This past June, we as the Evangelical Covenant Church, approved a Resource Paper on Compassion, Mercy, and Justice at our Annual Meeting. This act further guides our denomination into being a Kingdom advancing movement. If one surveys the Gospels, you see Jesus proclaiming that the Kingdom of God is at hand. Not only does He proclaim this truth, He also performs the mighty wonders of this new community.
Jesus performs these mighty wonders through the forgiving of sins, the raising of the dead, giving sight to the blind, casting out demons, and the empowerment of women. In Matthew 25, he speaks to Kingdom advancement including feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, caring for the sick, being hospitable to the stranger, and visiting the incarcerated. The advancement of the Kingdom of God is done at the intersection of evangelism and justice.
The evangelism part of this advancement is the new covenant brought and bought by the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. The justice part is a continuation of the Covenant established by God as he brought the Hebrew people out of bondage and oppression.
In these days of economic crisis, broken families, addiction, ethnic and political divisions, war, and lost souls, the church must increase its urgency around Kingdom advancement. The Evangelical Covenant Church and all denominations that desire to be biblically rooted and culturally relevant must become catalytic and prophetic resourcing ministries. We must do this by equipping the church and developing leaders to be Spirit-led and missional in an ever-increasing multi-ethnic and multicultural reality.
1.) Lift up the Importance of Education
Too many young people have no sense of the lives sacrificed for integrated schools and access to higher education.
2.) Lift up the Importance of Participation in Democracy
Lives were also sacrificed for the right to vote for all citizens
3.) Lift up the Beloved Community
This was Dr. King bringing the vision and values of the Kingdom of God into the mainstream of the nation. It’s also a wake-up call to the church to connect evangelism and justice.
4.) Plant and Develop Multi-ethnic and Missional Churches
11:00am on Sunday morning still remains a segregated hour in too many churches
5.) Study Matthew 25:31-40
Develop an understanding that the first drum major for justice was Jesus
6.) Teach little children the stories of Rosa Parks and Ruby Bridges in church Sunday School classes.
(Especially in non African-American churches)
7.) Go to Washington D.C. with your family and see the monument in his honor.
Hold me accountable to this one.
8.) Develop a serious and fruitful friendship with someone of another ethnicity/race.
9.) Explore deeply and confess your own racism, prejudice, sexism, and neglect of the poor.
10.) Thank God for how far we’ve come.
We’re not where we should be, but don’t act like God hasn’t brought us a mighty long way. Balance your lament with praise.
Maybe like me, you felt today as if the weight of the world was upon you. In your own power you were trying to provide all the answers, take care of all the business, and find time for your family as well. As the day comes to an end there’s still an opportunity to do what should have been done at the beginning. Approach the God of the universe with the weights upon your shoulders. Allow God to lighten your load. None of us have the ability in our own might to handle the full load of life’s journey. Find the rest and the strength your soul desires.
Right after I posted, “The Art of Discipline”, I began to think about being disciplined verses being driven. My thoughts were based on my reading about Gideon in the book of Judges within the Old Testament. Even though he was used by God to bring great victory in war on behalf of the nation of Israel, his victory soon turned into idolatry.
I would think that it took great discipline and submission to follow God in only taking 300 warriors into battle against thousands and come out victorious. The discipline comes in terms of putting yourself in position daily to hear from God and then the discipline to follow all instructions when all odds seem to be against you. Then there’s the discipline of being a trained and ready warrior as well as providing leadership by example to those following you into battle.
When your in the position of leadership discipline can soon turn to a state of being driven. This is when the purpose and plan moves from being about God, to being about you. After deliverance and victory brought about by God, Gideon was driven to receive the credit and to be rewarded. Instead of worshipping the One who brought victory, he became self wanting.
Where being driven can become self-centered is when we seek to gain power for ourselves instead of living a life of discipline, empowered by God. Leaders who are driven must be cautious of the power-seeking nature of wanting to be in the driver’s seat. Be careful that in being driven, you desire to drive life by your own power. This driven life is about wanting power and control verses being empowered by God and under the control of the Holy Spirit for a larger purpose. I desire that my life be bigger than me, but I fight the temptation daily to be driven to make life all about me.
Gideon in making victories brought on by God about himself, took riches and built what would become an idolatrous shrine. Within the next generation of his family there was murder in the form of one of his sons killing all of the rest of his sons except one. This murderous son was driven by the desire of rulership over the family and the nation. This murderous son lost sight of the disciplined life of being led by and empowered by God. Instead he was driven by seeking power in his own might.
May we seek the life of discipline over the life of the driven.
