Young Leaders: Here Are 10 Ways to “Lead Up” for Reconciliation and Racial Justice

My most recent article for Missio Alliance has been posted.

The concept of leading up within organizations is common. Leading up, when done well, benefits the entire congregation, as the insights and innovations of youth are brought into conversation with the foresight and wisdom of older generations of godly leadership.
This dynamic is important when it comes to racial reconciliation and justice, particularly among majority-white churches. Given the inertia of racial privilege and the insulating impact of racial segregation, these churches benefit from the idealistic voices of younger leaders. If these women and men can leverage their influence up the leadership ranks with wisdom and humility, the entire church stands to grow in racial reconciliation and justice.

Read the rest on the Missio Alliance site.

Un Documented .tv

My friend Matthew Soerens sent me an email yesterday about a new project he’s involved in, Undocumented.tv.  I’ve mentioned Matthew’s name before as the coauthor of the important book, Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion, and Truth in the Immigration Debate.  (See part one and part two of an interview about immigration with Matthew’s coauthor, Jenny Hwang.)  After the disappointment around the Senate’s failure to pass the DREAM Act it is encouraging to see that this issue will not be ignored in the coming months.

According to the website, Undocumented.tv is about,

creating provocative, response-oriented short films paired with specific social-action experiences. UnDocumented.tv will inspire churches and individuals to understand and enter the Immigration Reform conversation.  We will challenge our audience to move beyond any existing personal or media-driven bias and toward active involvement in social change.

The first film is set to stream release on January 17, but for now you can take a look at this short video description of the project.

How Do You Perceive Diversity?

David Fitch, author and professor at Northern Seminary, has posted some though-provoking thoughts and questions about intentionally diverse churches: “The Diversity We Seek: The Danger of Manufactured Pre-Determined Diversity.” Please take a few minutes to read the entire thing; in this post I’ll interact with just a couple of his points that are especially relevant for me these days.  Namely, how we majority-culture (white) folks perceive diversity within a church.

David differentiates two different ways those from his context- “middle class suburban (majority) white people with the comforts of education, stable families, homes and jobs”- think about diversity when it comes to starting a new church.  When thinking about planting a church in Waukegan, a city north of Chicago, diversity is perceived as those who are the most “other” than those planting the church.  The other area where David’s church is planning to plant a church is Hyde Park, my Chicago neighborhood.  Here diversity is seen the though the lens of race, ethnicity, class, education and the large variety of each of these categories.  David goes on to make some helpful observations about the benefits and pitfalls of planting a church in either of these areas.

As white folks consider participating in new, intentionally diverse, churches, it’s interesting to observe different ways the hoped-for diversity is perceived.  A few examples:

  • For some, diversity is most easily seen when a church is made up of those of different races.  Many within the majority culture have little connection with ethnic histories and traditions and thus a hard time seeing diversity beyond obvious racial constructs.
  • Class and (closely related) education divides are among the biggest obstacles to diversity within a church but receive less attention than race and ethnicity.  To my question about a particular church’s diversity, a friend answered, “The church is very diverse.  There are young, educated Asians; young, educated African-Americans; young, educated Latinos; young, educated whites.”  While class and race disparities are often related the overall picture is far to nuanced to solely focus on any one factor when thinking about diversity.
  • Related to David’s observations about Waukegan, some white folks understand a church to be diverse when it is made up of a certain type of person.  This representative can look many different ways, as long as they are noticeably other than the majority culture person.

All of these are limited, if understandable, ways of viewing diversity, especially as we consider the reconciling nature of the Gospel.  It matters how diversity is understood by those coming from the majority culture.  When we assume our view is shared by others, the reconciliation we experience will be limited.

How do you perceive diversity?  How much does your ethnicity/class/education/etc influences your perception?

I’d like to pick this up in the near future as there are a number of additional ideas and questions rattling around my head.  But I’ll leave it here for now, hoping you’ll chime in.

Mark DeYmaz Interview

Part One of my interview with Mark DeYmaz, author of Ethnic Blends: Mixing Diversity Into Your Local Church has been posted at Out of Ur.

Mark is the pastor of Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas and a major proponent of the multi-ethnic church movement.  Mark is also the author of Building a Healthy Multi-ethnic Church, a great introduction for those unfamiliar with the theology and history behind intentionally diverse congregations.

Flowers and Trash

One of the things our new church- New Community Covenant Church in Bronzeville– has said repeatedly is that we will exist for the good of our neighbors and neighborhoods.  In other words, our times of gathering together for worship are meant to align our minds and heart towards God so that we may be sent to participate in God’s mission in our city.

So it was no small thing for us to spend last Saturday, less than two months since our weekly services began, picking up litter and planting flowers at Drake Elementary where we hold our Sunday services.

While we got a lot of flowers planted and litter picked up, I’d be lying if I said we didn’t have a lot of fun as well.  Because we’re a new church it’s helpful to have chances like this to spend time getting to know each other, even while we take very small step in mission together.

Efrem Smith on Glenn Beck and Social Justice

Efrem Smith is a church planter, pastor, and now a superintendent in our denomination, the Evangelical Covenant Church.  He’s also a far too infrequent blogger.  A couple of days ago he posted a few thoughts about why Glenn Beck’s ongoing disparagement of social justice is a poor representation of historic Christian theology.

One of the hallmarks of evangelical theology is the authority and centrality of Scripture. The Scripture is full of Kingdom mandates from God that calls for a justice that goes beyond individualism. For those that don’t believe this is the case, they have to wrestle with the Exodus story as well as the book of Esther and the words of Jesus in Matthew 25, beginning with verse 31. This mission of God in the world includes salvation, which is individualistic in nature, but also includes what the corporate church should do concerning the widow, the poor, the orphan, the stranger, and the sick in society. The society makes up the social structures. This isn’t a political ideology, nor Marxist philosophy, this is the Word of God.

Not long ago I wrote that opposing Glen Beck and his opinions about social justice should not be mistaken for the genuine work of mercy and justice.  Pastor Smith writes not as a opinionated bystander but as one who pastors a church with a proven track record of working for the empowerment and protection of their city’s poor.  His perspective is worth considering closely.  Take a minute to read the rest of his post.

Segregated Churches and Immigration

My latest article for Out of Ur went up a few days ago.  In it I attempted to show how the critical need for comprehensive immigration reform offers the American church an opportunity to live up to our calling in some significant ways.  Given how polarizing these issues can be, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the (mostly) thoughtful comments left by that blog’s readers; a small sign perhaps of the growing conviction among Evangelicals of the pressing need for immigration reform.