Brandon Lazarus

Author's details

Name: Brandon Lazarus
Date registered: April 17, 2012

Latest posts

  1. UMC Lead: No Shirt, No Shoes, No Salvation — April 9, 2014
  2. UMC Lead: That Spare Room is Stolen — March 31, 2014
  3. UMC Lead: Lucy Rider Meyer, Paving the Way for Women in Mission — March 21, 2014
  4. UMC Lead: Listen To Your Community — March 3, 2014
  5. La Lengua de Lazarus: The Soul is in the Stomach — July 30, 2013

Most commented posts

  1. La Lengua de Lazarus: 47 Percenter Seminarian: Christianity Teaches That ‘People Are Entitled To Food’ — 2 comments
  2. La Lengua de Lazarus: Accountability Does Not Lead To Trust — 1 comment
  3. La Lengua de Lazarus: They WILL Know We Are Christians By Our Love — 1 comment

Author's posts listings

Apr 09 2014

UMC Lead: No Shirt, No Shoes, No Salvation

Original post at


Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, “Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.” But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, maltreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, “The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy.Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.” Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

‘But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?” And he was speechless.Then the king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” For many are called, but few are chosen.’ Matthew 22:1-14

“THAT AIN’T RIGHT!!” yelled Charles.

“What do you mean?” we asked.

“I mean that ain’t right. How are you going to send someone to hell just because they don’t have the right clothes? I sure don’t have a fancy wedding robe and if I did it would probably have gotten dirt or stolen. Are you saying that I’m going to hell?” he responded.

At this point we explained to Charles that Jesus in all likelihood was not talking literally about having to wear the right clothes but instead it’s a parable about being prepared. Although Jesus’ grace is freely given, there are still expectations placed on those who wish to receive it.

Charles snapped back, “Well I think you need to tell that to some of these other churches around here because I’m pretty sure they still think you have to dress fancy in order to get into heaven.”

Charles was speaking from past experiences where he had either explicitly or implicitly been unwelcome in certain congregations because he did not dress as well as the other members of the congregation or perhaps had not had access to a shower in a couple of days. It deeply saddens me when I hear about other people running into these same experiences. What are our unwritten dress codes saying about our openness to others in worship?

In extreme circumstances those unwritten dress codes may be strictly enforced by members explicitly telling people they can not come to the church if their clothing is not up to snuff. Fortunately that is rarely the case yet the dress codes are still enforced through unwanted glares, whispers from others, or passing comments. “Is he really wearing that to church?” “Does she have not respect?” “That might be fine for a ball game but this is church.”

Again, I understand someone’s personal decision to wear their “Sunday Best” because they want to show respect for God but sometimes that showing respect for God turns into showing off for others. If there really is an expectation for everyone to wear their very best outfit to church on Sunday then we are inviting people to quite literally wear their income on their sleeve. It becomes very clear rather quickly who has means to dress to the nines while others may be only able to dress to the threes or maybe fours. Let’s not allow how we dress affect how we worship and welcome others into that worship experience.

Far too often when I invite friends and family to worship I get the question, “what do I need to wear.” What, if any role should our clothing play in worship? I realize that the day of wearing your “Sunday Best” are beginning to fade away. I again respect the idea of wearing your best to pay respect but I also recognize a God who calls us where we are and as we are. Maybe this post is pointless. Maybe there’s no point in even bringing it up. Hearing Charles concern about clothing, however, is enough for me to ask the questions: What kind of stock do we put into clothing? What, if anything, does what clothes our congregants wear say about our worship community? Are there deeper questions that come from a conversation about clothes?

***Charles was a beloved member of the Nuevo Dia worship community in West Dallas. Last February he was tragically found dead in the streets. I am confident that Charles did not have to worry for a moment about the clothes he was wearing but is indeed clothed in his wedding robe feasting at the Lord’s Banquet***

Permanent link to this article:

Mar 31 2014

UMC Lead: That Spare Room is Stolen

Original post at

Empty Room.png

Some of you may have read the Huffington Post article recently that shared, Housing the Homeless Not Only Saves Lives – It’s Actually Cheaper Than Doing Nothing. If not, maybe you saw Anderson Cooper’s segment on 60 minutes last month or the follow up reflection. If you haven’t read the article or seen the videos I would highly recommend you do so. If not, the titles should pretty much sum it up for you. Researchers have found that it actually saves taxpayers money by placing homeless people in housing and provide them case management instead of leaving them on the streets where they will often wind up in jail or in the hospital.

