Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Date, Audience and Purpose of Romans

This paper is written to outline and explain the critical issues concerning introductory material for the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans.  This introductory material will include when the letter is written, to whom the letter is written, and what the purpose of the letter is. Each of these will be present in the following manner: first, the major positions will be presented; second, the author’s preferred view will be chosen; and, finally, this preferred view will be defended and primary support will be given. This paper will help one gain an overview of each position and see explanation and defense of the most probable view of each subject mentioned above.
Concerning the date that the book of Romans was written, most scholars place Paul’s letter somewhere between A.D. 54 and A.D. 59; though, there are differences of opinions concerning the exact date of the book’s writing.   Ben Witherington places the date during the spring of A.D. 57 seeing Paul’s three-month winter stay in Corinth prior to his trip to Jerusalem as the most ideal time.[1] Richard N. Longenecker compiled a list of all the possible dates, showing that others see Romans being written shortly before 1 Corinthians, placing it between 52 and 54 A.D. Longenecker lists the possibilities, “(1) ‘in the first three months of 55,’ (2) ‘in the winter of 55-56 or 56-57,” (3) ‘during the early days of A.D. 57,’ (4) ‘at the beginning of either 57 or 58,’ (5) ‘in the first quarter of A.D. 59, but a year or two earlier is possible.”[2] Longenecker concludes that the book of Romans it was written during the winter of 57-58.
The date of writing is inextricably linked to the location Paul was writing from. To determine the date, one must use other known dates of Paul’s location. One scholar places Paul in Corinth due to the evidence inside of the letter. This evidence concerns a man in Romans 16:23 named Gaius whose name is possibly mentioned in 1 Corinthians 1:14 as one whom Paul baptized. Also, there is a reference to Erastus (Rom.16:23), “who is the city’s director of public works.” There has been archaeological evidence of an Erastus of political power found in Corinth.[3] These two evidences seem to place Paul in Corinth during the time of the writing of Romans.
In order to find that date that Paul was in Corinth one must examine Paul’s travels seen in the book of Acts. In Acts 18:2 Luke recounts; “There [at Corinth] he [Paul] met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudia had ordered all of the Jews to leave Rome.” This is a reference to the Edict of Claudius in A.D. 49 showing that Paul began his ministry in Corinth shortly after this Edict.[4] Paul gives reference to a collection for Jerusalem seen in 1 Cor. 16:1-4 and continued in 2 Cor. 8-9. This collection is also mentioned in the book of Romans 15:25-32, showing that the writing of these letters was close. Paul most likely wrote the letter to Rome shortly after writing 2 Corinthians, which was written somewhere around 54-58 A.D. This places the writing of Romans somewhere around 55-59 A.D.
To whom was the letter of Romans written has been a commonly debated topic amongst scholars. Some scholars examine internal textual evidence, others examine external evidence from history and other writings, and still others use a balance of the two. Ferdinand Christian Baur seems to see Romans directed against the Peterine party of early Christians. In contention to Baur, a Danish scholar Johannes Munck insists that the church at Rome was “composed entirely of Gentile Christians without any Jewish component at all.”[5] These two views have other scholars who fall into these two camps. Then there are those who believe that there was a mixed group of believers. Even amongst those who hold to a “mixed group” theory there is some variety. For instance, Witherington sees Romans written to Gentiles with Jews possibly overhearing. Colin Kruse sees the book being specifically written to Gentiles and Jews of which there are a majority Gentile and minority Jewish.[6]
Scripturally, there is clear evidence that the audience in Rome was Gentile. This is found in Romans 11:13 where Paul says, “I am talking to you Gentiles.” Then, it seems he also references Jews in Romans 7:1 when he says, “I am speaking to those who know the law.” Though this quote is not explicitly written to the Jews, it can be implied because it is clear elsewhere in Romans Paul connects those who know the law with the Jews.  Then, in Romans 16 Paul presents a list of names of which fifty percent are Jewish. [7] This mixing of Gentile and Jewish believers can be explained by the historical events and date of writing proposed previously. The Edict of Claudius was from 49-54 A.D. This Edict expelled most of the Jews and Jewish Christians from Rome, leaving the church to be primarily Gentile. One can assume that this Gentile Christian population grew greatly while their Jewish counterpart was absent from Rome. This is seen most clearly seen in the historical fact that Rome became the center of Christianity. Thus, when the Edict was lifted in 54 A.D., the Jewish Christians returned to a Gentile majority church. Paul was then writing to a Gentile majority and Jewish minority Church.
            The purpose for Paul writing the book of Romans varies greatly among scholars. The differing positions are based upon many factors. Some scholars see Paul writing Romans as a theological treatise while others see Romans as a summation of Paul’s earlier teaching. Still, others see Romans as an encyclical letter for the churches. These three viewpoints are based upon the content of the letter and an explanation for the shortened manuscripts of Romans that have been found. Furthermore, there are scholars who view Romans as Paul’s last will and testament. Others see it as a brief prepared originally for Paul’s defense at Jerusalem. Some of these scholars have gone so far to rename Romans, the letter to Jerusalem. Yet, there are a few scholars who see this letter as Paul’s self-introduction to the church and his attempt to solicit funds for a mission to Spain. But, if the whole letter were written to solicit money, one might see a longer treatise on money like the one in 1 Cor. or see the letter specifically focused such as Philemon. In a similar vein some scholars see Paul as establishing the church at Rome as an apostolic church. [8]
While the previous positions seem to be based upon Paul’s own consciousness and ministry, the following positions are based upon conditions existing amongst the Christians at Rome. F.C. Baur sees Paul writing the letter to oppose Jewish Particularism and proclaim Christian Universalism. Others see Romans closely linked to the book of Galatians and thus propose that Paul was writing to counter the claims of the Judaizers. Then, some scholars focus on chapters 14-15 and see Paul attempting to effect the reconciliation between the strong and the weak. Still, some scholars reflecting on the Roman government and focusing on chapter 13 see Paul giving counsel regarding the relation of Christians to civil government. There are scholars who hold that Paul was defending against criticism and misrepresentations of himself. Concluding on these content-based arguments, some scholars see this book as separate letters written on different occasions for different purposes.[9]
To determine Paul’s purpose for writing the book of Romans one must take into account not simply the content, nor just the context; but one must combine the historical context and the literary content of Romans. As mentioned previously, the events of Paul’s letter include a Jewish minority coming back to a church that is Gentile majority. This event has great impact upon the purpose of the letter because prior to the Edict of Claudius the church at Rome was composed of a Jewish majority. After the Edict the Jewish believers come back to Rome and encounter a Gentile majority church. This encounter brings them to despair concerning their Jewish brothers and sisters salvation. For they conclude that the Gospel had failed because it had not converted God’s promised people, Israel (Rom. 8-9). In the voicing of this belief the Gentiles arrogantly proclaim that this is indeed the fact and that now is the time of the Gentiles (Rom. 11:17-24).
The purpose of the letter to the Romans can be seen as a rhetorical attempt by Paul to show that the Gospel has not failed Israel and that the Gentiles have nothing to boast in but Jesus. This purpose finds it origin in the works of scholar John W. Taylor. Seeing the purpose laid out in full one must test this purpose against the text of the Book of Romans.
Thus, the book can be laid out in this manner:
1.     Ch. 1-4. Paul is showing how both Jew and Gentile are equally guilty before God.
2.     Ch. 5-8. Paul is attempting to show how all of humanity is opposed to God.
3.     Ch. 9. Paul climaxes his argument showing that God is not obligated by some special claim to save Israel but God’s grace and election are the only reason Israel can ever be saved.

