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Beyond Commentary to Commitment

Dec 15, 2014   //   by efremsmith   //   Uncategorized  //  No Comments

 

“Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:37-40, ESV)

In recent weeks in light of the protests reacting to the Grand Jury decisions in Ferguson and New York in relation to the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, there has been a lot of political commentary. There has also been a lot of social media and blog commentary. There has been theological or Christian-based commentary as well. It’s interesting that what has been passed off as Christian commentary at times has seemed more like extreme political commentary, more influenced by the ideologies of the Right and the Left than the Bible. We have also seen Christian commentary held captive by Christendom, or more specifically a Eurocentric theology.

Be careful of the commentary that you allow to shape your views about the Poor, the Marginalized, the Outcast, and the Other. I have decided to buy into the commentary that Christ gave about the Poor, the Marginalized, and the Outcast. More than just talk about them, Christ showed a commitment to them. Christ built relationships and offered transformation to the Paralyzed, the Samaritan, the Adulterer, the Diseased, the Poor, and the Thief. I will come back to this, but let me make another point about commentary first.

One of the political commentaries I’ve heard over and over again and has been directed to me recently is this- “Why aren’t African-Americans as concerned about abortion or Black-on-Black crime as they are about some Police Officers racially profiling and killing African-Americans? Well, this statement alone shows a lack of understanding of the multiple ways in which African-Americans and others have been and are presently addressing those issues and more. If you’ve heard of Mad Dads, Hospitality House Youth Directions, the Youth Intervention Network, World Impact, Homeboy Industries, the African-American Church, Soul Café, City Team, The Stair Step Initiative, Young Life, The Urban Youth Workers Institute,  The National Black Evangelical Association, The Spencer Perkins Center, The National Center for Fathering, CCDA, and the Union Gospel Mission to name a few; you’d know that there are many Christian-based organizations who have been in predominately African-American and under-resourced communities for years addressing family stability, leadership development, community development, the tragedy of abortion, and youth gang violence. There are two reasons why there are major challenges in these communities even with all of this effort. One, we need more collaborative efforts between these organizations and others. Two, these organizations need more financial and volunteer support. I could also add the spiritual warfare reality that we are fighting not against flesh and blood ultimately, but against invisible and wicked forces (Ephesians 6). The problem with that statement though is that too many in the Body of Christ seem not to want to deal with a lot of talk about the connections between invisible forces of wickedness and visible systems of oppression. I have marched on multiple occasions with African-American and multi-ethnic Christian groups into gang infested territories. I been a part of rallies where gang members have accepted Christ. The problem is, cable news stations won’t cover that. At least not the way they are covering protests right now. I’ve been a part of urban congregations that have worked to provide alternatives to abortion for young girls. I know of African-American and urban ministries that are rescuing girls out of sex trafficking. I know of ministries that are working with young men to equip them to be strong husbands and fathers. Those giving commentary otherwise are either not aware of this commitment, not making the commitment themselves, or both.

This is not so much a rebuke to the commentators out there, but a reality check. There are a lot of ministries that are committed to reducing abortion, black-on-black crime, and racial profiling. Find them and support them. There are ministries committed to rescuing children out of sex trafficking, stabilizing the family, and addressing domestic poverty. Find them and support them. I realize that there are leaders and even some ministries that are in under-resourced communities and not doing much in the area of community engagement and development. Well, find the ones that are making a difference and support them. But don’t just support them with your financial commitment alone.  Support also with a commitment of service on some level. Extreme political commentary is not going to address both individual and systemic sin. Extreme theological commentaries held captive by Christendom are not going to address the need for Kingdom compassion, mercy, justice, and transformation. Now I can return to my major point-

The commentary of Christ came out of His commitment. Christ could give commentary on Sinners because of his commitment to them. Christ could provide commentary on the Poor, the Marginalized, the Outcast, the Incarcerated, and the Stranger because He was committed to them. He was committed to the point of His death on a Cross. Christians must ask themselves, “Is my commitment to those different than me greater than my commentary about them?” My commitment to the under-resourced, the Poor, and the Other must be much larger than my commentary. As this is the case more and more, I grow in my intimacy with Christ.

