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Christian Unity Week @ Judson University, Part One

IMG_4148I noted a few days ago, on this blog, that I helped to facilitate a Christian Unity Week at Judson University in Elgin, Illinois. Each of the three days in chapel, during the week of October 6-10, we had a service that reflected different aspects of the Christian tradition. And in these three chapels we had the three great traditions of the church represented: Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox.

On Monday, October 6, I began the week by preaching from John 17:21. I tried to show the students and faculty that we are all part of the one body of Christ. We might not share in visible unity in one church but we are brothers and sisters and thus in Christ we are one. This oneness is a reality even if we refuse to live it. But we can live it if we are empowered by God to see our oneness while we still admit our differences. We can live in a reconciled diversity while we seek for greater understanding of both doctrine and practice. Indeed, this is the

Same-Sex Marriage Dividing a Local Parish

On the same day that I read the Associated Press report that I referenced yesterday regarding the new Pew Research about same-sex marriage there was another report from Great Falls, Montana. This story struck me as one filled with profound pain and difficulty.

Church PictureRoman Catholic Bishop Michael Warfel of the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings conducted a meeting with about 300 parishioners from St. Leo the Great Catholic Church in Lewistown on Saturday, September 20. There is a huge controversy inside the St. Leo congregation. Fr. Samuel Spiering, the priest at St. Leo’s, has decided to prohibit a gay couple from receiving the Eucharist unless they take three steps. First, they must legally divorce. Second, they must live separately. And third, they must write a statement affirming that marriage is between a man and a woman. The 300 people from the parish who met with their bishop were said to be evenly divided about the counsel of their priest. (Note: This is not an urban center where large numbers of gays might live in communities.)

The same-sex couple, in

Love Alone Is Eternal (Part Ten)

Most of us realize that life is more than our limited experience of day-to-day activity. We believe there is a God we believe that it is he who sustains the world. We further believe that it is God who made us. But moments of wonder and transcendence do not mean that we know God really loves us. Explaining the world, and especially our own lives, without a personal, sustaining and loving God seems impossible. The alternative is an accident, or worse yet, pure fate!

When John says “God is love” we are prone to think, “That’s really nice.” Then a dozen popular and cheerful songs flood our minds about love, sweet love, what the world needs a little more of we say. We conceive of someone who cheers us up by being sunny and happy. But the biblical writers didn’t sing these kinds of songs or conceive of this kind of sunny personality. They surely didn’t have these ideas in mind when they spoke of God being love. Love, for the biblical writers, is the will to do good for another person, even at great cost to

Lausanne Catholic-Evangelical Conversation

Today the second global Lausanne Catholic-Evangelical Conversation begins at Mundelein Seminary, near Chicago. I have the joy of leading this small group dialogue. Tonight there is an “open” conversation at Mundelein and you are welcome to come. If you have not registered it is free at ACT3.

UnknownOur special evening event begins at 7:00 p.m. It is a dialogue between Catholic and evangelical Protestant leaders who are in conversation about the work of global evangelization and Christian unity. Fr. Robert Barron, rector of Mundelein Seminary, and Rev. Norberto Saracco, pastor and evangelical Protestant leader from Buenos Aires, will each present a response to the subject: “Pope Francis and Unity in Mission Between Catholics and Evangelicals.” (Norberto is a personal friend of Pope Francis.) Responses will be offered to both presenters by Fr. Thomas Baima (Mundelein Seminary) and Rev. John Armstrong (ACT3 Network). The audience will then be encouraged to ask questions. The presentations will be made in Spanish and English, with attenders given the printed talk in their language of choice at the door.

Jeff’s Story

Last week I shared Sophia’s story. If you did not read this blog and see the video then please go back to September 2. Read my words and watch the 90-second video. Maybe even share this material with your church, your pastor, or your outreach team.

I am personally called to promote a vision I call “missional-ecumenism.” One way this vision works best is to get local churches to work in partnership as they reach into public space with the good news. In one case I know about here in the Chicago region a Catholic Church, and two Protestant churches, began a Crossroads Kids Club together.