The housing first model for helping the homeless is not to simply go and find a homeless person and hand them the keys to their new house, but instead is a targeted effort to find those who are the most vulnerable and provide them with housing and case management. The definition for those most vulnerable will differ based on the organization but primarily the criteria are those who are least likely to go to area shelters, have been homeless for at least a year or have been homeless four times in the last three years, and have some form of disability (usually dual diagnosis meaning psychological disorder and addiction). Once an organization has identified both a candidate and available housing that person is placed into housing and given a case manager. The person does not have to be clean and sober before moving into the house but obviously they are not allowed to have drugs, and in some cases alcohol, in the apartment.

I wont delve into the detailed pros and cons of housing first nor the statistics of success rate, possible savings, etc. That information is readily available if you search for it. I’m also not going to get into a political discussion of what the government’s role should be in helping the homeless. Instead, I write today asking what is my personal role in addressing homelessness and what is yours?

In thinking about the housing first model I think to Christine Pohl’s book, Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition. It’s been a couple of years since I read the book, but there was one part in particular that has come to my mind. Pohl pulls from Christian saints of Chrysostom, Jerome, Peter Maurin, and Dorothy Day. She first shares from St. Chrysostom who instructed his parishioners, “Have a room to which Christ may come; say, ‘This is Christ’s cell; this building is set apart for Him.’” In saying that it was Christ’s cell he meant that it was to be saved for the “maimed, the beggars, and the homeless.” Pohl then goes on to share the same practice that Maurin and Day adopted based on their influence of St. Jerome in which, “every house should have a ‘Christ room’ for our brother who was in need.”[1] I also am reminded of the words attributed to Chrysostom’s friend St. Basil, “If you have a second coat hanging in your closet, you have stolen it from the poor” in response to Luke 3:11 which states, “Whoever has two coats must share with everyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Perhaps that spare room in your house is not yours after all but was stolen from a homeless brother or sister.

Now is the point in my post, or in my sermon if I were preaching, where I say that is not entirely what God is asking of us. Like the story of the rich young ruler, God surely isn’t saying that we all HAVE to sell all our belongings and give the money to the poor. That would leave us all poor, naked and homeless, right? Frankly, as I was planning this post I had that kind of ending in mind. It would be ridiculous of me to challenge those reading to open up their homes to strangers. What about the danger? What about the unknown? What about the smells? What about the neighborhood? Instead I could share about the safer ways that we can help the homeless like using our church buildings, donating to local non-profits, and volunteering at soup kitchens. I believe we should, in fact, do all of those things, but no, I’m not taking the easy way out on this one nor am I going to allow you to. Instead I echo the words of Chrysostom, Jerome, Day, Maurin, and Basil. I challenge us to be crazy enough to open our homes, open our spare bedrooms, and most importantly, open our lives to our brothers and sisters in our midst who are in need.

I believe it is only through opening our lives to others that we can make a difference in their lives and in our own. Like with the housing first model, it’s not simply about the room. It’s not all about getting out of the heat, the cold, or the rain. Housing first is about providing intensive case management as well. Case management means helping others to develop relationships professionally and personally. Those Christian saints weren’t only commanding us to save a physical space in our homes but also a spiritual space in our hearts.

I should share in closing that I am a complete hypocrite. I write this post currently with an empty bedroom right above my head. I have more clothes (even though I just did some spring cleaning), more food, and more house than I need. I have friends who are living in poverty both spiritually and physically but I do not always help provide for them. I realize that God’s grace is bigger than my shortfalls. I realize that God forgives me both for the things I do and the things I leave undone. For today though, in this season of lent, as I write this post and as you read it, let’s sit with the discomfort of knowing that God calls us to do more, but we don’t always do it. Let us strive to be the people God wants us to be not because of some false belief in works righteousness but out of faith, hope, and love in a God who calls us to care for the least, the lost, and the lonely.

[1] Pohl, Christine D. Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition.  Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999, 154.