Black-on-Black Violence: Pastor Voddie Bauchman’s Assault on Black People

Dec 1, 2014   //   by efremsmith   //   justice, race, reconciliation, spiritual growth, theology, Uncategorized  //  3 Comments

Black-on-Black Violence: Pastor Voddie Baucham’s Assault on Black People

By Austin Channing Brown, Christena Cleveland, Drew Hart and Efrem Smith

 

So God created human beings in his own image. Genesis 1:27

 

As black evangelical leaders, we believe it is important to respond to The Gospel Coalition’s publishing of Pastor Voddie Baucham’s Thoughts on Ferguson, a perspective we deem to be extremely anti-black. First, we condemn The Gospel Coalition’s editorial leadership for its moral and pastoral failure in publishing such an anti-black viewpoint. No Christian organization should ever participate in dishonoring the image of God in black people, especially at a time when so many black Americans are in pain. Second, we lament the internalized anti-black racism that Pastor Voddie conveyed in his article and the fact that it has been used to further support White-on-Black violence among Christians. Here, we offer a different perspective, one that we believe honors the image of God in black people.

 

A Brief of History of White-on-Black Violence

 

Racism is White-on-Black violence.

 

In 1619, the first twenty Africans were brought over as labor for the new colonies. Within one generation the white majority had defined black people as permanent slaves and non-human property. This created a social order in which black people were only valuable for their ability to support a white dominated society that was economically prospering off of the stolen land of Native Americans and the stolen labor of African Americans. Consequently, a system of White-on-Black violence was born.

 

This system of White-on-Black violence has defined the last 400 years of American history. For example:

  • Millions of Africans died      during the middle passage journey from Africa to the so-called ‘new land’,      even before ever stepping foot in America.
  • Slavery lasted for 246 years,      beginning in 1619 and ending in 1865.
  • From 1865 until 1945, well over      one hundred thousand black people were re-enslaved through the      convict-leasing system, in which whites arrested blacks for minor crimes      such as changing employers without permission, vagrancy, engaging in      sexual activity or loud talk with white women.
  • Simultaneously, white (mostly      Christian) Americans sought to retain white control through racial      terrorism. About 5,000 African American men, women, and children were      lynched by white mobs.
  • Jesus, who was both the Son of      God and a poor Galilean Jew living in solidarity withthose under Roman      occupation and those vulnerable to crucifixion, has been transformed into      a powerful white man. This image is a form of idolatrous systemic white      violence against black people and all people of color.[i]

 

Despite such White-on-Black violence and much more, black people have always resisted. For example, dissident voices like Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass rejected ‘the Christianity of this land’ in its complicit endorsement of white domination over black bodies, proclaiming that it had nothing to do with the true peaceable Christ. Protests like these continued until the 1970s, always triggering systemic white backlash.

 

In the 1960s black consciousness arrived in mainstream public discourse, affirming the value of black people in the face of historical and ongoing White-on-Black violence.  Not surprisingly, the system in which Whites were always on top, responded. Taking a cue from the convict-leasing system, White law enforcement began arresting black men en masse for nonviolent drug crimes. Since the 1970s, the prison population has boomed from about 300,000 inmates to beyond 2 million people caged like animals, a disportionately large number of them black men. Black bodies continue to be controlled by this system of White-on-Black violence.[ii]

 

Now in the present, black people in Ferguson and around the country are fed up. We are fed up that 1 out of 3 African American males will be arrested and go through the American injustice system at some point in their lives[iii], primarily for nonviolent drug charges, despite studies revealing that black youth and white youth use drugs at comparable rates. Research also tells us that black males are 21 times more likely to be killed during an encounter with the police than their white counterparts.[iv] Just as critical, schools are being defunded all around the country in many black neighborhoods while prisons are being expanded — another example of systemic White-on-Black violence.

 

Black-on-Black Violence is an Extension of White-on-Black Violence

 

The historical and current system of White-on-Black violence sends messages that are so powerful that many black people succumb to them, ultimately becoming defined by them.  Internalized racism, a term first coined by black scholar W.E.B. DuBois in 1903,[v] involves accepting a white supremacist social world that places black people at the bottom, and adopting society’s negative stereotypes about African Americans concerning their abilities and intrinsic worth.[vi]

 

An example of internalized racism: as a result of growing up in an anti-black society in which violence inflicted on African Americans has been historically judged less harshly than violence against Whites, regardless of the perpetrator – black people begin to believe that their own life and the lives of other black people are worth very little. Due to internalized racism, they become more willing to engage in violence against other black men, women, and children – so-called “Black-on-Black violence.”