“And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers; and there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel. Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals, and forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed themselves down to them; thus they provoked the LORD to anger.” (Judges 2:10-11, NASB)
As I’ve been studying the book of Judges lately in the Old Testament, it’s hard for me not to think of the Hip Hop generation of which I am apart. I also think about the generation that we have produced, which I will call for now, the Rap generation. For those of you who are not African-American, Hispanic, Asian American, or come from an urban background do not make the mistake of ending your reading here. Hip Hop culture and rap music have a global influence on all of youth and young adult culture today. Though the church is in denial about this to a large degree, the corporate music industry is not. Even churches that don’t deny this primarily see Hip Hop and rap as the enemy of the church. Let me go back to Judges and then I will work my way to the connection with Hip Hop and rap.
The book of Judges is about a people disconnected from their heritage and their God. The initial chapters of Judges shows us a younger generation who do evil because they have no sense of the God who brought them out of Egypt and delivered them into the promised land. Out of this ignorance they become an idolatrous people, serving the gods of the people around them. What is very interesting to me is that we see a cycle within Judges. The younger generation does evil in the eyes of the Lord, the LORD sells them (or allows them to be sold) into slavery and oppression, and then delivers them through Judges when they cry out to the LORD for help. If only they would desire a knowledge of their heritage and a covenant relationship with God, they would not have to live within this cycle. Why doesn’t the older generation take greater responsibility for making sure their younger generation knows their history that they might stay in covenant relationship with God?
My generation has not taken the type of responsibility needed with the youth and young adults below us. You could also argue that the generation above me made the same mistake. The tiredness of promises unfilled during the Civil Rights movement caused many African-Americans above me and with me to give into individualism and consumerism. If I gain enough stuff, at least I can become apart of that smaller group of African-Americans that made it.
I must say that I’m very concerned that too many African-American and urban churches have not seen the value of having a full-time pastor to children and youth on their staff. This is a key strategy to reaching a rap generation influenced by the gods of others pursuing them daily. Will senior pastors be willing to sacrifice some luxury in order to have a staff person and a comprehensive strategy for the younger generation enslaved by commercial rap music? Michelle Alexander in her book,” The New Jim Crow” does a great job in connecting commercial rap music and the mass incarceration of African-American males. She also wonders why this issue isn’t a top priority of civil rights organizations. I wonder why it isn’t a top priority of the church.
Commercial rap music today is full of idolatry and mainly is about serving the gods of the people around them. These people around them are corporate heads that are mainly European-Americans who have no interest in the health of the African-American and urban community. They are using the worst of this community to sell a product to a suburban community. I believe that if the African-American and urban church would take responsibility for its own enslavement to idolatry today, we could reach a younger generation that does not know the LORD or the work He has done to deliver African-Americans out of slavery and Jim Crow segregation.
This weekend, I participated in the Berry family reunion in Houston, Texas. This reunion celebrates my wife’s family on her dad’s side. The theme of the weekend was “legacy.” Besides the very hot weather (100 degrees the whole time), this has been a very powerful time. I love attending family reunions. It was about 20 years ago when my life was greatly impacted thru a family reunion on my mother’s side of the family.
At that reunion I found out that my great, great grandfather was full-blooded Irish and married a woman who was half African-American and half Native American. I left that family reunion years ago embracing that I’m African-American and also multi-ethnic. A few years later, while in seminary, I unpacked further Jesus Christ as the Son of God and as a multi-ethnic Jew, who was the Son of Man (Matthew 1). These two discoveries have had a tremendous influence on discovering my ministry calling.
I wonder how many people are disconnected from their life mission, simply because they are disconnected from their family tree and cultural heritage?
At the Berry family reunion, many people shared on the power of family and the importance of legacy. Our ability to leave a legacy in the earth is deeply connected to an intimate relationship with God and having a deep understanding of our heritage. This, I believe has become a great weakness for many of my European-American brothers and sisters. By becoming White, they have become greatly disconnected from a heritage that could possibly fuel a deeper understanding of life and mission. I believe African-Americans could offer a great gift to our European-American brothers and sisters, by being more public in conversations about the power of heritage and legacy. There are people of all ethnicities who have become disconnected from family and heritage. Allow God to speak to you about discovering the power of your own family heritage and legacy regardless of ethnicity or racial background. You may discover your life mission.
As I attend the 80th Grand Chapter Meeting celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, I thought it important to share briefly on both the importance and uniqueness of African-American Fraternities. Let me first say that the same could be written about African-American Sororities as well (My wife is a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta).
