Bob Stevenson

Pastor. Can’t get enough of the gospel.

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My Anxious Limp

I am an anxious person. I’ve lived with this low-grade, steady-state level of anxiety for more years than I’d like to admit. It’s always there, like the hum of the refrigerator. It is so persistent that I often fail to recognize its presence until it’s gone.

I am writing this in a season of rest, on sabbatical. And as I have stepped away from the daily operations of ministry, devoting my time to my family, reading, writing and wrangling my yard, the hum of anxiety has quieted significantly. My heart has grown still. I have been able to rest. It’s been amazing.

But this season is just that: a season. In a few weeks, I am headed back into fray. I will take up again the burden of full-time pastoral ministry, with all its expectations, responsibilities and concerns. And I know for certain that my old nemesis will be following close behind.

 Jacob’s Limp

There’s a sense in...

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What a Sabbatical Means for Village

The following has been cross-posted on the Village Blog.

In 2017, the leadership at Village elected to adopt a sabbatical policy for pastors. For every seven years of service, your pastors are eligible for a period of intentional, constructive time away from the normal demands of ministry.

On May 28, I will be entering into a season of sabbatical lasting until August 5. This is not designed to be an extended vacation; it is a proactive rhythm of rest, removed from the normal routines and demands of the pastorate, to promote longevity, and prevent the burnout so common among many in leadership today. I am grateful for the opportunity to disconnect, bury my head in books and writing projects, and invest in both my family and my communion with Christ.

I know that this feels jarring for some at Village. I do most of the preaching, and my responsibilities make me one of the most...

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The Church, Society and Race: Part 8b (Moving Forward)

This is a multi-part series. Read part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, and part 8a.

In part 8a, I attempted to capture the eschatological and glory-filled vision for the diverse unity of the church. But the question remains: what now? Here and now, for the sake of time and concision, my focus is on what the average church member can do.

 1. Start Seeing Color

One of the great misguided ideas of our day is the suggestion that we must approach culture with “colorblindness.” That is, in contradistinction to our forefathers who made color the basis of value, we must go the other way and choose not to see color at all.

The problem with this idea is that it doesn’t work. It might in an idealized society, untouched by our particular past. But we cannot ignore our past. Indeed, colorblindness often mutates into a white majority culture refusal to care about the...

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The Church, Society and Race: Part 8a (Moving Forward)

This is a multi-part series. Read part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, and part 8b.

 Introduction

Over the past seven posts, I have been exploring the way the church should engage with broader society. I began by presenting a four-pillar model for cultural engagement. In light of these four pillars, I also suggested that our membership in the kingdom of God demands that we live out the ethic of the kingdom transparently and boldly. If the ethic of the kingdom is righteousness, and righteous living brings about peace, unity, love, wholeness, etc., as it is aligned under God, then it follows that this ethic can only be good for the rest of the world around us. Therefore, we are salt and light in our world, always seeking to do good to the world around us. We honor God when we live faithfully, and when we bring the fragrance of God’s righteousness into the dark...

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The Church, Society and Race: Part 7 (Race and Racism Today)

This is a multi-part series. Read part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, and parts 8a and 8b.

 Introduction

Over the past few posts, I have attempted to cover some 340 years of history, surveying the racialized landscape of the United States. We began by looking at the institution of slavery beginning back in 1619, and ending only in 1865. We continued by examining the post-emancipation Jim Crow era from the late 1870sto the mid- to late-1960s.

Now, in one sense, these are the most difficult sections to cover, because of the explicit dehumanization of non-white peoples, the brutality of enslavement, and the abject and crystal clear injustice of discrimination and segregation. It is impossible to deny that, prior to the structural and legal changes of the 1950s-60s, American society established, promoted and preserved a racial caste, whereby white people were at the top...

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The Church, Society and Race: Part 6 (Introducing Racism)

This is a multi-part series. Read part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 part 5, part 7, and parts 8a and 8b.

In this post, we continue our woefully brief historical survey, covering several high-level movements to help unpack why we are where we are today. We focus our attention on the period spanning from emancipation to the Civil Rights movement.

 Slavery, Emancipation and Reconstruction

We left off with the institution of slavery in full swing. We don’t have time to unpack the horrific sin of slavery, the corrupt justifications for the institution, or the innumerable injustices committed by white slaveholders, but I will commend you to the history books. If you’ve never seriously studied this part of our family history, now is the time. Read through Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass for a frank and brief overview of one man’s experience. It is right and good for us to stand...

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The Church, Society and Race: Part 5 (Introducing Racism)

This is a multi-part series. Read part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 6, part 7, and parts 8a and 8b.
The oft-quoted maxim, “Those who fail to learn history are doomed to repeat it” is not so much a modern construction as a timeless reality. Scripture itself constantly points back to Israel’s history for this very reason. In Psalm 95, for example, after inviting the worshiper to enter God’s presence with a joyful noise, he exhorts them,

“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, when your fathers put me to the test and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.” (Ps. 95:7-9, ESV)

In short, “remember your history – don’t be like your forefathers.”

In Stephen’s famous speech in Acts 7, he gives the religious leaders a history lesson and draws a present-day application: “You’re responding just like...

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The Church, Society and Race: Part 4 (Introducing Racism)

This is a multi-part series. Read part 1, part 2, part 3, part 5, part 6, part 7, and parts 8a and 8b.

It is no secret that the United States has a long and checkered history of racism. And it’s no secret that the white American church has an equally dubious track record in confronting racism and racist ideas. It is also clear that, while significant structural advances have been made in our country, not all is well. There are some who believe that we have entered into a “post-racial” society – yet the reality is that our society is still very much “racialized.”

This phrase, advanced by Emerson and Smith in their helpful study Divided by Faith, describes a society “in which intermarriage rates are low, residential separation and socioeconomic inequality are the norm, our definitions of personal identity and our choices of intimate associations reveal racial distinctiveness, and...

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The Church, Society and Race: Part 3 (Exiles and Sojourners)

This is a multi-part series. Read part 1, part 2, part 4 part 5, part 6, part 7, and parts 8a and 8b.

In the last post, I briefly discussed the idea that we, as citizens of the kingdom of God, live our lives in this world now as exiles. In this post, we build and expand on this point.

 1. The Christian as Exile

Let’s begin by unpacking what I mean when I call us exiles. Scripture is replete with descriptions of dominion transfer. That is, when we become Christians, our loyalties, citizenship, identity all transition. For example:

  • “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.” (Rom 6:6-7, ESV)
  • “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have...

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The Church, Society and Race: Part 2 (A Model for Social Engagement)

This is a multi-part series. Read part 1, part 3, part 4 part 5, part 6, part 7, and parts 8a and 8b.

As mentioned in the first post, the first half of this series will be spent building a biblical-theological model for social engagement. It is important that we carefully lay this theological framework before getting into the details, lest we lose the forest for the trees in this ever-important subject.

Last week, we spend our time in a brief flyover of the biblical theme of the Kingdom of God, concluding with three observations:

  1. The kingdom is composed of those who belong to Jesus. That is, God’s kingdom is not something we are born into, or can physically emigrate to. Belonging is open to all – but only through faith in Jesus Christ.
  2. The kingdom is already, but not yet. We looked at Jesus’ teaching on the kingdom and recognized that the kingdom of God has been inaugurated...

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