4.     Ch. 10. Paul shows how Israel has failed to believe God and that it is not God who has failed.

5.     Ch. 11. God is seen as being brought to Israel by the light of the Gentiles.

6.     Ch. 12-15. After placing both Jews and Gentiles on equal footing before God Paul calls them to be recommitted to God and united as one under Christ.

7.     Ch. 16. Paul closes with greetings to both Jews and Gentiles and a call to urgency.  
As one surveys the book of Romans there will be an abundance of additional evidence to support the purpose that has been proposed. Though there are many positions concerning the time, audience, and purpose of the book of Romans, it is possible to come to a solid position if one takes into account all of the differing factors. The time of writing was slightly after the writing of the book of 2 Corinthians and after the Edict of Claudius was lifted, placing it somewhere around 55-59 A.D. The audience was a Gentile majority and a Jewish minority based upon evidence from both history and the text. Finally, Paul was writing during a time when the Jewish believers believed the Gospel to have failed in saving Israel and during a time when the Gentiles, in their arrogance, thought it was God’s time for them. Paul is writing to demolish both of these beliefs and place their hope in “the gospel, for it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”[10]

[1]Ben Witherington III with Darlene Hyatt, Paul’s Letter to The Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Press, 2004) 7.
[2]Richard N. Longenecker, Introducing Romans: Critical Issues in Paul’s Most Famous Letter, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2011) 50.
[3]Colin G. Kruse, Paul’s Letter to the Romans, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2012) 12.
[4]Longenecker, Introducing Romans, 46.
[5]Longenecker, Introducing Romans, 77.
[6]Kruse, Paul’s Letter to the Romans, 2.
[7]Ibid, 573.
[8]Longenecker, Introducing Romans, 94-110.
[9]Ibid, 111-128.
[10]ESV Romans 1:16

Monday, July 1, 2013

Grow in Grace not in Guilt

My wife and I enjoy watching the show Everybody Loves Raymond. The families overall narcissistic actions show the extremes of human selfishness. First, there are the parents. Frank, the dad, is as selfish as they come. He makes his wife serve him while he is constantly putting her down. Marie, the mother, serves her husband but she does so with a nagging and complaining spirit while she treats her oldest son Robert with neglect and Raymond with favor. Robert is always craving his families’ approval and love. This leads him to constantly complain how “everybody loves Raymond.”  Then there is Raymond’s wife, Deborah, who is a stay at home mom, and at times blows up at her husband’s man faults. Finally we get to Raymond. He is a momma’s boy who always thinks of himself first in all of his relationships. He neglects his wife. He lives for the approval of others. He goes to the extreme to always get what he wants.

            Streams of narcissisms are seen throughout the show. But Raymond is arguable the most self-seeking person on the show. To top it all off, despite many confrontations, Raymond is unable to see the extent of his selfish nature.

 When I watch this show I cannot help it but catch glimpses of myself within each of the characters. But in one way I am very different than Raymond because I often see my sin. Sometimes it even gets to the point where I see sin where there might not even be sin. Guilt weighs heavy. Condemnation seems to sway my mind. At times if I listen hard enough I hear the words, “You are unworthy. You are going to fail again. How can you do anything but fall back into your old life.” Though these words do not always hit me, sometimes it is a simple blanket guilty feeling for no apparent reason.

