Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, In the news, Issues of the Day

Listening to a Black Pastor from Chicago

On a recent phone conversation with my pastor friend in Chicago, I asked him how the George Floyd incident affects him. After thanking me for asking, he shared the following bullet points that I thought might be helpful for many of us.

  • Until you experience this type of thing, it’s really difficult to relate to.
  • The hope that I personally feel is the shock of this video and that maybe people will re-evaluate where they are personally at with this subject.
  • Growing up in the 60’s-70’s I had encounters with the police and was harassed. There was no weight on my side; it was my word against theirs and I would not be believed.
  • To live in a day when the police are held accountable for their actions, experiencing the rogue paying a consequence and the fact that it is causing outrage, is progress to me.
  • I recognize as a brown person in this society I am not always perceived as the same, although I have learned to navigate this. My perspective is what does my King say about me?
  • When you’re screaming and you’re ignored, it’s hard to understand that. This must be more than a moment and the church needs to show and lead the way because it’s light versus darkness.
  • Blacks, Asians, Hispanics all have their prejudices; it is not just whites.
  • My hope is that people will come to an empathetic position and engage in dialogue in ways that affect people. While you may never experience what I have, you can empathize.

My friend said, “Look man, don’t walk on egg shells around me. If you do you will not be authentic. But always consider your audience and be careful.

 

Below is a prayer that my pastor friend shared with his heavenly Father the morning he heard about the George Floyd incident.

 

Lord, I’m angry and saddened by what happened to George Floyd, his being killed by the Minneapolis police as he literally cried for help; and what continually happens to black and brown people, especially males, in this country. I believe that You are angry and saddened by it as well. I ask You to help me not to become jaded and help me to maintain a kingdom focus. Help me to hear You clearly and distinctly regarding what I should do to glorify You and be a blessing to humanity. Help me to be strong and courageous. In America and around the world, I ask You to arise and cause Your enemies to be scattered. Your Word declares that love never fails. I’m thankful that Your love is poured out in my heart by the Holy Spirit, and I’m thankful that You help me to receive and walk in Your love. You are the just and righteous Judge. I pray that You will cause justice to reign in our nation and throughout the world! LET GOD ARISE AND HIS ENEMIES BE SCATTERED!!!

Thank You for never leaving me or forsaking me. I love You, Lord, and I trust You.

 

It was John Newton, working on a ship that trafficked humans for the slave trade, who in deep repentance penned the song, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.”

 

“Lord, help us to see and do better.”

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Challenge, Children, Encouragement, Healing, In the news, Issues of the Day, Leadership

Do Black Lives Matter? My Story

The sign in front of church read, “We know no strangers, only friends we haven’t met.” My closest friend from my military days told me years later, “You know, Steve, that sign was not true for me.” I asked him what he meant. He said, “I was the wrong color.” While I knew there were no black persons attending this southern state local church, I had no idea why. He told me he endured negative comments and prejudice for years.

 

I asked Wayne why he never told me and why he kept attending as he endured racism among his Christian brothers and sisters. He said, “You were my friend and I was there with you and for you.” I had no idea. But then, I remembered something…

 

It was 1975 and Mary and I had just been married. That same year our pastor came to us and asked if we would start a Sunday School bus ministry. We asked him what that was. He sent us to a training, we bought a bus, painted it red and white and hit the road every Saturday morning. We filled that bus with unruly, unchurched but extremely happy kids. We played games, sang songs and had contests to and from Sunday School.

 

We visited, with a pocket full of candy, those kids faithfully every Saturday and we knocked on new doors as well. Soon we filled a second bus and then a third. Parents even began to come with us and then we received some alarming news.

 

Our pastor called Mary and I into his office. He, with great uneasiness said, “We have a problem with the bus ministry.” He went on, “The board is complaining of the costs; your kids do not tithe.” And then he added the most shocking words, “As well, your kids are the wrong color.” We had no words. The bus ministry was in question and perhaps on the chopping block of this local church board and congregation.

 

Finally he said, “They have given me an ultimatum; it’s either Steve and Mary’s bus ministry or them, their tithe and of course me being able to continue here in ministry.”

 

We truly thought it would be the termination of our outreach to those wonderful kids, “our kids.” Surprisingly, the pastor then spoke these bold words, “So, here’s what we’re going to do. Rather than bringing the buses into the back of the church and unloading, we’ll now bring the buses to the front parking lot. We’ll unload directly to the main auditorium, placing your kids and your helpers (lots of helpers) in all of the front rows you can fill. We’ll then begin Sunday School classes for the first ten minutes there with a general opening. Every congregational member will be forced to sit behind your kids and look at them each Sunday morning.”