Image from flicker user Brad. K

Permanent link to this article:

Mar 21 2014

UMC Lead: Lucy Rider Meyer, Paving the Way for Women in Mission

Original post at

Deaconess.jpgWhat do Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington D.C., Scarlett Oaks Retirement Community in Cincinnati, Ohio, a group home in Fall River, Massachusetts, Intermountain Children Services in Helena, Montana, and Hillcrest Family Services in Dubuque, Iowa have in common? All of these ministries started over 100 years ago as Deaconess Homes. The Deaconess movement in the United States can be attributed to Lucy Rider Meyer. Rider Meyer was very well educated having finished her bachelors degree, a medical degree, and a masters degree in technology before the age of 30. She published books in technology, chemistry, poetry, and even children’s books. While going to school, she was also very active in the Methodist Movement in the United States and served as a delegate to the World’s Sunday School Convention in London. While there she learned of the deaconess movement that was spreading in Germany and traveled to see it for herself. When she returned to the US with a vision for women leadership in missions in the US.

Rider Meyer and her husband Josiah Shelly Meyer began speaking to gatherings of Methodist lay and clergy about their vision to start a school for women missionaries. A few years later on October 20, 1885 Rider Meyer opened the Chicago Training School for City, Home, and Foreign Missions (eventually merged with Garret Biblical Institute which then merged with Evangelical Theological Seminary to create Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary). Eight women enrolled in the Chicago Training School in its first year and those eight women went on to start 3 schools and eight churches around the United States. Not content with merely having a school to train women in missions, Rider Meyer submitted a resolution to the 1888 General Conference in order to create the licensed ministry of Deaconesses. Her resolution passed and still to this day licensed deaconesses and home missioners are part of our discipline as Methodists. At the time deaconesses’ duties were defined as, ““minister to the poor, visit the sick, pray with the dying, care for the orphan, seek the wandering, comfort the sorrowing, save the sinning, and relinquish wholly all other pursuits, devote themselves, in a general way, to such forms of Christian labor as may be suited to their abilities.”[1]

With this new official role for women in the church the Chicago Training School continued to teach and empower women in order to send them out into communities of need. In the first 15 years the students of the Chicago Training School went on to start 40 different deaconess homes, schools, orphanages, and hospitals, many of which, like those mentioned at the beginning of this blog, are still doing wonderful ministry in their neighborhoods. Much like what I talked about in my last blog about listening to your community, these women did not necessarily go into their communities with the idea to start schools, hospitals, and nursing homes. Instead they simply moved into the neighborhood and started listening. As they were listening they heard the needs of uneducated children, people suffering from various afflictions, and elderly neighbors who did not have people to care for them.

Because of the clear God-given vision of Lucy Rider Meyer, the Methodist Church in the United States, and more specifically the Deaconess movement, gained an identity of people of Christ who sought to meet the needs of their community. Rider Meyer’s influence continues still today in those countless schools, hospitals, orphanages, nursing homes, and countless other ministries that grew from the work of women deeply devoted to God and their neighbors. As I reflect on March being Women’s History Month I am especially thankful for the leadership of Lucy Rider Meyer and the many women who inspired her and that she went on to inspire. Who are some of the other women from Methodist History who you are thankful for?

[1] Henry Wheeler, Deaconesses Ancient and Modern (New York: Hunt and Eaton, 1889), 269.

Photo from Flickr user UMWomen, used under Creative Commons license.

Permanent link to this article:

Mar 03 2014

UMC Lead: Listen To Your Community

Original post at


Last Friday Juan Huertas shared that listening is so simple and so hard to do. As I was reading I reflected on a time when I learned that same lesson when it came to missional living. While attending seminary I had the privilege of living at the Dietrich Bonhoeffer House. When we moved in October of 2010 we all thought that we would primarily work with the refugee community in East Dallas. This was because located directly next door to the Bonhoeffer House was the Refugee Services of North Texas. This seemed like a no brainer because they were literally our next-door neighbors. Plus, Grace UMC, our anchor church, had already been working with the organization for some years. The only problem with this vision was that as soon as we moved in we were notified that the Refugee Services would be moving to a new location the very next month.

As we sat in our house, unsure of what to do with this information, we decided to begin praying. Our daily prayer up until this point had mostly been extemporaneous but we soon discovered the prayer book Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. We began to pray not just as four people living in community but we began to pray with the saints and martyrs, our neighborhood, and brothers and sisters using the same liturgy around the nation. We prayed for guidance, we prayed for patience, and we prayed for the ability to listen.

