Henry Neufeld

Author's details

Name: Henry Neufeld
Date registered: March 3, 2012
URL: http://henrysthreads.com

Latest posts

  1. Threads from Henry's Web: When Fear Drives — November 21, 2014
  2. Threads from Henry's Web: From My Editing Work: Our Global Kingdom Citizenship — November 21, 2014
  3. Threads from Henry's Web: From My Editing Work: Claim Your Identity as a Theologian — November 17, 2014
  4. Threads from Henry's Web: The Potential Arrogance of Moderation — November 17, 2014
  5. Threads from Henry's Web: Author Interview: Christopher J. Freet on Hospitality as a Key to Missions — November 17, 2014

Most commented posts

  1. Threads from Henry's Web: Honoring Those Who Do Not Fight — 2 comments
  2. Threads from Henry's Web: Scot McKnight on Dominion Theology — 1 comment
  3. Threads from Henry's Web: Curiosity on Mars — 1 comment
  4. Threads from Henry's Web: Defining Christian — 1 comment
  5. Threads from Henry's Web: Removing Mormons from the Cult List — 1 comment

Author's posts listings

Nov 21 2014

Threads from Henry's Web: When Fear Drives

Original post at http://henryneufeld.com/threads/2014/11/21/when-fear-drives/

Recently the topic of risk and danger has come up in several discussions of Christian Ministry. Shauna Hyde, who I interviewed along with Chris Surber, has spent the night in tent town with homeless folks and earned the informal title “vicar of tent town.” People have told her she’s crazy. But she manages to live the gospel and build relationships that wouldn’t happen any other way.

Chris Surber, involved in the same interview, is headed to Haiti with his young children. There are folks who claim he is crazy for doing so. He describes some of the comments in his forthcoming book Rendering unto Caesar.

Back in the days when I had a newspaper route (annoying work, but it happened at night, which was convenient), I would regularly stop to help people in the “bad” neighborhood in which I worked. I recall one Sunday morning when I stopped and just kept my headlights on a man who was changing his tire. He was very grateful. When I mentioned this in my Sunday School class it derailed the discussion as people informed me how I shouldn’t risk my life in this way.

Such, I think, would have been the Sunday morning conversation had the Good Samaritan been a Sunday School teacher and reported on his stop on the road to Jericho. His stop, I think, was much more dangerous than my sitting in my car with the headlights on.

In an interview regarding hospitality, the subject of danger came up again. Chris Freet has written a book titled A New Look at Hospitality as a Key to Missions. As soon as we began to discuss hospitality, we had to discuss danger. Strangers actually invited into our home? Perhaps we need to rethink this and use some central location with proper regard for security. After all, in the 21st century we have sexual predators and various violent types among the broad category of people classified as “strangers.”

I have to ask myself whether the 20th or the 21st century is more packed with dangerous people than any previous period in history. I really doubt it. As Christians we claim to be followers of Jesus. It was not entirely safe to do these things when Jesus commanded them. We can’t claim that additional dangers in the 21st century have rendered these commands null and void.

My parents were always hospitable. Many, many times we had guests at the dinner table. You could not visit my parents’ church without receiving an invitation to lunch afterward. My parents would never have considered allowing you to leave unfed. They just never did it. We did this when we were overseas as well. We took people into our home. It was something I felt was normal. How likely are you to get invited out to lunch in a 21st century American church?

And it was not without risk. Once when my parents sheltered a woman and her child in our home the result was that we had to flee as angry people approached intending to kill us. This was eventually settled and we returned to our homes, but there was certainly risk.

We have story after story of missionaries risking their lives and the lives of their children. I was allowed to go on mission trips into the mountains of Chiapas, Mexico when I was eight and nine years old. We’d travel through the mountains, accept the hospitality of the villagers, and conduct clinics. (My father was an MD and my mother an RN.) My task was to carry out the garbage, get supplies and deliver them where needed and to carry messages. Was there risk? Of course there was! What would happen if one of us was injured in these isolated areas? After all, the reason we were there was because medical help was not readily available.

1893729222My mother tells a story about me. It embarrasses me a bit. Don’t think that I was some sort of extraordinarily spiritual child. What I’m interested in here is her actions. This is extracted from her book Directed Paths, pp. 51-52.

Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right.

Proverbs 20:11

While we were in the Chiapas mountains, a measles epidemic broke out in the nearby village of Rincon. Many were dying. They sent to our clinic for help. Although nurses and helpers were in short supply, we sent as many as we could to give penicillin and help with treatments. Our older children, Betty Rae and Robert had returned to the states for school. Patty, who was twelve at the time, went to Rincon every day to help.   She wanted to be a nurse and this was a great experience for her. The need was so great, the nurses taught her to give shots and helped her to learn how to do treatments. At the time, Henry was only eight but he begged for permission to go help. I knew he could be useful in helping to carry food, water and run errands, but he had never had the measles.

He kept saying, “Mama, please let me go. Patty is helping and I want to help, too.”

“But, Henry, Patty has had the measles. You haven’t. I don’t want my little boy to die.” I told him.

His answer stunned me, “Jesus gave His life for me, and why shouldn’t I give my life for the Chamulas?”

I had no answer to that. The next day, Henry went with the group. He was a great help. He also got the measles which made him extremely ill. We thought he truly was going to give his life for the Chamulas. We provided nursing care, treatments and penicillin, but Jesus did the healing. Henry made it and the glory goes to God.

I believe that many 21st century folks would be horrified by her actions, because I see them react with horror at so much less risky actions. It’s possible some would consider this child abuse. We admire the courage of missionaries at a distance, but are otherwise somewhere between concerned and horrified. I’ve heard the same responses to the idea of people going to help with the Ebola outbreak. Close everything off. Don’t let there be any risk.

Can followers of Jesus say that? I think not! I think the same force of the love of God that had Jesus reaching out, touching, and healing the lepers should drive Christians. The fact of risk is not a reason to quit carrying out the gospel commission nor is it a reason to quit actively loving and helping our neighbors. And it is no reason to allow ourselves to be shut down.

What is right remains just as right under threat of death as it ever is when we’re in complete safety. I know it’s a great deal easier to say that than it is to put it into practice. I don’t proclaim myself a paragon of virtue. I can name so many people who have done or are doing bolder things than I have even considered.

But the call remains the same as it was when Christians faced the lions. Will the American church be driven by fear or by the gospel commission?

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/11/when-fear-drives/

Nov 21 2014

Threads from Henry's Web: From My Editing Work: Our Global Kingdom Citizenship

Original post at http://henryneufeld.com/threads/2014/11/21/from-my-editing-work-our-global-kingdom-citizenship/

9781631990670Two paragraphs from Rendering unto Caesar:

The most obvious conflict with the fusion of Christian and American identity is that it denies the universal nature of the Kingdom of God. When our allegiances are too strongly aligned with any kingdom of this world, be it the relatively benevolent kingdom of America or a malevolent kingdom like Nazi Germany, it takes away from our ability to reflect the unique beauty of Christ in the world through our lives. Discipleship is costly. It costs us the identity that we had before Christ broke into our lives and snatched our affections away from this world for Him.

In order to glorify God, we need a Gospel that preaches everywhere. Our Gospel needs to preach in Beverly Hills and the hills of Haiti. Our Gospel needs to preach to Liberal and Conservative. Our Gospel is for the lost, of which we are all a part. In the hearts of many American Christians there is a subtle and sometimes overt bitterness for the rest of the world. We are Americans. We want to keep our money local. We want to keep the American economy strong. We have fused our identity as Americans with our identity as Christians and consequently we miss the reality of our global Kingdom citizenship. (p. 8)

This little book (Topical Line Drives, 42 pages) is headed to the printer. Pre-order price is $3.49. Regular price will be $4.99. If you order three of them, or order another book or so, you’ll get free shipping as well.

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/11/from-my-editing-work-our-global-kingdom-citizenship/

Nov 17 2014

Threads from Henry's Web: From My Editing Work: Claim Your Identity as a Theologian

Original post at http://henryneufeld.com/threads/2014/11/17/from-my-editing-work-claim-your-identity-as-a-theologian/

Finding God in Suffering: A Journey with JobFrom the forthcoming book Finding God in Suffering: A Journey with Job by Bruce G. Epperly.

