a beautiful challenge to the Church

Not long ago I was lamenting out loud about all the splits and fissures in the Church, and the vehemence with which so many hold their positions. Stances are more important than community, dogma more important than people. How will Jesus ever make us one? He has prayed for this for us (John 17). A pastor friend replied, “Oh, in heaven, we’ll all be changed.” There we go. While it may have been obvious to many of you, it finally occurred to me that many in the Church lack a real vision for what the Kingdom of God looks like. No wonder so many get caught in trying to legislate the Kingdom, bringing in laws that will help to sustain the illusion of a righteous life, even while many others struggle out in the cold. The “Someday Kingdom” kills the Kingdom now. There is no vision for what a transformed heart looks like – one that finally, finally, after eons of trying to be God and building enmity between each other as a result, has begun to imagine love.

Well God is shaking up our nation, putting those who had been last, first and taking away the god we have served so long and so well – our economic power. There is fertile ground for the seeds of the true Kingdom to sprout, right now, on this day. Can we imagine what it might look like?

A Pastor in Houston can. Below is an email that we received from a conservative black pastor in our denomination. He’s calling us to something really important. His gracious words stirred my soul and broke my heart. He gives a beautiful challenge – an opportunity for bridge building, for real Kingdom love, for such a time as this. He also reveals the gaping wounds of what fear and hatred do to us.

Let’s do what he asks. It’s time.

(posted with permission)

November 6, 2008

To:  My Fellow Followers of “That Way”

From:  Rufus Smith, Pastor, City of Refuge Church (Houston, TX)

                As Chairman of the EPC’s Urban Ministry Network and the only black senior pastor in the Central South, may I ask you to consider pausing this Sunday or next to openly recognize the historic American election this past Tuesday? The question is not  whether you or I voted for President-Elect Obama or not, but the issue is the potential capacity of his election to expedite the erasing of the stain, stigma and stereotype in the collective soul and psyche of an indigenous ethnic group and a nation.

Whether you agree with the election results or not, on Tuesday, something happened in the minds and hearts of a significant percentage of African-Americans in your cities, towns and churches. For many whom we are trying to evangelize and disciple, please acknowledge in some way this political seismic shift, atmospheric meteorite and divinely permitted event (Ps. 75:1-6); to ignore it  with silence or inaction would be a setback and a squandered bridge building opportunity.  Make a phone call, send a note, visit the office, issue a statement or whatever else the Lord may lead you to do to some African-American pastor or leader in your community.  

As a Christian, I am NOT personally distracted from the first task of Glory to God via worship and making disciples of every ethnicity; for I deeply believe that our hope is salvation in Jesus not legislation through jurisprudence.  As an American, I am prayerful for my President Elect and push for his success (I Tim. 2:1-5 as I did for President George W. Bush); As a Black American, I am as proud as a prancing horse.

 I was very somber Wednesday. Quite unusual for me. It seemed surreal. Time stood still as I savored what had just happened in my beloved country, 388 long years after the arrival of the Mayflower, the glass ceiling and, I believe, a national curse had been broken.

 My 18year old daughter Rhoda called me at 10:45am on Wednesday in tears. 

 “Dad, she said, you won’t believe the stuff I am seeing and hearing…Please come get me”.  I warned her on our drive to school this morning of the backlash some would have today. Several of her classmates are dressed in black today to commemorate the destruction of our country and have hurled insults at her. She has been their classmate for 12 years at this highly esteemed Christian school. My wife Jacqueline went to share an off campus lunch with her, then take her back to school where she belongs to continue her maturation process.  I don’t fully blame the kids, but their behavior is indicative of the work we still need to do in our society, even among Christians.  We as elders know that the ultimate issue is sin not skin. I don’t expect those who are not black Americans to share the SAME EUPHORIC INTENSITY of this HISTORIC DAY as I do. They can’t.    At stake is how this atmosphere can be a time of bountiful harvest for the LifeGiver King  and how it can hasten the probability that inner city churches and multi-racial churches like City of Refuge can become commonplace in our children’s lifetime.

I trust that a sacred and civil dialogue can begin for some and continue for others. This time can be a Kingdom building opening for those of us who name the name of Christ and are Christians first, Americans second, and African-Euro-Asian-Latino, Native Americans third.



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  • Barb Dokter

    Galen and I saw the movie “The Express” last night. I went because it was Galen’s turn to choose a movie – way to go, Galen! I thought it was just another good, encouraging “football” movie but it was so much more. Check it out if you can.

    It seems God is weaving together these important moments (gatherings with friends, your blogsite, this movie, etc…) and we have a choice to live receiving His Grace as He gladly meets us there – such a freedom when we live “present” in each moment!

    His Spirit is tranforming us as we humbly submit to His work in us by the transforming and renewing of our minds. Kingdom thinking, I think…

    Thanks again for your words, Ellen.

    Love, Barb

  • ellenharoutunian

    So, my sweet and wise friend, why aren’t you blogging? 🙂

  • Todd Lowther

    The night of the election, I was quite disallusioned personally by the apparent ironic disconnect that Colorado had helped to elect the first African-American president while by a larger margin, turning its back on another disenfranchised group, those with developmental disabilities. But as I watched our next president, I felt a few lumps in my throat as he repeated, “Yes, we can!” I remembered the night as a college student learning that Martin Luther King had been assassinated. I remembered the candle-light march to the courthouse in my college town and that the next year, as a student teacher, I had played the famous MLK “I Have a Dream” speech in all my classes at a white suburban high school.

    “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

    I have a dream today!…

    And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:

    My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

    Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,

    From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

    And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true…

    And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

    Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

    Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

    Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

    Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

    But not only that:

    Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

    Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

    Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

    From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

    And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

    Free at last! Free at last!

    Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

  • ellenharoutunian

    We grieved on the loss of 51 too – it seemed like a no brainer to me – I have a developmentally disabled brother so I know how important these things are.
    But wow Todd, just wow. Thank you for bringing MLK’s amazing words. Truly, his work furthered the Kingdom of God.
    Looking forward to your book signing!

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