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Archive for June 2009

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As we tackle the subject of racism head-on in our kingdom-color series, one important component is awareness. We need to become aware of the plight, history, mentality, and challenges of people from different racial backgrounds than us. For CCC, a primarily white church, that means understanding the mentality of other races.

This week, Ron Doetzler, of Abide Network, sent me this interesting albeit old (1996) article on racial reconciliation from a black perspective. It is quite provocative reading. Enjoy!

Been There Done That
By Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner (Winter 1996)

An old Negro Spiritual says, “Everybody talking about Heaven ain’t going there.” Well, everybody talking about racial reconciliation today is not doing it. In fact, many African American Christians today have a “been there, done that” attitude every time the subject is raised. When asked about racial reconciliation, they quickly say, “Don’t even go there.”

The clear but unspoken message from black Christians is, “It’s too painful, too much hassle, and I don’t plan to be the sacrificial lamb for somebody’s We Are the World, multicultural, diversity, African American celebration week, quick-fix project.”
These days, white Christians getting inspired to do reconciliation often wonder, “How come black folks aren’t showing up?” I believe there are four main reasons why many African American Christians don’t get excited about racial reconciliation today. And while there are no excuses for any Christian, black or white, to ignore God’s call to reconciliation, there are real obstacles. If true, biblical reconciliation is going to happen, both Blacks and Whites are going to have to understand these obstacles and work to overcome them.

REASON #1 Although there is much talk about diversity, multiculturalism and racial reconciliation, actual understanding between the races is at an all time low. Polarized views of Blacks and Whites about the O.J. Simpson verdict were the latest and clearest symbol of a growing antagonism between the races.

African Americans look out at a society that seems resigned to seeing twice as many black males end up in prison (800,000) than enrolled in college. To them, it is no coincidence that while the prison industry explodes, affirmative action, which most Blacks believe has helped many reach the middle class while hindering very few Whites, is being rolled back. The vast majority of black Christians who identify themselves as Democrats watch as millions of white Christian activists drive their Republican bandwagon head-on against homosexuality and abortion, but jump into reverse when it comes to fighting poverty or racism.

All of this appears as solid proof that the white community-including white Christians-really does not care about the plight of the black community. White Americans look like a single sea of unfriendly faces who would prefer that Blacks were not around. Many have even concluded that a truly reconciled America is Martin Luther King’s “never to be fulfilled” pipe dream.

REASON #2 Racial reconciliation sounds a lot like the failed integration of the 60’s. For too many African American Christians over age 40, racial reconciliation brings to mind the worst aspects of integration. Under integration, African Americans were required to give up too much of what is rich and beautiful about their own African-American culture, while Whites did not give up anything.

Many Blacks were taught that getting the right education, speaking properly, and mastering all aspects of white American culture would make them more accepted by Whites. They “Europeanized” themselves only to discover a painful reality.
They could change from a super charismatic Pentecostal to a more sedate Presbyterian; from Negro spirituals to Euro American religious anthems; from soul food to artichokes, quiche and asparagus; from Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin to Tony Bennett and Barbra Streisand; and even from an Afro to the straight look hair style. But in the end they were no more socially acceptable to white Americans, and were left alienated from many in the African American community. Blacks have grown tired of always being the ones who have to do the changing in order to make peace, and even then, meeting opposition.

REASON #3 Blacks fear losing the last truly African American institution-their churches. The black Church is one of the few institutions totally owned and controlled by African Americans. An estimated 65,000 churches, reaching 16 million people each week, are some of the few places African Americans can witness strong and dynamic black leadership at all levels, build social and leadership skills, advance their political and public policy interests, improve their communities, and reach inner-city youth and those needing financial help to attend college. At the same time, like nowhere else, they receive spiritual encouragement for the struggles of life. Indeed, the Church is our last and most important refuge of empowerment.

In the face of the serious moral crisis of black family break down, drugs, and crime, “reconciliation” seems like a strange diversion of precious energy and resources to a cause with little chance of success.

Surely reconciliation is a higher calling than separation, but not if that definition of reconciliation sacrifices the empowerment of African Americans. In the name of integration, Blacks lost many of the institutions that addressed their needs: businesses, self-help organizations, and schools. Can they trust the new form of “reconciliation” to address their needs and give room for black leadership? Past experience answers a resounding “NO.”

REASON #4 There is as much racial separation inside as outside the church. The black Church that we know today is a result of racism. The phenomenon of Christian racial separation was initiated by Whites during slavery, and continued after slavery when white religious bodies excluded African Americans or, with a few exceptions treated them as second class members. Today, even with the end of “Jim Crow” segregation, and with no legal barriers to working, living, worshipping, or playing together, African Americans and Whites operate in two almost totally and voluntarily separate worlds.

It is as though we worship two different Gods one black and one white, in totally separate worship environments. While Blacks feel they tried the racial harmony game, Whites have not demonstrated a willingness to come onto Blacks’ turf. We rarely get to know one another in our family and social settings. Only a handful of the more than 300,000 white American ministers can count a friend among the 65,000 African American ministers. Truly integrated churches, with different races sharing the leadership, worshipping, singing, studying God’s Word and praying together, are still a rarity.
In addition, many white Christians believe that a lack of personal prejudice is sufficient for reconciliation. They are unwilling or unmotivated to join with their black brothers and sisters in the fight against institutionalized racism. By remaining silent, they allow injustices in the social, political, economic and criminal justice realms in America to continue.