 

Indeed, a research study conducted in 2011 found that internalized racism significantly predicted black male teenagers’ propensity for violence. In other words, the more internalized racism a black male teen possessed, the greater his aggressive behavior, the more positive his attitudes toward guns and violence, and the more at-risk he was for engaging in violent behavior.[vii] Based on these findings, the researcher concluded that a lack of self-respect and/or negative views toward their own race (e.g., internalized racism) result in black male teens’ greater propensity to engage in violence. In essence, “Black-on-Black violence” is simply an extension of systemic White-on-Black violence.

 

Pastor Voddie’s Internalized Racism is Black-on-Black Violence

 

Black-on-Black violence takes many forms. Propped up by the mighty platform of The Gospel Coalition and the many white people who frequent the organization’s online space, Pastor Voddie was quick to point out the physical Black-on-Black violence that exists in America. However, despite the fact that he is black, Pastor Voddie failed to see the ways in which he engaged in a form of verbal Black-on-Black violence that mirrors White-on-Black violence. By conveniently omitting any discussion of the ways in which the long-standing system of white domination contributes to fatherlessness in the black community, police brutality of black people, negative societal perceptions of black people, the systemic disempowerment of black people, the internalized racism of black people and even Black-on-Black violence, he assaulted the character and worth of black people, suggesting that black people like Michael Brown deserve to be killed. In doing so, he made a statement in support of White-on-Black violence, an argument that many whites have used throughout history.

 

Just as we are presenting a historic look at the system of White-on-Black violence, the Bible also shows us — from Exodus to the Gospels to the 1st Century Church — the forms of systemic violence perpetrated upon the people of God by those in power. In this light, all Christians today should grieve with a people group that has been and continues to be victimized by such systemic violence. Blaming one Black young man for the sowing of such sin is a great disservice to the very people to oppressed people of the world, to whom Jesus consistently showed mercy.

 

We encourage you to read Dr. Alan Noble’s point-by-point response to Pastor Voddie’s article. Given the long history of anti-black violence in this country, all followers of Jesus must be committed to engaging in the transformative and liberative work of Jesus, which means affirming the image of God in black people and resisting all White-on-Black violence in word or deed.

 

No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you:

to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8

 

 

 

Austin Channing Brown, M.A. is a Resident Director and Intercultural Liason at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI.

Christena Cleveland, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Reconciliation Studies at Bethel University in St. Paul, MN and the author of Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep Us Apart.

Drew Hart, M.Div. is a pastor at Montco Bible Fellowship, an Adjunct Professor of Theology at Biblical Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. Candidate in Theology and Ethics at Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia.

Efrem Smith, M.A.. is President/CEO of World Impact, Inc. and the author of The Post-Black and Post-White Church.




[i] Edward J. Blum and Paul Harvey, The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2012).

[ii] Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (New York, N.Y.; Jackson, Tenn.: New Press ; Distributed by Perseus Distribution, 2012).

[iii] Ibid., 9.

[iv] Ryan Gabrielson et al., “Deadly Force, in Black and White,” ProPublica, accessed November 30, 2014, http://www.propublica.org/article/deadly-force-in-black-and-white.

[v] Du Bois, W.E. B. 1989 [1903]. The Souls of Black Folk. New York: Penguin

[vi] Jones, C. P. (2000). Levels of racism: A theoretical framework and a gardener’s tale.

American Journal of Public Health, 90(8), 1212-1215.

[vii] Bryant, W.W.. (2011). Internalized racism’s association with African American male youth’s propensity for

violence. Journal of Black Studies, 42, pp.690-707.

 

 

 

 

Ferguson and A Way Forward

I write this post right after the Grand Jury decision in Ferguson, Missouri. The Grand Jury has made the decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson when it comes to the shooting death of Michael Brown. There is television evidence showing that already violence has erupted in Ferguson. We need a way forward in the United States of America that brings about healing, justice, peace, reconciliation, and transformation. My faith still leads me to believe that the best way to realize all of this is thru the non-violent advancement of the Kingdom of God. Jesus Christ is the most excellent example of the declaration and demonstration of the Kingdom of God. The Church is the front line vehicle for this to be realized today. I also believe that people of good will also have an opportunity to seize a reconciling moment if they so choose.

