By Jessi Strong
Writer and speaker Philip Yancey grew up thinking his church was a safe place. His family was deeply involved in the community. And he was saturated with Scripture, memorizing Old Testament stories and attending Sunday school and church camps. But as a young adult, he began to see the signs of an insular and unhealthy church life. “The attitude was one of keeping away from sinners to avoid being polluted by them. It was a very defensive mentality.”
Yancey’s crisis-point came over the issue of racism. In the early days of the Civil Rights era, Yancey’s church cited the Bible as proof of inferior races. But his time working under an African-American professor brought the church’s teaching into stark contrast with reality. “I had been taught that people of color are good at working in restaurants or fixing cars, but could never be a CEO of a company or a college professor. I mean, this is in our lifetime and I was taught that.” The experience brought on a crisis of faith. He recalls thinking, “My church was wrong. What else were they wrong about?”
However, Yancey found that his early exposure to the Bible brought him back to faith. “The Bible corrected what I had picked up in that unsafe church. As I began to study Jesus, I realized that he didn’t have that insular approach at all. He was accused of hanging around sinners all the time. It seems like the least likely people were most attracted to Jesus, but the uptight religious people were threatened by him.” This realization was liberating for Yancey, who began to see a biblical calling to “extend the grace and the good news that we have encountered, and to express it in a way people can relate to—in a way that answers their own needs.”
Few people would consider opening a university in the middle of a war zone—and David Kasali, a Congolese pastor and academic, was an unlikely candidate to undertake such an effort. Kasali’s father was one of the first people to accept the gospel in their area of Congo, but the young Kasali rejected his father’s urging to become a minister, telling him, “I love the Lord, but he doesn’t pay very well.” Instead, Kasali studied education at the University of Congo and began networking in the business world.
The Corinthian church is ripping itself apart. The believers disagree on various issues and have sorted themselves into four schools of thought—each rallying around a different Christian leader. The four camps’ squabbling has grown so loud that Paul can hear it from Ephesus.