Wednesday, March 28, 2018


     I was speaking with someone recently about “being woke,” and about trying to deal with folks who ain’t woke yet, and trying to love on them, and how some folks talk about “being tired” and feeling bitter about the frustration of not seeing people, or things, change.

   My friend quoted me back to myself when he mentioned at one gathering someone had asked me a question and began it, “I am so tired of people….” And I had asked him, “how old are you?”  The answer was “26.”  I said, “26, and tired already?”  

   This made me think of a few things about inter-racial dialogue and cross cultural ministry, and POC survival in inter-racial spaces.  Being tired in the emotional sense doesn’t really have anything to do with the amount of hours one has put in, or even the amount of years or effort, or the strenuousness of the labor.  Many people work long and hard, (really hard) each day and they are not emotionally tired.  So much has to do with perspective, and faith, and love, and the patience that can come from it.

  “why are you not bitter?”  Is a question I am sometimes asked, although I am always surprised by it.  Who the hell do I think I am that I should be bitter?  This is what occurs to me, that it would take an inflated view of myself to judge others so harshly or myself so important.  I certainly have felt anger, frustration, and sometimes I have surrendered to the closed door or the reality of a mountain that I seemed unable to climb.  I speak here about calling for justice, or even mercy, at least for understanding about issues of race, ethnocentrism, poverty, and suffering.

    Burn out has more to do with anger than with exhaustion, more to do with frustration than with a need for rest.  Burn out is relieved more with hope than sleep, more with assistance and fellowship in the struggle than time off. 

    I have to ask myself some questions, and maybe you can ask yourself some as well.  Do I believe the world needs changing?  Yes, I do.  Do I believe I can change it?  Yes, a little, and no, probably not a lot right away.  Will it ever be changed?  Absolutely, because Jesus is coming and he will create a new heavens and a new earth.

     Is justice delayed truly justice denied?  No, but it sure feels that way sometimes. Only a God perspective can help us understand that.  Do I believe that Jesus will not rest until he brings justice to the earth?  Yes, that is my hope, my constant hope.   What kind of perspective does it take to live in a world full of injustice, with ignorant people who don’t even know they may be perpetrators of injustice, who don’t know that their defense of the status quo is an enshrinement of their privilege?  What kind of perspective will give me a positive sense of progress and help me to endure, to keep trying, to keep listening, to keep teaching?  Nothing less or short of an eternal one, and that is hard for us temporal human beings.

   When we are young we feel change should and ought to come quickly. Thank God for youth.  When we grow old we realize change does indeed come, but sometimes it has been and is glacial, incremental, not yet come to full realization.  Some people dream dreams, and they work at them and see them come true, but if the truth be told those dreams are never universal, never total in scope for all humanity, nor for all time.  Human beings celebrate sports heroes and use the word “immortal,” “unforgettable” and such.  Really?  What is a GOAT (Greatest of all time) today won’t even be recognized in a generation, a century, a millennium.  Sports statistics are possibly the most changeable of things, and all heroes turn to dust.

   Some will perish still in prison waiting for a revolution that will never come, still in the wilderness, still never having seen the city that was promised to them.  They will question sometimes, like John the Baptist did, “Are you the one?” What do you do with your ego when you feel you should be the one that brings the change and no one listens to you?  What do you do when after all your radical speech, your passionate displays, your marching, and your advocation people act like they just don’t care?

   Will you waste your time to continue to win over the resistant, will you continue to pour yourself out to institutions that don’t live up to their own ideals?  Will you come to be patient with one more stupid question (and there are stupid questions) from someone who should know better? 

   It comes back to the question of who do I think I am?  I am a small man, not of much significance after all, despite my ambition and ego.  I am a man of short time, no matter how long I may live my life upon the earth.  Yet, with all my frustrations I am a man infinitely loved by the God who fills the universe, who is its creator and sustainer. I am a sinful broken man, yet forgiven, forgiven, forgiven again.  I am a purchased man, and I can no longer live for myself but for him who died and rose again for me.

   This means I have little choice about who I can choose to love.  I have to love my neighbor, as myself.  I have to love even my enemies, and bless them.  I have to love those who make me feel tired.  Seeking significant change is important, but we can’t stay at that quest if our importance to the world is what we depend on to give us hope.  We have to take our rest in how important we are to God and in that knowledge we lose all our own self-importance, our self-righteousness, our need for fame, perfection, and accomplishment.  In that importance we find and renew our passion, energy, and endurance in the fight of love

Wednesday, March 14, 2018


   As I listen or read about the “white” Evangelical Church and its relationship to and with African Americans, or about how African Americans feel about the white Evangelical Church I am concerned, comforted, and confronted about truly cross-cultural churches and their place in this discussion.

   I am concerned because I think the general public and the average white and black Christian doesn’t really understand the difference between truly cross-cultural churches and those with some ethnic diversity within them.  Multi-ethnic churches are not the same as cross-cultural churches, and are in some measure set up for ethnic misunderstanding and conflict. 

   I think much of what we hear about these days is the inevitable frustration and friction that comes within churches seeking diversity without “missional intentionality.”  Usually all it takes is something in the news or something in politics to create a dilemma.  It’s as if a congregation in the days of the early Church had both Gentiles and Judiazers in it, and everything is fine until the subject of circumcision comes up.  The Judiazers ask the Gentiles to assimilate, to give up their “Gentile-ness,” and suddenly the Gentiles realize there is a price to be paid to be among these type of Christians.  Trouble happens when the knives come out, in that case literally.

