Category Archives: Conferences

It takes a village

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In recent weeks, God has been seen in public or at least those who claim to represent the deity.  And there is this debate as to whether or not the name of God should be invoked at all.  With the needs of people politicized, it is hard to know when to speak for or against anyone.  These times, they are confusing because there are persons who are loving and hating each other in the name of God.

What shall we do then? God, give us the strength to love when we prefer our arguments over action, our perspectives over people.  Give us the strength to love as the temptation increases to be conformed to this world and its patterns.[i]  But, we cannot do it alone.  Dr. Maya Angelou wrote:

Now if you listen closely
I’ll tell you what I know
Storm clouds are gathering
The wind is gonna blow
The race of man is suffering
And I can hear the moan,
‘Cause nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

It takes a village to raise a child, to raise a community, to raise the consciousness of a nation.  It takes a village—not an individual or an ideology—to raise our awareness so that we can see each other apart from the categories that attempt to combine us, enshrine us against them.  Because God’s love is uncategorical and defies our descriptions, our color codes, our prejudicial treatment of agape.  It takes a village to push back against the normalizing of alternative realities.  Only God is real.

It takes a village for us to gain momentum, to ensure that we do not get tired of doing what is right.  It takes a village to keep us moving forward, less we backslide to our darker and more dangerous selves, our hidden and hurting selves, our fictional selves.  It takes a village to point us back less we slither into back room deals that only sell us out and sell us short.  Coming together “for us four and no more,” we come up short of the glory of God.  Because we will only get to holiness and to heaven together.

Still, we are so tempted to resort to our corners where we are encouraged to hide our light under a bushel—until our so- called enemy shows us theirs.  But, we are called to be the bigger person, to be a bigger people—not to be overshadowed by, overpowered by the powers that be—because these powers will not always be.  God’s kingdom is coming.  God’s kingdom is coming.  God’s kingdom is coming.

The Bible says, we are called together, to “be at peace with one another” (Mark 9.50), “devoted to one another” (John 13.35), “to live in harmony with one another” (Romans 12.16), to be kind and compassionate to one another” (Ephesians 4.32), “to forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another” (Colossians 3.13).  The Scriptures teach us, “Don’t grumble against each other” (James 5.9).  Be “patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4.2) and “make your love increase and overflow for each other” (First Thessalonians 3.12).  We gather not to sharpen our favorite scriptures to attack each other but to learn how to “love each other deeply,” “to live in harmony with each other” (First Peter3.8) and to lose the taste for our favorite hatreds.  Instead, we have gathered to eat from the table that the Lord prepares.

Do not be deceived.  This faith is one; but, it is for all.  It does not work without each another.  We have no testimony, no witness without one another.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is not individualized; this gospel is not a part of some government deal.  Christ’s gospel will not bear the seal of society’s approval.  And if we are looking to politicians for how we should practice our faith, then we are doing it wrong.   No, we are Christians together or not at all.

We need a village to move us beyond these divisions.  We need a village to move us beyond the cycles.  Because we have gone this way before.  We’ve had these fears before.  We’ve said these words before.  We’ve hated and judged like this before.

A nation and its people on edge, the psalmist was right, “The nations rage; the kingdoms totter.”[ii]  Who can find a virtuous people, a righteous equal?  Who can find their voice to speak truth to power, truth to the lies we face day in and day out?

In love with Caesar, help us to cut the ties, cut the puppet strings that pull us apart.  Let our relationship with God go deeper than our political party affiliations.  As they drive the wedge deeper, let us remember the nails that were driven deepest into Christ.  Because we are not blue and red Christians, conservative, moderate and liberal believers.  God can not be divided and God’s people must be undivided.  We pledge allegiance to “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.”[iii]

Because “a house divided against itself cannot stand.”[iv]  Because a faith divided against itself does not speak well of its leader.  Because where are we going, who are we following if our faith goes in political cycles, if every four years, we change directions.  Chaos or community, which way are we headed?  As people of faith, I call you to head off those who we lead us to the former, to cut off conversations that do not lend themselves to reconciliation, restoration and transformation.  But, you cannot do it alone.  Take your village.

_____________________________

[i] Romans 12.2

[ii] Psalm 46.6

[iii] Ephesians 4.5

[iv] Matthew 12.25

Technicolor: Multiethnic Church Conference

EmbRACE Logo copy 3.pngIt’s happening in Duluth, Georgia on February 15, 2018.  Inspired by Mark Hearn’s book Technicolor: Inspiring Your Church to Embrace Multicultural Ministry, he is a featured speaker along with many others.  Their vision: “Promoting unity and diversity in the local church throughout the city, across lines of race, class, and culture; advancing the common good and building a credible witness of God’s love for all people in an increasingly diverse and cynical society.”  It’s a tall order and I am not suggesting that they can fill it.  But, this conference offers one more conversation, one more opportunity to express our differences and then explore our sameness, our oneness in Christ.

If you cannot attend, pray for those who do.  Ask God to give them courage, compassion and conviction when sharing their stories and listening to others.  Beseech God to open their eyes to see each other without the social prescriptions of race and class.  Plead with God for transformation of heart, mind and mouth.  No talking in circles but instead, in ways that lead us to each other.

For more information, please visit their website.

“Confronting Racism in the Church” with Dr. Drew Hart

Last year, I had the privileged of serving with Dr. Hart at a community- wide event, aimed at race, community and the practice of our Christian faith in Henderson, KY.  It was my first time meeting him and he was gracious.  I had just read his book and been sharing his insights on social media.  To say the least, I was excited to meet him in person and to hear more of his thoughts on subjects dear to both of us.  He happily obliged, answering all my questions and offering support for future study endeavors.

This time, he is closer to home.  On July 22, he will be speaking at the Festival Center in Washington, D.C. at 1 p.m. and from his new book Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism.  It is a conversation that the church needs to have and if we are not prepared to speak, we can at least listen in.

For more information and to register, click here.

Resurgence of Racism: Baptist Conference on Unity Planned

Former President Jimmy Carter and founder of the New Baptist Covenant has long accepted the call to the ministry of reconciliation and sees the spike in race- related incidents as a call to serve this generation.  Seeing race as apart of the attacks on the Obama presidency and the rise of Donald Trump as a presidential candidate having “tapped a waiting reservoir there of inherent racism,” Carter does not mince words but instead issues a challenge and a call for Baptists to come together. To read the full article, click here.

Space for Grace

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Space for Grace.  It is a national gathering hosted by the American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS).  There has been national attention placed on the shootings in sacred places of worship and the increased tensions between communities after accusations of police misconduct and brutality.  While the focus must remain there, let’s make space for grace, for conversations that not only talk about the very serious problems that these realities and others like it present but dialogues driven by solutions.  What do we do now?  What do we do next?  How will we respond?

People of faith are gathering in Los Angeles on November 4-7 to make space for grace, to make room for hope, to scoot over for reconciliation.  While there will be notable speakers, it will not be productive without you and I.  This sacred work of healing and restoring cross- cultural relationships requires more than talk and talk of action.

We must sit down and talk but not only that.  We must stand up and be counted as one who will serve.  But, not only that.  We have to take action, moving beyond agenda items and the review of minutes.  We must stand in the gap and build bridges.  We make space for grace.

Please make space on your calendar for this.