Articles & Announcements
Every Thursday in June, we’re sharing reflections from some of the Grace DC members who participated in our March panel on cultural intelligence. This week, Kenny and Tianna Gibbs share why cultural intelligence is important to them as members of a Grace DC congregation:
If we are going to be effective in living up to our callings as a church—being “in and for the city,” “in/of/for our neighborhoods,” and having “unity in diversity”—we have to aim to be a culturally intelligent congregation. We cannot love people well if we are not aware of, and sensitive to, where people are coming from. This is the case whether they are from similar or different cultures.
As Christians, we have “One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism” (Eph 4.5), yet too often our lines of race, ethnicity, and class divide us. As the church, we are called to redeem, not reinforce, the divisions of our city. Cultural intelligence, is key to God’s redemptive work.
This Monday, Grace Downtown will welcome Kate Harris, Executive Director of the Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation and Culture, as she leads a discussion on the meaning of vocation and how it applies to our lives. Ahead of this special Faith & Work event, Grace Downtown member Jonathan Ng recaps our last Faith & Work forum, led by Erik Lokksmoe.
The latest installment of Grace Downtown’s Faith & Work ministry brought together DC and Hollywood, with Erik Lokksmoe, a former Grace DC member who now works in Hollywood speaking on his experience in the entertainment industry.
Erik currently works for a marketing and publicity agency called Different Drummer, which helps with movie marketing. During his talk, he provided a sweeping synopsis for why faith and work matters and shared observations on how this applies to his work and specifically, the evolving art form of telling stories through film and television to connect with audiences. He said great art, like well-crafted movies, “creates margins and haunts the audience.” Essentially, this means to be persuasive and compelling in our culture today does not mean telling people what to do or believe; instead, it requires giving people the space to explore what it means to be human, to reach conclusions on their own and be left seeking more. If that’s effective for Hollywood, then how might we apply that same approach to engage the rest of our culture through our work?
Erik reminded us about the Biblical framework for how to engage culture. The right approach lies somewhere within the myriad shades of gray between the black and white extremes of either sharing one’s faith loud and publicly (truth, borne out of our desire for control) or quiet and privately (love, borne out of our desire for approval). Ephesians 4.15 reminds us, however, that neither extreme is sufficient alone; instead, we should speak the “truth in love.”
What then, does this balance look like? Such a path down the middle depends on a variety of circumstances and may even be different each day, but it’s our job as thoughtful Christians to constantly reflect to determine what that looks like. Our current culture demands a more nuanced approach to effectively engage culture than what we’re used to seeing from mainstream Christianity, particularly as the church has recently tried to engage (or withdraw) in the public sphere on hot-button political issues.
Within the context of engaging culture through our work, Erik first argues that faith and work is important for three reasons based on theological, generational, and cultural grounds. Theologically, we see in Genesis 2 that God gave us work as a means to participate in His creation and that work was inherently good before the fall. Generationally, Christians used to believe that our faith was reserved for church on Sundays while our work was simply what we did during the rest of the week. But if Christians truly believe that the gospel changes everything, then we should be more intentional about thinking through how our faith affects the way we do our work. And culturally, we are called to co-create with God through our work, which means engaging in and influencing culture.
So if intentionally applying our faith in our work is important, then how do we do it? The gospel already gives us all the resources we need; it’s our job to daily think out the implications for what this means when applied to our work. Erik offered a few practical tips:
- Relax. Christ has already claimed victory over sin, so that takes the pressure off us to feel like we need to justify ourselves through our work. When we are reminded that we already have everything we need, it frees us up to be genuinely humble.
- All work can be done for His glory. Erik points out that we should view work more holistically, not only as our job during a typical work day. In Genesis 2, we see that work is a gift from God given to us as a means for participating in His creation and that it was inherently good before the fall. This means that from God’s perspective, there is no ultimate end goal to our work; instead, the act of participating in work is a good in itself. As such, any activity involving any interaction with His creation such as raising a family or doing seemingly simple chores around the house matters and deserves our same effort and attention. We also need Christians participating in every industry, not just in ministry or the social sector.
- Think small, serve well. Reflecting on the gravity of God’s grace each day should lead us to re-align our motivations for work as a response of gratitude to Him for what He has already done for us. That realization should radically change our motivations for achievement – rather than just doing a good job, we should attempt to enable human flourishing to reflect God’s common grace. This also means we are freed up to focus on doing quality work in everything we do out of gratitude and obedience to Him, not because He needs us.
