The John 17:23 Network – May gathering (with a special focus on refugees)

May 6th, 2011 by Beyth Hogue Greenetz

On Sunday, May 15, The John 17:23 Network will take a special look at how the values of the network penetrate the issue of caring for refugees.

Join us on Sunday, May 15 at 6:00pm at Central Bible Church (8815 NE Glisan St. in Portland). This event is open to the public. See you there!

UPDATE: Wondering how you can learn more about refugees in Portland? Click here for a list of resources.

A Vulnerable Love

April 18th, 2011 by Paul Louis Metzger

I had breakfast the other day in Chicago with a young white pastor. He had recently planted a church in an African American community in Chicago’s inner city. I was so refreshed by his sharing of personal pain, weakness and his sense of isolation in ministry—not because I want him to suffer—but because he is leaning into Christ in a profound way. God is driving him to depend on the Spirit of Jesus in a personally vulnerable ministry setting. Although he is a very secure Christian, he is in a ministry context that is beyond his comfort zone where he can minister from strength. I am confident that God will use him mightily, for God’s grace is always made manifest through our weakness and dependence on Christ (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). This is true in any ministry context, but it is all the more true in a multi-ethnic and diverse economic setting where we so often treat those different from us as “the other(s)” who need our help with no sense of our needing theirs. I would go so far as to say that one cannot minister effectively in a multi-ethnic and economically challenged context apart from a deepening sense of personal weakness and need. In what follows, I will seek to unpack this point.

One of the main reasons I believe we find it difficult to move beyond prejudice and objectification toward reconciliation with “the other” is our fear of vulnerability. The fear of losing control and of being vulnerable leads us to conceive of people who look different from us as always “them.” White Christian leaders like me often like to minister from a position of strength. No doubt, those of other complexions do as well. Flesh (as in carnality)—no matter the color of one’s skin—enjoys boasting in oneself. But what usually differentiates us is that many of us white Christian leaders have a long history of ministering from a position of supposed strength, especially when engaging those of diverse ethnicities. We often have no idea of how much power and privilege we have until they are challenged or taken away from us. Ministry undertaken from seeming strength fails to perceive one’s relational need. As a result, we fail to sense our need to lean into God, and so we minister from the flesh. The only ones we can connect with in such settings are those belonging to our homogeneous demographic groupings of whatever kind—those we naturally like and those like us.

In contrast, Jesus brought people together who previously were opposed to one another through his weakness on the cross. As a result of his crucifixion and resurrection and our participation in him, there is no longer any division between male and female, Jew and Gentile, slave and free (Galatians 3:28). Jesus’ greatest hour of power—the hour of glory of cross and resurrection recorded in John’s Gospel—was when he was most dependent, hanging on a cross and depending on the Father to raise him from the dead. Following from this, when Paul was weak in Christ, God’s power was manifest most profoundly through him (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Paul’s very conversion experience and early Christian life involved incredible dependence on others: Saul was led as a blind man to Ananias who laid his hands on him so that his sight could be restored; and he was given the right hand of fellowship by the Christian community through Barnabas (Acts 9:8, 17-18, 26-28). Saul experienced great suffering in ministry—beginning with dependence on others, especially dependence on the Christian community, whom he had once persecuted. How humbling that must have been for Saul who became Paul!

Without experiencing vulnerability in ministry whereby we sense our need for those who are different from us (those we would often think are in need of our help without a sense of our being in need of theirs), we will never experience the breaking down of divisions between those of diverse ethnic and economic backgrounds. Instead, we will reinforce barriers by ministering out of privilege. In fact, it is not enough to minister to others whereby we use our power for their good. We must sense our need for them and receive from them as well. Only when there is give and take, where people are interdependent, is there intimacy in relations and reconciliation. Paul could never have been the Apostle to the Gentiles had he not become so dependent on Jesus and the church whom he once had persecuted. He was enslaved to Jesus’ vulnerable love that breaks down divisions between people.

