Flavor Fest 2014 - Candy Gibson
Hip hop culture has consistently set cultural standards of dress, language and social consciousness. Whether or not you like rap, this fact cannot be denied, and it is even true in the Church. The Church has a love/hate relationship with hip hop—there is the degradation of women, the illicit sex, the foul language, etc. But there has also been a movement over the past 30 years to redeem this cultural phenomenon. This movement takes beats and infuses them with theology, brings the Truth of the Gospel to a culture that the Church may never engage, and pushes the boundaries of what the Church looks like.
The Church has taken many forms over the past 2000 years, from meeting in homes to meeting in buildings, and from mega-churches to hip hop churches. Crossover Church in Tampa, FL, is a hip hop church engaging a culture that is often ignored. Last week, Crossover hosted the 14th annual Flavor Fest, a hip hop leadership conference. The conference had a Church Planting Track, a Theology Track, an Artist Development Track, a Youth Worker Track, and attendees who were there to learn, listen and network. World Impact had the honor of hosting the Church Planting Track and these brothers and sisters were hungry for resources, partnerships and relationship. Working in under-resourced communities can be very isolating, and for one weekend, like-minded folks gathered to hear great speakers and listen to amazing artists.
The Church Planter and the Rapper sat side by side in workshops and general sessions, learning about Christ and being encouraged to continue in the mission of proclaiming the Gospel. The Youth Leader and the Artist interacted like friends who have shared a history, album after album, teen after teen, transformed life after transformed life. In this space Holy Hip Hop is validated, held accountable, and inspired by those who have forged the path.
The diversity, respect, talent and hope at Flavor Fest were abundant. Everyone (multi-ethnic, multi-generational, co-ed, and multi-cultural) was accepted and invited to a deeper relationship with Christ. What an honor it was to spend four days with this remnant of the Body of Christ! Keep bringing the Word, the Truth and your personality, the Church needs it!
Candy Gibson is the National Marketing Director for World Impact.
Empowerment Theology - Efrem Smith
Many times when Christ was declaring or demonstrating that the Kingdom of God was near, He did so through interactions with the marginalized, oppressed, and physically challenged. He also gave His followers the authority and responsibility to do the same. When Christ interacted with the paralyzed, the blind, the outcast woman, one facing the death penalty, and the stigmatized minority He left them all changed.
In many cases the Gospels show us that when the marginalized and broken encountered Christ, they left empowered. Those religiously unlearned followers willing to leave their working-class occupations found themselves empowered to preach, speak to evil spirits, and heal the sick. The good news that Christ spoke of and performed led to the oppressed becoming the empowered. This version of empowerment is quite different from how empowerment is defined in our upside-down world today.
Empowerment in our world is based on title, educational level, economic class, and celebrity. Because of the social matrix that we are still held captive by, skin color and gender can be major factors when it comes to empowerment. Minorities and women lag behind white men in many social and religious areas such as work pay, executive positions, and pastoral leadership.
But what does empowerment look like in the body of Christ? What does empowerment look like in the Church? How does one become a pastor? How does one become an elder or board member in the Church? How does one become a Para Church President? How does one become President of a Christian University or College? How does one become leader of a denomination? How does one discover an amazing Kingdom advancing call regardless of their occupation?
Now, I want to recognize that the face of empowerment is becoming more and more diverse. But the real question is, what would the Church and our world look like if we followed the empowerment strategies and theology of Christ? I believe if we did, the Poor would be empowered to lead Churches. We'd see even more ethnic and gender diversity when it came to leadership. We'd see more indigenous leadership. The broken, the oppressed, the marginalized, and the Poor would become apostles, prophets, church planters, missionaries, and executives; advancing the kingdom of God like we've never seen. We'd see an incredible revival and transformation in under-resourced communities.
Empowerment is a way of understanding the declaration of Christ, stating that He came to give sight to the blind and set the captives free (Luke 4). Empowerment is a way of understanding the many interactions of Christ with women. Empowerment is a way of understanding the miracles of Christ. Empowerment is a way of understanding discipleship and mission. As Christians we must wrestle with how we are stewarding and extending empowerment.
Do As I Have Done - Hayley Ramsey
Darryl approached the Mobile Medical check-in with a limp. His hair was unkempt, his clothes dirty and his face weary. As he answered some basic questions, I was surprised when he said his age. A hard life had added many years to his face.
He was currently living in an alcohol treatment facility, trying to unlearn a lifetime of bad habits. Alcoholism had been his way of masking the years of hurt. As he met with the volunteer medical provider, he was not short of words. He seemed hungry for the conversation.
After discussing various health concerns, the provider determined the reason for Darryl's visit this day: a sprained ankle. What she did next reminded me of the servant heart of Christ himself. She bent down in front of his man, carefully removed an old, cracked shoe, tenderly removed a dirty, stinky sock and then lovingly wrapped his foot and ankle with a bandage. She didn't flinch. She didn't cough or gag. She loved him.
A variety of people with a complex web of needs come through our Mobile Medical Clinics each week. Each person comes with a medical need, but often they most need to be shown love, respect and kindness. Christ displayed this perfectly when he knelt in front of his disciples to wash their feet. He told them, "I have set you as an example that you should do as I have done for you." (John 13:15)