Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Pushing Through

Right now I am in a weird place somewhat. I just turned 30 years old! A few years ago that seemed "really old" to me, and I wasn't looking forward to reaching that milestone, but now I have embraced it and "I feel great." I am as busy as I have ever been with ministry, and I am loving what I am doing. I love the new tutoring program that I am coordinating, I love the guys that I have the opportunity to disciple right now. I have been living in the Woodlawn neighborhood for just over a year now, and the south side for almost 4 years, and I love where I live. Although I have my moments when I am really frustrated in my singleness, overall I feel pretty content and confident that God's got me, and that marriage and a family will come when it is time. I am surrounded by some great friends and co-workers

However, sometimes in the midst of all of this I feel unsettled. Sometimes I feel anxious. Sometimes I struggle with doubt. Sometimes my faith isn't that strong. Lately, I have been feeling a sense of spiritual weariness. My devotional life lacks a sense of passion. I feel like I am doing it more out of a sense of obligation rather than because I am thirsty for it. I am reminded of a quote that Dr. Fuder used to share. I think Stephen Olford said it. He said, sometimes that you have to "push through until duty becomes delight." Last week I was reading through the Psalms where David repeatedly says that he "delights" in God's laws, or his precepts, or his truth. I was convicted, because as I read it, I knew that I couldn't make those same claims right now.

I think this is what faith is really all about...."pushing through until duty becomes delight."

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


This morning I listened to a message by Efrem Smith and Phil Jackson that they preached together at the CCDA conference this past weekend in St. Louis. The theme of the conference was "Show Me Jesus Beyond the Walls." The title of Efrem and Phil's message was "Beyond The Wall of Paternalism." The text they focused on was Acts 15, and they prophetically challenged the church to pass the baton so to speak to the next generation and across racial and cultural lines (which is a power issue at its core). I could write many pages on the message but there was one particular thing that Efrem said that I really heard. He said that we (the church) must not get "stuck in an age based (elder dominated), race based (whites always in leadership, always holding the reins), class based (excluding the poor), suburgan funded systems that will no longer work in an ever-increasing, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural world." He added, "the systems that we uplift to fund and sustain churches and para-churcheswill have no relevance in 2025 (referring to our world radically shifting toward urban and multi-ethnic)."
This isn't necessarily the first time that I have been challenged by a message such as this, but it hit me in the chest so to speak this morning. Let me explain why. I am a white male. I live work, and worship in an African American community. I work for a para-church ministry with a white executive director (who I love and respect) and a predominately white (great people) board. As a part of Sunshine as an organization, I am challenged by a few things: 1) Are we serious about doing all that we can (working with intentionality and fervent prayer) to see our board and staff better reflect the community? 2) Are we burdened that the majority of our donor base is white and suburban? I am not saying that we do away with our current donor base - praie God for our donor base. What I'm asking is are we being intentional about seeking new and addtional donors in minority communities and churches? 3) This one relates closely with number one - Are we serious about indigenous leadership development? Not, do we talk about it...are we doing all we can (again working with focus and fervent prayer) to see God do it?
I am also challenged by this message on a personal level. As a white male who feels called to leadership (I have tried to run away from leadership like Jonah, but God won't let me), what does that mean for me in an increasingly urban and multi-ethnic world. Let me share a few foundational things before I share how I am challenged. 1) God is sovereign. He made me white - fair skinned, blond hair, blue eyes, tall, somewhat burly:), etc. He placed me in Paw Paw for my growing up years, in Albion for college, in Grand Rapids for transition, and now in Chicago. He has a purpose in my "white maleness" in this increasingly multi-ethnic world. 2) I have heard many white brothers and sisters of mine in conversations about race and culture say stuff like this: "oh what do I know I'm just white," or "I'm just a dumb white guy," or "I'm just ignorant and white," etc. I think you get the idea. I reject that. We (white brothers and sisters) need to quit saying stuff like that. Do we really believe that? And if so, how is that helpful. We need to be HUMBLE and we need to be LEARNERS, but we are not dumb, and our perspective and our culture is not irrelevant. 3) I recognize though that because I am white (and especially a white male) that I am a benefit of "white privilege." The systems in this country are set up to benefit me (and people that look like me). I never have to look to hard to see positive images of people that look like me. When someone is referred to as the "all-american boy" they usually look just like me. I am not followed around in stores. I am never asked to speak for my whole race. I have no problem in financial institutions (they rarely ask to see my id). I am treated fairly by the justice system. The student life activities on college campuses are catered to me. I think you get the idea (I could keep going). I think it is important to recognize this and be honest about this.
So here are some things that I am challenged to do individually...
1) I must be intentional about seeking mentors who do not look like me. I have done this, but I have not been consistent enough with this. I need to sit at the feet of minority leaders/mentors and learn from them.
2) I must continue to read books, newspapers, magazine articles, etc. by African American and other minority authors. I must continue to listen to African American and other minority speakers and preachers. My learning must never stop.
3) In ministry (in Chicago and beyond), I must be committed to indigenous leadership development. I must continue to evaluate and reassess how I am doing in this. I have got to truly be burdened by this.
4) I must be a voice in the white church, celebrating what God is doing in the neighborhood and the nations. I must celebrate the beauty of the history and culture of the community I am currently living with the community that I came from. I must be transparent of the way God has changed my perspectives and challenged my prejudices in order to challenge people to self-examine their own perspectives and prejudices. I must be a bridge builder.
5) I need to ask God for wisdom in whatever position and ministry he has me. I must be certain that He is leading. I must seek godly council who will point out blindspots and check any hint of paternalism.
I am excited to see what God is doing in the neighborhood and the nations. He is at work. I hope that He continues to challenge me to slow down to process and then press.

Monday, October 08, 2007

A New Start

Two weeks ago my lap top computer was stolen out of the ministry office. It was stolen in the early evening, but it was discovered as missing until the following morning. I was definitely mad and frustrated when I noticed that it was missing...and realized that it had been stolen. Now I know that stuff is just stuff, and I like to think that I am not materialistic (at least I try not to be). But it wasn't just the missing computer that made me upset. I was most upset about the things that I had stored on the computer: pictures, music, Bible studies, messages, etc. Much of my work over the last 5 years or so was saved on that computer. I later discovered that I had some of my work backed up on my flash drive, but not everything could be retrieved. I have prayed that my computer might be returned. I have prayed for the young man who I think took it. I have also asked God to show me the lesson in it. I'm not trying to over-spiritualize the situation, but I think this circumstance is an indicator that it's time for a new start. It's time to seek God and to create some new stuff...some "fresh manna" as Dr. Fuder calls it. It's time for some new Bible studies and some new messages.

Thank God for insurance. I was able to purchase a new lap top yesterday. Therefore, I hope to get back into blogging on a more regular basis...