Though this is a tense, divided, and violent moment in our nation, there is a way forward that people of all races, classes, and political ideologies can grab a hold of. But we must look deep into our hearts and ask ourselves how we desire to move forward. Do we want to continue to participate in a deeply divided nation by race, politics, and class? Or is there something on the inside of us that not only desires something better, but provides a push in our soul to participate in this something better? This something better is the Kingdom of God or what Martin Luther King Jr. called, The Beloved Community.

One of the ways we move forward regardless of your personal opinion on this situation is to grieve with the family of Michael Brown. This is biblical. We are reminded of this in the Gospel of Matthew; to grieve with those who are grieving. We are also called biblically to love, forgive, and extend grace. Too many Christians are using this moment to extend political ideology and not the traits of the Kingdom that we are to represent.

Another way forward is for the privileged to listen to and learn from those who are different from them and have a different opinion than them. This is not the time to judge, argue, and patronize if you are privileged. This is a time to listen, pray, learn, and show an amazing humility. This is a genuine way for the Kingdom of God to be expressed. As an African American male, my heart is heavy. This is all very difficult to take in and yes, I wonder if the African American life carries value in this nation. I need my Brothers and Sisters who are not African American to walk with me, pray with me, listen to me, and grieve with me. This kind of reconciling approach is a way forward.

Yet, another way forward is for the Church to not ignore this issue. The Church must be a force of racial reconciliation and righteousness. The Church must acknowledge that we live in a broken world. This not only includes broken people, but broken systems as well. We must bring to bear the love, grace, transformative power, reconciliation, and justice of God upon this reality. The Church must be a bridge over social troubled waters of brokenness and division. Pastors who ignore these realities in their preaching and shepherding ignore the mission field outside their church walls. The Church must build a bridge between the police and under-resourced communities. The Church must build bridges between the haves and the have not’s. The Church must see, care for, and empower the Poor, the marginalized, and the undervalued. This is our biblical responsibility. The Church should not wait for unfortunate circumstances, but should be a constant force of transformation. We must prayerfully grab hold of this moment and find our way forward.

 

Abortion Response Video

Apr 18, 2014   //   by efremsmith   //   Uncategorized  //  No Comments

In this video I respond to Facebook critics that say I don’t have a strong enough stand against abortion.

 

Church Flight

Apr 14, 2014   //   by efremsmith   //   reconciliation, the church, Uncategorized  //  4 Comments

My grandmother moved from Birmingham, Alabama to Minneapolis, Minnesota as a single mother with my mom and two other daughters and a son. She was a hard working woman, which is why when I saw the movie, The Help, I cried. Her family was one of the first families to move into what had previously been an all-White community. I can remember in the early 1970’s, when at about 5 years old, my father and mother began pursuing owning a house of their own. We moved into a community where we were one of the first non-White families. I witnessed what is called White-flight with my own eyes. I also witnessed some of the White Church flight. Many Black Churches over time were able to buy or lease church buildings formally occupied by White Churches.

I praise God for the White families that stayed or I never would have befriended Bobby Dorsey or John Saphire. I praise God for the White Churches that stayed or I never would have experienced Boy Scouts at Calvary Lutheran Church or Youth Ministry at Park Avenue Methodist Church. But even with those who stayed, the community was impacted drastically by those who left. Years later White flight would be followed by African- Americans and other ethnic groups that would leave the community once they were able to go to college and pursue a career. After the house I grew up in was broken into and set on fire, it made total sense to me that it was time for my parents to leave the community.

Sometimes I wonder what the community I grew up in would be like today if none of the churches would have left after my family members moved in? What if none of the churches that were there prior would have left? What if Black Churches would have been planted and thrived right next to White Churches? What if Multi-ethnic Churches would have developed in the 1970’s in my neighborhood as shining lights of the Kingdom of God? What if there had been no flight.

Today, many of the resourced church plants are strategically placed in the suburbs. Most church planting models are based on a suburban missional context. When Black Churches grow to a certain size, many begin looking for suburban land to fulfill ministry dreams. Yes, there are urban church planters and older churches that never left the city (PRAISE GOD!), but the city is still living in the after effect of Church flight.

