Posts Tagged ‘church’

The one thing that has been highlighted to me the most about our church closing is the 5th principle of emotionally healthy churches: Receiving the Gift of Limits.

I believe our whole society is in need of embracing this principle. We have been
saturated with the ideals of “bigger is better”. From supersized value meals to
huge expensive SUV’s we have been overwhelmed with the message that more is
always the right thing. We have been raised to believe like the US Army that we
can be an “Army of One” or have been serenaded by R. Kelly into believing that
we can fly. I have not been immune to this pervasive spirit of the age and only
now have come to a point in my life where I have begun to question, critique,
and ultimately reject it.

All of us as individuals have a God given capacity. This changes according to our life stage and situation and we must adjust to where God has placed us and the gifts and abilities that he has given us. It is up to us to discern our limitations and for me personally after seeing our church get evicted, over half of our leadership team operate in burn out mode, and experience numerous financial setbacks I had to face up to my limitations. For our church to continue would have meant that I dug in my heels and persevered for at least five more years. It would basically mean that we would have to start all over again. Not only was I not up to that task but the rest of our team was not up to that task. Many think the decision is not spiritual and we should have persevered but I think that to look at these things with a blind
eye and continue on is not only unspiritual but just plain stupid!

But receiving the gift of limits is not only for the times
of loss and defeat it is something that we must embrace throughout our
lives-especially in the times of success and abundance. These are the times
when we are most tempted to take on more than we can and to bite off more than
we can chew. This is the Achilles heel that I see for many in church
leadership. It all looks good on the outside but inside all of the duties and
responsibilities, the speaking engagements, and the limelight can be too much
and cause you to die on the inside.

I for one have realized that the senior pastor role has caused me to die on the inside. I have been in ministry for close to 10 years now and it finally hit me that I have spent most of that time feeling tied down with responsibility. When you are pastoring your main responsibility is to show up. When nobody else shows up you are supposed to show up. The problem is I have not always wanted to show up and it has worn me down. Sometimes I just want to take the weekend and go to Yosemite or go to a Les Nubians or Mos Def  concert. Sometimes I want to go to somebody else’s church. Sometimes I just want to divert my creativity to poetry and music. I have felt tied down for too long and I need some freedom. Some people do not need this much freedom and they have been blessed by God to stick with their congregation through thick and thin. This is not my gift. I actually like being around a variety of different people and speaking to different audiences. That’s why one of my future goals is to be a seminary or university teacher. You get a new batch every quarter or semester and they give you time to write and be creative.  It is just how I am wired and if I receive it as a gift it can probably lead to greater blessing than trying to fit the mold of others.

I have been busy with a crazy spring quarter but well…I had to say something. I am sure you are aware of the Eddie Long fiasco and his $25 million out of court settlement. Guilty. Obviously. The thing is I was sitting and thinking about how leaders keep falling in the Christian community and especially in the black community and I got a flash of insight into why it makes me so angry. What really ticks me off is not the fact that he is spending $25 million of the church’s money to settle a clear matter of his lack of integrity. What really ticks me off is not how that money could have been used to fuel opportunities for black innovation and investment. What really ticks me off about this is that it is another example of African Americans being too lenient on our leaders. Reporters are saying that New Birth is collapsing because of the situation and many are leaving and not giving money. But you know what??? He will still have a following! Why? We are too nice. And it’s not just in the church. We let people like R. Kelly off the hook and say things like “judge not or you will be judged” and “we fall down but we get up”. Sometimes we need to fall down and sit down for a while and get ourselves together!

We tolerate anything! We will let our leaders abuse us, manipulate us, steal money from us, and profit from our oppression. Some people say slavery is over but mental slavery is alive and well in the black community. This has me angry and fumed and filled with questions:

Do other communities tolerate this from their leaders?

Has there been a stream of folks defecting from New Birth or is it business as usual?

What is it about black folks that we tolerate this stuff? What is the primary cause?

Chime in and let me know what you think!

I just came back from the Vineyard National Leadership Conference and I have to admit that I have been struggling about my church affiliation. To be a part of the Vineyard as an African American man almost feels like treason to my race and also a long distance trip to Mars: very lonely. But as we drove to Phoenix and I wrestled with this issue I realized there was a reason why I wanted to be in the Vineyard and there are great things that people in the Vineyard have deposited in me. So here are seven things I have learned from being a part of the Vineyard:

1. How to pray for people effectively

2. How to think about the kingdom of God

3. How to embrace theological diversity

4. How to be authentic

5. How to think both/and

6. How to fail and still honor God in the process

7. How to appreciate good wine and beer 🙂

I think it is important to know why we are in a particular church or denomination (although the Vineyard is not a denomination 🙂 and to weigh those reasons against what makes sense biblically and practically. Some are in a particular church tradition because they inherited it from their parents. Others are in it because of a particular preacher or that’s all they know. What about you what do you appreciate about the tribe that you are a part of?

