Conforming our reactions

Ben Johnson – November 20, 2015 2 Comments

All People Blog

Being a disciple of Christ means training our emotions and reactions to conform to His (Rom. 12:2). This weekend, two tragedies tested our ability to react as messengers of the kingdom. In Paris, terrorists connected with ISIS killed more than 100 people, apparently in retaliation for France’s involvement in the Syrian civil war. They promised to bring the fight to Washington, DC next. Closer to home, police shot and killed Jamar Clark 20 minutes from the EFCA national office in Minneapolis. Jamar was unarmed, and witnesses say he was handcuffed on the ground when he was shot, though a preliminary police report refuted that claim. The black community in North Minneapolis has long been crying out against mistreatment. An NAACP leader said in July that Minneapolis is one incident away from becoming Ferguson. He says this shooting is that incident, and protesters shut down the police precinct headquarters.

You don’t need to look far to see the natural, human, totally understandable, and arguably pragmatic response to these events. France promised merciless retribution and began bombing raids in Syria. Seven U.S. states began turning away Syrian refugees, though governors and state officials do not have the capability to prevent a refugee who is here and admitted lawfully to the U.S. from residing in their state. Everyone is trying to keep those people as far away as possible, where they can kill one another and not infect our communities. Meanwhile in the Twin Cities, the Black Lives Matter movement had already faced criticism and clashed with city officials for disrupting normal life. Few people in positions of power are interested in messy, painful explorations of history, privilege, and unintended consequences for the sake of a few poor people in a walled-off neighborhood. If history is any indicator, the city is hunkering down for a protracted and bitter fight that will spawn more resentment, violence and chaos than restoration. Continue Reading…

Unwanted Immigrants

Bruce Strom – November 19, 2015 5 Comments

All People Blog

Much happened during the last week to raise the discussion of immigration and terrorism, including the 5th Circuit decision on President Barack Obama’s executive action, presidential debates and the attacks in Paris. Unfortunately, the theme was consistent – immigrants are not wanted.

The 135-page court opinion issued last week is a bit laborious in its analysis of standing, technicalities of the Administrative Procedure Act, and Take Care Clause of the Constitution. Behind the legal maneuvering of the opinion was the clear belief that immigrants are not wanted. Two unelected judges stopped the actions of an elected president because of their feelings toward “illegal immigrants.” While acknowledging unlawful presence is a civil matter, these judges made a point to use the term “illegal alien.” As they wrote, other words like “undocumented” or “unlawful presence” are “needless euphemisms, and should be avoided as near gobbledygook” (Op. p. 5.).

“Gobbledygook” is a nicer word than governors and presidential candidates used this week as it became evident that one of the Paris bombers entered through Greece along with Syrian refugees. “We cannot take Syrian refugees.” We aren’t going to open our borders to Syrian terrorists, never mind that no terrorist has ever entered the country as a refugee. Like in France, it would be more likely to indoctrinate U.S. Citizens. The other bombers were French or Belgian. We have a year-long vetting process which is capable of distinguishing orphans and terrorists. In addition we are only accepting 10,000 refugees out of millions – a very difficult lottery for a terrorist to win.  Continue Reading…

The Impact of One Life

Alex Mandes – November 12, 2015 Leave a comment

All People Blog

The common life lived for Jesus trumps lots of talking.

Matthew 28:19-20 calls us to make disciples throughout life. That’s not some arbitrary call on a made-up life, it’s whatever life God calls you to live. Sometimes I wonder if the reason we become less effective comes from making the call of God much more difficult than its intention. We focus more on Bible, theology and skill in evangelism and discipleship.

Acquiring skills is needed for Christian leaders, but we are called to make disciples, including other leaders. The simple parts of living our life for Christ in community can have impact on people unmatched by any amount of skill. Often we can’t tell what will have long-term kingdom impact, which is why we need to always live on for Jesus even in the little things.

I love this passage in Ecclesiastes 11:1-2, 6:

1 Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again. 2 Give portions to seven, yes to eight, for you do not know what disaster may come upon the land…6 Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let not your hands be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.