The good news is there seems to be a missional return to the cities. The are urban church planting movements coming to the city. There are those graduating from Christian universities sensing a call to join the movement to return to the city. What I say to those coming to the city and recently arriving in the city-

Honor those pastors, churches, missional organizations, and families that never left.

Does The Black Church Still Exist?

Mar 18, 2014   //   by efremsmith   //   race, the church, Uncategorized  //  No Comments

What is it that I’m really asking here? This is important for me to clarify because I know that the Black Church still exists. What I’m really wrestling with is if the Black Church that I’m a product of still exists. Does the Black Church that brought an evangelism, theology, and justice movement to enslaved Africans who were presented a Christ representing the Slave Master instead of the Reconciler still exist?

Does the Black Church that launched the Civil Rights and Azusa Street Revival Movements still exist? The reason I wrestle with these questions is for two reasons. One, I believe the Black Church that I’m a product of is still needed. I see this version of the Black Church shrinking. I learned how to preach and lead worship in the Black Church. I learned how to serve and respect Elders in the Black Church. I learned both liberation and reconciliation theology in the Black Church and from Black Itinerant Preachers like Tom Skinner and John Perkins. Pastors such as, Edward Berry, Gerald Joiner, Robert Owens, Don Davenport, Stan Long, J. Alfred Smith Sr., Keith Johnson, Brenda Salter-McNeil, Debbie Blue, and William Smith have all been mentors and pastors to me over the years. Please know that men and women of diverse ethnicities have played a significant role in my development as a pastor, evangelist, and evangelical leader, but I would not be where I am today if not for the way in which God used the Black Church in my life. When I ask does the Black Church exist, I am asking about the church that raises up Sons and Daughters of the faith as expository preachers, community leaders, and prophets of compassion and justice.

A significant segment of the Black Church followed the playbook of a significant segment of the White Church and when it grew large enough, left the city for the suburbs. Just like many of the Black families that remain in urban communities are under-resourced, many of the Black Churches that remain in the city are under-resourced. This creates a culture of survival, competition, and empire verses a missional and reproducing culture of equipping and empowerment. I’m not against large churches at all, but can we grow churches without abandoning the city full of boys and girls in need of mentoring, development, and a Christ-centered compass for living?

The second reason I wrestle with this question about the Black Church is because I believe the Black Church is the first visible sign of an evangelistic, missional, and reconciling church in the United States. The Black Church is a forced church historically because its people were rejected by the White Church. Even with this fact, when the Civil Rights and Azusa Street Revival Movements were launched, open arms of reconciliation were presented to the White Church. The Black Church must not forget its missional, justice, and reconciliation roots. Today, a significant segment of the Black Church has traded in mission, justice, and reconciliation for individualism, Christian-covered capitalism, and deeply-rooted and one-sided political ideology. Though we have more Black Churches probably now than any time in history, Black people overall are still by percentage not doing as well as other ethnicities in areas of net worth, home ownership, college graduation rates, mass incarceration, and family stability. This is why we must simultaneously love, honor, and raise questions around the Black Church of today. We need the resurgence of the missional, reconciling,  and community transforming Black Church.

It’s really not that this type of Black Church doesn’t exist as all. Pastors such as Curtis Flemming in Oakland, D. Darrell Griffin in Chicago, Arrvel Wilson in Dallas, and Gerald Joiner in Louisville are examples of its existence. The fact is we need more. We need a resurgence of a Black Church that is a missional church, a reproducing church, and a reconciling church. What does this look like? More Black Churches that are revitalizing inner-city  communities. More Black Churches that are raising up, resourcing, and releasing urban leaders. More Black Churches that plant multi-ethnic Churches. More Black Churches that promote Kingdom Compassion and Justice. I love the Black Church too much to ask for anything less.

Denying Race

In this same month that a movie on Jackie Robinson, who integrated major league baseball years before the Civil Right Act is released, a high school in the state of Georgia has its first racially integrated high school prom (google it, if you don’t believe me, I saw this on a cable news and entertainment station, Headline News this morning). This is happening in a nation that some claim to be post-racial. Think about this, students in Wilcox County, Georgia had to fight for an integrated prom. They received backlash from some and some of those folks held their own White Only Prom.

