Archive for the ‘From the Trenches’ Category

A Useful Practice

March 29th, 2009 by Karyn Hanson

I refuse to allow shallow information and stereotypes to rule my thinking and actions. ¬†I have seen prejudice and racism do too much harm to the people I love. ¬†I participate in cultural competency activities at work, in “RECONCILE” at church, in Restorative Listening sessions in the community, and I pray and I study. One of the practices that I have developed out of all of this is an exercise I do while I walk around downtown during my work day.

Whenever I see a person, I watch what my brain comes up with about that person based on their appearance and situation and then I do a complete 180. If I see a dirty homeless person, I allow my thoughts to go where they will and then I tell myself a story that is the opposite. ¬†I tell myself that I am looking at an attorney who may have suffered a stroke. ¬†If I see a bleached blonde with seemingly enhanced body parts, I let my mind wander to how I feel about disempowering images of women; but then I tell myself that she is an ordained minister. ¬†If I see a shiny-shoed, diamond-sporting, pin-striped suit on a white gentleman, I tell myself some story about his vulnerability. ¬†I am trying to combat shallow information and stereotypes. ¬†I remember that each person I see is a person whom God persistently pursues to reconcile to himself and that my interaction with each one of them is part of this pursuit. ¬†I do this so that when I look them in the eye they don’t see a prejudgment of themselves in the reflection. ¬†I hope instead that they see a look that eagerly searches their eyes for a connection with my God.

I do this so often that it has become second nature to me. ¬†One Friday night a couple weeks ago I was walking to the parking structure where I park my car. ¬†There were two young Black men standing outside the doorway to the stairwell. ¬†They were dressed in gang style.¬† This is one stereotype that is easy for me to resist because I have five Black grandchildren who often sport the gang style that is sold to children on TV and the radio. ¬†I looked the young brothers in the eyes and said “Hello” and walked past them. ¬†They folded in behind me very close and followed me up the stairs. ¬†I turned and caught a look on one of their faces. ¬†It said, “I am about to do something violent.” Everything happened in a split second. ¬†I heard my husband’s voice in my head. ¬†He said, “OH H—L NO!” ¬†I turned and pushed through them with a loud “Excuse me!” and I was out on the street again. ¬† I walked and walked, trying to process what had happened.

What happened was that my reality trumped theirs.  If I had walked into that situation with a mind controlled by stereotypes I would have been scared. The power that they were trying to exercise would have had its way.  Like a marble rolling downhill, I would have been controlled by my fear and I would have been a victim.  Instead there was a loud crash between how I chose to think of those kids and how they chose to think of themselves.  That crash was like a switch that turned on and gave me the energy and courage to push my way back out onto the street. I was not a victim that day, but more importantly, those beautiful young brothers did not get to be gangsters that day.  They had to look elsewhere for power.

I think I will continue my practice.  It is a useful practice.

Your Will Be Done

March 20th, 2009 by Kevin Rogers

 A Reflection on Ethnic Division and Reconciliation Within the Church

Witnessing Racism

I’ve witnessed racism. I’m sure of it. I’ve had in-laws drop racist jokes in my lap and been faced with the awkward scenario of whether or not to laugh. Yet if I’m honest I have to admit that I probably don’t recognize the racism I witness on a regular basis. My pastor calls this “passive racism.” I’m sure I witness it. I’m sure I’m guilty of it. And I hate it.

Racism is division. Whenever there is a racist thought or action (whether explicit or implicit) there is an implied “us” and “them.” This assumes a distance between the two. Division. When I read God’s word, it is full of division. But this was not part of God’s plan in the Genesis story. And this is not a part of God’s plan in the redemption story. We live between two bookends of perfection, and unfortunately division is part of the church. Sunday mornings truly are still one of the most segregated hours of our week. I witness it. I’m guilty of it. And I hate it.

My Story

I was raised in the university town of Davis, California. The university drove the culture of the town, and it was therefore very ethnically diverse as it drew professors and students from around the world. I experienced a wide range of diversity in the classroom all the way through school. Many years Caucasians made up less than half of my classes. Living in the midst of ethnic diversity was normative for me.