            This I have come to realize is somewhat morbid introspection. Morbid introspection has two aspects: “idol hunting, the danger of being caught in the vortex of self-analysis, probing for the heart’s lusts, peeling an onion whose layers are infinite; and hurt hunting, the endless obsession with one’s sorrows, sufferings, and disappointments (Redemption, Mike Wilkerson, 152.)”

Here I am. Seeing my sin. Knowing it offends God. Thinking back on the actions of the day. Self-examining.

Some Christians might actually be cheering me on now because of my self-examination. They might say (as sometimes I think), “I have sinned. Shouldn’t I feel guilt about my sin? Don’t I need to let that guilt drive me to action?”

But truly God hates when we are stuck in guilt and condemnation. He hates guilt driven actions. I know that it might be weird to read that statement. But God is not some Cosmic Guilt-tripper wanting people to feel terrible because they sin (Yes, there is conviction of sin but that is totally different).

So what does God say about this? Let’s take a stroll through the Romans 8. As we read through it pray and let the words of the text seep into your heart.

Paul begins the book Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”(Read that again)

Did Paul really say we aren’t condemned? I mean, doesn’t our sin deserve condemnation?

The answer is Yes! We have been set free. And Yes our sin does deserve condemnation.

But, why? How? This Paul answers in the following verses.

Romans 8:2-3, “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,”

As R.C. Sproul points out in his little book What can I do with my guilt? True guilt lies where there is law. The breaking of rules or laws is what causes guilt. But he also recognizes that, “there are people who are plagued by all sorts of feelings of guilt for things they did not do. Objectively, they violated no laws, but because of one mental aberration or another, they feel guilty; they feel that they have violated a law or laws.”

So the key to guilt is in recognition that guilt lies where the law is present. The verses above help us deal with is quam. “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” Thus Jesus has defeated the law of sin and death that whispers condemnation upon us. If we are His then there is no more condemnation or guilt but only loving conviction of sin drawing us to life in Christ. To let the voice of condemnation fester in our minds is to let Satan call us back to bondage.

As Romans 8:31-39 goes on to say, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

            Those charges of guilt and condemnation are no longer valid because of Jesus. Jesus took the wrath of God for our sin. He took the condemnation upon himself. He took all of the punishment so that we might be set free. He paid it all. IT IS FINISHED!!

            I must address something that goes hand in hand with this freedom from the law of sin and death. It is a freedom to live obedient to God. See we are not freed to simply go back to our sin like a dog to its vomit. God has set us free to life. This new life is by the power of the Spirit of God.  

            Romans 8:4 says, “in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

Christ fulfilled the law. The proof of us being in Christ is our life of repentance (For more on repentance listen to my Pastor Ryan Keeney’s sermon on Psalm 51:  If we are convicted because we have sinned then we must repent daily that we might have true life in Jesus.

The power to obey God is only by the Spirit of God not you. You are not bound to failure.

Grow in grace.

 Let the realization of the freedom you have been given rest in your heart and mind and let it spur you on to a deeper love and obedience of Jesus.

I want to close with a few verses from Titus 2:11-14, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Reflection paper of urban evangelism practicum in boston