Continue Reading…

All People Blog

An increasing number of churches are singing the heavenly chorus: “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth” (Rev. 5:9-10; ESV). Not only do they sing this song, they also commit to praying and working toward its eschatological realization in the present time. Churches in a local community ought to reflect the make-up of those singing this song around the throne, at least as much as it is possible in one’s own community.

As one ponders this, what does it mean for a people predominately represented, as they attempt to reflect more accurately the future eschatological reality in the present? In other words, what does it mean to represent the majority culture while committed to reflecting the throne of heaven in a local church? Often, those in the majority will not fully realize or sense the implications of that question as it impacts those in the minority. In actuality, it is the one in the minority that will feel this most acutely. Both make concessions without absolute compromise, but they do so differently with different kinds of costs.

Up to this point, I identified majority and minority culture and said nothing about race. Race, however, is one of the major markers of this discussion. As one considers this historically, which has become more evident in the past couple of years, race is an important matter for the Church to discuss and address. Specifically, although not limited to, this focuses on the relationship between African-American and white.  Continue Reading…

Gospel Justice: The Church’s Mission

Bruce Strom – November 3, 2015 Leave a comment

All People Blog

“No organization on earth can or should replace the church. The church is the bride of Christ. She is to serve her husband and make their home available for the wounded and weary.” Gospel Justice, p. 142.

Gospel Justice challenges individuals and the Church to love their neighbors by freeing them from legal burdens. Have you ever had a brush with the law? How did you feel? Pray you never receive a summons from the court, the IRS or another government agency. No piece of paper on earth creates greater fear. When that paper threatens your livelihood, health, housing and family, you lose hope. As you try to find help that hopelessness can deepen. You simply don’t have thousands of dollars to pay for a lawyer and you quickly learn there is no such thing as the right to a free attorney.

Gospel Justice follows the story of the Good Samaritan in demonstrating how the religious figures of today, like the priest and Levite, have missed an opportunity to serve their wounded neighbors. The bride of Christ demonstrated to the world their love for neighbor as they served plague victims, lepers and formed the first hospitals. The bride of Christ demonstrated to the world the importance of education in creating printing presses, making the Word of God accessible and forming the first schools. But we have missed the opportunity to serve the legal needs of the poor. Justice is part of God’s character and He desires us to engage the justice system. While we do that, as it relates to our own First Amendment needs, we fail to serve the legal needs of our community.  Continue Reading…

Freeing People from Legal Burdens

Bruce Strom – October 29, 2015 Leave a comment

All People Blog

“I will search for the lost and bring back the strays.  I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak…I will shepherd the flock with justice.” Eze. 34:16; NIV

Do you long to shepherd the flock with justice? Do you want to serve your community, but feel like compassion assistance is barely making a dent? Are you tired of benevolence without sustainable impact?

Let us help you go deeper with a gospel justice impact. Gospel Justice Initiative is a new national ministry equipping Christ followers to serve the legal and spiritual needs of the poor. We bring together the hope of the gospel, the help of a lawyer and the support of a church. In this way, we provide access to Jesus and access to justice.

Justice goes deeper than compassion. There is nothing wrong with providing food, but if you can help a single mom obtain child support then she doesn’t need food assistance. There is nothing wrong with benevolence assistance for rent, but if you can help a man obtain unpaid wages then he doesn’t require a hand out. Ex-offenders don’t need benevolence as much as they need a job and often old records, driver’s license issues and other legal matters are the barriers to breaking chains of dependency. Continue Reading…

National Hispanic Heritage Month 2015

Alex Mandes – September 14, 2015 1 Comment


All People Blog

Last year, I tweeted 30 times about Hispanic Heritage Month. It’s probably the most well received series of tweets I’ve ever done. I plan to do it again this year, but thought I would kick it off with a little backstory on the occasion.