   Judiazers assume their culture is normative, and can’t understand why others would be offended.  It is not until something radical comes along, like the real Gospel, a Gospel that doesn’t demand uniformity of culture but instead oneness in Christ while we are at the same time diverse in culture.  In fact the missional intentionality of the Gospel calls for the sacrificial willingness of the missionary (older brother, majority Christian culture) to become servant to those who are different, in fact seeking to “become” like them in order to reach them (I Corinthians 9:19ff).

   When a multi-ethnic church seeks to demand everyone be “a-cultural” they are simply but profoundly demanding that minorities be deracinated.  The majority cultural group is asking the minority to assimilate, and not to complain.  This might be fine if all we were discussing was intentional migration, but when it comes to white and black in America we are also speaking about becoming a minority in religion as well as being a minority in society.  We are speaking of assimilating without any sense of history or justice but instead calling for a denial of a sense of self. 

   Of course there are always those individual ethnic minorities who have no problem with assimilation.  There are those who think the way to peace is to discard conversations about issues of injustice or history.  Some of these ethnic representatives in a majority culture church are the strongest champions of silencing racial or cultural talk. 

   So, this is why I am concerned about the recent discussions and that due to the ignorance of what a truly cross-cultural church is trying to be.  A multi-ethnic church is not automatically a cross-cultural church, not even if they have a minority representative as a pastor or minorities in leadership.  Some congregations assume that if they hire an African American pastor he is sure to know how to make the church cross-cultural.  Why would someone assume that any pastor who hasn’t studied, thought about, or been trained in cross-cultural ministry skills and vision would know what they were doing in that regard?  It is a hubris that can create confusion and chaos and it is an unfair burden to be laid on a pastor simply becomes he is an ethnic or minority representative.

   I am comforted about cross-cultural ministry in these recent discussions because I know that missional intentionality in a church means congregations will (and must) face the truth and realities of history, injustice, racism, and culture with Biblical truth and hope.  Though cross-cultural churches also face the tension and stress of racial and political discussion and difference, through various moments of crisis, they have a commitment to Christ and to each other to see them through the episodes.  They are not surprised at the tensions though they sometimes see individuals and families realize, sometimes suddenly, that there is a price to be paid for love across cultural boundaries.  Some of those people do leave, but most are tenacious in seeking to live out a community of love that does not skirt truth.

   This common commitment to Biblical reconciliation as an accomplishment of Christ, and this common commitment to “being built together to become a holy temple to the Lord” (Ephesians 2:21) is accepted as part of their discipleship.  They have rejected church as simply an expression of their preferences.

   I feel confronted with the challenge of trying to make the distinction clear.  If the distinction between missional intentionality and simply a desire for more color or flavor is not clear then time after time individuals who are the “diversity” within a majority church face the realization that they feel like “strangers in a strange land.”  Pastors and leaders who have been hired for “diversity” realize that the commitment and sacrifice is in one direction only.  It only takes one more episode of injustice, or even misunderstanding, to break hearts and lead to discouragement.  

   There is a Biblical model, and it is built on such Biblical values as honesty, love, and sacrifice.  It is built on a deep and rich appreciation of the Image of God in each human being.  It is built on the Biblical appreciation of the reality of human cultures and the necessity of becoming a “slave” to others in order to reach them.  It is built on evangelism, missions, and discipleship and not politics.   It is built on solidarity with those we finally recognize as full partners in the Kingdom of God. 

Thursday, March 1, 2018


  Just suppose you wanted to make something of your life… Suppose you wanted to make a significant difference in the lives of other people…  Suppose you wanted to impact at least one specific community, one neighborhood…  Suppose you had the belief that people coming to faith in Jesus Christ would actually affect their eternal destiny and that their faith in and of itself could change their present and future ability to deal with troubles in this life...

     Suppose you were willing to bring about this impact, this difference, over a long faithfulness, that you would be willing to be patient, tenacious, and gentle with people but impatient and irritated at poverty, injustice, and the damage of sin…  Suppose you were willing to live among these people, and not just live in that place but to live before them with all your own struggles, fears, and needs, along with your faith…  Suppose you were willing to live as their servant, to use your knowledge of God and His Word to teach them, through preaching, example and instruction, constantly pointing them to Christ while trying to be self-effacing and losing your identity (and thus finding it) in Christ…

    Suppose you were willing to live as a pastor without being perfect at it, and willing to suffer the cost of being misunderstood or being falsely accused.  Suppose you were willing to trust God for and with your money, for and with your marriage, for and with your children, for and with your “name,” your success, with the reality of your aging, your physical limitations, with the possibility of obscurity, with your culture…

   Suppose you were willing to be abandoned to God, to live a life of prayer, repentance, study, and love….Suppose you were willing to gather a people, to create a new social reality in one geographic place, and were willing to live in the midst of the social and political reality of raising up new leaders, listening to them, learning from them, and being displaced by them…

   Do you think it could happen?  Do you think it would actually make a difference?  Do you think you could do it with joy, do you think you could do it without self-righteousness?  Well, could you do it, would you do it?  Will you do it?   In addition, not necessarily alternatively, will you pray that someone will do it, that God would send someone to do it?

We are looking for life-long and lifetime heroes in hard, normal, real life places.   We are looking for church planters and pastors, looking for men who are full of God, with an insatiable hunger for more of Jesus, and more of His Word.  We are looking for those whom God is sending, whose ambition is being fully realized in saying “yes Lord, yes to your will!”   Normal human spaces are waiting for real, godly men, to take their places within them.

God’s “yes” line is always open, angels are standing by.