Pulling back the racial curtain

The other day I visited a man in the hospital. He would have preferred a private room, but one was not available so he got the bed nearest the door in a two-bed room. A curtain separated the two patients.

The daughter of the man I had come to visit slipped her dad a note that informed him the other occupant was a black man. She didn’t do this because she had a problem with it; she did it because she knew her aging dad had racial views that had been birthed long ago in his past and had virtually no interracial relationships through the years to challenge those views. And, quiet simply, she feared he might use “the word.”

Gene, the white man, spent the night alone. Sometime about 4 a.m., the black man, Morris, left his side of the curtain and came to the side of Gene’s bed. The phone was ringing, and the white man had not wakened. Morris answered and told the caller that Gene was sleeping soundly and asked if the person could call back.

Morris was half the age of Gene, and the two men became friends of sorts over the two days they shared a room together. In essence, Morris looked after Gene. Both men liked to talk. By the end of their time together, the white man was getting the contact information of the black man.

It’s amazing what happens when two people, despite their differences, actually get to know one another. The differences that divide give way to the things that connect.

“I know nothing,” to quote Sgt. Schultz

When is not knowing better than knowing? Richard L. hester and Kelli Walker-Jones say it’s so when it comes to leadership. At least that’s what I picked up last night in the introduction to their book, Know Your Story and Lead with It.

The not-knowing approach to leadership is counter-intuitive to many people, but my experience is that there is real truth in it, especially when beginning in a new leadership position.

If I may translate the authors, they’re talking about the difference between a leader who thinks he or she knows what needs to be done as opposed to trusting the group to inform the leadership approach. It produces, the authors say, an “organic strategy” for leading a group.

This fits with my natural inclinations as a team-builder, but I find myself wondering if the people I have sought to lead would see me in such a way or not. Generally, no one likes a no-it-all or will follow such a person, but that’s how we often behave as leaders.

Holistic ministry on a napkin

I found a napkin this morning with some good words on them. I, unfortunately, do not know who spoke them so my apologies for the lack of attribution. Here are the notes:

In order to minister holistically in a fallen world…

1) You need a transcendent vision from God. … You must believe change is possible. … You have to have a vision that goes beyond captivity.

2) The vision must come in the midst of concrete historical reality. … It has to speak to your situation. … Context is the interrelated connections.

3) Prophetic integrity. … Sometimes you need to speak from the perspective of God to the structures of society.

4) Incarnational. … Ezekiel 3:13

5) Paradox in ministry (and I have no idea what this was about)

End of napkin. If anyone knows who is the source, please let me and anyone else who sees this know.

Williams-Skinner on CCDA’s future

During last month’s CCDA conference, Barbara Williams-Skinner spoke about the future of CCDA, and here are some of the highlights.

“We’re standing between a generation trapped in the past and a generation that wants to break free,” she said. The new generation does not want the old racial polarization of the past.

CCDA is in a growth mode, but Williams-Skinner said, “We’ve got to move throm this mountain where we’re standing.” She cited Moses in Deuteronomy 1:6-8. She derived three points from that text. Here’s a summary, generally in paraphrase form:

1) Break camp. We’ve gotten settled into our churches. … The world doesn’t know that we love Christ by the way we love each other. … The best place to connect with people in in worship because there we are all equal.

“We need each other more than we know we need each other.” … Break camp from the world’s definition of success, from the past, from our own ethnic church tradition.

“You cannot mentor people into your fear. You have to mentor them into your freedom.” [I love that.]

2) Move up. Poverty is a stronghold. … You can’t get out without a prayer life. … Our prayer life has to change. … Our language about one another has got to change. … We need to be talking as brother and sister, … hanging out together. … Relationships have to look like the kingdom. … Practice right now what we’re going to be doing in heaven. …

3) Possess the land. We need to be involved in all aspects of society, including politics and business. … Racism, poverty and violence will be affected only by our service. …

Meeting John Perkins

I’m new to the Christian Community Development world. I had heard John Perkins’ name, but I hadn’t heard him speak. Finally, I did at CCDA’s conference in Cincinnati.

On the opening night he said, “This congregation here tonight looks like America.” And it did. There was no dominant racial, ethnic, gender or generational group. It was amazing.

“We are developing a post-racist group of people,” Perkins said. What an exciting possibility.

The following morning, my 12-year-old son, Cameron, and I were riding up an escolator when someone behind us spoke to my son. It was John Perkins. He treated Cameron like the most important person in the world.

I fell in love with John Perkins those days in Cincinnati. Every time he spoke, he stirred my spirit. And the way he conducted himself with my son confirmed the great spirit that he possesses.

Texas is too hungry

I eat breakfast, lunch and dinner virtually every day; and I often throw in some snacks, as well. Most Americans do likewise, but many do not. And Texas is near the bottom of the U.S. barrel when it comes to hunger. We are second only to Mississippi in the degree of “food insecurity.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture describes food security as having “consistent access to enough food for active healthy lives for all household members at all times during the year.” I’m food secure, and most of you reading this are food secure, as well. But since we’re Jesus Followers, we have a mandate to care for the 17 million U.S. households (14.6 percent) that cannot count on getting their next meal, much less a nutritious one.

Texas Baptists are in the midst of a broad-based effort to end hunger in Texas by 2015. It’s amazing what has been done this past year through the leadership of the Christian Life Commission’s Suzii Paynter, the Texas Hunger Initiative’s Jeremy Everett and others. The state is becoming organized to deal with the problem of hunger as never before. Giving to the Texas Baptist Offering for World Hunger is on the rise and, therefore, more projects in Texas are being funded.

Dealing with the hunger problem in Texas is the key component of the Care aspect of Texas Hope 2010. I’m so proud of how Texas Baptist churches and individuals are stepping up to the plate (no pun intended) to make a difference in regard to such a critical need. And, as we are seeking to deliver people from hunger, we are introducing them to the ultimate deliverer, Jesus Christ.

If you and your church are not on board yet, I encourage you to pray about how you will become involved. More ways of involvement are going to be emerging, but you can start immediately by giving online to the hunger offering at <a href=”http://www.bgct.org/texasbaptists/Page.aspx?&amp;pid=5585″>www.texasbaptists.org/worldhunger</a&gt;. The hungry people of Texas need us.

(Originally published by me on the We Are Texas Baptists blog on this date.)

Praying Houston

Walking with a band of believers through the streets of downtown Houston, I feasted on a wonderful sound. It was kind of a reverse take on the Pentecost experience of Acts 2. In that biblical story, people of varied tongues heard each other in their own. In Houston, the people were all from one place but speaking a variety of languages — in a group of only about 75 people.

This group from throughout metropolitan Houston “prayer walked” through the business district of downtown Houston. They were among three such groups, the others going to the criminal justice and compassion districts.

There was no majority ethnic group, nor could I detect a dominant denominational group. They had only one obvious thing in common: They called Jesus Lord and desired that others in Houston know Him.

Prayer in an open, public place on a gorgeous fall day is food for the soul of the one who prays, and who knows what good might be wrought by those prayers.

It, quite simply, was the perfect way to launch the two-week CityReach effort leading up to Texas Baptists’ Annual Meeting Nov. 16-17 in Houston. Now, across Texas, we can join them in prayer for this largest of our cities.

(Originally published by me on the We Are Texas Baptists blog on this date.)