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Tuesday Ramblings: Thabiti Edition

I had great plans for the site for today, but real life very rudely interrupted those plans. Hence I’ll haul out a ramblings column I had hoped to post on Friday. Ramblings are, of course, things I have wanted to say but things that haven’t seemed worthy of a post all their own. I also hadn’t planned on this being an unofficial celebration of Thabiti Anyabwile, and yet somehow, events have conspired to make his name figure prominently around here today.

Reformation Day Symposium:

You’ll have to excuse the delay in announcing a winner for the Reformation Day Symposium. The response was far greater than I had expected and I had to work my way through over seventy entries. Needless to say, this took some time. And, as people always say in these situations, choosing a single post as a personal and largely arbitrary favorite was not easy. There was such a variety in emphases, with some people discussing personal experience, some discussing theology and some discussing great men and women of the Reformation era. In the end I narrowed it down to four posts: John Samson’s Has the Holy Spirit Moved On?, Steve Weaver’s By Grace Alone Sola Gratia (Ephesians 2:1-10) and Titus2Talk’s Katie Luther: a Proverbs 31 woman. But the one that stood out in my mind was Thabiti Anyabwile’s Reformation Day Reflections. This post jumped out at me the moment I first read it and has stuck with me since. He reflected that “I would not be in Cayman if it were not for that massive Christian church split some 500 years ago. I’ve been thinking a lot about church splits lately… and this one I am quite thankful for. I could wish that the result had been sweeping reform in the Roman Catholic Church. But failing that, I’m thrilled for the recovery of the Gospel.”

If there had been no recovery of the Gospel of Jesus Christ—the grand promise of justification in the sight of God by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone to the glory of God alone—I and most African-Americans and Caribbean peoples would likely be utterly and eternally lost today.

The greatest miracle of the Reformation is that enslaved Africans heard, above the din of rattling chains and the back-slashing crack of whips, the free Gospel call at the hands of slave traders and many less-than-heroic gospel preachers in the plantation south. That untutored Africans, imprisoned in a foreign land and surrounded by hostile wilderness, heard with clarity the learned oracles of Christ, were spiritually set free, and found the glorious banks of Zion is astounding!

However crude, however hampered by their conditions, however assaulted and persecuted by white brothers and sisters in Christ, the Reformation found expression among African descended peoples. There was every earthly reason why it should not have happened. But the one heavenly reason why it should — justification by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone — prevailed even among the meanest slaves of the south and the Caribbean.

You see…this gospel truly makes everything level at the foot of the cross. The conversion of African Americans and Afro-Caribbean peoples proves this. Despite caste and castigation, slaves came to Jesus! It’s inexplicable apart from the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ! Why would the master’s Master become the Master of the mastered? Because He is Master of all.

His conclusion is well worth pondering. “The miracle is that the Reformation Gospel came to African America and the Caribbean. The work that’s left before us is to recapture it and to reform our churches according to the Word of God. There’s much to celebrate this Reformation Day…and much work to be done once the celebration is over.”

So thanks to Thabiti for the encouraging and moving post. I’ll be sending him a copy of Steve Lawson’s A Long Line of Godly Men.

Burned By Branding:

Christianity Today’s “Out of Ur” blog has an interesting column called “Burned By Branding.” Skye Jethani compares churches to Starbucks and attempts to show that, just as many consumers are now turning against Starbucks, they will also turn against certain kinds of churches. The issue people have with Starbucks is that it “ignores local culture in favor of maintaining its brand-identity.” “People don’t necessarily want to be connected to a massive corporate identity. An increasing number want to identify with local, accessible, and human-scaled institutions. My own experience affirms this. I am writing this post in a local coffee shop. At 8am there is not an empty table in the house. This is where community happens in my town. Directly across the street is a Starbucks. That store sees a steady stream of people pass through to get their morning fix. But the tables are empty. It isn’t a place people gather, converse, or write blog posts.” The final paragraph is worth considering:

If the church is to be merely a dispenser of spiritual goods and advice, a place people pass through to get their religion fix, then we should follow the example of brand-driven corporate giants. But, if we hope to form meaningful communities of Christ-followers we shouldn’t neglect the power of being local. Rather than reading the latest branding book, why not gather mature leaders and listen for the Holy Spirit? How is he advising us to be the community of Christ in this unique place at this unique time?

While some people still tend towards “big box” Christianity, it seems that more and more are opting to join more intimate, more personal communities where they feel like more than just faces in a crowd. Actually, it reminds me of the first century church in that way.

Design:

Last night I launched a new web site. It had been under development for some time, but came together well and I am very pleased with the result. The site was created for First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman, the new home of Thabiti Anyabwile (you see, there he is again). It only occurred to me after the project was complete that I should have tried to convince them that I needed to meet with them face-to-face. A little trip out to the Islands would have been quite the treat! Regardless, the site came together well and can be seen at http://www.fbc.org.ky/. The site was, in many ways, a departure from my typical design and I had great fun with it. Incidentally, if you are the type who enjoys listening to sermons throughout the week, you may be interested in subscribing to Thabiti’s podcast.

Petra:

And finally, some of you may be aware of my love for the classic Christian band Petra. Though the band retired on December 31, 2005, John Schlitt and Bob Hartman are keeping active. Schlitt will be releasing a third solo album later this year and he and Bob have also recorded a praise and worship album called “Vertical Expressions”. It will also be available later this year. John was recently a guest on LIFE Today (click here and scroll down to October 19) where he and his wife shared their testimony.