Christendom to Post-ChristendomChristendom is dead. For some, this is a time of lament. For others, it is a time of renewal and revival. I want to offer my reflections on the three different phases of Christianity and culture and the corresponding posture for Christian cultural engagement.

Christendom: Synced with Culture

Syncretism is the blending or assimilation of two belief systems into one. There was a time when Christianity enjoyed cultural approval and widespread recognition. When someone spoke of religion, it was rare that anyone thought of another faith beside Christianity. Monuments to the Ten Commandments were erected in the public square. Prayers were offered by teachers in public schools. God Love for God and country were seen in churches who displayed a Christian flag on one side of the pulpit and an American flag on the other. Christianity was synced with American culture.

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Bueller? Bueller? Anyone? Bueller?

Yeah, I realize that I have not been on this here blog in a long time. The days of blogging twice a day have morphed into blogging twice a year, or so it seems. I am not making any predictions about future blogging plans, but I can at least say it is my hope to write more in the weeks and months to come. About that personal update . . .

Seven years ago last week I moved to Southwest Florida to join the pastoral team at Grace Baptist Church (Cape Coral, FL). I cannot begin to tell how you much I have grown and learned during this time. It began as a “baptism by fire” when my fellow pastor Tom Ascol was struck by lightning, and it really did not slow down from there. During this season of ministry, a church planting network was started (2009), a new daughter church was planted (2010), an international collective was started (2012), and a non-profit organization was formed (2014).

My roles and responsibilities seemingly piled up year after year, pressuring me to gain more clarity and direction in my life and service within the local church. In order to bring alignment and focus to my work and support, I formed Gospel Systems, Inc. in the spring of 2014 as a non-profit organization to house both The Haiti Collective and PLNTD Network. In our early stages, it was the consensus of our board as well as elders of Grace for me to transition full-time to leading GSi at the beginning of 2015, completing a six-month transition where I would help lead our elders to find a new pastor to replace my work.

As this transition was completed, I came away with a real sense of gratefulness in what God had done. But at the same time, I went through a period of wrestling that proved to be one of the most profound times of brokenness in my life. God used this time to reveal His faithfulness and my utter dependence on Him in massive ways, and He also made it clear that the transition was not complete. He was calling us onward and forward.

Over the past several months, we prayed for God’s leading and direction with this re-commissioning of sorts. At the beginning of May, we became convinced that we should relocate to the Nashville, TN area, specifically the town of Spring Hill. While we do not have a definite timetable, our plans are to move within the next couple of months and set up a new office for GSi in Tennessee (while keeping the one we have here in FL,) where I will continue to focus on building The Haiti Collective and PLNTD Network.

We are excited about this new chapter in our lives, and we are also very sad to leave our church family, neighborhood, and city that we have called home for the past seven years. Our hearts are heavy, our minds are filled with memories of what God has done, and our lives are marked by so many who have embraced us with open arms.

Brister 100 Logo for MailchimpWe also would ask that you pray for us. We are venturing out in faith to lay hold of all that God has in store for us, and we would humbly ask that you consider joining us for the journey ahead. I have created a website called The Brister 100, which is a network of 100 individuals, families, organizations, or churches who we are asking God for in order to partner with us and support us in this new chapter of our lives.

I have been blogging here at this site for over a decade now, and Lord willing, I intend to continue in the future. Throughout this time, I have chosen not to go the advertising route or charge people for anything I share (documents, articles, or other resources). Having said that, if any of you have benefited from what I’ve attempted to contribute, I would humbly like to ask you to be a part of The Brister 100 and consider supporting us as we move forward with what God has called us to do.

Here are some specific ways you can connect with us:

1.  Sign up for the Brister 100 e-newsletter to stay connected with us.
2.  Commit to support the Brister 100 financially on a monthly basis.
3.  Share with others you know about this opportunity and invite them to learn more.

For those interested, here is a 4-minute summary where I explain more about this transition and re-commissioning season in our lives. Thank you for praying for us!

If you’d like to receive updates via e-newsletter about B100, please fill out this little form.

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You Are My Son, and I Love You

Tim Brister —  February 22, 2015 — 2 Comments

Today was the start of baseball season in Southwest Florida. After opening ceremonies, my two boys played a double header as part of the festivities. It was the first time my 5 yr old son to go head-to-head with the pitching machine. At his first at-bat, he surprised himself with a line drive past the third baseman, and I was super excited and proud of him. The following three at-bats did not fare too well as he struck out all three times.

As someone who has always been highly competitive, I always want my boys to do excel in whatever they do, including playing baseball. The downside to that, and the temptation I have struggled to avoid, is responding to them based on their performance. If they perform well, they see the pleasure of their dad. If they make mistakes and struggle, they hear the disappointment of their dad (“c’mon son!).

As a Christian who believes the gospel should permeate every area of my life, there are more and more blind spots that I’m learning to see more clearly. When it comes to baseball, I realized that my sincere attempts to make them better players was not honoring the gospel. My response to them was based on their performance (good works), and their identity as a baseball player was more dominant in their thinking than being my sons.

Today, I started to make a change and repent of this legalistic approach to coaching my boys. I want my boys to know, more than anything else, that they are my sons, and I love them. And that love is not based on what they do or do not do, but because of who they are. They are mine. So every time they get ready to play the game, I pull them aside and have a talk with them. Before when I stressed a litany of techniques, I am learning to look them eye-to-eye and tell them, “Son, I am so proud of you. No matter what happens, how well you play today does not change how much I love you and delight in being your dad. I just want you to have fun and enjoy the game.” After a kiss on the forehead, I sent them off to do their best, and the smile that begun on my face transferred to a shy grin on theirs.

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“Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah”

As I came across Joshua 7 in my devotional studies, there was something particular that stuck out to me in how God dealt with His people. The story has to do with the sin of Achan who took the items devotion for destruction and made them his own. God made it known to Joshua that there was sin in the camp, but the way it was discovered says something about how God’s people lived in community.

According to Joshua 7:16-18, the people of Israel was addressed on a tribal basis. From within the tribe, the various clans were evaluated. From within the clans, the families were accounted for. And from within the family, the individual (Achan) was discovered to be the one who had sinned.

According to Joshua 7:11, God says “Israel had sinned,” and all the references were in third person plural (they/them). But it was the sin of Achan alone, right? But God saw Achan in the context of His covenant people, Israel. And the way God was going to deal with the individual was through the fabric of Old Testament community. In the Old Testament, it was impossible to be a person without a family, without a clan, without a tribe, and without a nation. People knew you in reference to who you belonged to. You were known by your heritage and tradition, by your roots. Your past was a vivid remembrance and present reality every time they mentioned your name “Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi (family), son of Zerah (clan), of the tribe of Judah (tribe).”

I have reflected on that in the context of Christianity today in the West. It appears that we are living in a culture where that identity in community is just the opposite. Today, you can be a Christian without a family, without a clan, and without a tribe while still claiming to be a part of the nation. Identity is related to the individual alone to the point that little to nothing transcends a unique blend of a la carte spirituality. When someone covets or lies or steals, that individual Christian has no accountability or authority for their lives. Whether they live worthy of the gospel or completely out of step, who knows? It’s their life, and it is lived without mutual submission or any degree of nearness so that blind spots, patterns of disobedience, or idols of the heart can be exposed. And somehow this has not only become acceptable but the norm today. There is sin in the camp, but the Achan’s are without a tribe.

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