One of my first best friends in elementary school was Reza. He is from Iran. My best friend in middle school was Albert. He is from Korea. My best friend in high school was James. He is Chinese, and now lives in Taiwan. Thanks to facebook, I am still connected with Albert and James.

I began my college education in Humboldt County at College of the Redwoods. I played basketball from junior high school through community college. Many of my best friends were African American. I still have a deep connection to hip hop culture that was planted in me during these years. I finished up my undergraduate education in San Diego at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. My first roommate was Armando, a huge Mexican guy with a mean, imposing presence and a heart of gold. I learned much of Hispanic culture from him, and from the overall culture of Southern California.

After college, I got married and moved to the Bay Area. More specifically we moved to the west valley of the South Bay, which has a huge Asian population. I coached high school basketball for two years at a high school where over 50% of the students were Chinese. I was a youth pastor at the time, and our church hired a Chinese pastor with the intention of integrating our cultures. We viewed it as two congregations within the same church. There were English services, Chinese services, and joint. It was not perfect, but it was a good experience and I witnessed an authentic attempt to bridge an ethnic divide.

Meanwhile, back home in Davis, my parents’ church had closed its doors after a long run. My parents and a couple other Caucasian families chose to plug into the Chinese church in town. My dad had developed a good relationship with the pastor there, and they were struggling because they had a huge heart for evangelism and had only Chinese people coming. This caused problems. For example, their Chinese college students had a very difficult time inviting friends of other ethnicities to events or services. My dad eventually became an elder there, and helped lead various ministries. It was a beautiful picture to me. Rather than choosing affinity, my parents chose openness to how God wanted to use them.

All of that brings me to my move to Portland. This move was the biggest culture shock of my life. I remember reeling for several months, along with my wife, about how “white” Portland seemed. Was this the case? Or was it just more segregated than anywhere we had ever lived? Either way, we were uncomfortable. My wife had just finished directing a preschool in the Bay Area with at least a dozen ethnicities represented. She accepted a job in Portland and the entire class was Caucasian. I remember many talks with her as she grieved the loss of different ethnicities, and the education that multiple cultures brought to the classroom. I have to reflect long and hard and ask if I’ve been blinded to the ethnic division in Portland over the past 8 years. I’m not shocked by it anymore. I don’t find myself even noticing it much. I don’t find myself being proactive about this issue in my culture, or in my church. This has begun to mess with me.

Moving Forward

God’s desire for the church is that there would be no division. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he prayed “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). Jesus is praying for the Kingdom of God to break in. Why would he pray this unless it was possible? Why would he pray this unless it was the expectation? Part of God’s revelation to John is that every nation, tribe, and language would praise God together (Revelation 7:9). This is the final bookend. This is the Kingdom of God that Jesus prays will be ushered in on earth. Why would we not pursue this?

My Prayer

Heavenly Father, I confess that I have not pursued your Kingdom in its fullness in many arenas of life. Specifically, I confess that the issue of division within the church has gone largely unnoticed by me for too long. Please forgive me. I choose to repent, and make this a priority in my life. I surrender to you my time and my influence. Take all of who I am, and use them for your glory.

Heavenly Father, I don’t have the answers for such a systemic, overwhelming problem. But I believe you do. And I believe that you choose to use your people as a part of your mysterious Kingdom in-breaking. Thank you for bringing people to Imago Dei Community who care about this issue. Help me to learn from them. Thank you for burning upon their hearts to create a ministry, “Reconcile,” to address this problem. Help me to be a support to them. And thank you for your continual transformational work among all your people at Imago Dei. Help us all to desire that your kingdom come, and your will be done. Help that desire lead to decisive action so that there would be no racism among us, and therefore no division marring your bride. We need you. I need you.

Kevin Rogers

Pastor of Community

Imago Dei Community, Portland, Oregon

From The Trenches: Three Village Church

January 22nd, 2009 by admin

Here’s a note recently received from Matt Woodley, lead pastor at Three Village Church on Long Island. ¬†What do you think of what he talks about?

This issue [of race and class divisions] has been very heavy on my heart lately. We have a little AME church around the corner from us that we have almost no connection with. ¬†I met with the pastor and tried to set up some mutual events, but he didn’t seem interested. ¬†So I talked with a friend of mine over there and he said, “Well, why should he want to do stuff with your big white church? ¬†We always invite your church to our events – MLK, Jr. celebrations, our annual harvest dinner, our annual fish fry, etc. – but you never come. ¬†So why should we start coming to your events? ¬†Just show up and start getting to know us.” ¬†Wow, that was good advice! ¬†So that’s what I’ve been doing, and I like it.