Even as we struggle through how God’s grace transforms our approach to and motivations for our work, it will always be a challenge for how we try to thoughtfully integrate our faith into our work.
To capture this subtle, but powerful shift in thinking, Erik provided examples to describe how change is happening in Hollywood. He described how effective moviemakers understand how to more thoughtfully engage their audiences by shifting from traditional messages of telling you what to do to inviting the audience to participate in, and add to, the conversation.
Consider then, how this may apply to our own message for how our faith impacts our work in our workplace, either directly or indirectly, in word and in action. Our daily struggles at work may hardly be as epic or heroic as what you’d find in a Hollywood script. But we ultimately know that what awaits us after this world is something far greater than what any Hollywood ending could provide.
Jonathan Ng is general counsel for Ashoka, a global social entrepreneurship NGO based in Arlington, Virginia.
Every Thursday in June, we’re sharing reflections from some of the Grace DC members who participated in our March panel on cultural intelligence. This week, Kelly shares why being part of a church that is paying attention to cultural and cross-cultural issues is important to her:
The great commission calls us to make disciples of all nations and that is why a diverse church is important to me. As we seek to spread the Gospel, Jesus said that one way people will know we belong to him is by our love for one another. In a world where people often divide by race, class, political views, or education, it is noticeable when people cross these divisions in the name of Jesus.
I’ve seen the power of this in my own life. My hometown is pretty starkly segregated. Aside from a few areas, you just don’t see white people. Ever. A few years ago a black pastor and a white pastor decided to plant a church together and I had an opportunity to hear them speak about their experience. They explained that people from the neighborhood were so startled to see white people mulling around on Sunday mornings, that they would come inside the church just to see what on earth was going on in there. Through coming into the church, many people came to know Christ.
This is the power of having a community that looks different from the divided world around us—it can help draw people to the gospel. So while there are other reasons why cultural intelligence is important to me, spreading the gospel is the main one!
Grace Downtown member Josh Wade shares what he has learned about “calling” through making the decision to go to graduate school.
In college I majored in both Economics and Religious Studies. Advisors, parents and friends all asked the same question: What are you going to do with that? I picked my strange majors because I had come to believe that my “calling” was to help build communities that contribute to the peace and well-being of the world around them—what the Bible calls shalom.
However, I have some reservations about the way that the idea of “calling” can be used. When we talk about calling, there is at least a possibility of focusing on overly idealistic notions rather than on what God has revealed about his will, which includes such calls as to know and follow Jesus and to love our neighbor. Nevertheless, there is certainly truth in the notion that we are created in unique ways, and it makes sense to seek to work in light of how we have been created.
As college came to a close, I was still considering various ways that I might pursue this calling to build shalom in a specific job. I had looked at a lot of different types of grad school—seminaries, PhDs in Economics and law school! I decided to come to DC and work as an economic consultant. This job allowed me to work with both economists and lawyers, and to see what those careers looked like. Through my job, I learned that I was good at legal thinking and research, but didn’t want to spend my life deep in econometric modeling.
At the same time, my experience and relationships at Grace Downtown allowed me to see more what full-time ministry would look like. I learned that I was passionate about the church’s role in addressing injustice in the world, but thought that I wanted more ‘hands-on’ interaction with injustice than I would be afforded as a traditional pastor.
Through this process I came to believe that law school was the best intersection of my abilities and God’s desires for the world. I saw something unique about practicing law that resonated with the person God has made me to be, and this excited me. I applied to law school and was accepted. After getting in, I lined up an internship with International Justice Mission for this coming summer where I will be focused on supporting churches around the world as they work for justice in their individual contexts. I look forward to seeing how God will use these passions and skills He has cultivated in me for the good of his kingdom.
As all of this was being ordered, God has been teaching me to trust in him. It has been very easy for me to consider my other hypothetical options and to wonder if I made the right decisions. However, God, frequently through my Grace Downtown family, has been leading me into a restful trust of him. I’ve been reminded that God’s primary will for me is to know and love him. I’ve been reminded that God’s sovereignty extends over my decisions (even my bad ones!), and he will use them to his glory. And I’ve been reminded that he loves me, not for what I do or the decisions I make, but because of who he is. It is in this truth that I’ve been able to rest.
Throughout this story, regardless of my motivations, God has been faithful and sought me, and I have found life in him. This is comforting. In a world and culture where we hope to find so much satisfaction through our careers, it is great to know that whether I have a “successful” career or not, I can be satisfied in Jesus.