 Reflecting upon the urban evangelism practicum to the city of Boston there were many insightful experiences, challenging ideas, and applicable principles found scattered throughout the trip. On our trip we saw a total of sixteen church planters within just a week’s time and heard many of them explain their churches and experiences. During the time with each of the church planters we had a Q&A time from which I gleaned many profitable insights. Traveling throughout Boston and Great Boston we got to see Cambridge, Newton, Medford, Brookline, West Roxbury, Weymouth, and many other towns. Our travels led us to see Harvard, MIT, and the Bunker Hill Monument. During our time at MIT we even rubbed shoulders with some of the top-tier professors and were led on guided tour throughout the campus. This week was crammed full of as much of Boston as one could see in seven short days. Amongst the traveling, the dialoguing, and the many wonderful experiences there were a lot of great concepts that one could apply to church planting and urban ministry in general.
The call of God upon a lead church planter was one of the consistent things that almost every planter mentioned as a necessity prior to planting. For instance, when Joe Souza, NAMB Catalyst and Lead Pastor of Celebration Church, spoke to us he said that he personally had given up on ministry in Boston 1,032 times; but each time God refreshed him and drove him back to his calling. The call of God was especially essential for lead church planter Vivek Arora, of All Nations Church, who had gone through the most struggles and hardship of all of the planters that we saw. In the pit of struggle and hardship this planter continued to possess confident faith in the fact that God had called him to Boston to plant a multiethnic church.
As I pondered the call of God for my life I began to dialogue with Joe Souza who gave me some very real and practical advice. He told me that he prays very practically concerning the will of God and the call of God. He asks God to give him a clear no, meaning that he pursues what he sees as the will of God and prays that if it is not God’s will that he would make that perfectly clear. This seems to be solid advice concerning discerning the will and call of God; because, if God places opportunities before you that seem to honor him, why should you not act upon what you think is his will? Souza described how God solidified his call and opened up doors for him. This idea of an “open door” for Souza was that God would give him connections in Boston, provide for him on the way, and give him opportunities to share the Gospel. Souza’s advice will guide my prayers as I pursue where in the North East of the U.S. God desires for me to plant a church.
The necessity of the call of God is not simply for the lead church planter but also must be held by the lead planter’s wife as well. While there was no current example of a planter whose wife had not received the call of God, there was a repetition of this concept among all of the planters. Some of the church planters told us that there had been many planters who had left the field due to their wives’ lack of call and commitment to the area. Even though many of the planters we met did not have wives who led the women’s ministry, it was still significantly important for the wife to be a godly example to the new church. As we continued to talk with the planters we found out that many of their wives were huge supports for them in time of stress, trial, and need. The wife almost always played a supporting role for the lead planter. Though not seen by the public, many planters expressed how their wives carry a lot of the stresses and burdens because of the oneness of the man and woman. When the planters spoke of the call of God for the wife they did not necessarily mean the call in the same way that the husband was called. The call for the wife was a settled contentment in the belief that God has called both of them to the area. This call might only be fully revealed to her husband, but it will be accepted and rested in by the wife. This acceptance of the call by the wife is actually, what many of the planters told us, confirmation for the call of God upon the lead planter’s life.
Another concept that was repeated throughout the trip was the necessity for a church to be planted with a team as opposed to a lone church planter. Partial evidence of this concept was seen in the planting of All Nations Church, which was a struggling church due partially to the fact that it had been planted with only one lead planter and his family. As many of the planters expressed to us, church planting is hard. Satan attacks the church planter in countless ways. Many problems will arise that seem unsolvable. But, as the planters expressed to us, a church planter with a team will have support, shelter, and wisdom in numbers.
A team will encourage each other. The lead planters of True Vine Church, Brandon Allison and Myke Wilkerson, gave some keen insight into how their team works together. Wilkerson expressed to us that sometimes when they go out to evangelize one of them will not always feel like going out but the other one will encourage him to be passionate to share the gospel that day. They encourage each other on days when the other member is not feeling prepared, ready, or wanting to evangelize. Wilkerson also expressed to me how his team fit together like a puzzle, supplying what is lacking in each other’s spiritual gifts. Allison is the lead planter doing all of the teaching and leading while Wilkerson leads out in worship, tech, and youth ministry. Wilkerson works better in the supporting role whereas Allison the lead role for this new church plant. The giftings of this team then compliment each other and work together, covering each other’s weakness. A team then is essential to the building of a healthy church.
The use of technology within the context of Boston seemed to be reiterated throughout the trip. For instance, Jan Vezikov, lead planter of a Russian-American church called Mosaic Boston, told us a story of how the use of technology, specifically sermon videos on their website, actually brought someone to their church. Vezikov recounts that there was a young man who came to their church and said what first intrigued him was a sermon that he had found on their website. Shortly after that this same young man became a Christian and took lead of their tech ministry. This tech ministry was actually helped by a fellow church planter who had sent his tech guy over to train Vezikov’s tech guy.
Reflecting upon the use of technology, I began to recognize the need of a quality website and thought about making a website that began to give answers to the questions of the secular people of Boston. This could be used especially if one was to hand out cards with their website on them for people. The vision of this website would be one that uses videos to give short answers to the key questions that are at the heart of many of the secular urbanites. But the videos would definately need to be of a quality that is not distracting. This reflection that I had was reinforced by Send City Coordinator and Pastor of Hope Fellowship Church, Curtis Cook, who said that if he had to start all over again he would spend more money on a good website. His reasoning was that 9 out of 10 people will visit your website before they visit your church. All of these experiences gave me a solid belief in the importance of quality tech ministry.
Bi-vocational church planting was urged by many of the planters we came in contact with. The belief that the church planter should find a job in the community to work while he plants the church was enforced from many different angles by the planters we met. Joe Souza told us that even if we raise all of our own funding to plant it is very important to work in the community. His reasoning was that having a job in the community would help you connect better with the community because you become a part of the community immediately. But not only does it help you connect better with the community, it also helps you to learn your context more quickly. You will be living amongst the people daily and in turn learning more about the people and the area.