From the Trenches: Westgate Church

January 13th, 2009 by admin

Our church joined thousands of other churches this Christmas for an “Advent Conspiracy.” ¬†We intentionally went after the topic of consumerism and how it was changing the whole intention and meaning behind Christmas. Consuming Jesus was one of the primary books that helped expose me to the depths and the seriousness of the consumer culture in our church and the need to step forward in changing this trend. I am so grateful for the information of this book and how God used it in our community to spur us on to love and good deeds.

Our community raised just under $40K dollars that will be given away to meet basic needs of shelter, water and food. This does not count several thousand more that families elected to give in their own name towards humanitarian relief somewhere in the world. Thanks Paul, for your work and the effort to couch the issue biblically and convincingly. It was a timely nudge in the hands of the Holy Spirit to move us towards “taking back” OUR HOLIDAY!

Steve Clifford
Lead Pastor, Westgate church
San Jose

    Drum Majors Re-cap

    November 28th, 2008 by Kelsi Johns

    The ¬†2-day “Drum Majors for Love, Truth and Justice” conference on November 20-21st led by civil rights leader Dr. John M. Perkins and Dr. Metzger addressed various issues to inform, encourage and challenge church leaders towards a theology of engagement, holistic participation in¬†the gospel and redemptive reconciliation. Perkins, Metzger¬†and¬†the community leaders¬†who joined them for panel discussions¬†offered meaningful reflections that helped those gathered to keep marching forward to the beat of a different drum in community development work.¬†We are witnessing today the need to break through social comfort zones and develop true community that takes us beyond¬†simple acts of charity and affinity groups.

     

    ¬†In the first session¬†entitled “The Need of the Hour,” Metzger and Perkins discussed the need for raising up leaders and churches whose concern for the poor far outweigh their own self-concern.¬†In the second session, Dr. Metzger challenged us with the statement that, “none of us are free if one of us is chained” (referencing a Lynyrd Skynyrd song). We have a hard time sensing that we are bound up together in solidarity with one another for good or for ill. In the third session, Perkins addressed the three r’s of his community development model: relocation, reconciliation and redistribution. The second day of talks focused on spiritual formation and building a network of ministry and service partnerships where the church of the greater Portland-Metro area learns how to work with others toward helping people in community own the pond together.

     

    This all requires a genuine paradigm shift. Right now, we live in a culture that tells us to congregate with those we like. We are often encouraged¬†to sacrifice little and gain much. We are sometimes told to take back America and take out¬†our enemies. But the gospel paints a different picture. And it is one that we, facing 21st century challenges, are called to respond to and participate in. ¬†Christ has called us to join him in his grand narrative of identifying with “the least of these.” But how do we get beyond¬†the brokenness, the individualism, the segregation, the gentrification to respond holistically and redemptively, struggling for solidarity with others through our union with Christ Jesus?

    Drum Majors for Love, Truth and Justice Event

    November 16th, 2008 by Bryan Dormaier

    There is an upcoming Drum Majors for Love, Truth and Justice event in the Portland area, on November 20-21.  Dr. Paul Louis Metzger and nationally acclaimed civil rights leader Dr. John M. Perkins will be leading this event, offering a biblically rooted message about the theology of engagement for running a marathon race of holistic gospel service.  This conference is open to anyone interested in developing a theology of engagement for a lifetime of service.Check out the Drum Majors Event Details for more information on this event!

    Compassion Connect

    September 3rd, 2008 by Milan Homola

    Is it possible to be consumed without knowing it or acknowledging it?….I think YES.¬† God has proven to be a God who upholds promises even when I was unaware that I was part of the promise.¬† The promise was that I would sacrifice my deep selfish desires of BEing somebody in order to SERVE somebody else, and in so doing be a part of sharing God’s love with people face to face in many different ways.¬† I’m not someone who is specially called in a way that others are not…I’m just listening and seeing what God is doing.