The book of Job invites us to claim our identity as theologians.  Job shouts out to us, “You are a theologian” because we have experienced the pain of the world and are trying to make sense of it.  Job shouts to us: “Don’t let the word ‘theology’ put you off.  By whatever word, we strive to make sense of the senseless and meaning of the meaningless.”  We become theologians the moment we begin to ask hard questions about life and the One who creates the universe and gives birth to each moment of experience.  Theology asks questions of life, death, meaning, human hope, and immortality.  It also raises questions about the meaning and purpose of our brief, and often challenging and ambiguous lives. For Job, theology and spirituality are intimately related.  As Episcopalian spiritual guide Alan Jones once asserted, spirituality deals with the unfixable aspects of life – or what I would describe as life’s inevitabilities.  Sooner or later even the most fortunate of us must make theological and personal sense of what is beyond our control, while taking responsibility for what we can change.

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/11/from-my-editing-work-claim-your-identity-as-a-theologian/

Nov 17 2014

Threads from Henry's Web: The Potential Arrogance of Moderation

Original post at http://henryneufeld.com/threads/2014/11/17/the-potential-arrogance-of-moderation/

Before you continue, look at the tag line for this blog. I self identify as a moderate, though I have a somewhat eccentric view of being moderate.

My view of moderation doesn’t really solve the problem, however. As a moderate, I believe I should examine the whole spectrum of views on any issue before trying to select a particular view to advocate. There are two reasons for this: 1) There’s no guarantee where on the spectrum the best approach on any issue will be, and 2) If compromise is necessary, as it may well be in a variety of social or political situations, I know what the options are. I’m not a centrist, i.e. I don’t believe that I need to be toward the center on all or most issues. My actual beliefs, politically and doctrinally, may be on different sides of the spectrum on different issues. For example, I can (and do) believe both in drug legalization (for the most part), but at the same time believe in fairly vigorous law enforcement.

But there is a potential for arrogance in this view as well. Let me just illustrate this personally. Every day I see a stream of social media posts from people in a variety of points on the political and religious spectrum. No day goes by without me sighing a bit at some people who seem over the top about one issue or another. It’s very easy for me to become arrogant and think, “Wow! I’m so much smarter than all those people who get so worked up about ______.” If I’m on one side of the spectrum or another, I get a double dose of feeling superior. I’m so unextreme! “Lord, I thank you that I am not as other people are, overwrought over so many extreme political or religious positions.” You should pardon the paraphrase.

But a moderate position, or each position that falls within it, is an opinion on a topic as well. It is something that I prefer, something that I advocate. It may be that I am not passionate enough in my own advocacy of that position. It’s easy for moderates to sink into apathy and spend their day not advocating stuff. It’s also easy to decide that because others are so extreme, a lack of a position on an issue is a better.

But people’s passion is not wrong, and a lack of a position is not a virtue. In many cases my decision to advocate on some issue or another is a strategic one. Where should I spend my time? What is my emphasis going to be? As a publisher, I place myself as an advocate of advocacy. I’m looking for passionate people to write books about the subjects that drive them. It should not be surprising that they are, in fact, passionate about the issues they write about. In fact, some of them are passionate about not being at the extremes, and that is also not a bad thing.

One of the positions I’ve noticed (and participated in) is a desire to draw Christians back from being too invested in the politics of this world. I believe we should be involved, but always remember our commitment, our ultimate allegiance, is elsewhere. But even this can be a cause for arrogance. If I can take the election results more peacefully than my neighbor, that makes me so much better as a person, doesn’t it? Actually, I think not. I will suggest some moderation in tone, but you see, that is a position as well. I think reasoned advocacy and relationship building is the better approach to dealing with political and religious issues.

Wow! Who’d a thunk it? I must be a moderate!

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/11/the-potential-arrogance-of-moderation/

Nov 17 2014

Threads from Henry's Web: Author Interview: Christopher J. Freet on Hospitality as a Key to Missions

Original post at http://henryneufeld.com/threads/2014/11/17/author-interview-christopher-j-freet-on-hospitality-as-a-key-to-missions/

Tonight in our Tuesday night hangout series, I will be interviewing Christopher J. Freet, author of the newly released book A New Look at Hospitality as a Key to Missions in the Areopagus Critical Christian Issues series regarding the topic of hospitality. We are open to audience questions. You can view this event on the Energion Publications Google+ page or use the embedded YouTube viewer below.



Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/11/author-interview-christopher-j-freet-on-hospitality-as-a-key-to-missions/

Nov 17 2014

Threads from Henry's Web: Some Thoughts on Ecclesiology from Someone Utterly Unqualified

Original post at http://henryneufeld.com/threads/2014/11/17/some-thoughts-on-ecclesiology-from-someone-utterly-unqualified/

Several things I’ve written lately lead to thoughts on ecclesiology, though that is hardly one of my subjects. People do sometimes make assumptions because I’m a member of a United Methodist congregation. So I’m going to make this personal, first saying why I am in a United Methodist congregation and second saying what I see as ideal in a church. This is just a bit of rambling—fair warning!

I prefer to call myself a Christian who is a member of a United Methodist congregation rather than a Methodist. That can be clumsy, but I don’t think of myself so much as a member of the denomination as of the local church. There’s a fairly simple reason why I’m part of a UMC, and that reason can be found in the early pages of the United Methodist Discipline. While I am hesitant to identify fully with a theological stream, the doctrinal standards of the United Methodist Church come closest of any I know to what I can affirm. There are less restrictive statements I could also affirm, but they tend to affirm too little, in my view.

My great disappointment with United Methodism is that so few Methodists are aware of this theological heritage. I’ve written about this before. The pastor of the first United Methodist congregation I joined confessed to me later that when I came to his office and borrowed a copy of the Discipline, he thought it was likely I would never return. If I had read the later parts about organization, committees, and so forth, it’s quite possible I would have been driven off. Sometimes I feel one requires legal training to navigate the authority structures of a United Methodist congregation.

I should confess that, in addition to a lack of training in church administration or ecclesiology, there is another reason I’m utterly unqualified. My attempts at involvement in church politics or governance have not been terribly successful. They have generally been bad for my health and not very constructive for the church. I do well in one on one encounters. I’m much less successful at committees. And whether they call them “teams,” “working groups,” or just “committees,” these groups of people make a UM congregation run—or not. My observation is that most Methodist churches function because the actual power structure knows how to work its way around the paper power structure. That could be excessively cynical. When I joined my current church, I told the pastor that if he needed someone to park cars or teach Sunday School I was there for him, but if he needed someone to be on any committee, count me out.

But my ecclesiology is not formed particularly by the structure and order of the United Methodist Church. I find that the hierarchical system tends very much to spend its time maintaining the institution and then wondering why the acknowledged work of the kingdom isn’t really happening. Pastors are moved in an arbitrary way, often without regard to the state of whatever ministry they’re carrying on where they are. Relationships between pastors and churches are hard to form, unless the church is large and has a greater influence on who will be on the staff and how long that person will stay.

That set of complaints may sound negative, but I don’t see the United Methodist system as horribly deficient either. It has its problems, but in my experience so do all other systems of governance that involve humans. While the UM system may move a pastor when he really should stay, congregational systems often pair dysfunctional pastors and congregations until both pastor and congregation are spiritually dead. While the hierarchy may make for a certain amount of political structure maintenance, it also provides both connections to other places, and can move a dysfunctional pastor before he or she does more damage. Large structures allow the church to bring a wide range of resources together to accomplish great things.

Unfortunately, I don’t think that either system guarantees that any of these great things will be accomplished. the combined resources of a large denomination could do great things, but they often get siphoned off to maintain a great headquarters building (or something similar).

Summary: Every kind of church structure I’ve experienced (and I haven’t experienced all) has it’s problems and its benefits. While there may be a form of organization that’s better than any other, I’m not sure what it is.

There are, however, some principles that I would want to see. If I could find a church manifested some of these, I think I’d want to make it a base of operations:

1) Recognition of more than one form of ministry. Modern churches tend to recognize pastors and put them in charge. There aer more gifts and more offices. I think setting people apart by laying on of hands should apply to all the various ministries of the church. The pastor doesn’t need to be a church administrator, publicity coordinator, facility manager, and general problem solver. There should be evangelists, teachers (sometimes pastor-teachers, sometimes just teachers), administrators, helpers, and yes, prophets. (See Ephesians 4:11-16, though I don’t regard the list as exhaustive.)