A great example of bi-vocational planters who are using their jobs and contexts to influence the community is seen in the planters of True Vine Church. Both Brandon Allison and Myke Wilkerson work at Dunkin Donuts. This has been an instant opportunity for them to grow their church; everyone in their bible study works with them at Dunkin Donuts. Additionally, Allison has been able to show a character that exemplifies consistency and reliability. This character has led him to get a promotion to store manager in just a year of working at Dunkin Donuts. This promotion has been a witness to those who worked with him, as one co-worker expressed shock at how fast he was able to gain promotion. Truly, this credibility has gained him a hearing with the rest of his co-workers, many of whom have gotten saved through his witness. Following the suggestion of Joe Souza, their apprentice church, Allison and Wilkerson have been successful in bi-vocational church planting and an example of bi-vocational church planting done properly.
While in Boston, we also observed the importance for church planters to look for “people of peace.” These “people of people” are people who are Non-Christians but are interested in the gospel, willing to lend an ear, possibly provide a space to meet/resources, and/or introduce you to an entire network of people. This was seen throughout the trip as a way many of the planters received an open door into the community. This was first seen through the experience of Pastor and Lead Planter of Charles River Church, Josh Wyatt, who attempted to get in touch with a main street association for a while before he got an open door. This association helps out in West Roxbury where the government recently built a high-end section eight housing complex. The association has social workers and events to help the people of this poor neighborhood get jobs that would sustain them. After several failed attempts to get permission to help serve the main street association, Wyatt finally obtained a willing ear from a new head supervisor of the association. Though this new head supervisor was a Universalist, she allowed Wyatt opportunities to staff their events, host youth/children’s event, and serve in a multitude of ways. This person of peace opened the door wide, eventually giving Wyatt office space to serve the community, as the social workers would be leaving in a few months. So because of that one person of peace Wyatt now has a free space to host events for the community, conduct youth ministry, use all of their tents/equipment, and take the role of social workers helping to serve the community as Jesus did.
Two more church plants also experienced clear open doors from people of peace. Lead planter Steve Brown of Wellspring Church in Stoneham experienced a key person of peace, which is actually now the place where they do most of the their ministry. This person of peace is an owner of a local pizza place within the town. The relationship with Brown and the person of peace began as his family frequented his local pizza place. Now Brown has events at the pizza place to reach families with children. For instance, Brown is planning a Red Sox Family Night on June the 5th. These events consist of games, prizes, and trivia to keep all of the children involved. Along the same lines, the church planters of True Vine Church also frequented a local restaurant, gaining a great relationship with the owner, and have a local trivia night in the restaurant. There is most definitely a common theme of God using people of peace to reach many more with the Gospel and expand the kingdom of God.
Many of the planters employed what I will entitle Volunteerism/Event Hosting to expand their influence and serve the city, building creditability. This first example was Todd Burus who, at the time of our trip, was not even living in Boston as a planter yet but had already gained credibility in the community. Burus achieved this credibility by hosting weeklong youth sporting events for the children several summers in a row. Hosting these events, Burus gained credibility with the families and was able to gain many relationships with people prior to coming onto the field. Allison and Wilkerson of True Vine Church also mentioned that they participated in a community clean up event where they were able to wear special shirts signifying who they were.
Vezikov’s church, Mosaic Boston, models servant hearts through their homeless ministry where each week they bring food to the homeless and share the gospel with them. Also, Mosaic Boston goes to the local assisted living home and helps them by spending time with the elderly and meeting any physical needs. Mosaic also partner with the local community outreach to serve the community in anyway necessary. Every September Mosaic Boston hosts a free ESL class in order to help those who speak English as a second language. Along with Burus and Vezikov, Josh Wyatt also serves the community as was mentioned above. Volunteerism/Event Hosting are ways that new planters and new church plants can establish credibility in the community and serve the community as Jesus has called us to do.
The sharing of ideas, resources, and mission teams is a great sustaining factor for most of the church plants in Boston and Greater Boston. As mentioned above, Vezikov received tech training from another church in the area. But, even greater than tech support, was the providence of mission teams from Curtis Cook. Cook has been the Pastor of Hope Fellowship for thirteen years and possesses many connections to churches outside of Boston. These established churches regularly send mission teams up to Boston to help Cook. But, unlike most churches that would simply use the mission teams for their own churches, Cook sends the teams to almost all of the church plants in the area. Since Hope Fellowship is one of the few churches that actually owns a building in Boston, they are able to house these teams in their space. It is important to make connections with established churches outside of Boston, which could send mission teams to serve all of the church plants in Boston. Thus, Hope Fellowship being the most established church shares their mission teams to expand the kingdom of God in Boston. Not only does Hope Fellowship share its mission teams, but it also shares its space hosting many ethnic churches on a weekly basis.
Along with the sharing of tech ministry, space, and missions there is the sharing of ideas. For starters, most if not all of the existing church plants have apprenticed for a time period under existing churches. During these apprenticeships the young aspiring church planters serve and sit under the leadership of the seasoned church planter where they learn techniques, principles, and work on their weaknesses and strengths. One of the ideas that many of the church planters have shared is that of putting advertisements up on the T (subway) and billboards. The existing churches pass along their contacts for advertising, and the new churches implement the same strategy. Another idea they share came from Hope Fellowship where they pass our granola bars or waters along with a card for their church. These servant handouts have been implemented at churches such as True Vine and Charles River. With limited time the planters could not share all of the ideas that they glean from each other but with their tight knit network one can be confident that more sharing continues.
This practicum has given me insight into church planting that I could never gain from reading books. It gave me a chance to see how different planters operate within their different contexts and with their different spiritual gifting. It has also challenged me personally to living more intentionally at my church here in Fort Worth. Not only have I learned a lot from this experience, but also I see Boston now more as a possibility to plant a church. This experience has also challenged me to seek God more on a daily basis and how to seek him concerning his will. God is doing a great work in Boston and there are many things that I have gleaned from the trip.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Baltimore, MD: A Historical, Demographical & Practical Church Planting Paper