The demographic footprint is not the reason we celebrate this group. They are not even a race, per se. Hispanics are red, yellow, black and white. They are multiethnic by themselves. Being Hispanic is not about color or even language. Many Hispanics today don’t speak Spanish (Español), but are zealous in their bicultural life. Take time and explore who they are this month and you may see a lot of yourself. I invite you to add a little salsa (culture) in your salsa (food) while you do a little salsa (dance).

When and What is Hispanic Heritage Month?

National Hispanic Heritage Month runs from September 15 to October 15 and recognizes the contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans to the United States and celebrates the group’s heritage and culture. Congress first passed a resolution to celebrate Hispanic heritage at the national level as a week-long event on September 17, 1968. Nearly 20 years later, on August 17, 1988, President Ronald Reagan stretched the celebrations to a month, from September 15 to October 15. National Hispanic Heritage Month is observed in the United States, Canada and Latin America.  Continue Reading…

All People Blog

At last year’s EFCA All People Round Table (pictured; left to right): Clete Bontrager, pastor at Restore Church in Detroit, Michigan, Reverend Yoshitaka Fujinami, pastor of Japanese Fellowship, Alex Mandes, director of Immigrant Mission at the EFCA, and Mike Hanafee, pastor at Restore Church.

Some of you know the saying, “let’s not celebrate the end of long journey from New York to Los Angeles while we are still in Missouri.” I will put it another way: The all people ministry of the EFCA has come a long way, but there is a lot more left to do!

The EFCA is serious about its mission to reach all people. While the metrics went from 10 percent a decade ago to 20 percent today, we know we can do better. Even that 20 percent number is qualified and soft. Nevertheless, it points to big changes. Turning those trends into concrete and lasting changes requires continued intentionality, disciplemaking and church multiplication. Storytelling encourages the soul for the journey and nothing satisfies like seeing transformation of leaders, churches and communities.  Continue Reading…

An Open Door to Understanding

Stephanie Ebert – August 28, 2015 3 Comments

All People Blog

I was born and raised in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa, a province where over 80 percent of the inhabitants are first-language isiZulu speakers. But I am one of those missionary kids who dreads the exclamation, “Oh! You’re an MK! How many languages do you speak?”

The answer? One.

I speak one language; English.

I attended public school, where I studied isiZulu, and went to an isiZulu-speaking church. Despite living where the majority don’t speak English as a first language, I got by comfortably with only English. In South Africa, English is the medium of instruction in high-school and university education. Although South Africa has 11 official languages, English is the language of international prestige, business and education. Everyone is trying to learn English. Because I am a first-language English speaker, I’m privileged. Everyone is trying to learn my language and I can avoid learning anyone else’s language.

But recently, I was convicted to work a bit harder at my isiZulu. Multiple compelling reasons brought me to that conclusion, but one of them has to do with bridging the racial and cultural divides that still exist in South Africa.  Continue Reading…

Hanging with the kids

Ruth Arnold – August 11, 2015 4 Comments

All People blog

Imagine having a 12-year old child. You spend long hours with them, playing games, shopping together and having conversations about life. You take them with you on your morning run and work together on household chores. You love your 12-year-old and you love getting quality time with them.

Now, imagine welcoming over your child’s 25 closest friends from school to hang out. Think about the noise level, the things that make them laugh, and the general interactions, the games that they enjoy playing, the conversations that are interesting and the activities that are fun for a 12-year-old. Can you imagine?

Do you consider this fun? I’m not asking if you consider it a great opportunity to invest in the lives of your child and their friends once a year on their birthday. Is this the type of environment you would enjoy spending time hanging out in every week?  Maybe twice-a-week? Would you feel refreshed, energized and sharpened? Would it be easy for you to enter into mutually-meaningful, life-giving conversations? Would they tend to be the friends with whom you would hang out?

Chances are, you really do enjoy something like this once or twice per year. Perhaps you enjoy this more often as a way to invest in the lives of others, but the reality is, it probably isn’t your first thought regarding the group of friends you would seek out for yourself.

A welcome realization

Continue Reading…