Many of my non African-American friends think that’s it’s somewhat strange that I still wear my fraternity colors and letters, as well as attend monthly local chapter meetings. When I moved from Minnesota to California last year, one of the first things that I did was make contact with the local chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi. Why would I do this at 41 years of age and having graduated from undergrad almost 20 years ago? This is what makes African-American Fraternities both important and unique.
Kappa Alpha Psi was founded on the campus of Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana in 1911. A small group of African-American men on a predominately White campus in the heart of Klu Klux Klan country at the time. Graduating with a college degree and founding a fraternity focusing on the achievement and success of African-American males was no small feat. A strong faith in God thru Jesus Christ was an important part of the development of the fraternity (Though there are members today who have lost sight of this).
Though I didn’t face the same type of racism as the founders, I found myself on a college campus in Central Minnesota in the fall of 1988, as one of only seven African-Americans on the whole campus. Faith in God and a deep bond with the small community of other African-Americans got me thru to graduation. One important relationship was with Lee Lindsey Jr. He is now a member of Alpha Phi Alpa Fraternity.
During my undergrad years I would go to the Twin Cities to attend parties on the campus of the University of Minnesota. When I first saw the Kappas, I was drawn to them. Sharp dressers, business minded, and smooth with the ladies. I have to admit, that was my first attraction to them. I should have fully entered the process then, but it was difficult to commute back and forth during the week from St. John’s University in Collegeville to the Twin Cities and keep up my grades.
Years later as a husband, father, and pastor, I found myself attracted to the Kappas for other reasons. I saw a group of educated and successful African-American men tutoring boys in the public schools, raising money for college scholarships, volunteering at the Special Olympics, and talking about the importance of church membership. This time I would make the necessary sacrifices to become a member of this special organization. It was not easy, but well worth it. And I need to say, I never compromised who I am in Christ.
Today in the Oakland Area I’m still very involved in Kappa. Volunteering in elementary schools, raising scholarship dollars, and helping at-risk youth. These are a few reasons why African-American fraternities are important.
I listened on Oprah radio (XM radio) to the last show. I have to admit that I wasn’t one who was glued to the television weekday afternoons over the last 25 years catching the over 4,000 episodes. I would watch every once and awhile, but I was very interested in this last show. I guess mostly for the historic moment of it all.
She stated that this show would be her love letter to those who have supported her all these years. From there she went into what I would call the Oprah Gospel; her good news to the world. I would sum this up into three areas-
1.) You have a calling. Find it and make a difference.
2.) You have the power to change a life.
3.) You are responsible for your own life. No one is responsible for you.
This is the foundation of the gospel according to Oprah. After that she spent time talking about energy, the golden rule to the 10th power, and other things that could be interpreted as new age. After listening to this, I wondered about Oprah’s connection to the black church, both good and bad. I wondered about her relationship to the church in general. To borrow number three in her gospel, she is ultimately responsible for her connection to God and the church. She is responsible for making the decision to follow God thru a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, or not. She is responsible for joining a church and participating in the local fellowship of believers, or not. But does the church itself carry some responsibility?
My take is, that to a degree, Oprah’s gospel is connected to her being bruised by the church and even abused by those who claimed to be carriers of the true gospel. During her 25 year run as a talk show host, Oprah has shared stories of abuse since her childhood by, “church-going, God fearing people.” This does not take her off the hook of responsibility, but it explains some things.
I began to wonder about all the people away from God and outside of the church because they’ve been hurt by the church and abused by Christians. I realize that the next line may get me in trouble. Are there times when the church and Christians have been abusers and maybe even oppressors? Is Oprah’s gospel connected to pain, abuse, or hurt by the church and Christians? It’s no excuse, but it might help to explain, in part, her gospel. It is interesting that her show ended with Aretha Franklin creating a church like atmosphere with her powerful gospel singing. No question Oprah seeks out a connection with God, but is it impacted by a disconnect from church based on some unfortunate childhood experiences? I pray that the love and grace of God found thru Jesus Christ continues to pursue the queen of the talk shows.
Last week there was an important meeting held between US President Barak Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. What the future holds for the Israeli and Palestinian conflict is unknown as well as what role the United States will play. Because of the prominence of Israel in the Scriptures, it makes sense for Christians to have much interest in this conflict as well as others in the Middle East. It is also important for our understanding to not be held captive and shaped simply by the political ideologies and divides of the United States. Many evangelicals are only able to see these issues thru the narrow lens of the political ideology of the Republican Party. I’m not suggesting at all that being held captive to the Democratic Party position would be any better.