For more on calling, vocation and how they apply to you, register for “What Is Vocation?” on June 9.
In mid-2013, I began getting involved with the Anacostia Gracious Arts Program (AGAP), a Grace Downtown partner providing after-school arts education and arts-oriented field trips to students in Washington, DC. This week, I went to First Rock Baptist Church in Anacostia, where two dozen AGAP students from one of AGAP’s after-school locations just put on an end-of-semester performance for their friends and family. There were young musicians, dancers and actors showing off what they’ve learned, and young visual artists putting their work on display. The younger kids were adorable and the older kids were surprisingly talented, so I of course had a blast.
It was a great way to close out my first year of involvement with AGAP. A year ago, I had heard a lot about what AGAP had the potential to do, and after a year with them I am more excited about that potential than ever. But I’ve also been caught off guard by how great AGAP already is.
The kids and teens who put on last night’s performance worked their butts off, and they planned and executed the whole thing themselves. They were excited to do it.
I was inspired by the way they loved and supported one of the regular volunteers who has a developmental disability. One of AGAP’s teachers is expecting a child, and it was hard not to get caught up in the students’ excitement at the idea of being part of this baby’s life. And hearing the honest and grateful prayers the students offered up during the evening was nothing short of touching.
After that evening, I’m not just excited about what AGAP can do for these students—I’m excited for how AGAP can create opportunities for these awesome people to leave their mark on our city.
AGAP is embarking on some exciting programs in the coming months—including offering after-school programs in more locations, bringing in accomplished local artists to write new curriculum and hiring a new staff member to help these students become more engaged in DC’s broader artistic and cultural life. Would you consider supporting AGAP through prayer?
Thank you for your support. We are proud to partner with Grace Downtown in renewing our city socially, culturally and spiritually.
We all understand our lives in light of stories. The Bible offers us a four-chapter story for understanding what Jesus’ life, death and resurrection mean to our lives today. In part one of The Bible and Sexuality, we covered how the first two chapters of that story inform the way we understand and practice sex. In part two, we look at the way the final two chapters—redemption and consummation—change what we expect of sex and revolutionize what we learn from it.
Following our recent seminar on The Bible and Sexuality, I wanted to share an extended quote on sex and celibacy from a recent article in First Things magazine:
“If the thought of enduring your marriage or lack of marriage for the rest of your life is daunting, it is because God doesn’t hand out grace in a lifetime supply. He provides it one day at a time. If you feel like God has not given you the capacity to love your spouse for a lifetime, that’s because he hasn’t. But he has given you exactly what you need to be loving today. Furthermore, God has not given celibates the grace to bear a lifetime of solitude. But he will give you what you need to make it through this day.
“As C. S. Lewis wrote in a letter to Mary Willis Shelburne, ‘[I]t is seldom the present and the actual that is intolerable. Remember one is given the strength to bear what happens to one, but not the 100 and 1 different things that might happen.’
“Jesus sought daily strength from his Father. He expected it would be provided as he needed it. That timely help is what God has promised to us:
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4.15–16)
“God will give us what we need, but he will not give it to us until we need it. He didn’t give the Israelites enough food to last through forty years in the wilderness; he gave them manna one day at a time. None of us has a lifelong stockpile of grace, but we can look forward to God’s faithfulness over a lifetime, offered to us one day at a time.”
~Betsy Child, “Marriage and Celibacy: Lifelong Grace One Day at a Time,” First Things
You can listen to part one of The Bible and Sexuality now. Part two will be online later this week.
Did you miss the recent “The Bible and Sexuality” seminar? Glenn gave an in-depth talk on understanding sexuality in light of the story the Bible tells about our lives. In part one of the talk, presented here, we consider what the ideas of creation and fall mean to how we practice sex.
There was a brief question-and-answer session between parts one and two. The Q&A was not recorded. If you have any questions about this talk or this topic, contact Glenn. Part two will be available next week.
Exploding water balloons! Napkin-eating contests! Grace Downtown’s annual picnic is always one of the highlights of the year. Ahead of the 2014 Picnic on May 10, we’ll be sharing a few photos from the last few picnics. Below is a selection of shots from our 2012 picnic.
Grace Downtown’s annual picnic is always one of the highlights of the year. Ahead of the 2014 Picnic on May 10, we’ll be sharing a few photos from the last few picnics. Below is a selection of shots from our 2011 picnic.