Worship, Preaching, and Justice

Apr 22, 2021

“Great Catch” by John August Swanson © 1993, used with permission from CIVA

Dear Preachers,

The above art by John August Swanson has served as a visual representation of the vision of Brehm Preaching—A Lloyd John Ogilvie Initiative, where we believe that catalyzing a movement of empowered, wise preachers means committing ourselves first and foremost to answering the call of Jesus to cast our nets in whatever lake, stream, or ocean we have been called to fish. We do that fishing through the convergence of worship, preaching, and justice—an integration that is vital to ensuring what we say and do in our sanctuaries connects with what we say and do in the world.

Yesterday, I was all the more convinced of this vital convergence while watching Derek Chauvin’s conviction for the murder of George Floyd. The court offered the only kind of justice it knows, made significant only because it is so rarely offered in cases of police brutality, and so we are left to wait and watch and wail and worship, clinging to the hope that some truer, more pervasive, more transformative justice will finally come. But not soon enough for Daunte Wright or Adam Toledo. 

Many Christians are among those marching in protests, calling for reform and renewal, earnestly working to seek justice, but many of those same people—and I confess I am sometimes one of them—are hesitant to speak about their justice convictions in their own churches. One of our Micah Group team members mentioned recently that he’d been thinking about hosting a podcast for conversations that we never have in church. He started a list of topics, and as it grew longer and longer, he realized just how much we don’t talk about. “We’re afraid to talk about anything divisive,” he said, and as a result, “We leave people to learn about justice outside the church.”

We can’t answer the command to love our neighbor if we are too afraid to talk about our lives together. If we can’t love our neighbor, then we are not walking humbly, not loving mercy, and certainly not doing justice. This is why the Brehm Preaching Ogilvie Initiative is so committed to facilitating sacred space for courageous conversation, whether it is part of a traditional Micah Group, one of our new Micah Intensives, or simply learning how to be more courageous in the daily conversations of our lives and ministries—from the pulpit to the dinner table.

Two of our upcoming Micah Intensives are on Mass Incarceration in May and Healthcare in June. While healthcare is something that impacts each and every one of us, the healthcare system is not something churches tend to concern themselves with; and while some churches have prison ministry outreach programs, most have no idea of the magnitude of human imprisonment in the United States. Furthermore, we are conditioned in the church to think of doing justice as doing a mission project, and what sort of project might we be asked to start if we get embroiled in a conversation on these topics? I wonder if your first thought was something like:

“That’s not the focus of our church.”

“We don’t have enough volunteers to do anything like that.”

“It’s not something I want to preach on.”

Engaging in courageous conversation around topics such as this is not about starting a new mission project or sermon series. It’s about looking up from our fishing boat and noticing what’s happening on the shore. That’s the scary part—because we just may find that Jesus is there, asking us to cast our nets in some new and uncomfortable way. 

In hope and courage,

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Rev. Dr. Jennifer Ackerman
Director, Brehm Preaching — A Lloyd John Ogilvie Initiative
Fuller Theological Seminary

Doing Justice: Mass Incarceration

Join this Micah Intensive for courageous conversation with other Christian leaders and learners who are wrestling with the social justice issue of Mass Incarceration. Through exploration of three common responses from churches—Rehabilitative Justice, Restorative Justice, and Systemic Justice—participants will learn to understand others’ points of view and to clarify how they might bring issues of public justice through the rule of law into their ministries and public life. Live webinars are May 5-June 2, 2021 on Wednesdays at 10am Pacific Time. Click here to learn more and enroll. 

Doing Justice: Healthcare

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought even greater awareness to the inadequacies and injustices of the American healthcare system. Join this Micah Intensive to engage in courageous conversation around the ethics of medical economics. It may be tempting to leave discussions of healthcare systems to secular or political contexts, but these are conversations that benefit from all the resources and insights of biblical faith. Many of our traditions are eager to pray for physical healing of individuals, but what about the healing of systems that both provide care and provoke illness? Live webinars are June 2-30, 2021 on Wednesdays at 11am Pacific Time. Click here to learn more and enroll.

Supporting Ministry Leadership and Worship through the Arts is a research study that will evaluate the efficacy of art-based training in the leadership development of pastors, and consequently, how the meaning-making operations of art creation serve communal worship.

The study seeks nine adult volunteers who hold a church leadership position and who are able to apply a creative strategy learned in the workshops to their leadership of communal worship. This will typically, but not exclusively, be a pastor. Any church leader with authority for planning and executing worship is welcome to apply.


MONDAYS | JUNE 7, 14, 21, and 28, 2021
10-11:30am PDT | 12-1:30pm CDT | 1-2:30pm EDT

Chosen volunteers will participate in a one-month learning cohort, including expectations to:

  • Attend four online, weekly, 90-minute workshops (six hours total – see above schedule),
  • Complete two at-home creative assignments (approximately 3-6 hours total),
  • Employ at least one art expression in their congregational worship setting (hours vary),
  • Provide essential feedback through interviews (no more than 3 hours in total), and
  • Consent to articles and essays being written as a result of the program. (Your name and context will not be disclosed.)

Deadline to be considered as a possible volunteer is May 1, 2021.
CLICK HERE to learn more.

Workshops will be led by artist, theologian, and Brehm Visual Arts Director, Dr. Maria Fee, who is an artist with an M.F.A. in Painting, M.A. in Theology, and a Ph.D. in Theology and Culture. As a professor of worship, theology, and the arts, Dr. Fee assists seminarians’ negotiations of theological queries through a creative discipline. Her own art practice explores ideas of fragmentation, metizaje (cultural mixing), alienation, and hospitality.

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Dr. Maria Fee
Director, Brehm Visual Arts
Fuller Theological Seminary