One morning Jonathan, our house steward, went for a jog around the neighborhood. While running underneath I-20 he couldn’t help but notice there were clothes, sleeping bags, and other random objects under the overpass. It didn’t take long for these four grad students to deduce that there were homeless people living in our neighborhood. When you think neighbors you think of the people who live in the houses in your neighborhood yet we found out that some of our neighbors did not have houses, did not have enough food, and some did not have a community. This time, rather than decide then and there that our new mission field would be our brothers and sisters living on the street, we continued to listen. We got connected with area shelters, food pantries, soup kitchens, and anyone who knew anything about our neighborhood or about life on the streets. This continued for some time until little by little we began making friends with these organizations and the people they were in ministry with. We began to see our neighborhood not merely as a mission field but as . . . well . . . our neighborhood.

It took a few years of living in East Dallas before we really found a good solid rhythm. In our first year I’m not sure we had more than eight or nine people around our dinner table for community meals and by the time I left last summer there was not a single meal where there were fewer than eight or nine people around the dinner table. We began to learn about people’s stories, their joys, and their pains. We began to love our brothers and sisters not for who we wanted them to be but for who they were. I still keep in touch with the guys at the Bonhoeffer House and I am always excited to see the way that the ministry continues to change after I’ve left. I’m not sure where the ministry would have ended up had we not learned in those early years that you must be willing to listen to the Spirit in your midst.

When we arrived at the house we thought we knew exactly what kind of ministry we would be doing in East Dallas. I can tell you right now if you think you know exactly what kind of ministry you will be doing ANYWHERE, but especially with missional community living, you are wrong. In case you still think you know exactly what kind of ministry you will be doing, allow me to repeat myself. You…are…wrong (I like to repeat this to myself in the mirror occasionally, you’re welcome to borrow that practice). The sooner you realize that, shut up, and listen to the Holy Spirit the sooner you will actually be able to partake in vital ministry. Listen to the Holy Spirit in your prayer, your conversations, your daily commute. Take walks around your neighborhood, ask questions, knock on doors, and make yourself vulnerable. It is only through listening to your community context and being a part of the community that you can really learn what ministry needs to be done there. As John Perkins shares, you must learn the felt needs, not merely the perceived needs. A felt need means you become such a part of the community that you realize your neighbors needs are now tied up in yours. Meeting felt needs is an act of love. A perceived need, however, means you remain separate from your neighbor and meet the needs you project on them. Meeting perceived needs in patronizing. I pray we are willing to admit we do not know the needs of others. I pray we are willing to listen. I pray we will take on felt needs.

Photo from Flickr user highersights, used under Creative Commons license.

Permanent link to this article:

Jul 30 2013

La Lengua de Lazarus: The Soul is in the Stomach

Original post at

This summer I have not been very good about keeping up on this blog. I'll be leaving for a mission trip to El Salvador on Saturday and when I return I officially begin my internship at Trenholm Road UMC. I hope at that point to blog about once a week. For now, here is my blog from Rethink Bishop.

            I’ve heard that early Christians believed the soul was in the stomach. I’m told they believed many of your feelings came from your stomach, or guts. This goes along with the saying “I’ve got a gut feeling about this.” After living in community for a little over three years now and sharing countless meals with people from all walks of life, I have begun to see much warrant to that claim. Now I don’t literally think the soul lives in the stomach but there are many inferences that can be made from this assumption.
            Jesus says that one cannot live on bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. This by no means discounts the fact that we do need bread to survive, just not only bread. Jesus is seen time and time again sharing meals, breaking bread, and providing for the bodily as well as spiritual needs. If our soul is in our stomach then perhaps food is an opportunity to feed both the body and the spirit. Meals, then should be an opportunity to share bread and the words that come from the mouth of God.
            When I think of the soul lying in the stomach I also think of the saying “the quickest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” This phrase could be reworded to say, “the quickest way to one’s soul is through their stomach.” Again, Jesus is seen throughout the gospel sharing meals with people from all walks of life. Jesus’ final act with his disciples was, in fact, sharing a meal of bread and wine, body and blood, which is now practiced in every church around the world. Not only was Jesus’ final act with his disciples breaking bread, but also the first result of the Spirit was breaking bread. When we think to the story of Pentecost tongues of fire and hearing in each one’s native language may come to mind but if we read on we see that the results of their faith was to break bread with one another and share what they had.
            The breaking of bread is a powerfully underestimated act. While living at the Bonhoeffer House I learned that our dinner table was the single most important tool for ministry that we possessed. One night a week we would invite our neighbors to an evening meal. In the beginning there may have only been 5 or 6 people but by the time I left there were sometimes as many as 30 joining around a common meal. The number, as many know, was not the most important part but rather whom those numbers represented. Around the table were our friends who lived on the street, or in a nice house down the street, students or professors, non-profit workers or non-profit clients, overworked or underworked, Christian or Buddhist. The table represented the diversity of our friends, family, and neighbors. Although many of these people seemed to have nothing in common, they all had one thing in common, a meal. During the meal discussion would flow between a wide array of topics and people learned about similarities they never would have expected. Many would come into the house only knowing one or two people but they left with a whole host of brothers and sisters.
            John Wesley often stressed that we should share communion as often as we can yet many churches have interpreted that to mean once a month or in a small separate service each week because otherwise the service would simply be too long. How, in a time of fast food and TV dinners, can we slow down the process of a meal and not look at it as time wasted? How can we invite others to our dinner table that we might not otherwise think to invite? How can we feed peoples’ souls while feeding their stomachs and vice versa? How can we look at food not as a necessity for survival, but as a necessity for discipleship?

