Connecting Heaven to Earth

Although we need to be reminded that our work is here on earth, we should also note that the disciples do not lose all heavenly focus. Their focus is on connecting heaven to earth, not leaving one or the other behind. The Scriptures are full of reminders that our hope is directed heavenward. So, how do we maintain a heavenly focus while also being of earthly good for God’s mission?

Read More
Mark Catlin
Better You Than Jesus?

Let this shocking statement sink in for a bit: "I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you" (John 16:7). Those are the words of Jesus to his disciples. Yep, Jesus says that it is better for him to go away than to stay. Why?

Read More
Mark Catlin
Gather to Send, Send to Gather

God's saving work in Christ should not be separated from God's sending work through the risen and ascended Jesus. The risen Jesus works through the people he sends. In the Gospel accounts, Jesus gathered and renewed his disciples through his death and resurrection. In Acts, the risen and ascended Jesus now sends them just as the Father sent him (see John 17:18; 20:21). Hence, although we have argued that Acts could be understood as the Acts of the Risen Lord Jesus, the book has also rightly been referred to as the Acts of the Apostles.

Read More
Mark Catlin
The Mission of God in the Story of Acts

In Acts, God is the main character who moves the story along through the continuing work of the risen Lord Jesus and the Spirt. But Luke is interested in more than simply showing that God is still acting. Luke wants us to see how God is accomplishing his purposes, and how we can identify with his mission and embrace his purposes. In other words, we find that part of God’s action is to cast us as meaningful characters in the story.

Read More
Mark Catlin
Reflections on Black History Part 4: Resources to Get Started

The most formative moments for me have not come from reading a text, watching a video, or listening to a podcast by myself. I have been most shaped by the hard conversations, awkward moments, amazing patience, gentle rebukes, sincere encouragements, and real life experiences living with people in community. Whether these experiences have been growing up in Birmingham, worshiping in a church with a congregation of many refugees in the Boston area, working through the complexities of race when doing ministry on a college campus in Princeton, or ministering with many others in the aftermath of racially motivated murders in Charleston, committing to having difficult conversations and intentionally living an uncomfortable life are the most formative experiences I have had. These experiences have exposed my weaknesses and called me to something far greater than myself. These experiences have allowed me to remember, confess, repent, and deal with my own shame and guilt. These experiences have allowed me to love myself and others more fully. 

Read More
Mark Catlinblack history
Reflections on Black History Part 3: Why the White Church Needs Black History

The painful reality of black history in America exposes that we as the white church have not loved our neighbors well. We have not been faithful followers of Christ. We have not been the church. So why do we need black history? So that we can be the church. So that we can move toward one another in love through a process of remembrance, confession, and repentance. The death and resurrection of Jesus enables us to remember both God’s faithfulness and our sin together so that that shame of our sin does not paralyze us. Having overcome our shame, we can move forward by confessing and repenting of our sin, receiving forgiveness and healing from God and one another, and sincerely hoping for a future in which we can be the church God has called us to be.

Read More
Mark Catlinblack history
Reflections on Black History Part 2: Why Our Country Needs Black History

On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, civil rights leader James Baldwin wrote a letter to his nephew. Baldwin wrote the letter in order to help guide his nephew through how to deal with the white community during the Civil Rights Era. In his beautifully and powerfully written letter, Baldwin is surprisingly empathetic toward the white community. He empathizes with them because he believes that they are held in bondage by a certain view of history.

Read More
Mark Catlinblack history
Reflections on Black History Part 1: Why I Need Black History

This post has been in the works for a while now. In January I began writing something for black history month because I have increasingly understood the importance for such remembrance. When I began writing, I had planned to argue that black history is important because racial reconciliation is important. In that version of this post I would have argued reconciliation is not possible without truth, and inasmuch as we want to pursue reconciliation, we must first be committed to the truth. Black history helps us recover important truths that have been hidden, thus enabling us to pursue reconciliation with greater sincerity and depth. Furthermore, I would have argued that this pursuit is especially important for Christians because the gospel calls us to this sort of ministry. While I still believe these things to be true, and perhaps will write about them elsewhere, I delayed in posting because I started to feel like I was missing something. That feeling grew into a sense of falling woefully short of honoring black history as I ought, even somehow distorting its purpose. The feeling wouldn’t subside, so I decided to set aside writing to see if I couldn’t uncover what was nagging me. I uncovered two things that were calling me to wait.

Read More
Mark Catlinblack history