There are many of my evangelical Christian Brothers and Sisters that don’t want to deal with race, believing that we are either now in a colorblind and post-racial reality, or think that talking about race is only about bringing on “White Guilt.” My purpose in dealing with issues of race is four fold-

1.) To show that race is unbiblical and was never from a Scriptural standpoint, God’s idea for defining humanity.

2.) To show the race structure and racism individually and systemically for the sin and demonic force that it is.

3.) To create healthy ways to raise awareness and have discussions about race, so that the church can be fruitful and effective in an ever-increasing multi-ethnic and multicultural mission field.

4.) Through ministry initiatives of reconciliation and righteousness, create a movement of Kingdom Community.

This mission will be difficult for the church if evangelicals on one hand want to promote the Jackie Robinson movie, “42” as great, but are silent about segregated high school proms in the Bible Belt. We can’t have real movement around Kingdom citizenship and community if there is still a great fear from some Christian White families that their daughters are at risk of being asked to prom by a Black or Brown young man. Why else would you want a prom to be segregated? I also wonder if the same churches in the Bible Belt that are silent on segregated proms are still practicing the homogenous principal when it comes to church planting and revitalization?

I realize that there are many churches that are striving to be Christ-centered, multi-ethnic, and reconciling communities. I think of church like Voice of Calvary in Jackson, Mississippi and Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas in Little Rock. There are many others in the Bible Belt that are champions of developing Reconciling Churches. At the same time there are still too many evangelical leaders denying the reality and impact of race in the United States and beyond. Because of this the church is not having the Kingdom impact it could on issues such as immigration, incarceration rates, and disparities in the areas of housing, employment, and education. The issues of race at the end of the day are much bigger than the high school proms that will take place around the country this weekend.

The Gospel According to the Dark Knight Rises

Aug 18, 2012   //   by efremsmith   //   arts and culture, theology, Uncategorized  //  3 Comments

I have to start by admitting that I have seen the Dark Knight Rises three times. Understanding the importance of three from a biblical and theological standpoint then, it makes sense for me to share some thoughts I have theologically about the movie. SPOILER ALERT! If you haven’t seen the movie yet, you might not want to read this. If you haven’t seen it yet, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!? Lol!

Here are just a few thoughts in my head as I’ve been connecting the movie and the Gospel-

1.) RISING FROM THE PIT- As Bruce Wayne comes out of the prison pit, he throws a rope down so that others may be set free as well. Jesus through His death on the cross, goes into the pit on our behalf for the sins of all of humanity.  Jesus goes into the grave and into hell for us. Through his death and resurrection we have the ability, through our faith in Him, to come out of the pit of our sinful lives. Jesus provides the way for our escape from a life of slow death to the abundant and eternal life.

2.) ALFRED THE BUTLER- Throughout the movie Alfred attempts to give words of wisdom and life to Bruce Wayne. To this degree, Alfred is a picture of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a counselor, teacher, and a comforter (John 14). Are we willing to listen to and be empowered by the voice of the Holy Spirit. The Dark Knight Rises ends with Bruce Wayne living into the words of Alfred.

3.) HOPE- Batman, Bane, and Robin all speak of hope in the movie. The movie causes us to wrestle with whether hope is a tool for good and rescue or a weapon of control and manipulation. Hope is indeed a tool for good and rescue when it is coupled with faith. Our faith in Christ is also about a hope of what is to come and what can be right now. Christ in us, is the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). No matter how dark the day, our hope and faith in Christ is our new day.

4.) CAT WOMAN: “YOU GIVEN THESE PEOPLE EVERYTHING.” BATMAN: “NOT EVERYTHING- Batman, throughout the movie showed how far he would go for the people of Gotham. As Christians we must ask ourselves how far we willing to go so that the lost would be found and the hurting would be helped. Every day of our lives is an opportunity to reach beyond self-centeredness so that lives and communities might be transformed.

5.) BRUCE WAYNE: “BATMAN CAN BE ANYONE”- God is in the business of using ordinary, everyday people of faith in order to do extraordinary works in the world.

Just a few thoughts. What are yours?