White Christian leaders like me often treat African Americans, legal and illegal immigrants from Mexico, Arabs, Jews, Muslims, and the homeless as “them” or as “those people” who need us. When this is our posture and perspective, we violate these people. What is required is that we experience vulnerability, which would involve encountering these people face to face, eye to eye, and heart to heart. While this is a common problem for the majority culture in any given society, it should not be common among God’s shepherds of his people. It is only as we experience vulnerability and spiritual vertigo whereby we find ourselves secure in the Good Shepherd’s embrace that we will be in a position to move beyond the marginalization of others toward mutuality and partnership in ministry.

The young white pastor friend to whom I referred at the outset of this piece shared with me that his spiritual director is an African American woman. I couldn’t believe it when he told me. Not that this is scandalous, but because it would often be viewed as scandalous to many white male leaders, I believe. I was so impressed, and hope that other white male pastors—and white theologians like myself—will avail ourselves of similar opportunities. My young pastor friend informed me that he recently told his spiritual director how isolated and weak he feels in ministry. He was wondering if God was no longer working in and through him. His spiritual director responded by saying something to the effect of “Don’t pull back. You are truly experiencing the fruit of the Spirit in your ministry.” And again, “Now you know how I feel every day as an African American woman.”

Now my young pastor friend is really beginning to connect with his congregation, bearing much fruit. Instead of modeling professional distance, my friend models pastoral intimacy with his ministry team at the church. His ministry team made up of people of diverse ethnicities encourages him to keep pressing on and into Christ’s vulnerable love with them.

I hold out great hope for this young pastor in the inner city of Chicago in terms of breaking down ethnic barriers. Instead of approaching people of other ethnicities from a position of presumed strength, he is approaching them from an authentic form of weakness. He senses his relational need for them, thereby moving beyond charity toward the poor and condescension toward non-whites. He is pressing into community where the Spirit’s charitable fruit breaks down divisions. The poor is no longer them. The poor is me. The poor is each one of us. You are no longer “the other.” I am in you and you are in me.

The John 17:23 Network – April gathering

April 7th, 2011 by Paul Louis Metzger

The John 17:23 Network will be gathering for a time of worship, prayer, and celebration on Sunday, April 10 at 6:00pm at Trinity Full Gospel Pentecostal Church (4801 NE 19th Ave. in Portland). We hope you’ll join us!

Paul Louis Metzger interviewed on the Multi-Ethnic Church podcast

March 23rd, 2011 by Paul Louis Metzger

I appreciated having the opportunity to talk recently with Mark DeYmaz on his radio program about race, class, consumerism and the multi-ethnic church. Please let me know your reflections based on the interview. I thank God for Mark and his shared vision to live into Jesus’ prayer in John 17: may we (the church) be one as he and the Father are one so that the world will know that God has sent his Son. Such unity includes multi-ethnic church communion.

Click here to listen to the interview.

The John 17:23 Network – March gathering (with a special focus on illegal immigration)

February 23rd, 2011 by Paul Louis Metzger

On Sunday, March 13, The John 17:23 Network will take a special look at how the values of the network penetrate the issue of illegal immigration – moving beyond petty politics to people. This will be a great opportunity to engage the many complex issues surrounding this specific challenge to unity in the Body of Christ.

Join us on Sunday, March 13 at 6:00pm at Imago Dei Community (1304 SE Ankeny in Portland) in the Ankeny building, room 101. This event is open to the public. See you there!

For some material to get you thinking, check out the film Papers, this article by J. Mark DeYmaz and this op-ed by Rabbi Maurice Harris.

Consumerism and Drug Addiction

February 17th, 2011 by Braxton Alsop

In this essay, Darcy McGuffin reflects on the connection between consumerism and drug addiction.  In the face of a culture addicted to the illusion of “happily ever after,” the church needs to return to its roots and acknowledge that suffering is a part of life in a fallen world.  She righlty claims that we cannot avoid suffering, but we can follow Christ’s example in the midst of it.

Consumerism and Drug Addiction: Coping with Suffering

What is Biblical Justice?

February 15th, 2011 by Bryan Dormaier

Justice flows from God’s heart and character. As true and good, God seeks to make the object of his holy love whole. This is what motivates God throughout the Old and New Testaments in his judgments on sin and injustice. These judgments are both individual and corporate in scope.