Urban Church Planting in Baltimore, md
In the summer of 1608 Captain John Smith first discovered Baltimore. This land was not vacant when he discovered it but inhabited by a group of fierce, warlike Native Americans known as the Susquehannoughs for whom the Susquehanna River was named.[1]  The city was named after George Calvert, 1st Baron Baltimore, who was originally a member of the British Parliament and a Secretary of State. In 1625 he resigned all of his political offices except the position on the Privy Council.[2] He then publically declared his Catholicism and was given the title of 1st Baron of Baltimore. He first desired to go to Newfoundland to take over as Proprietary Governor of Avalon. He found this land to be lacking in resources and had a hostile climate and soon left for a better land.
Calvert took an interest in colonizing the New World. He originally sent for a petition to the King of England to charter Virginia. But, through a series of trials and lack of communication, he eventually gained permission for a new charter from the Potomac River to either side of the Chesapeake Bay. But this permission came too late because, after Calvert survived the plague, his health began to fail, eventually leading to his death April 15, 1632.[3] This left his oldest son Cecilius Calvert, 2nd Baron Baltimore as the first Proprietor and Proprietary Governor of the Province of Maryland (1632) who governed for forty-two years. Cecilius Calvert continuing his father legacy promoting religious tolerance throughout the colony despite the fact that the colony was officially Catholic. Though the 2nd Baron did not visit the colony he governed through deputies and eventually appointed his younger brother Leonard Calvert as the Governor of the Province of Maryland (1635-1647).[4]
In 1649 the assembly of the Maryland colony passed the Maryland Tolerance Act, which mandated religious tolerance for Trinitarian Christians only, creating the first legal limitations on hate speech in the world. But sadly, after only five years after this Act was passed, the Virginian William Claiborne and Puritan leader Richard Bennett repealed it. These men had taken control of the colony by force and produced a new Act that forbade Catholics from openly practicing their religion. [5] This new Act would not be repealed until the American Revolution. For nearly a year (Dec.1776-Feb.1777) Baltimore was actually the capital of the United States. Also the city of Baltimore was part of Baltimore County until 1851 when it was made and independent city. During the War of 1812 the city was the site of the Battle of Baltimore, which followed with a rapid growth in population.[6] The city was a major manufacturing and shipping center due to the National Road and the B&O Railroad. Despite being a slave state that greatly benefited from tobacco and slave trade, having much support for succession during the American Civil War, (even in Baltimore) Maryland remained a part of the Union.[7]
Finishing out the nineteenth century, Baltimore experienced the Panic of 1873 that occurred as a result of the B&O Railroad Company attempting to lower the workers’ wages. This Panic lead to the Great Railroad Strike of 1877, many deaths, and the burning of properties of the B&O railroad.[8] Starting the twentieth century, on February seventh of 1904, the Great Baltimore Fire devastated Baltimore leaving more than seventy blocks of downtown burned to the ground, estimating at about $150 million of damage in 1904. This fire greatly impacted Baltimore by giving it new improvements as it rebuilt itself and led to fixed boundaries for the city.[9] From 1950 to 1970 Baltimore’s black population grew from 23.8% to 46.4%.[10] This was greatly impacted by the Baltimore riot of 1968 and the events leading up to it. This riot followed the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and cost the city an estimated ten million dollars during this time. The effects of this riot can be seen throughout stretches of Baltimore’s streets that still remain barren.[11] Then from the 1970s to the end of the century there was an effort to redevelop the downtown area known as the Inner Harbor. These renovations lead to the Baltimore Convention Center, Harborplace, The National Aquarium, Camden Yards, and many other buildings. 
As of 2012 the demographics of Baltimore consist of 60.9% Black, 28.9% White, 5.1% Hispanic, and 5% Asian/other. This means that from 1970 until modern day the black population of Baltimore has grown by 14.5%. Baltimore city consists of primarily struggling black households (about 24%), metro multiethnic diversity (about 21%), surviving urban diverse (about 9%), struggling urban diverse (about 7%), rising multiethnic urbanites (about 4%), working urban families (about 3%), and educated new starters (about 3%). Nearly 50% of Baltimore’s population is made up of struggling blacks and metro multiethnic diversity. [12]
There are many key marks that make up the identity of the struggling black population. Almost half of these adults are without high school diplomas, and the median household income is far below the national average. This group is marked by a strong faith involvement and belief in God that are well above national average. These groups’ primary concerns are Racial/Ethnic Prejudice, Affordable Housing (number one), Neighborhood gangs/crime/safety, Abusive relationships, and Alcohol/Drug Abuse.  The Metro Multi-Ethnic Diverse households have a high number of single-parent households with five or more persons. The Median household income is only slightly under the national average. Faith is far above the average in for this lifestyle group. The concerns of this group include those of the struggling black group but place Racial/Ethnic Prejudice as number one. This group prefers to be left to their own to having a strong leader.[13] Thus, overall 50% of the population of Baltimore is made up of those who are not white and lower in income.  
A key concept that is necessary to plant a church in the urban context of Baltimore is that of raising up indigenous leaders. Noting the importance of this concept to church planting Tim Keller, lead planter and senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, says, “We find leadership development. In each place Paul visited he chose elders, a plurality of leaders out of the converts”[14] As one does a simple cursory reading of the book of Acts, one will find that this method is exactly how the Apostle Paul operated. When the Apostle Paul went into a new area, his primary method of putting leaders in place was not implanting them from another congregation but was the raising up of indigenous leaders from the new context.[15] Previous to Paul raising up leaders within the community he had to “make disciples.” This making of disciples must first occur by a sharing of the Gospel to the unbelievers. Paul shared the Gospel to each context in a different way. For instance, when Paul shared with the Jews he reasoned from the Old Testament scriptures seen in Acts 13:16-41. But, when Paul addressed the Areopagus he begins by addressing their idol “To the Unknown God.”[16] The Apostle Paul uses each of these different people’s cultures as an avenue to “preach Jesus and the resurrection.”[17] Paul does not change the message of the Gospel but changes the method by which he communicates this message. Paul uses cultural imagery and vernacular so that each person would clearly understand the message of the Gospel.  This is what many call contextualization.
As the gospel is contextualized and people from different cultures become new believers, the lead church planter, who is often like Paul an outsider to the culture, must continue to contextualize the Gospel in discipling these new Christians. Culturally contextualized counseling is critical for raising up mature indigenous leaders. The use of the word counseling here is simply an intensely personal view of discipleship. It has been the testimony of scripture and the experience of most people that everyone is broken and carries personal baggage. This personal baggage includes misconceptions, sins, and experiences that every person has from living life without fellowship with God. But, there are also cultural barriers that hinder people from understanding the personal baggage that people from other contexts carry. Take for instance Person A. Person A has lived in a rural setting all of his life. He has worked hard all of his life on a farm. Everything that he owns he earned by the work of his hands and this in turn makes Person A more inclined to judge Person B. See, Person B grew up in a rich suburb. Person B has had maids who have cleaned up after him and tutors who have helped him with school. Thus Person A might view Person B as stuck up and lazy. These two types of people have a hard time relating because of the cultural barriers that exist. Similar cultural barriers exist when you have a suburban raised church planter who goes into an urban area. Unless these suburban church planters truly commit to understanding the culture around them, they will be unable to help their urban converts deal with their personal baggage and mature enough to be leaders in the new church. [18]