2) Because there are many forms of ministry, everyone in the congregation is set apart. I’d like to be part of a congregation where the assumption is that everyone will have some sort of service. Let’s lose “member” vs “attends” and think of “attends” vs “active.” In my book Identifying Your Gifts and Service: Small Group Edition, I call for every member to become a gift spotter. The assumption should be that being part of the body means exercising gifts for the body.

3) Communion, preferably in the form of a common meal, becomes the center of congregational gathering. This would be what we do for a “worship service.” I have a fairly high, sacramental view of the communion meal combined with a rather low view of ordination. I think the Spirit of God in the congregation is what should authorize communion. I don’t believe that there should be a distinction between clergy and laity, but rather a distinction between different varieties of servants. We set people apart not because we make them better than others, nor because we acknowledge them as better than others, but because we acknowledge that they serve in particular ways with particular gifts. When this time of communion occurs, I believe that God is really present in the elements and in the people through His Spirit.

4) Leadership is strong, but is plural. There is no single person whose personality is stamped on the church. I believe this can be carried out under many different types of polity. One of the weaknesses in the Methodist system is that a pastor gets a level of respect because he’s sent by a bishop, and the bishop is way up there, so to speak. So the church centers around the pastor’s views and wishes. A pastor who wants to have a successful career will tend to work the nomination system and stack committees, especially the Staff-Parish Relations committee. Then a new pastor will come, and he may have a different personality. I believe that a church needs to have more people who exercise real leadership. I know there can be real problems with this, but as I’ve noted before there are real problems with any system that involves people.

5) The church builds connections with a variety of other churches. The Methodist system speaks of connectionalism, and this is a great characteristic. I’d prefer to see a greater degree of connection between churches of different denominations down the street. So I see connections as important, but I think that they should not be restricted to one denomination.

6) The church is accountable in some way. In the Methodist church, this accountability is to the bishop and to the structures of the church. I think more independent congregations can choose to be accountable. The only way to know what’s going on is to observe.

7) The church has an identifiable, known set of theological essentials and affirms freedom in other areas. I know this stresses people out on all sides. Some don’t want any definition. Others prefer very limited freedom of teaching. I think the most mature congregation will be produced by having a carefully chosen and defined set of essentials and then allowing free discussion outside of that. I think there are many topics that should be non-essential and open to a variety of views.

8) The majority of church income is used for outreach and service. As long as the majority of our money and effort is used to maintain the physical structure and the political forms, I don’t think we’re where we need to be. To be clear, what I mean is more than 50% of the money received by the church is going somewhere other than maintaining the congregation itself. Since I’ve been told that 5% is considered “mission minded” for a United Methodist congregation, I think this may be the hardest one.

There’s the saying that if you find the perfect church, you shouldn’t join it. You’ll spoil it! I don’t think this is the perfect church, but it’s one I’d be willing to try to live up to.

In the meantime, however, I believe that the local congregation of which I’m a member is doing a great deal of good ministry. The gospel is preached. I’m particularly impressed with programs for children and youth, and the educational program is moving forward. It’s too bad that it’s hard to get 1,000 people out of a congregation of > 3,800 to attend on a Sunday morning, but I think the pastoral staff have done a good job. No, it’s not my description of an ideal church, but to be honest, I don’t expect to find one of those. But where I have a chance I’ll keep advocating …

Note: As a publisher, I publish some books by people more informed on these topics. I’ve been particularly impressed with two recent releases from opposite sides of the theological spectrum, Dr. David Alan Black (Southern Baptist) and Dr. Bruce Epperly (United Church of Christ). Dave’s book is Seven Marks of a New Testament Church and Bruce’s is Transforming Acts: Acts of the Apostles as a 21st Century Gospel. It’s interesting to see people from across the theological spectrum looking back to the book of Acts and the early church to learn how we might move forward in the church today. Don’t blame them for my ideas. Each has his own, and they are both worth reading.

seven marks and transforming acts

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/11/some-thoughts-on-ecclesiology-from-someone-utterly-unqualified/

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