I believe that we must get outside our church buildings and church systems and make new disciples. From what I can see this is not happening, or rarely happening. We should begin with children before they are adolescents. Why? Far too soon these children will find their identity and cultural formation from a gang, or at a minimum from entirely anti-Christian influences. Crossroads can change this pattern. But without local churches who will step out and act with vision and faithfulness it will

Sophia’s Story

Last week I mentioned my son’s ministry, Crossroads for Kids. Please give me more liberty here, mixed with four parts grace, by allowing me to share another amazing story that marks the deep integrity and impact of Matt’s work. I have watched lives changed by this mission for over seventeen years now. This is not “hit and run” children’s (decisional) evangelism but Christ-centered, faithful, love-centered, life-changing mission. Sitting in a Crossroads context, and hearing and seeing stories like Sophia’s for myself, I have to say that as Matt’s dad I could not be more excited about the fruit that God is producing in the life of my own son and his vision for a nation-wide outreach to kids. On top of this my son (who is now 41 so he is not a young man any longer, which makes me an “old” man) brings the deepest delight to me. Nothing can compare. I believe, as well, that he delights his eternal Abba.

Someone said you cannot know the direction of your life until you have lived long enough to see it reproduced in your mature adult children. For those of

For the Life of the World: The Classic Book and a New Video Series

I have mentioned my friend Byron Borger at Hearts & Minds Books in several contexts. There is no better reviewer of good books than Byron. Everyone who values my blogs should subscribe to his newsletters and pay attention to his reviews and book specials. There is simply no better Christian resource for good books – at least in the Protestant world – so far as I have discovered. Below is a review that covers the brilliant new film series that I am totally stoked about: “For the Life of the World.” Please order this series from Byron and you will not regret it I promise you. Show these films to friends, your small group, your local church, your adult education class, your older children, etc. There is no better introduction to whole life discipleship thinking available. This is not a series of polemical overviews but a good, solid Christian discipleship resource about living well that is applied to life in a holistic way.

Hearts & Minds Books

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DVD “For the Life of the

Must the Reformation Wars Continue? (Part Seven)

Yesterday I asked an important question at the end of my post: “How do we evangelize church members, both Catholic and Protestant?”

Sherry Weddell, the cofounder of the Catherine of Siena Institute, with Fr. Michael Sweeney, O.P., is a Christ-centered disciple maker who works to equip Catholic parishes to form lay Catholics for mission in the world. Sherry has been responsible for forming over 85,000 lay, religious and ordained Catholics in 105 dioceses in the art of evangelizing postmoderns, in gaining a better understanding of their spiritual gifts and vocational discernment and in understanding the theology and mission of the laity.

Sherry Weddell notes what every Catholic must honestly face in 2014:

1. Only 30% of American Catholics who were reared in the church are still practicing the Catholic faith in any meaningful way.

2. Fully 10% of all adults in America are now ex-Catholics. (I would guess many have left religion completely but many are evangelicals and charismatics!)

3. The number of marriages celebrated in the Church decreased dramatically, by nearly 60%, between 1972 and 2010.

4. Only 60% of Catholics actually believe in a personal God.

She argues that if the Catholic

Must the Reformation Wars Continue? (Part Six)

In post yesterday (May 20) – “Must the Reformation Wars Continue?” – I ended by stating that there is a question I now routinely ask in my dialogue and mission with Catholics and Protestants. The question first came to me in a public setting that I’d like to explain.

ct-biz-0621-elite-street-20120621-001A decade or so ago I was recruited by an adult Sunday School class in a Nazarene Church to publicly interact with a Catholic theologian. A moderator by the name of Alan Krashesky (photo at left), the ABC television news anchor for Chicago, was chosen to lead this dialogue. At first I believe the adult class wanted us to have a debate but we both refused. I do not see debate formats as truly helpful except for winning points with those who already agree with your position. (Krashesky is a former-Catholic and yet he is profoundly trusted by the archdiocese for his fairness, a fairness that he has shown again and again in my presence.) I told the hosts that I would much rather have a conversation about the

Must the Reformation Wars Continue? (Part Five)

UnknownThe debate Tim Challies generated about Pope Francis comes down to a simple question: Are devoted and faithful Catholics really Christians? I am still amazed at how many evangelicals assume that few (if any) Catholics are truly born of the Spirit of God. This was more common twenty or thirty years ago but it is still the “party line” in many places. The more ex-Catholics influence the thinking the more likely the problem will remain. Catholic converts are very often zealots against their former church. But they are not alone. Ex-evangelicals do not generally condemn their family and friends to perdition but they are quick to make sure that we all know they are the only ones inside the “true church.” Most have never met an ecumenical conversation they wanted to really share in deeply. I have found several kinds of Catholics who love to pursue ecumenical work; e.g. those deeply taught and formed cradle Catholics who love their church, converts who came into the Catholic Church through an adult RCIA program because they married a