, anxious to see the best in others and to forgive their shortcomings and failures. The church is called to be safe and welcoming place for all people.

The Believing and Grace-Dependent Community (Matthew 7:7-12): The task of recovering life together involves discovering or rediscovering the power of faith and belief. Being direct with God, and believing that God can and will answer the righteous and faithful prayers of those committed to the work of God’s Kingdom. From this perspective we approach God with hope and expectation.

The True and Faithful Community (Matthew 7:13-23): Discipleship in the way of Jesus is not easy and comfortable, it is a difficult and challenging way of life. It requires sacrifice, discipline, integrity, and truthfulness. The church is called to rediscover and cultivate the rigor of faithful discipleship and an uncompromising commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Wise and Strong Community (Matthew 7:24-26): The wise, strong, and faithful community is one that works diligently to put the Sermon on the Mount into practice, learning to rely on the grace and power of God to turn our efforts and intentions into reality. Such communities are conscious of their powerless and weakness in the face of the world’s challenges but trust that God is able to bring deliverance in the face of what sometimes seem to be insurmountable forces.

Practices, Challenges, and Activities for Small Groups

Complete Baylor University’s six-week series on the Sermon on the Mount. The Center for Christian Ethics at Baylor has developed a six-week series for small groups focused on the Sermon on the Mount. It offers prayers, Scripture readings, meditations, reflections, discussion questions, and songs on the teaching and implication of Jesus’ words in Matthew 5-7.

Write modern versions of the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount. Form a small group and spend an evening writing modern versions of the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount. If Jesus were delivering these today, what would he say and how would he say it? What other words might he use and what other issues might he address? See the six “new Beatitudes" recently proposed by Pope Francis for modern Christians.

Put the Sermon on the Mount into practice in your neighborhood. Read through the Sermon on the Mount and list all the ways you might put it into practice in your local neighborhood. Make sure these are practical and make sense for your neighborhood. See examples in the book and at http://parishcollective.org and http://inhabitconference.com. Start putting these into practice in your community and neighborhood.

Discussion Questions

  • What did you learn from this chapter about the Sermon on the Mount?
  • What would the church be like if we focused on the Sermon on the Mount as much as we do on Paul’s letters or on the Ten Commandments?
  • Why is love for enemies such a radical ethic? How can you and your church find practical ways to love our enemies?
  • Which part of the Sermon on the Mount was most striking to you? Which parts have the most significant implications for life and the life of your church?
  • What needs to change for you and your church to recover life together as a transformed community that live out the vision and ethics of the Sermon on the Mount?
  • What steps will you take to apply this practice fully and in the long term?