A Letter from the Pastor: Answering What’s Next?

Friends & Family,

Last night the latest recommendations of the CDC were published on my newsfeed, which strongly suggested no public gathering with more than 50 people for the next 8 weeks. Governor of Washington Jay Inslee followed suit and levied a similar ban, and then subsequently instituted the same internal requirements for all bars and restaurants. Our team had been anticipating at least two weeks without the ability to gather, but now this number has grown. We still anticipate reevaluating where we are at the end of March. Regardless, this is no longer a blip on the radar.
As a church community, we’ve strived to maintain a healthy perspective on our gatherings: that the Church is not an hour-long service on Sunday, but rather a people… a family. If you’ve been around Generations for any period of time, you’ve probably heard this or seen it stated with joy repeatedly. We have chosen to emphasize the everyday adjective. We have intentionally chosen both liturgical and Spirit-led practices in regard to our gatherings, wishing these to form how we live in response to what Jesus has done throughout our weeks.
Yet this doesn’t make the news last night any less jarring. As a pastor, I love gathering to worship with our Generations family! I love how Charles and the team lead us in worship through song. I love the casual environment where anyone can feel welcome. I (and I never thought I’d say this) even love the hard work of pulling all of our equipment out of the trailer setting it up, tearing it down, and putting it up again because it is a beautiful picture of what family united by Jesus does when they come together. Gatherings never have been our everything, but they’ve been a significant part of our practice of loving God and neighbor. They have marked us as a young church.

 

The circumstances have forced us to learn how to navigate a world without a Sunday Gathering at the American Legion. On one hand, I grieve the time we are losing together. Yet on the other, I see these days ahead as an opportunity to step more fully into our calling to (here I go again) be everyday people who expand the family of God because of Jesus for generations to come. What a time to hold our methods of doing church open-handed and allow God to shape us. As I’ve repeated, our gatherings may be moved or canceled, but Church is not.

 

So where do we go from here? Because the Church is family, maintaining and growing both spiritually and in community throughout these coming months must be an intentional focus. For most of us, we’ll likely not be in a room with more than our family or a few other folks. We are committed to two important steps in the coming days:

  1. to invest and equip our people through online resources and connection points (like social media or video conferencing), and
  2. meeting the tangible needs that will inevitably rise moving forward, both inside and outside our walls.

This week, I will be launching online community opportunities via Zoom Video and/or Google Meets. These are video platforms that will hopefully be accessible to the majority of our people and provide interaction and encouragement through the days ahead. For those who won’t have access to these tools, we’re committed to finding ways of equipping them with resources and connections as well. We will be experimenting, see what works, and keep our focus on Jesus.

 

On top of this, we’re aware of the financial strain that many of our own may be facing in the days ahead. We have maintained that the best way to make known both needs and resources for people inside and outside the walls of the Church is through texting 360.295.4141.  As these changes continue, we anticipate these needs to grow exponentially, and we want to be the kind of Church where “God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them (Acts 4:33b-34).” The church is family, right? Together, we can be that family through caring for the needs that arise. So in the coming days, if you find yourself in need, please – do not hesitate to contact us.

 

Finally, I want to encourage us as individuals moving forward in following Jesus. In the days ahead, it will never be more important to care for our souls through practices of both loving God and loving neighbor. As I’ve sought to navigate what is ahead, here are some of the practices I’d encourage:

 

  • Engage with God. We must remember who we are and whose we are in these troubled days ahead. This doesn’t happen by accident. In the weeks ahead, renew your commitment to abiding in the presence of God through Scripture and prayer. We will continue to equip you with resources, but it won’t happen by accident. Allow the Story of God in Scripture to be the lens through which you see the world around us – not the other way around.

  • Disengaging from the news. It’s important that we are informed and follow the guidelines that our authorities give us for our protection. Yet it’s one thing to be informed… and another to be engrossed. Spending our days in the constant stream of information and opinion will only further our anxiety and drive us further into scarcity and fear. As a discipline, learn what you need to know, then love your neighbor and yourself where you are. It’s ok to turn it off for some time.

  • Embody care for your physical needs. I don’t know about you, but this change has thrown any family rhythms that I had completely off. On my own, I’ll spend too much time sitting around, distracting myself with entertainment and not taking good care of myself. It’s important in the weeks ahead to care for our physical needs through exercise, eating as healthy as we can, and rest (there is a difference between rest and escape).