Be sure to check out Dr. Metzger’s article What is Biblical Justice, which originally was featured in Leadership Journal. In it, Dr. Metzger explores what the biblical call to justice is.

The John 17:23 Network – gathering on 2/13

February 11th, 2011 by Paul Louis Metzger

Dear friends,

We thank God for your partnership in The John 17:23 Network. Many of you were able to attend the gathering at Trinity Full Gospel Pentecostal Church on January 30. God moved mightily in our midst through worship and celebration. As many people said during and after the event, they experienced a taste of heaven, witnessing such diverse unity in the body of Christ.

Whereas the January gathering of The John 17:23 Network focused on worship and celebration, the February and March gatherings will be more educational in nature. This Sunday evening, 2/13, Dr. Brad Harper will co-lead with us and share about the importance of developing multiethnic churches. Before coming to Multnomah University to teach in 1999, Dr. Harper was a pastor in St. Louis, Missouri for 13 years. He was very involved with seeking after unity in the body of Christ along multiethnic lines and will bring his experiences and insights to bear on the discussion Sunday evening.

Our February gathering will be held this Sunday, 2/13 at 6:00pm at Central Bible Church’s Wilcox House. Central Bible Church’s address is 8815 NE Glisan St. The Wilcox house is located on the southwest corner of the church’s property (at the corner of NE 87th Ave. & Glisan St.). You can park in the lower parking lot.
For periodic updates and related information pertaining to The John 17:23 Network, stay tuned at or email

See you Sunday!

Paul Louis Metzger

A story of rhythm & grace…

February 11th, 2011 by Paul Louis Metzger

Jimi is an outrageously talented musician, a highly thoughtful pastor, and more recently – a friend of mine. Who else would be inspired to confront racial issues in the church by his history of playing with major rock-n-roll artists (think Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, etc.)? Austin-based writer Eileen Flynn recently wrote a profile of Jimi. Here’s an excerpt…

My meeting earlier this month with Jimi Calhoun falls into the better-late-than-never category. I’d been meaning to interview him since he first contacted me two years ago about his about-to-be-published book “A Story of Rhythm and Grace: What the Church Can Learn from Rock & Roll about Healing the Racial Divide.”

The great thing about Calhoun, a wiry, youthful-looking 63-year-old who has pursued careers as a rock ‘n’ roll musician and a church pastor, is that he’s both patient and perpetually moving forward. When we sat down for lunch at a Chinese restaurant in West Lake Hills, Calhoun had two new projects under way: a second book and an East Austin multi-ethnic church he and his wife are starting with two other couples.

But first I wanted to get caught up on “Rhythm and Grace.” In the book, Calhoun describes a life spent in “two cities.” In one city, he played bass guitar for big-name rock ‘n’ roll acts such as Jimi Hendrix, Mick Jagger and Dr. John. There, he found that music naturally brought together people of different races. In the other city, he served as a black pastor in a white evangelical community that emphasized loving God and loving people but wasn’t always adept at race relations.

Click here to keep reading.

Related Essays: Mind-set/Beliefs: Divinity and Diversity

February 2nd, 2011 by Bryan Dormaier

At 10:45 on Tuesday mornings, Paul Louis Metzger shrugs on his jacket, grabs a stack of papers, leaves the quiet of his book-lined office and heads down the stairs to his classroom.

Often there’s work to do before students begin filing in. The chairs and tables, filling the narrow room in double rows, need to be rearranged. As latecomers arrive, Metzger takes his chair, in the hot seat, where the circle of theology students comes together.

“Let’s begin with a word of prayer,” he says. Eighteen students from Portland’s Multnomah Biblical Seminary bow their heads. “Lord,” Metzger begins, “you call us to engage the world as Christ engaged the world. Please help us to do that. Amen.”

That prayer, which sounds so simple, is a challenge for Metzger, despite his doctoral degree with a focus on Christ and culture from a London university, despite his book on the theology of Karl Barth and despite five years of teaching at Multnomah…

Click here to read the rest of this article by Nancy Haught of the Oregonian (Mind-set/Beliefs: Divinity and Diversity), which gives an overview of some of the efforts Dr. Metzger has been involved in to bring issues of diversity to the center of Evangelical discussion.