    God has taken a hold of me as opposed to me taking ahold of God.¬† In 2005 I moved to Portland and I’ve seen some amazing times of service in the name of Christ, which has brought some horrible times of pride, selfishness, etc. Nevertheless, I press onward in the knowledge that I’m serving God and working through the ugliness.¬† I’m a pastor for Clear Creek Community Church.¬† This small church has made an incredible advancement in God’s kingdom because it understand the principles of selflessness and serving Christ/Community.¬† In 2006 a couple of us got together because we had a vision….What would happen if churches united to provide free health care to our neighbors who can’t afford it?¬† Compassion Rockwood, a free medical/dental/vision etc event, was born and has since grown to include dozens of churches and serve hundreds of people.¬† One doctor was so moved by what he saw he quit his practice and started a full time “patch adams” clinic in Rockwood.¬† This event has served nearly 1,000 people and has now spread all over the city of Portland.¬† More importantly it has revealed the Kingdom of God to civic leaders and social service leaders.

    It is because of this revelation that Clear Creek Community Church has been contacted by many different leaders from city, school, newspaper when help is needed.¬† One significant call came from the assistant DA who asked if the church could do anything about the worst corner in the city of Portland, in regard to crime rate.¬† It also happens that God placed my wife and I in an apartment on that exact corner 1 year prior.¬† We decided we would go out on the corner every friday night to LISTEN.¬† We put up signs: “free hot chocolate”, “free chili”, “Tell us Your Story”¬† We have been there friday nights since Oct. 07.

    On that corner I understand the principles of being consumed by the love of Jesus…I have to drop my ego, I have to reach out to the broken hearted, and I have to go beyond the “comfort zone.”¬† The people know we are there and they can rely on us to listen to them all the while “speaking” the love of Jesus into their hearts.

    This is a small speck of what God is doing in the lives of those who give of themselves as a lifestyle….and I know if you are reading this you are probably in the same boat.¬† This means our responsibility is to call others out of the wilderness and into the promised land…some may call it the “trenches” others may call it “home” either way Jesus invites us there.¬† If you are interested in uniting churches to serve their community please join me on my journey.
    www.compassionconnect.com   www.clearcreekpdx.com


    Your Brother in Christ,
    Milan Homola

    New Community Covenant Church

    August 4th, 2008 by David Swanson

    Recently my wife and I moved from Chicago’s western suburbs into the city. We lived in the suburbs for eight very good years. For five of those years I was an associate pastor at our church. While the church exhibited some socio-economic diversity, like most churches in the western suburbs it lacked noticeable ethnic diversity. Two years ago some friends of ours who pastor a church in Chicago asked if I would consider joining their pastoral staff. Their invitation was especially intriguing because New Community Covenant Church was founded six years ago as a multi-ethnic congregation.

    I won’t bore you with the two years it took to finally accept their invitation. Suffice it to say that though we had never felt at home in the suburbs, leaving our community there was one of the most difficult things my wife or I have ever done.

    I am now a few months into my new assignment as Pastor of Community Life at New Community and am convinced that the move into Chicago was the right thing. That is a great feeling! While transitioning into my new position I was reading Consuming Jesus. It was encouraging to read the book and notice all the ways that my new church was intentionally pursuing many of the things Paul Metzger articulates in the book. For example, for the past five weeks the church has gone through a sermon series called Race Matters. During this series the congregation has seen how reconciliation is at the very heart of the Gospel. We have been challenged in very practical ways to acknowledge the active or passive racism in our lives. In a couple of weeks we will offer breakout session for the black, white, Asian, Latino, and international folks in the congregation. Led by trusted facilitators, these sessions will be a time where people can be brutally honest as they confess, ask questions, and vent their frustrations.

    In my role as Pastor of Community life I am responsible for the church’s small groups. One of the tricky things about New Community’s small groups is working towards diversity in our groups. I am finding that as new people wish to join groups I have to work closely with the small group leaders to find a group where the new person will experience the diversity that is so important to us.