Brandon Lazarus is the pastoral intern at Trenholm Road UMC in Columbia, SC and the Community Cultivator at the Antioch House. You can follow him on his blog, twitter, or facebook.

Permanent link to this article:

Jul 02 2013

La Lengua de Lazarus: Beware of Community

Original post at

“Let you who cannot be alone beware of community. You will only do harm to yourself and to the community . . . Let you who are not in community beware of being alone. Into the community you were called, the call was not meant for you alone.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer Life Together pg77.

If you have never read Bonhoeffer’s Life Together, you should. If you have read it, you should go read it again. I foolishly put off reading Bonhoeffer until midway through my second year at Perkins. I have since read through it four or five times. One of those times was as a Lenten discipline with a small group from Grace UMC. I find the book simply profound and profoundly simple. The book can cut to the heart even for those who are not living in intentional Christian communities but it is especially cutting to those of us who are.
As most of you know, I moved back to Columbia, SC about a month ago to begin the work of cultivating a community here called Antioch House. It is in the same model of the Bonhoeffer House and the other Epworth Project Houses with a few differences since it is not in geographical proximity to the other Epworth Houses. I have found one resident who will move here in August and I am still searching for two more. This means that this summer I find myself at the Antioch House alone.
For the last three years I have eaten, prayed, and lived together with my brothers at the Bonhoeffer House. It was very easy to keep a disciplined routine of prayer, meditation, chores, and hospitality when I had two or three others in the house. Now that I find myself alone I have had to find community in a different form. Bonhoeffer explains, “Only as we are within the fellowship can we be alone, and only you who are alone can live in fellowship. Only in the fellowship do we learn to be rightly alone and only in aloneness do we learn to live rightly in the fellowship. It is not as though the one precedes the other; both begin at the same time, namely, with the call to Jesus Christ.” Pg78
My living alone this summer is then not a separation from community, but rather community in a different sense. I have never been one to have personal discipline of prayer and scripture. I admit that was one of the things that drew me to living in community. I knew that even if I didn’t have my personal disciplines I would always at least have the communal disciplines. This summer I do not have that luxury and so I have had to search for my own personal disciplines. I have done my best to get up at 7:00 like I did at Bonhoeffer. I make some tea courtesy of Michael, pray through Common Prayer, and then spend about 15 minutes in person prayer and meditation. I wish I could say this has become and easy routine and I do it every day, but I would be lying. I’ve only managed to follow that rhythm in its entirety about two or three times a week.
It’s been difficult. I am an off the charts extrovert and so I get my energy from being around others. Bonhoeffer reminds me, however, that I must find that balance. Proper solitude is necessary for proper solidarity and vice versa. This gift of being alone will also be a gift to my community as the other brother(s) join me at the house.
If you, like me, have become addicted to and dependent on community, find time to be alone. Practice personal disciplines. It will not be easy, you will not do it every time you would like, but it will help you when you are in community. And to those of you who have wonderful personal discipline but shirk from community, push yourself to find community. You are only serving yourself by being alone just as I was too often only serving myself by being in community. The very act of pushing yourself will not only help yourself to grow, but will help the community.
“Let you who cannot be alone beware of community, and let you who are not in community beware of being alone”


Permanent link to this article:

Older posts «