GraceConnect eNews, No. 188, Week of January 23, 2017


The eNewsletter for the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches
The Trippin' Rabbi

Today's story comes from John Shirk, who lives with his wife Amy and their four daughters in Chicago where they minister to the city's artistic subculture. The tools of their ministry include chocolate chip cookies, vegan chili, poetry, and a garden rake. 
The first time I discussed faith with my friend I learned he had trained as a rabbi. I knew he wasn’t your typical rabbi when he told me he was tripping on mushrooms and suggested that we might want to talk again when he came off his high.
We meet at an open mic. We often end up just outside the patio where he takes a smoke break and we can talk without disturbing the show. Recently he questioned me about free will, the sovereignty of God, and whether Aborigines who had never heard of Jesus would go to heaven. I suspected the questions were smoke screens. He was more interested in tripping me up and sounding profound than hearing my answers.
I didn’t take the bait.
I told him they were tough questions. My answers probably wouldn’t be good enough. He should ask God. The next time we talked I asked if God had answered his questions. He invited me outside for a smoke break, but this one was different. Instead of stepping just outside the patio, he walked down the street and ducked in an alley before he lit up.  
Soon I realized why he wanted privacy. It wasn't the content of our conversation, but the content of the rolling paper burning between his fingers. Marijuana is legal in Illinois for medicinal purposes, but I doubt the Trippin’ Rabbi has a prescription. I was a little uncomfortable. He told me about a conversation with his rabbi about the things we had discussed. He had more questions about Jesus. He seemed to challenge me to convert him.
Again, I didn't take the bait.

I told him I didn't want to convert him. I wanted him to be a good Jew, to study the Jewish Scriptures, seek the God of Abraham, and look for the Messiah that was promised. If Jesus was that Messiah, the most Jewish thing he could do was believe.
We went back inside. The feature was a folk singer who angrily protested the election with a song made up entirely of profanity and sang about his lack of faith, including a song that suggested using Scripture as toilet paper.
I decided to read a poem about how faith is not having answers, but trusting God while wrestling with questions. I was going to dedicate it to the Rabbi, but he left early. I decided to perform it anyway, and dedicated it to anyone asking tough questions.  
As I sat down, the folk singer leaned over and complemented my poem. We talked after the show. I told him his lyrics might seem hard on people of faith, but I enjoyed his set. It was angry, but it was honest anger. I would rather listen to him wrestle with the broken world than sing cliches and platitudes which ignore reality.
Maybe that's why Christ prefers those who are hot or cold to the lukewarm. Better the fiery praise of his people, or the cold curses of one unsatisfied with a fallen world than the lukewarm apathy of those who claim His name with distracted eyes and wandering feet. Better a heart after God like David, or to wrestle with God like Jacob; than to honor Him with our lips while our hearts are far from Him.
Jesus doesn’t need me to answer the rabbi’s tough questions, nor does He need me to defend against the angry curses of the folk singer. He longs for me to have a heart on fire for Him and a love for my neighbors that continually points them in His direction. --by John Shirk
Click here to send a note of encouragement to Shirk and find out how you can pray. Check out his website, a sacrificial poet, to see more of his ministry. 

[Your Turn]


"Reflection is valuable. Sometimes it’s just plain fun, and other times it’s necessary. When we take even a moment to stop and assess where we’ve been it either gives us confidence to go forward or allows us to recalibrate what’s not quite right so we can take the next step."

Looking for some great content to dive into? Dave Nicodemus, communications and creative arts pastor at Grace Polaris, compiled a list of Top Ten Pastor's Blog Posts of 2016. Grace Polaris is a Grace Brethren congregation on the north side of Columbus, Ohio (Mike Yoder, lead pastor). Click here to check out the list.


Movement Church in Hilliard, Ohio recently launched a podcast, hosted by pastor Mark Artrip. Check out the episodes here. 
[Leader's Corner:]

"The question surfaces in my heart: As a Christian leader, am I ever wrong?"

Nathan Wells of
SEEDNet takes on the tough balancing act of confidence in one's beliefs and being willing to acknoweldge and admit when one is wrong. He continues,

"Of course I am, and as a Christian leader I need to be the first one to admit when I’m wrong. Unlike the religious leaders of Jesus’ day who continued in their arrogance, Christian leaders need to be the first people to humbly admit when their wrong. 

So my prayer today is: Jesus, show me  any areas that I’m wrong in, so I can repent. Show me where I’m wrong about you? Show me where I’m wrong about what you’re doing in someone I’m leading

If you’re a Christian leader (paid or volunteer) that’s my prayer for you too."

Click here to read the rest of the post. 

Events in the FGBC

January 20-21, 2017   WLS: Principles of Effective Bible Study, Orange, Calif. (WGUSA) 
January 21, 2017   Walk Through The Bible - NT Seminar, Wrightsville, Pa. (SGCC)
January 27-28, 2017   WLS: Women & Scripture (Spanish), Bellflower, Calif. (WGUSA)
January 28, 2017  Connect & Equip SoCal, Regional Mission Conference, Orange, Calif. (EWP)
January 29, 2017   Southern California CE Celebration, Whittier, Calif. (CE)
January 30-February 1, 2017   Southwest Focus Retreat, Lake Hughes, Calif. (FGBC)
February 2, 2017   Youth Ministry Round Table, Norwalk, Calif. (CE)
February 8, 2017 –  Pastorpedia Live, Winona Lake, Ind. (CE)
February 23, 2017   Kid (Min): Summit for Children's Ministry Leaders, Goshen, Ind. (CE)
February 24-25, 2017   WLS: Spiritual Formation (Spanish), Tampa, Fla. (WGUSA)
March 13-15, 2017   South Focus Retreat Haines City, Fla. (FGBC)
March 17, 2017   Day Away - North of 55, Ashland, Ohio (AGBC)
March 17-18, 2017   WLS: Women & Scripture, Roanoke, Va. (WGUSA)
March 25, 2017  Connect & Equip East: Regional Mission Conference, Parkesburg, PA. (EWP)
April 5, 2017   Pastorpedia Live, Winona Lake, Ind. (CE)
April 7-8, 2017   WLS: Spiritual Formation, Frederick, Md. (WGUSA)
April 28, 2017   Heritage Event: Shady Maple Smörgåsbord, East Earl, Pa. (CE)
April 28-30, 2017 –  Hispanic Summit,  Atlanta, Ga. (WGUSA)
April 28, 2017  Heritage Event, East Earl, Pa. (CE)
May 11-17, 2017   National Institute Cross Cultural Youth Min.Module, Philadelphia, Pa. (CE)
May 22-24, 2017   Northwest Focus Retreat, White Pass, Wash. (FGBC)
June 14, 2017   Pastorpedia Live, Winona Lake, Ind. (CE)
June 18 – July 11, 2017   Operation Barnabas (CE)
June 26-30, 2017   Encounter Atlanta (EWP)
July 5-9, 2017   StreetWise, Philadelphia, Pa. (CE)
July 18-23, 2017   Momentum Youth Conference, Marion, Ind. (CE)
September 20, 2017   Pastorpedia Live, Winona Lake, Ind. (CE)
November 8, 2017   Pastorpedia Live, Winona Lake, Ind. (CE)

AGBC – Ashland, Ohio, Grace Brethren Church
CE – CE National
EWP – Encompass World Partners
FGBC – Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches
SGCC – Susquehanna Grace Community Church, Wrightsville , Pa.
WGUSA – Women of Grace USA

Send events for the calendar to
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