 The way this contextual counseling works is through the lead planter who understands the culture and meets with an indigenous new believer to help him grow in Christian maturity.  A primary method of Christian maturity is to “be transformed by the renewal of your mind.”[19] The lead planter, after getting to know this new believer, hearing his whole story, and knowing how it fits into the cultural context, speaks specific Gospel truth to combat the lies that keep him from maturing. Though this speaking of truth to renew ones mind is done in a contextual way, it is actually a changing of the new believer’s false cultural patterns of thinking. Commenting on the verse mentioned above Pastor John Stott says, “And now Paul issues the same summons to the people of God not to be conformed to the prevailing culture, but rather to be transformed.”[20] Thus, before the lead planter transforms culturally based lies, he must be able to understand, identify, and speak to those lies with truth in a way that is understanding to the new convert.  This is part of how the lead planter counsels the indigenous Christian into maturity.[21]
Thus, this contextual counseling is necessary to grow mature urban indigenous Christians in the city of Baltimore. Scripture says this counseling is “destroying arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, take every thought captive to obey Christ.”[22] As the lead planter understands what truths combat the cultural lies that these urban Christians believe, he will help them cast down these thoughts that keep them from loving God. There are specific truths in the bible for every lie. Many of these lies are wide spread throughout the culture, such as “moral relativism,” which is the idea that there is no true right or wrong but that every individual is to decide for himself.[23] But some lies are personal and individual based, such as the belief that if one simply goes to church then he will be set free from sin. While the latter may seem just as wide spread as the former, the difference is in the personal nature of the lie lived out. While moral relativism is a massive concept that can take many different forms, going to church to rid one of sin can only be seen in a few different forms. These cultural and personal lies do not exist simply as concepts but are very much present in the urban context.
Since a foundation for contextual counseling has been laid out, it can be specifically applied to the context of Baltimore. As stated previously, Baltimore is made up of 60.9% black people and more specifically it contains 24% of struggling black people. This then shall be the focus group in the implementation of contextualized counseling. Before this counseling can begin one must have a historical and cultural understanding of the black population within Baltimore. Some key historical facts and events that are mentioned above have greatly impacted this group of people. The historic fact that Maryland was originally a slave state most definitely impacts this group. Though it cannot be concluded 100% that all of the residences have ancestors who were slaves, it can be seen through other events that this deeply impacted the people. The event in reference is the Baltimore riots of 1968 following the death of Marin Luther King Jr. This event occurred only forty-seven years ago but still manifests its affects on the city and the hearts of the black population. This manifestation is seen in the description of the groups mentioned above, namely that 50% of the population’s primary concern was with racial/ethnic prejudice. One can imagine, due to the horrific injustices that were experienced by their ancestors, that the percentage might even be higher.  These historical facts and the fact that 50% of the group’s primary concern is with racial/ethnic prejudice shows that the this is one of those cultural ideas that greatly impacts Baltimore’s black population.
Some might ask, how can one utilize these facts when implementing this contextualized counseling? Or does racial history truly still impact Baltimore’s black population even after forty-seven years?[24] When speaking concerning counseling to the urban black population one author rightly recognizes the prejudices that still exist when a white man attempts to counsel a black person. He says, “It will be especially important for the nonblack counselor to know this history and establish credibility with [his or] her counselee. A white counselor, after all, represents the oppressors and there may be manifestations of resentment with which to deal with.”[25] It is then important that the lead planter who is counseling a black new believer be clear and upfront when dealing with the issue of racial prejudice. This possibility of resentment mentioned above is one of the mental strong holds that keep these new believers from growing in Christian maturity. If a white lead planter is able to build credibility with this black new convert and exhibit the sacrificial love of Christ to them then he might be able to more effectively destroy this false belief that all white people are oppressors than a black counselor would. This is done simply based off of the fact that by his care and sacrifice he is showing that this belief is actually a lie. 
So while the love and example of the white counselor begins to combat the lies and hurts experienced by the black new Christians, there is always a need to not minimize or generalize their experience. Making this point one author says, “The counselor should be very careful about making generalizations because of the significant sub-cultural issues that lie within any given ethnic group.”[26] While all that was mentioned above is true concerning the impact of the past racial injustices, the counselor must be careful to recognize that every individual is different. To generalize an individual’s experience is a failure to listen to that individual’s life story. Though one might understand the principles that influence a person’s behavior one might not know the direct personal experience that has shaped that behavior. For instance, if a counselor observed anger from a black man towards white men in their counseling session and simply addressed the problem by telling the counselee that this problem stemmed from historical racial oppression, then the counselor might have missed some specific sins committed against the counselee. To leap from one’s actions to general principles is a grave failure to love and listen to one’s personal experience. This black man might have actually experienced racial slurs being hurled at him from several white men.
To then address these cultural lies one must first know the cultural lies. Then he can listen to see if the counselee has personally experienced actions that justify these lies. Then he can adequately address the situation head on without generalizing. There are specific Gospel truths that address the personal experience of those who have been hurt by racial slurs, racial prejudices, and even racially motivated physical attacks. First, off the lead planter must address the fact that the counselee has been genuinely sinned against. This genuine sin must not be minimized by the counselor or the counselee in any fashion. Minimizing sin is not truly seeing sin like it actually is and in fact actually makes less of the death of Jesus. Secondly, the counselee must personally recognize the death of Christ for his own sin. Without a personalizing of the death of Jesus for his own sin the counselee will be never be able to truly forgive those who have hurt him. When one personalizes the death of Christ one should avoid only recognizing a list of sins as his only failings. Going through Psalm 51 will help the counselee model true repentance. In Psalm 51 King David, though he has sinned greatly in many personal ways, never mentions these sins individually but recognizes from his birth and at his core he is sinful and rebellious against God. This full recognition left him solely dependent upon the mercy and grace of God. This recognition of total dependence and forgiveness from God will allow the counselee to forgive those who hurt him deeply due to the great forgiveness that he has received from Christ.[27]
Thirdly, the counselee is to look to Jesus’ example of suffering. Scripture in 1 Peter 2:23 says, “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” Jesus suffered great sin against himself but he fully trusted that it was God the Father who would judge justly. God will ultimately punish those who have sinned against us, whether that is by the death of Christ forgiving their sins or standing before God who will send them to hell. Sin comes with a cost but God is the one who enacts judgment. The counselor should be wise and take their time working through these truths on an individual basis because not everyone changes at the same speed. But God will heal the counselee’s wounds for 1 Peter 2:24 goes onto says, “He [Jesus] himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” It is Jesus who is the example and healer for the struggling black in Baltimore, MD.
As the City of Baltimore as been examined historically, demographically, and practically one can see that the issue of race has been an on going struggle for the black population in this area. A lead white planter has hope that he can bridge the gap contextually to reach and disciple these new black converts. As the lead planter understands the culture thoroughly he can then speak the unchanged message of the Gospel to these people. The lead planter must learn everything about the culture from anywhere he can get it. This necessitates a great deal of humility to learn from these new converts and a great deal of listening to learn how their cultural context and experiences has hurt and lied to them. After the planter learns and listens, he is able to speak into these new converts’ lies helping them to renew their mind, cast down lies, and apply the necessary facet of the Gospel to their situation. Jesus is the hope for Baltimore City. He can bring healing and hope where only racism and hate are found. Over time, contextualized counseling when properly implemented can bring these new black believers into Christian maturity so that the planter can raise up indigenous leaders.