If you want a different perspective on the Israeli and Palestinian conflict that will drive you to prayer and Scripture as well as provide some hope, I encourage you to see the documentary, Little Town of Bethlehem (WWW.LITTLETOWNOFBETHLEHEM.ORG). This film shows the powerful story of three men committed to non-violent strategies for solving this crisis which is impacting so many families. Speaking of families, that’s what makes this film so powerful to me. The story of the Israeli and Palestinian conflict is told from the vantage point of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim families who desire to see a peaceful solution to the conflict. Too many evangelical leaders are providing heated, uncivil, and biblically misinterpreted rhetoric on this subject. Little Town of Bethlehem will provide a much needed alternative for wrestling thru a very complex issue.
The main characters are Yonatan Shapira (Israeli Jew), Sami Awad (Palestinian Christian), and Ahmad Al’Azzeh (Palestinian Muslim). Based on media and politically driven depictions of the conflict you wouldn’t think that these three individuals would form this needed alliance for peace and reconciliation. The film begins by introducing these three leaders with a hip hop soundtrack in the background. They are taking great risks just to provide a peaceful solution to the crisis of their day. Their solutions should be heard by both Prime Minister Netanyahu and and President Obama.
When I was in college, I was moved greatly by the documentary, Eyes on the Prize. This film series told the story of the Civil Rights Movement and watching it changed my life on many levels. It played a role in my calling to Christ-centered, reconciling, multi-ethnic, and Kingdom-minded ministry. Little Town of Bethlehem has gripped me in the same way Eyes on the Prize did years ago. This film really is a must see for Christian leaders. I even highly recommend this film for small group ministry within local churches as well as forums focused on reconciliation and a global understanding of racial righteousness.
I introduce Post-Black Theology around the thesis that, there are theologies and ministry practices coming out of the Black Church in the United States of America that can be a gift from God to the whole body of Christ.
In an ever-increasing multi-ethnic and multicultural reality, the church in the United States of America is in decline and in crisis. Part of this crisis situation is that the church in the US is in captivity to modernity, a Eurocentric theology presented as normative theology, and the social construct of race.
A few years ago, I heard a European-American, evangelical denominational leader state that African-American ministers were the best positioned to lead evangelical, multi-ethnic, and missional churches. It was this statement that led to the explosion of the Post-Black theology within me. It is important for me to state that a Post-Black theology doesn’t call for the ending of the Black Church or Black Theology. It actually gives honor to the Black Church and Black Theology. It takes them out of the second-class citizenship and the marginalization that both the evangelical and mainline church traditions has placed upon them. I am a product of the Black Church and Black Theology. I even owe my ability to serve as a regional superintendent of a evangelical denomination to how God development me within the Black Church.
Post-Black Theology is a powerful, Spirit-led force for the development of Christ-centered, multi-ethnic, and missional ministry. One of the reasons for this is that successful African-American leaders have to learn to be bi-cultural and multi-ethnic in their thinking and social navigating. I know how to lead, communicate, and relate in various ethnic and racial circles. This makes me a Post-Black leader, but it does not dimmish my African-American identity. In other words, you don’t have to sellout to be a Post-Black leader, pastor, or theologian.
There are three theological streams which fuel Post-Black theology. One is Black Liberation Theology. This theological stream is focused on seeing the biblical mandates for addressing racism, oppression, and injustice. This stream also is about understanding that as Jesus walked the earth, liberation was a major act of His Kingdom proclaiming and performing mission. The words of Jesus in Luke 4 and Matthew 25 are helpful in understanding this stream. Jesus identifies with the poor, marginalized, and oppressed. You can’t separate salvation from liberation and justice. One pioneer of this stream is Dr. James Cone.
Another stream is Reconciliation Theology. This is about connecting the reconciling of people groups at odds with the significance of being reconciled to God thru Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ there is liberation, transformation, and a greater understanding of new life when enemies or those separated become brothers and sisters. Dr. John Perkins, one of the pioneers of this stream, developed the “3R’s”, of reconciliation, relocation, and redistribution. This triune strategy is about an incarnational and community development approach to evangelism and outreach.
The third stream is Missional Theology or a missional ecclesiology. This stream, though not introduced by African-American theologians and practitioners, is in need of African-American and other ethnic voices in order to truly have an impact in the present multi-ethnic and multicultural reality. Pastor Phil Jackson and myself attempted this in our book, The Hip Hop Church. Dr. Dan Hodges does this as well in his book, The Soul of Hip Hop. To me, an authentic Missional Theology is about theology, ministry models, and leadership development which equips the church to engage todays cultural realities for Kingdom advancement.
These are the three theological streams that I present to make up the development of a Post-Black Theology. From time to time I will offer more on this emerging theology.