Don’t Judge Your Day by the Morning, But by the Son

May 8, 2012   //   by efremsmith   //   Uncategorized  //  2 Comments

Today didn’t start off to good. Actually, it started out horrible. Ever had a day like that? I woke up late. I wasn’t as prepared for the day as I should have been. I spent almost two hours in rush hour traffic and arrived 40 minutes late to an important meeting with pastors in the Oakland area. Though I woke up to a warm sunny day, my soul was clouded. BUT THEN….

I arrived late to the breakfast meeting, but just in time to hear a godly woman, preach a sermon on, “A Liberating Imagination.” She used the Old Testament in such a powerful way to paint a picture of Kingdom Justice. Even though I was late, I still was able to enjoy a plate of fruit and eggs. I met a number of pastors and faith leaders who are making a difference in Oakland and beyond. I now prepare to spend the rest of the day praying, talking, and planning about our strategic focus area of Love Mercy, Do Justice within our mission region of the Evangelical Covenant Church. I still have the picture in my mind of leaving my house stressed, but my wife with a smile saying, “I love you.”

Sometimes, I judge the day by the morning. When my day doesn’t start off well, I get down and can be hard to be around. When I start out the day wrong, I tend to beat myself up, which can lead to my not treating others well. Today, I was blessed to experience Jesus in the midst of a day that started off not so good. But, whenever I try to start off a day in my own power that day starts off wrong. The sooner I connect with Jesus, the sooner the day gets right. This doesn’t mean the day is perfect with no struggles. It means I’m better equipped and empowered to navigate the day. Even a bad day with Jesus is a learning opportunity. Don’t judge your day by the morning, but by the Son.

Dr. King and the Need for a New Church

Jan 16, 2012   //   by efremsmith   //   justice, race, reconciliation, the church, Uncategorized  //  2 Comments

As I reflect on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. today, I can’t help but meditate deeply on something he wrote within an article entitled, “The Case Against Tokenism” for the New York Times, August 5, 1962-

“…it is still true that the church is the most segregated major institution in America. As a minister of the gospel, I am ashamed to say that eleven o’clock on Sunday morning-when we stand to sing ‘In Christ There Is No East Nor West’- is the most segregated hour of America, and that Sunday school is the most segregated school of the week.”

So what is the state of the church in the United States of America today, some 40 years after the murder of Dr. King? Christian sociologist Michael Emerson, who co-wrote the important book, “Divided By Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America”, has said that today only about 7% of the church in the U.S. would be deemed multiracial. Of all the institutions in the United States could it be that the Christian church has struggled the most in living out the dream and vision of Dr. King? It seems so. But, in order to be missional into the future this must change. I am actually very hopeful about this happening.

On the website, churchleaders.com, Sam Rainer recently wrote about “Ten (Unexpected) Church Trends to Surface by 2020” (http://www.churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/157452-10-unexpected-church-trends-to-surface-by-2020.html). The very first trend he mentions deals with something that champions of the multi-ethnic and missional church have known for a long time. Rainer points to the trend that the heterogeneous (or homogeneous church principle) church will explode. The question becomes what will cause this and are we preparing emerging leaders for this reality?

Let me deal with the issue of preparing leaders. No longer can we afford to make multi-ethnic and missional ministry simply a “track” within a leadership conference or a “Pre-conferene” before the general conference begins. Multi-ethnic and missional ministry must become the central issue of every denomination, church planting association, seminary, and leadership conference. I’m so glad, that the Evangelical Covenant Church, the denomination I serve, has done just that (www.covchurch.org).

Theology, preaching, church leadership, and ministry practice must be connected to this central issue of multi-ethnic and missional ministry. Multi-ethnicity is important, not just because of the current and future multicultural realities, but also because Jesus walked the earth as a multi-ethnic human being and the Bible is the most multi-ethnic story you will ever read. Being missional is about the church having a sense of urgency concerning evangelism, outreach, and biblical justice. These are the key components of the advancement of the kingdom of God.

To live into this multi-ethnic and missional movement, we can learn much from Dr. King the theologian. I encourage you to engage his writings and then return to the Scriptures with new eyes. Allowing Dr. King to influence how we engage the Scriptures allows us to see the God of salvation, deliverance, and liberation. The new church that is needed today can be developed as the words of Dr. King allow us to see the true church of the Scriptures. This church takes on the mission of advancing what Dr. King called, The Beloved Community. The Beloved Community is realized as the church embodies reconciliation, redemption, transformation, and justice.

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