    Consuming Jesus addresses something that will be important for our church to continually be vigilant of: the affect of consumerism on racial reconciliation. Our church is mostly made up of young professionals, many who are making plenty of money. As we continually cast a vision for multi-ethnic and missional community that seeks to bless our city, we are aware that this regularly goes against the dominant paradigm of the city. We are currently raising money to lease a warehouse in the most troubled corner of our neighborhood. In addition to worshiping on Sunday mornings, this warehouse will allow us to have an incarnational presence in this neighborhood seven days a week. I am hopeful that as we ask the congregation to sacrificially give to this aspect of our mission we are also challenging patterns of consumption. Our presence in this under-resourced neighborhood will also make it clear how important socio-economic diversity is to the health of our church.

    The type of reconciliation articulated by Paul Metzger is a lot of work! The divisions, skepticism, and complexities run deep. But after just a few months in a congregation who understands the significance of Gospel reconciliation I know there is nowhere I’d rather be.

    David Swanson is the Pastor of Community Life at New Community Covenant Church and blogs regularly at http://davidswanson.wordpress.com.

    Bethany Evangelical Free Church

    July 20th, 2008 by Kevin Navarro

    Bethany Evangelical Free Church in Littleton, CO has been on the missional church trajectory since 2004. Yet it was only in 2007 that we had significant progress. Through demographic research (Percept Studies and Caleb Project’s Crossing Cultures), we discovered that North Littleton (Broadway to Santa Fe, Littleton Blvd. to Belleview) contains one of the largest constituencies of Hispanics in the state of Colorado (69% Hispanic in contrast to 3-5% Hispanic of surrounding communities). This community is only one mile from the church I pastor, Bethany Evangelical Free Church.As the result of this information, we decided to further survey this community. We reserved Powers Park in North Littleton one Saturday during the month of May in 2007 and hosted a Fiesta in the Park. We served hamburgers, green chili, distributed Mothers Day presents, played Latin music and used a simple questionnaire surveying the basic needs of the people.During this time, God graciously sent us a Hispanic pastor with a core group of twenty five Hispanics looking for a facility. God was graciously honoring the small steps of faith Bethany was taking. Not long after this May 2007 event, Vida Nueva Para Denver started, which is Bethany’s Spanish speaking church. ¬†There are currently ten nations represented including Mexico, Spain, Puerto Rico, El Salvador, Columbia, Venezuela, and Argentina.Not long after starting Vida Nueva, which meets in the Underground Worship Venue at Bethany at 10:45a.m., we also started a Multi-Cultural Adult Bible Fellowship. This provided an initial place for integration of English and Spanish speakers. Pastor Francisco Mendez runs this Adult Bible Fellowship in both languages. We also started a multi-cultural service every six weeks including the two services of Bethany Evangelical Free Church and Vida Nueva. Lastly, Pastor Francisco Mendez has a radio program on Tuesdays at 2pm on a local Hispanic AM radio station in the Denver area.Then God blessed us when Alejandra Harguth met Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior through Pastor Francisco and Vida Nueva last September 2007. Alejandra just so happens to be the Director of the Littleton Immigration Initiative in Littleton, CO. She is a gatekeeper into our community. Not long after Alejandra’s conversion, she asked if we would host ESL (English as a Second Language) classes in conjunction with Bemis Library. Our response was, “This is what we’ve been praying for, for the last couple of years. We would love to host ESL classes on Tuesday and Thursday nights.” Bethany now has vibrant initiatives reaching Hispanics in our community.I must say, God is honoring our simple steps of faith. Honestly, we have no idea what we are doing other than ¬†becoming like Christ in character and in priorities. Since starting Vida Nueva, Bethany now has a Philippino bible study on Thursday nights, an Asian constituency (including a Japanese band that led Vida Nueva recently) and an African American constituency coming to Bethany. Building a bridge for Hispanics was building a bridge for all ethnic groups in our experience. Our prayer is that Bethany Evangelical Free can become a living testimony of a church that transitioned from an inward programmatic mono-cultural Evangelical church to a congregation that is aware of and evangelizing the culture of the surrounding community.Pastor Kevin J. Navarro

    New Category

    July 20th, 2008 by Bryan Dormaier

    We are going to be introducing a new category to the Consuming Jesus blog.¬† This category is titled “From the Trenches,” and will give us an opportunity to hear from pastors and practitioners that are active in engaging in the ideas presented in the book.¬†¬† We hope that it will be another good way to spark discussion about how Jesus’ consuming love calls us to address these race and class issues in the church.