 

This courageous step meant certain death to our pastor’s job and the ministry we loved. He ended our conversation with a few words we’ll never forget, “We will give every reason in the world for the members who do not want this ministry to continue the opportunity to leave this church!” What a brave man of God taking such a brazen step because lives matter. We grew in our respect of this godly man who would place his ministry on the line for an integrated church and we learned a great deal about Christ-centered leadership that day.

 

Our kids were of black, brown, Latino, Asian, Caucasian and mixed races and we often sang, no screamed, “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves…”

 

Decades later we visited that church. It is now a mega congregation with numerous Sunday morning services. There is no bus ministry, but as Mary and I sat in the balcony overlooking the crowded seats we noticed something. I leaned over to my wife and quietly remarked, “Are you seeing what I am seeing? Do you think the bus ministry of decades ago planted a seed for this?”

 

Later in talking with the current pastor, we asked him the demographics of his congregation. He unashamedly stated, “Our demographics are exactly the same as the demographics of our community.”

 

We went to lunch with my friend Wayne that day. Even though we left this church years earlier to move back to PA, Wayne stayed. Today Wayne is the prison ministry chaplain for the church, a church that perhaps now knows no strangers, only friends they haven’t met.

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Challenge, Encouragement, In the news, Issues of the Day

A New Normal

We’re finding ourselves these days with a new normal lifestyle.  It has caused me to think about the fact that this season of many of our lives is going to be a once in a lifetime defining line in the course of world history, i.e., before COVID – 19 and after COVID – 19. It has also caused me to think about the fact that we all long for normality. The question then becomes, “What will be the new normal?” upon return to life as we once knew it.

 

I think a new normal can be very positive because this time has created new means and methods of doing things.

 

One of my main questions, working and living within the local church world, is will we return to our church buildings as we once knew them? Perhaps in some arenas that is a literal question, but I guess I am considering it in a more rhetorical sense as well. I mean, will it be church business as usual?

 

In talking with a missionary friend who serves in a European nation recently, he told me it was illegal to homeschool his children in this country and there were very few Christian school options. And then he said this, “Right now, during this world crisis, we are required by that same government to homeschool!” What an almost humorous, 180-degree change of government control and new normal.

 

Will our coveted church buildings hold their same attraction? Will the megachurch maintain small connect groups for prayer, fellowship and study? Will the local church that never used technology or was perhaps anti-technology for conducting meetings reverse that strategy? Could there be numerous changes to those in-house church programs that we held onto so tightly for so long? And will the tech savvy next generation be given the reins from the older generation leaders so these new means and methods can be further developed in an effort to keep the local church relevant and up to date for generations to come?

 

If we can learn from this time, I think the church will grow exponentially. If we can apply technology in a Holy Spirit centered way, then we will see new forms of evangelism, caring for the shut-in, counseling, training and even in holding elder meetings, all of which will not require travel.

 

So let’s be thankful for this season, embracing new ways of completing important tasks and brand-new ideas, being creative and honoring one another’s gifts all at the same time.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Leadership, Training

The Two Sides of Integrity

Integrity has two sides: that which you will not do and that which you will do.  The latter is often forgotten when it comes to integrity.  Integrity is adhering to principles that you or your ethical and moral side hold as truth and of value to follow.  Integrity by definition is being “honest” and walking in, “soundness of moral character.”

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day

Why Do I Think That I Control My Own Life?

In good times, we tend to think we control life. We have control of our family, our money, our jobs and our lives. When crisis or tragedy hits, we quickly realize we’re not in control of everything and that feels so out of control, so uncomfortable and abnormal. When we cannot explain something or make sense of something, we then look for something or someone to blame. Ultimately we may look to blame God because He’s God and He could make things occur differently.

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Challenge, Encouragement, In the news, Issues of the Day, Prayer

The Importance of This Time in Our Lives

There is always something to learn in life about ourselves or about others in both good and bad times. The book of Ecclesiastes reminds us there is a time and a season for everything.  (See Ecclesiastes 3:1.) Here are a few of my observations and reminders from this amazing, but challrenging season.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day

This is the Second Pandemic of my Lifetime

COVID–19 has certainly had an impact on the world, but it’s not my generations first pandemic. In 1968 and 1969, when I was a young teenager, the United States fiercely faced the Hong Kong flu. In that year we experienced 100,000 deaths. To be truthful, I don’t even remember going through it or being encouraged to take one single precaution. The H3N2 flu must have been so much more dreadful with so many deaths over the period of one year.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Prayer

The Unmistakable Comfort of Psalm 91

So many have found Psalm 91 to bring great comfort, strength, truth and spiritual reality to us during this unique time. Personally, I have been praying through it every morning for my loved ones and the many others I am responsible for. One morning I felt prompted to look up one of the words in the dictionary for greater clarity and then became intrigued with so many of the other words found in this amazing Psalm. I ended up with a very amplified version and decided to share it with you below. I hope it is of great comfort, help and support to you as it is to me when praying these beautifully written words.

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