The Church Can Charge the World (Part 2)

Bonnie Brook Baptist Church | Waukegan, IL
In part 1 of The Church Can Change The World, I wrote about my "complicated" relationship with the church. I grew up in the church. My father was a pastor for as long as I could remember. But I didn't understand God's goodness when cancer took my father's life when I was twelve year's old. My father dedicated his life to serving God and serving the church. When he passed away it seemed that God not only took his life, but also proved him foolish for leading a church that for a variety of reasons eventually had to close its doors.

Gary Haugen of International Justice Mission said during his talk at The Global Leadership Summit, that Christians and the church are "God's plan A" to heal a hurting and broken world (thanks John Prickett for this quote). The Apostle Paul specifically states that God's glory is to be revealed through the church (Ephesians 3), and that Christ desperately loves the church and laid down His life for it (Eph. 5.25).

But why?

Cause this relationships makes a ton of sense...
I understand Christ loves the church, but doesn't it feel like one of those relationships where the beautiful, intelligent and funny girl falls for the old, obnoxious and untalented guy? Doesn't it kind of feel like someone should ask Jesus if he is sure he really is "into" this whole church thing? We have to assume that Jesus knows something that we don't, right? I'm sure Michael Douglas is a great guy, but couldn't Catherine Zeta Jones do much better (No offense Mike. You were great in...I'm sure you were good in something...)? Don't you feel like Jesus could "do better?"

For all the seminarians out there, don't worry, I'm going to tread very lightly on the theology of the church (sorta). I don't begin to pretend to have a in depth understanding of church history and the specific "type" of church that Paul is referring to in his letters. That is way too dense a terrain for my bushwhacking. But I do sometimes wonder if we simply don't have a full picture of the church.

Going back to my original blog post, I've recently realized just how self-serving I have been in the church. In many ways, I feel like the church owes me something. Unfortunately, I don't think that I am unique. I think it a common problem experienced by many churches. After I posted Part 1, a friend left this comment on my facebook page:

"I've always said the church would be a fantastic place if it wasn't for the people. Funny....but true. We all have our faults, personal desires, preferences and opinions. In order for a church to be fully effective a majority of the leaders and lay people need to be servants and set aside their personal agenda to give glory to the Lord."

a church for people who don
I think this may be an oxymoron
If you have ever stepped foot in a church before I guarantee you've thought that, or something similar. Church would just be better if no else was there. In fact, churches are now using the fact that people don't like church as a marketing campaign for going to church.

But despite all the church splits, pastors in the news, terrible church signs and awful music, it still seems like God is in favor of the church.

I think there may even be an answer to this mystery in the form of Bonnie Brook Baptist Church - the church my dad lead for more than ten years.

Bonnie Brook Baptist Church was located in Waukegan, Illinois. Waukegan is about forty miles north of Chicago, right on Lake Michigan.  According to a census that was taken in 2010 (taken from the city's Wikipedia page) of the roughly 90,000 people that live in Waukegan, 53% are Hispanic or Latin, 46% white, 19% black, 4.3% Asian, 1.2% Native American and 4.1% reported other races. As you can see the city is quite diverse.

I have no idea what an "art-friendly community" is

That's me in the goalie jersey
My dad loved this about the city.

He always enjoyed engaging and celebrating folks from different cultures. Despite the fact that he played college basketball and coached basketball throughout most of his adult life, the only sport I remember him forcing us to play was soccer.  Soccer is, after all, a global game. If we were to be "globally-minded" it was a sport we had to learn.

The fact that my dad new nothing about the game of soccer, was not a deterrent. In fact, he even ran soccer clinics at the church every summer with the hopes of attracting some of the minority populations that lived near the church.

My dad loved serving the Lord in such a diverse city. The church, however, did not necessarily mirror this diversity. I don't want to criticize the church, but the congregation closely resembled the 1965-66 Kentucky men's basketball team.
Does #42 look familiar? Hint: He's the reason this happened

 The church was...very...white...

My dad loved his congregation. He just wished it more closely reflected the population of the city. Fast forward several years. In 2004, after the congregation dwindled to about twelve members, the elders of the church voted on two items. One, if they church should close it doors for good, and two should they give the building to Journey Church, a small church that had been renting Bonnie Brook's facilities.  They voted "yes" on both issues.

I do not intend to minimize the pain that many endured because of Bonnie Brook's end. As I've previously stated, I have a difficult time trusting the church because of this reality. However, I believe the mission of Journey Church is far from coincidence.

Foyer of Journey Church
Sanctuary of Journey Church
The goal of the church is to reach out to 2nd generation immigrants to the US. Basically, their service is geared towards individuals whose parents moved the family to the States. They are specifically reaching out to various people groups from various countries around the world. Although the services are conducted in English, a majority of the church's members came from a family where English is not spoken in the home.  The church now more closely resembles the 2012 San Antonio Spurs (the Spurs have players from France, Argentina, the United States, Australia, Brazil, Virgin Island and Texas - lets be honest, Texas is basically its own country).

2012-13 San Antonio Spurs

In a very roundabout way, my father's dream for the church became a reality. I think this is an example of how God uses His church. Despite the flaws, wounds, self-serving nature and general weaknesses of it's people, the church can be used for the redemptive purposes of God. No matter how badly we try to screw it up, I think God can use the church. I know God uses the church in ways we don't understand or expect. Like Paul writes in in 1 Corinthians 13, "Now we see but a poor reflection." Unfortunately this doesn't explain why churches continue to hurt people (both intentionally and unintentionally).  Frankly this still baffles me. But God has a beautiful way of redirecting (think like a GPS).

For some reason, God has committed to the church as his "Plan A" and for that reason I do believe the church can change the world.

And if the church is "Plan A" for the redemption of the world, then church-league softball must be "Plan B."


  1. I didn't know that Journey now intentionally seeks to serve second generation immigrants. Very cool reframe of seeing your dad's mission accomplished in an unexpected, roundabout way. Have you ever gone back to a service when you are home?

    1. Unfortunately I haven't been able to attend a service. I did visit the church a few years back and was given a tour by their youth pastor. I mentioned that my dad was Kevin Krass and he got really excited. Apparently he is still revered at Journey even now.


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