DESPITE THE OBSTACLES, THERE, IS A NEW BREED OF CHRIST-CENTERED RECONCILERS. It is tempting for Blacks to turn these sentiments into an obstacle course for Whites to pass through before joining them on the road to reconciliation. But understanding why we are not excited about reconciliation s

hould not become the same as excusing our lack of involvement.
Despite the obstacles, there is a new breed of African American reconcilers who have not forgotten that God doesn’t say “Obey me, but only if white folks change first.” In fact, God’s word demands much more. He says, “If you love me, then keep my commandments.”

These African American reconcilers are more Christ-centered than Christian. They understand that reconciliation begins with sinful men and women being brought into right relationship with God, and then moves to reconciliation with one another. They reject integration based on the world’s standards, but embrace biblical reconciliation based on the Word of God. They recognize the importance of partnering not only with Whites, but also with Latino and Asian believers to build up the body of Christ.

This new breed of Christ-centered African American reconcilers includes men like the late John Staggers, Samuel Hines and Tom Skinner. It includes men like Dr. E. V. Hill, John and Spencer Perkins, Raleigh Washington and Carey Casey. It includes women like Kay James and Dalenita “Vickie” Hines. These Christ-centered African American reconcilers continue to give their lives in building the Acts 4 body of Christ, made up of persons who “break bread, pray and spend time together, have everything in common where no one has a lack.”

In addition to this new breed of African American reconcilers, there is a growing new breed of white followers of Jesus Christ. They are partnering with African American brothers and sisters, building covenant relationships, living and working together in urban communities. They include men and women like Wayne Gordon and Glen Kehrein of Chicago; Chris Rice and Lee Paris of Jackson, MS; Patrick Morley of Orlando and Art Erickson of Minneapolis, MN; Bill McCartney of Promise Keepers; Louis and Colleen Evans and ex-Klansman Tom Tarrants of Washington, DC, Dee Dee Rivers of Annapolis, MD; and Rosemary Trible, my white, politically conservative, southern Republican covenant sister and friend.

These sisters and brothers and many others around the country understand that many white Christians have fallen short and many black Christians have a “been there, done that” attitude toward racial reconciliation. However, biblical reconciliation can begin between separated people who are willing to repent and practice true community.

© 1996 The Reconciler. This is a reprint of an article originally featured in The Reconciler. The Reconciler is published quarterly by URBAN FAMILY Magazine, Jackson, MS.

I was watching

Recently, I have observed various groups gathering around each other during difficult times.

At the Sarpy campus two weeks ago I saw three different individuals surrounded by friends. Individuals who were going through very difficult circumstances and feeling overwhelmed. These individuals were being prayed for by their friends, sharing tears, hugs and life together. They were looking to the future and trusting God to work.

With the deaths of Farah Fawcett and Michael Jackson I saw people huddled together at the hospitals where they died. However, these people gathered to talk about the past and how they had been personally entertained by these individuals. Nothing about the future but just about the past and about themselves.

Today I realize that if I had to choose between fame versus being surrounded by people praying for me….I choose prayer.

On the journey,
Steve Walters
CCC-Sarpy Campus Pastor

Leadership Summit

It is coming! August 6-7 is the Leadership Summit. For me, the leadership summit, is jet-fuel in my engine. I have gone every year for 10 years now. I never miss because God meets me there. I have leadership challenges to tackle every day, every month, every year. When I go, I am exposed to Godly, brilliant leaders sharing their best life lessons. The Summit makes me a better leader.

About 40-50 staff and leaders from CCC go every year. Kelle is coming. Elders are coming. I have brought hundreds of people over the years and have never heard a person that was disappointed. It is very inexpensive and it is local (Brookside Church). Speakers include Tony Blair, Bill Hybels, David Gergen, Tim Keller and others. Do you want to come?

It does not matter if your leadership is in the home, the business world, the church, or education. You will be a better leader by meeting with God and hearing brilliant leaders at the summit. If you want to sign up with the CCC group rates, call my assistant Jannie at 402-330-3360.

Some clips of this year’s speakers

God's Pain-relief Strategy

It would be one thing if God simply walked away from humanity when we spoiled his creation. Paul’s letter to the Romans shows us that in fact God had to give us over the consequences of our rebellion – but that he has done so only to a degree. Giving us over fully to the consequences of disobedience would be exaclty what we deserve. Hell is the cosmic trash-heap earth and all it’s broken reality could have wound up in. But he’s stopped short of that. He’s got something else in mind. But where does he start. This place is enough of a mess as is!

