Monday, February 18, 2008

Beyond Business as Usual in the Church

My last couple of posts have offered critiques of prosperity theology. But as the Christian activist Jim Wallis often says, "Protest is good, but alternatives are better." While I have previously offered some of my own thoughts regarding alternatives to prosperity theology, I thought it would be helpful to share a concrete example of a local Bahamian church that that has developed its own distinctive alternative.

The following article highlights the ministry of Pastor Clint Kemp, the former pastor of New Providence Community Church (Clint just resigned from that position about a year ago to move on to other things, so the church is currently in transition to new leadership), who has been on the cutting edge of racial reconciliation, environmental justice and, most recently, Haitian rights. Indeed, Pastor Clint's fifteen-odd years of ministry can hardly be characterized by anything along the lines of "business as usual."

Clint Kemp is his name. He's an entrepreneur, little known pastor and thirteenth generation native of the Bahamas. Maybe you haven't heard of him yet, but he is changing the face of Christianity in the Bahamian culture. His story sheds new light on how the church can once again regain influence in culture. The story of this community being the church provides an entirely new paradigm to consider for those experimenting with pressing the Gospel forward in the context of American culture.

New Providence Community Church is shaping the culture of the Bahamas because they have approached their mission with the belief that they are called to be the Gospel in the context of their community. By deciding not to make their church a place for people to come and see, they have pushed their people to go and do. And they clearly illustrate the influence one church can have when it takes this mission seriously.
Click here to read the rest of the article or, better yet, do a Google search to learn more about Pastor Clint's numerous contributions to the Bahamian community.

A graduate of the conservative U.S.-based Moody Bible Institute, Pastor Clint certainly did not begin his ministerial career as a likely agent for social change in the Bahamas. Yet, over the years he has been significantly influenced by a number of socially progressive evangelicals such as the Latin American theologian René Padilla, Shane Claiborne of the Simple Way in Philadelphia, and Robert Guerrero of the Iglesia Comunitaria Cristiana in Santo Domingo. More importantly, he has not blindly and uncritically employed theologies and ministry techniques from abroad to address Bahamian problems. Instead, he has carefully and thoughfully crafted an approach to ministry that takes into account the distinctiveness of the Bahamian context.

That being said, it is important to remember that even within the Bahamas--small as it is--there are numerous subcultures within broader Bahamian society. Thus, while Pastor Clint's approach to ministry has been largely successful in the affluent western district of New Providence, the question must be asked: How well would this approach work for those of us working in a different socioeconomic context like, say, Bain's Town, Grant's Town, or Mason's Addition? My guess is probably not so well. Nevertheless, I think Pastor Clint's pioneering efforts are to be commended and should--at the very least--give those of us in other contexts the courage to be innovative in finding new ways to be faithful to the Gospel message in our respective communities. Likewise, New Providence Community Church remains an outstanding example of how more affluent congregations can effectively develop partnerships with the numerous local ministries such as this one that work directly with those on the margins of Bahamian society.

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