Ten years ago I experienced something that changed my life. Right about this time I would have been reeling from it and trying to process what I had just experienced. I had just returned from my first short term mission trip. Before this trip I had never been out of the country and only a few times out of the state. Many go on short term mission trips and say some of the same things but this trip was special and I was privileged to be a part of what God was doing in Ethiopia in the summer of 2000. Even though I am far away time wise and geography wise I still experience the sights and sounds of that trip and I believe it was powerful not just because it was a trip to a faraway exotic place but it was one of the most poignant glimpses of God’s kingdom that I have ever seen. It wasn’t really the actual trip but the people involved and I am forever grateful to be a part of that team. There are so many reasons why being on that team was so powerful for me but I can really boil it down to a few that I take with me wherever I go. It was a team that was powerful enough to embrace the diversity of the kingdom of God as we were comprised of caucasians, african americans, asians, ethiopians and even a mexican (shout out to Miguel!). It was powerful enough to display the unity of the kingdom as we united together for not only a common cause but common virtues of love, humility, and peace. Lastly it was powerful enough to demonstrate the reality of the kingdom as people witnessed our unity in diversity and we were known as Jesus’ disciples because of our love (John 13:35). Since then I have longed to see that kind of community in action and I’m glad to say that God has given me occasional glimpses along the way. Thanks alot Ethiopia 2000 Summer Project! Ten years ago in Whittier I had no idea that meeting you God would give me such a picturesque glimpse into his kingdom.

While there is controversy going on over the Arizona immigration bill I want to ask the question: What is the Christian response to immigration?

It is definitely a huge issue and touches on economics, language, culture, national identity and history. Some would actually say that they are followers of Christ and promote some of the views expressed here

Eugene Cho has a great video of Alabama governor candidate Tim James and his platform of english only driving tests. Check it out here

For me no matter how logical or rational it seems. It definitely just sounds mean and vicious. It sounds like the same crap that had my people in chains picking cotton. But that’s just my opinion 🙂

One of the things that we are trying to navigate as a community is how to effectively represent the different styles and ways that we express spirituality since we come from so many different cultures. It has not been easy as there are so many to choose from across the spectrum of the different races and ethnicities. Some are from a more pentecostal background. Others are from a more high church background. While still others are rooted in an evangelical heritage. Last night we had a prayer meeting and it was an experience of God weaving the unique spiritualities of our different cultures together into something more beautiful than they would be alone.

In that small space of time we got a glimpse of Revelation 5:9,10 as we prayed Korean style with everyone crying out to God in unison for the needs of our church. One of our leaders who is 1st generation Korean bowed down on the floor and prayed in korean. Several of our leaders exemplified a familiarity with God and the plain language that characterizes many protestant evangelical churches today. Finally I close out and shouted prayers to the top of my lungs pentecostal style while people exclaimed “Amen!” and “Yes Lord!” It truly was an amazing experience and I was grateful to be a part of it. God is doing something awesome among us and I know that he was pleased.

Yes I said it. I am still a part of the black church. But first I want to clarify what that means. I do not mean the black church in a local church sense but the black church in a philosophical/ideological sense. The black church was started as a way to affirm the culture and dignity of African Americans. It was a sign and an expression of freedom at a time where although politics, economics, and even sports were controlled by whites the one thing that was still the ownership of African Americans was worship! This is my culture and I have not left all of it in a particular locality. I take it with me into my small group interaction, my sermons, my mentoring times, my prayers. I cannot deny who I am especially as I am involved with a group of people seeking to create a third culture. My contribution is important.

Whenever you enter a cross cultural situation you cannot leave behind who you are. Most think that you have to become 100% Nigerian, Filipino, Chinese etc. to relate to people within that ethnicity and culture. The real fact of the matter is that is impossible to be 100% incarnated into a different culture. You would have to be born into the culture. I believe many are afraid to truly relate to others on a deep level because they fear their identity will be left behind. The truth is as Sherwood Lingenfelter says in his book Ministering Cross Culturally “the goal of every missionary and possibly every Christian should be to become a 150% person.” It means not to deny who you are but to become more than who you are by the give and take that you experience as you relate to others incarnationally.

So I am still part of the black church. What does that mean? It means that I still am in solidarity with all those who are oppressed and want the justice that God brings. It means that I release others to worship in the form that they want to worship in. At the same time it means that in whatever context my intonations of speech, circular method of preaching, crowd participation etc. etc. betray me like Peter’s Galilean accent betrayed him in Jerusalem. Yes I am still part of the black church.