Bob Stevenson

Pastor. Can’t get enough of the gospel.

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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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The Church, Society and Race: Part 1 (The Kingdom of God)

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

Every generation of Christians faces difficult often complex questions of how they should relate to the surrounding culture. As culture constantly changes and asks new questions, or issues new challenges to the unchanging gospel, Christians must do the hard work of thinking hard about how to respond faithfully.

And this is no mere academic exercise. Each of us lives one life, in a particular historical moment, in a particular location, called to live faithfully under the one God who transcends it all. We are given a charge, and if we would be faithful, we must wrestle through the difficult questions of how the culture-transcending gospel shines in the midst of our particular cultures.
It is important to consider cultural matters, as each culture contains unique expressions of...

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When Not to Email

How we communicate matters. My aim in this post is to commend to you, dear reader, the benefits of in-person conversations, over against our typical forms of communication : email and/or text. 

Now, let me say at the outset, this is not a unified theory of communication by any stretch of the imagination. I write as a pastor, in the context of Christian community — and here for those who who find themselves in contexts of conflict, or with criticisms to offer. I aim to see the church (and society at large) grow to be healthy humans who can say hard things in love, and not destroy relationships (or society) in the process. The following is but one step of many in that direction.

Simple Ideas: The Limits of Email and Messages

First, let’s explore the inherent limits of text-based communication — particularly emails and texts. 

We communicate with words. Our words are symbols functioning...

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The Fearless Fear

It is axiomatic that the Christian must fear God. A cursory reading of Scripture makes this clear, without question. Though axiomatic, this doctrine is frequently misunderstood and unpracticed. In other words, fear does not always lead to knowledge and wisdom (Prov. 1:7), but often paralysis. Fear often causes us to respect the wrong subjects.

In Matthew 10:26ff, Jesus makes it clear that there is One we must fear: God. Not people. Now, there is justifiable cause to our fear of man: people hurt us. People can and do kill other people. To not possess a healthy respect for the damage people can do smacks of an innocent ignorance of the way things work.

Jesus, however, provides perspective. “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” The best people can do is end our physical life. They can’t touch our soul.

“But that still seems rather bad,” you may...

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Why Missions?

At Village, missions support makes up approximately 25% of our church’s budget. Why do we invest a full quarter of all that we receive from the people in this church into work that is fully outside of this church? Why should we care about missions at all?

1. The Glory and Goodness of God

The first and central reason must be the glory of God. If we treasure God in worship, then it follows we will eagerly seek to participate the spread of the knowledge of his glory. Think of what we see in Romans 15:8ff:

For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.” And again it is said, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.” And again,...

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Renewal and Prophetic Distance

Let’s consider an important question requiring a complex response for which I intend to provide a woefully brief answer: “how should the church engage culture?” It’s an important question because the culture is at war, and we’d better know where we stand when the roar reaches its fever pitch.

What follows is nothing new, but nevertheless important.

The Church as Prophet

Let’s begin with the assertion that the church should maintain a prophetic stance in the world. Now, when we think about prophets, we typically think of those odd Old Testament fellows who dressed up in strange clothing and saw the future. That, of course, is only part of the picture. A prophet, at his core, was someone who authoritatively proclaimed the word of the Lord: “thus says the Lord.” Prophets revealed the transcendent truth of God to a culture constantly changed and confused by its own desires.


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