His strategy, in a word, is called Incarnation. Incarnation in a word means God showed his face at the scene of the cosmic disaster we refer to as The Fall (mankind’s plunge into self-willed rebellion). His ultimate solution? Go to ground zero and risk everything to clean it up. We’d all struggle with a God who simply sat in heaven and let our sin scarred planet rot under its own self-destructive impulses. Instead, God came here in the form of a vulnerable human being. In word, that’s the incarnation. And its a strategy he expects his followers to employ as well!

This week at Gathering we’ll turn the corner on our conversation about suffering and evil to look at how Jesus is God’s answer to the problem. John Parsons, director of the Omaha Street School will be our guest presenter. John’s a guy who understands God’s incarnational pain-relief strategy. Come give him listen, grab a lunch and join the conversation.

C.S. Lewis on Suffering & Evil


“Until the evil man finds evil unmistakably present in his existence, in the form of pain, he is enclosed in illusion. . . . No doubt Pain as God’s megaphone is a terrible instrument; it may lead to final and unrepented rebellion. But it gives the only opportunity the bad man can have for amendment. It removes the veil; it plants the flag of truth within the fortress of a rebel soul.”
The Problem of Pain p. 95

CCC hero!

CCC Hero!

Guess What? Last week, one of our very own from CCC became a bonifide hero in a drowning episode. Read the story of Brenna Bayliss here!

http://www.omaha.com/article/20090616/NEWS01/706169918

Open Doors in China

When God opens up a door like this you just have to walk through it. God is amazing, isn’t He? I never thought I would see China inviting Christians to influence their country in my lifetime, yet here we are, a congregation in the middle of America, invited to partner with CEOs and government officials to bring truth and life to China.

We will be able to walk through the front door, overtly be Christians, welcome people in Jesus name, put marriages together, love kids, teach English, develop leaders, study the Bible and grow people’s faith. Wow! Did you ever think this kind of thing would happen to us?

As many of you know, this is such a huge opportunity that we must include other churches, organizations and people. God is honored when we work together. We have commissioned Ian Vickers and Roger Atwood to lead the charge (much like the early church commissioned Paul and Barnabas). They, along with Don Swanson and many other CCC regulars, will invest in the effort to reach China. They will operate under the name of Global Partners in Hope.

I want them to launch well. We have been giving to them generously all along the way, but here at the beginning of Global Partners in Hope, lets pull together to help them out. If you have not been at services the past two weeks, there is a special offering for this opportunity in China this Sunday. We have a $25,000 matching gift, so if you give a dollar this Sunday it becomes two, ten becomes twenty, etc.

There is no pressure to give here. I’m asking you to pray about it and do whatever God leads you to do. May He be honored here and abroad!

Community

Community
Commune
Communism
Commotion
Commencement
Commensurate

I thought it would be fun to look in Webster’s dictionary to see how many words there are that start with “comm.” Lots.

What struck me was that the root word for these words is the word common. Common is defined as; “belonging to or serving the community, shared by a numer in a group, widely or generally known, found or observed.”

Now more than ever before I am seeing the importance of community. Being with others that have something in common. I have seen it neighborhoods, I’ve experienced it in athletics, and in life tragedies.

Recently, I know of two families that are living through the pain of children, one with a serious brain injury and another with a inoperable brain tumer. Both of these young men had these tragedies happen literaly overnight.

However, as I read their blogs and get their email updates there is regular references to the support they are getting from friends and family.

I don’t wish tragedy or trauma on anyone, but I do know you need to be connected with others and have community established now, so when you do go through a difficulty, you will have common friends to give you support. I encourage you as Pastor Mark stated in a sermon recently God made you to be on a Team.

So please get into community. Reach out and ask, organize your own Journey Group, volunteer to do set up or do ministry with others. Remember, God created us to be in community.

On the journey,
Steve Walters
CCC-Sarpy
Campus Pastor

BOG

Freshly redeemed lives. It makes my day. It makes my month. It makes my year.

I love seeing lives change. I love when someone moves from chains to freedom, from rebellion to worship. I love when someone discovers the awesome power of Jesus to make them new.

Nothing symbolizes this better than baptism. Baptism on the green happens on Sunday, June 28. It is my favorite event of the year because it is all about freshly redeemed lives. The party is at 5 on our soccer field, baptisms start at 6. Hamburgers, jazz band, and lots of freshly redeemed lives!

Whom have you invited to experience freedom and joy in Jesus lately?

The "Logical" Problem of Pain

Some may ask “Just what is the Problem of Pain?” Here’s a classic formulation of the problem of pain you’d find in any philosophy 101 class. It’s a good starting point.

1 – God exists.
2 – God is omnipotent (all-powerful).
3 – God is omniscient (all-knowing).
4 – God is omnibenevolent (all-loving).
5 – God created the world.
6 – If 1-5 are true, the world should not contain evil.
7 – The world contains evil, therefore God does not exist, or does not possess one or more of the above attributes.

Source: J. L. Mackie – Evil and Omnipotence, 1955

Seems pretty air-tight at a first glance. What do you think? If you’re a Christian reading this and you don’t have an answer to it, you’d better watch your words in a conversation about evil and suffering. Do us all a favor. Think it through before you glibly quote Romans 8:28 to someone in the middle of a painful experience. There is way out of the logical trap, but it’s not what you’d think at first.