  • Reach out. I have heard is said that “our greatest poverty is loneliness.” We already live in one of the most isolated and lonely cultures in history, and this difficult season will surely accelerate the problem. In the days ahead, make it a habit of reaching out to 2-4 people every week. Check-in emotionally. Pray for one another. Learn of needs that may need to be met… in short, be family. Whether by phone, text, social media or another way make it a discipline to grow relationally with others in the days ahead.

  • Love your actual neighbor. You have neighbors. Physical neighbors. And in these times, they’re probably battling the same cycle of emotions that we are facing as well. In the coming weeks, reach out to your neighbors. If they need groceries, a yard mowed, or just a conversation, don’t hesitate to be the hands and feet of Jesus right where you are by loving your literal neighbors!

  • Pray. Intercession (a type of prayer) is simply asking God on behalf of other people, places or situations. In moments like these, the Church needs to mobilize in prayer for the healing and wholeness of our world. May we be quickened to prayer for God to break the power of this sickness over our world and bring healing! Resources for how and what to pray will be shared shortly.

In the days ahead, take courage. In an anxious world, let your faith steady you and embolden you beyond your own interests towards a love that looks like Jesus. Have the courage to love well. In the words of Paul, “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love (1 Corinthians 16:13-14).”

 

Friends and family of Generations Church, I love you. I am thankful for you. This challenge is an opportunity. God is present and at work among us, and I can’t wait for the stories of his faithfulness to rise and move us forward into a bright future.

 

In Christ,
Kyle Davies

The Alabama Election & Christian Witness

Mark Galli of Christianity Today wrote a solid commentary about Christian witness in light of today’s special election in Alabama. Albert Mohler also addresses the crisis of conscience. The biggest loser in the Alabama election is not Democrats or Republicans; it’s the Christian witness. Our Christian witness can be revived if we learn to suffer patiently in the public square. We would rather fight than suffer.

We all like a good story. A good story simulates our souls and evokes our emotions. The problem of our consumption of stories is that stories shape us and disciple us. They give us a worldview, a way of seeing the world around us. In our context, there are predominant false narratives which we consume that conflict with the narrative to which we as Christians submit. The Alabama Election brings one to the forefront.

The fight for the culture’s heart through political means has undermined the integrity of the explicit Christian witness. We choose to do what is right in our own eyes, “which results in moral, psychological, and social suffering unheard of in our history.” We fight for moral purity without the basic expectation of moral purity in our candidates.

One of the false narratives which pervade our culture is nationalism. If you do a quick Google search the initial results come back as 1) patriotic feeling, principles, or efforts, and 2) an extreme form of this, especially marked by a feeling of superiority over other countries.

I would also add that nationalism is further oriented towards developing and maintaining a national identity based on shared characteristics such as culture, language, race, religion, political goals or a belief in a common ancestry. Who are we as a country? The answer isn’t quite so clear-cut as one would hope.

On the surface level, loving one’s country is not a bad thing. God has ordained nations. However, whenever a good thing becomes a God thing the result is idolatry. While some would disagree that nationalism is a false narrative, and would even directly challenge my ensuing conclusion, the fight for the heart of American culture resides in one’s own view of morality. Moreover, if the only way to display the gospel is through political means, then one has bought into the lie of the false narrative. Further, if one’s perspective of the nation is elevated above the implications of the gospel, then lie is present there as well. Because of the United States history, trying to separate politics from faith is like trying to unravel Christmas lights. It’s time consuming, meticulous, and if only it had been done right initially. Knowing what should have been done does not alleviate the current situation of knotted Christmas lights–or better messy politics.

Like many of us choose to do, we would rather buy a new set of lights than deal with the mess. We attempt to do the same with politics. We would rather purchase a new nation through political aims than take the time to unravel and use what we have. It is an indictment against us all because we believe a lie shapes us all.

Whether you are on the right or left, chances are the purity of nation will make the world a better place. Here is the lie. One’s definition of pure usually involves thinking and acting exactly as you would. Self is at the center of pure. If only people would do this, we say, then the problem would be solved. In the end, the clamor is for uniformity in action and perspective.