[1]John Thomas Scharf, History of Baltimore City and County, from the earliest period to the present day: including biographical sketches of their representative men, (1881), pp. 32 Published by: L.H. Everts, Google books:, (Access date, April 6, 2013)
[2]Luca Codignola, The Coldest Harbour of the Land: Simon Stock and Lord Baltimore's Colony in Newfoundland, 1621–1649, Translated by Anita Weston. (Kingston, Ontario: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1988), pg.12.
[3]John D. Krugler English and Catholic: the Lords Baltimore in the Seventeenth Century, (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004). pg. 33-4
[4]William Hand Browne, George Calvert and Cecilius Calvert: Barons Baltimore of Baltimore, (New York: Dodd, Mead, and Company, 1890), pg. 31.
[5]Robert J. Brugger Maryland: A Middle Temperament. (Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988), pg. 21.
[6]Walter R. Borneman 1812: The War That Forged a Nation. (New York: Harper Perennial, 2004) pg. 121.
[7]Ralph Clayton (7/12/2000). A bitter Inner Harbor legacy: the slave trade, The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 4/7/2013.
[8]Scharf, History of Baltimore City and County. pg. 733-42.
[9]A Howling Inferno: The Great Baltimore Fire, Virtually Live@Hopkins (Johns Hopkins University, January 12, 2004), Retrieved April 7, 2013.
[10]John R. Short, Alabaster cities: urban U.S. since 1950, (Syracuse University Press, 2006) pg.142.
[11]"Baltimore '68 Events Timeline". Baltimore 68: riots and Rebirth. University of Baltimore Archives. Retrieved April 7, 2013
[12] Based off of a Percept Group report:
[13] A Reference to percept information sources and systems: Source Book, (Percept Group Inc., U.S.A., 2007) pg. 93, 102-3.
[14]Timothy Keller. Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012), pg. 365.
[15]There are a few example of those Paul brought into a context from the outside namely Timothy and Titus. But the overall procedure for Paul seen in the book of Acts was a raising up elders from their context.
[16] Acts 17:23 The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.
[17]Acts 17:18, ESV.
[18] Harvie M. Conn, Manuel Ortiz, Urban Ministry, (InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, 2001), pg. 352.
[19] Romans 12:2, ESV.
[20]John R. W. Stott, The Message of Romans, (InterVarsity Press, Langham Place, 1994), pp. 323.
[21]The necessity for this maturity in Christian leaders is seen in the books of 1 Timothy and Titus. There are two lists of character qualifications from Pastors.
[22]2 Corinthians 10:5, ESV.
[23]James W. Sire, The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog Fourth Edition, (InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, 2004), 226.
[24] Rodney M. Woo, The Color of Church: A Biblical And Practical Paradigm for Multiracial Churches, (B&H Academic, Nashville, 2009), pg. 79. Shows how this divide still exists thoroughly ingrained into many aspects of the American Society.
[25]Craig W. Ellison, Edwards S. Maynard, Healing for the City: Counseling in the Urban Setting, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, 1992), 70.
[26]Ibid., 71.
[27]Mike Wilkerson, Redemption: Freed by Jesus from the Idols we Worship and the Wounds we carry, (Crossway, Wheaton, 2011), pp. 82-85.