The political right views purity of nation through one lens, while the political left views purity of nation through another. Regardless, the expectation is the same: a uniform identity. The identity proposed is usually divorced from any real conversation about real differences. The very plea for purity undermines the shared national identity of our history.

As Galli notes in his article, “The problem with many Christian conservatives is this: They believe they can help the country become godly again by electing people whose godliness is seriously questioned by the very people they want to influence.”

I would not limit the problem to Christian conservatives. The problem with many Christian liberals is this: They believe they can help the country improve by electing people whose moral superiority is seriously questioned by the very people they want to influence.

Because the United States has always been a melting pot of culture, language, race, religion, political goals, and common ancestry, one of our greatest values is love for the story others bring to the table. In order to do this, our conversation and our politics must be steeped in humility and moral accountability. As a Christian, fear cannot rule my politics; it displays the love of self. As a Christian, cultural congruency cannot rule my politics; it displays the love of self. The Christian faith has never been about fighting for something but serving and suffering the Savior the who modeled it for us. The Christian witness will be revived when love neighbor testifies to the love of God.

Movements: The Reformation

The church has been growing for almost 2000 years and contemporary Christians would do well to learn from the men and women who have faithfully followed God throughout the centuries. One of the landmark moments in the history of the church is called the Protestant Reformation.

“Once a coin into the coffer clings, a soul from purgatory springs.” – Johann Tetzel

Today is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. For those of you who are not quite sure what the Reformation is and why it is a big deal, I thought I would provide a quick overview. Though you may not be entirely familiar with the Reformation, it has deeply impacted the faith you practice.

Unknown-2Martin Luther was a Catholic monk and priest in the 16th century. A man named Johann Tetzel was selling indulgences in Martin Luther’s hometown of Wittenberg in order to raise capital for the rebuilding of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Since AD 1215, pious Christians would build up a “treasury of merit” on which they could draw on, which would expedite their time in purgatory. An indulgence allowed a remission of temporal punishment due to sin. Indulgences could also be purchased for those who have been deceased. For baptism, according to the Catholic Church, washed away the guilt, but nothing removed the punishment.

During the Renaissance, with the resurgence of classical antiquity, Rome became adorned in splendor. Pope Julius II permitted the sale of indulgences in 1507 to raise money to build St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and was renewed in 1513. Leo X later made a deal with the archbishop of Mainz, which corresponded to the selling of indulgences. If Archbishop Albert would agree to allow the sale of indulgences, Leo agreed to split the profits with him.

If you could pay then you could avoid spending a long time in purgatory. The fast track through purgatory aroused Luther’s ire. The church had lost the heart of the gospel—God offers salvation as a free gift. 

Luther posted 95 Theses to debate on the Castle Church door in Wittenburg on October 31, 1517.

When Luther circulates his 95 Theses, his thoughts were dangerously subversive ideas that posed challenges to the finances of the church as much as to its theology. Purgatory was never called into question in the 95 Theses; Luther’s challenge concerned the means by which one gets out of it as quickly as possible. Luther desired to rid the church of the flawed hierarchy. The cultural, political, and religious authority was flipped upon its head by Luther’s claims. The religious, social, and political turmoil which resulted from Luther’s actions set a precedent for future movements.

Pope Leo X finally addressed Luther on June 15, 1520, the conflict exploded giving birth to the Reformation. Leo issued the bull Exsurge Domine, (“Arise, O Lord”), which condemned Luther as a heretic. Many others such as Calvin, Zwingli, and Arminius followed in Luther’s footsteps and they were reawakened to the Scriptures and the Gospel. While their intentions were to reform the church, eventually core beliefs led to irreconcilable differences.

Here are some claims Luther made:

  • God’s love is not conditional upon transformation; rather, personal transformation follows divine acceptance and affirmation.
  • One’s relationship with God is made possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and is through faith. There is no longer any need for intermediaries- for the intercession of Mary or the saints to procure salvation.
  • Scripture is inspired, authoritative, and sufficient for Christian doctrine and practice.

The Reformation was about moving toward the Gospel–God himself has come to rescue and renew all creation in and through the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We learn about God through the Scriptures.

Rescue and renewal are offered as a free gift from God, one that could not be earned either by works or money, but only by grace through faith in Christ.

While these beliefs seem profoundly individualistic, and they are, they also have deep communal implications for how Christians value one another and seek Jesus. For many, Luther’s claims seem obvious. However, Christians tend to slip back into old habits in which salvation is earned, rather than given; and where many Christians rely on pastors for their intake of Bible than reading the Scriptures for themselves. Let us not take these developments for granted.

How To Stay In The Conversation (Part 3)

images.jpegI stumbled across this show on CBS called Bull. I probably have binged a little too hard on it, but the show has been fascinating. The lead actor plays a psychologist who is an expert in trial science. The premise of the show is how every case has facts and every jury (every day people) hear these facts differently. So, Dr. Bull and his team weave the objective facts of the case with a creative narrative together to win legal cases. In most episodes, Dr. Bull chooses to work for the innocent party. The defendant will likely be found guilty aside from his help because the jury has already subconsciously found the defendant guilty prior to any case being heard. Sometimes this subconscious verdict is based on the media, sometimes on how the defendant is dressed or appears, or even the jury’s own self-projection from their life experiences. Dr. Bull and his team choose to present a case and narrative together which highlights the facts the jurors will actually hear.

Throughout the episodes, the narratives usually get quite creative. However, what has never been argued: 1) the objective and verifiable facts, 2) our experiences color how we see and interpret these facts, and 3) there are always more facts to be discovered.

The natural question in today’s world: Can we ever be objective about the facts?

In my optimism, I believe we can get objective facts, but what to do about those facts and how we interpret them will always be highly subjective.

The initial blog post asked: How do you stand firm in a Kingdom worldview while remaining humble and teachable in posture?

My answer: Resilient communication.

So far, I have shared the first two steps (saturation & care). The third step is FACT.

I define FACT as information without bias. Bull provides a colorful depiction of how difficult it is to present the facts without spin. It is inherent in our nature to filter everything we hear through our own lens.

In our culture where truth is “relevant” or “subjective,” FACT seems like an elusive word. The term Fake News has been tossed around. CNN recently ran an ad campaign about defining facts (to which some of you may find ironic). In most cases, everything has a spin. Most facts are articulated from personal perspective and experience, which come in layers and vary widely. Give the NY Post’s quiz on how Facebook defines hate speech a try to see how subjective statements can be. What is the core truth beneath these layers?

Because people are not all-knowing we must learn to ask good questions about the potential narrative being sold to us. Therefore, when staying in the conversation we should present what we think we know humbly and sincerely. Direct information with no judgment is a must. Statements without sentiment should be shared to find common ground from which a relationship can be built.

I would argue whatever facts we do present should be loosely at our fingertips, ready and willing to hear new information. When new information is discovered, we should show grace. Further, avoid leading or suggestive questions. In a conversation which you are trying to listen and learn, you must be careful not to skew the potential response. Suggesting a prepackaged answer will likely create barriers, rather than take them down. We tend to share our views of the facts or our interpretations of them to win, persuade, or achieve some hidden objective.

If the goal is to stay in the conversation, then we must learn to present information without bias. Here are some examples of FACT:

  • Colin Kaepernick chose to kneel during the national anthem to raise awareness about the police brutality against black men, women, and teenagers.
  • Marijuana affects the parts of the brain that control emotions, memory, and judgment.
  • The Bible is God’s special revelation of himself.

These three sentences could be stated very differently.

  • Colin Kaepernick is desecrating the American flag.
  • Marijuana causes negative damage to a person’s body and image.
  • It is wrong to believe in both evolution and the what the Bible says.

These are probably exaggerated and not the best examples. However, when we are in the heat of conversation, we need to be aware of which statements are facts and which sentiments are our feelings toward what has happened.

As a Christian, we need not fear Christianity in the marketplace of worldviews. I believe a Christian worldview is unparalleled to any other worldview. The narrative of God himself coming to rescue and renewal all creation through the incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Christ is the ultimate narrative. Any other narrative which competes for supremacy will inadequately deal with the brokenness of life.

As you talk with your neighbors, co-workers, friends, family, and others online, do you espouse a worldview consistent with Christ, or bias and barriers?

Find the facts. Listen and learn. Stay in the conversation.