Equipping Your Reimagine Journey
Conversation with Constructive Catalyzing Consequences
Jarvis Ward / PEARSON Foundation; Citywide Catalyst
This is my response. This is my counsel.
This will make a lot more sense to those who know, by saving faith, Jesus Christ; perhaps not those who just know about him, or who do not want to know about him. But it is also for those who are willing to work with followers of Jesus Christ.
White servants of Jesus Christ/disciples/followers must take the initiative and must lead in this sacrificial and compassionate culture change for righteousness and justice while working closely with African Americans and other minorities.
Those white Christians will be willing to do it because they are walking with God, conscious of the fact that they are serving him, and that they and all that they have belongs to the Lord and they are willing to lay it all down for the purposes of righteousness and justice to the honor and glory of the God of righteousness and justice. Again, White Christians, servants of Jesus Christ, disciples, Christ-followers must take the lead.
They must leverage the privilege, influence, access, and opportunities this centuries old United States structure has afforded them to affect catalyzing culture change for African Americans resulting in racial and economic justice and reconciliation. White Christians must actively ask where are the people and the places that have been neglected and deprived of the resources: economic, health care, education, justice?
How can White Christians use their influence to apply the Zacchaeus principal to these people and places who suffer from racial and economic injustice?
Example: How different would it have been in the Twin-Cities and around the U.S., if 100 predominantly white congregations (immediately following the killing and other killing in the past) had reached out to 100 predominantly African-American, Somali, Hmong, and Hispanic congregations asking them to come join them in a process of peaceful and sustained protest and to develop and do a culture change plan for how to bring racial and economic justice throughout the twin-cities?
It did not happen. But it still can - Across the United States.
Racial and economic justice and reconciliation action steps and considerations:
1. White Christians must take the initiative to meet with African Americans and other ethnic and racial minorities and find out from them where the points of pain are, where the places of pain are, who are the people in pain and who and what are causing pain and trauma in their communities?
2. While meeting with African American, ask what they believe the solutions are to remove and heal the pain and trauma. (Take good detailed action step notes.)
3. As White Christians begin to act and engage, do an assessment of Who can you bring to the table, what can you bring to the table, when can you bring it to the table, how do you get it to the table, why would you bring it to the table to positively address the healing of the pain and trauma that can produce positive culture change, systemic change that can be sustained within the next 30 days, 90 days, six months, nine months and one year.
4. Actively look around your county or community and seek out the intersections of racial and economic injustice and identify what you and your network of relationships and resources can positively change.
5. White Christians, along with your African American neighbors, answer the questions as to why white structures “do not, have not”? Individually, ask yourself what can I do and then what can we do to affect positive culture change for racial and economic justice and reconciliation?
For example: In the city of Pearl we have never had an African American or ethnic minority hired as a department head. That has not been an accident. Why have all the positions been filled with “qualified people” in these departments “who look like all the other people in power”? Why do the sanitation workers sweep up trash that they spill when emptying in white neighborhoods and leave it in African American neighborhoods?
Why did the interstate have to go through the African American neighborhoods around the nation? Why did 95% of the federal and state monies for the last 75 years go to white communities and business development? Why have we prosecuted African American more severely than whites? Why have white Christians allowed prosecutors to build their careers and political ambitions on this evil and unjust action and practice? Why have white Christians allowed leaders in their neighborhoods and congregations to go unchecked, unrebuked, and unprosecuted for racial and economic injustice?
Where are there medical/health and hospital inadequacies in your city, county, or state that you can leverage your influence, access, privilege, and power to positively improve the health resources for the least and the left out? There are a lot more “why questions” that white Christians need to ask and answer “WHILE” at the same time working actively to advance racial and economic justice and reconciliation.
6. When the politicians you support (that is your right) because they advocate the things that you support, when they begin to do things that are not right and are unjust and that you do not support, you must actively and audibly speak out, act out, confront, challenge and change based on biblical righteousness and justice. Have you? Do you?
7. It is commendable that there are white Christians who did advance racial and economic justice and reconciliation 25+ years ago. What are you doing now- today and what more can you do?
8. This is not the season to be a spectator. All of us must actively pray, care and share.
9. White Christians all agree that it is reasonable for all people to have safe neighborhoods with a police force that serves and protects; adequate health care and access; investing in adequate education; a justice and court system that do not prey on and oppress the poor and vulnerable; access to funding for economic development and expansion.
10. Some White Christians might say they do not know what to do. Give and or give more money, resources, and access to capacity-building to those community-based nonprofits, Christian community development groups that are filling the gaps created by racial and economic injustice
11. White Christians can initiate new economic engine models like some that took place 25 years ago where white Christian marketplace business owners took the initiative to help African American entrepreneurs start and expand businesses -Wow! What if out of your congregation, based on your size, some of members were to help start and or expand one to ten to twenty-five to even 100+ African American businesses by investing significant resources and capacity building, resulting in a replication process?
12. Just imagine during a defined period of time, perhaps in late June or early July, in ten thousand cities, communities and counties across the United States, hundreds and thousands of congregations mobilized (with predominately white congregations taking the lead) to converge on their court houses, police departments, Jails, prisons, City halls, State Capitols, Corporations & Businesses, Universities; Colleges, hospitals, Denomination/Religious Headquarters, News & Media Centers, Entertainment and Sports headquarters, etc. with specific detailed demands that compels elected and marketplace leaders to act and work together with the congregations and communities on immediate and sustained corrective actions. (Zacchaeus principal – where injustice has taken place and where benefits of injustice directly or indirectly, White Christians correct, taking the initiative to give much of what they must affect sustained culture change).
Now, what are you doing to advance racial and economic justice and reconciliation where you live, work, and play that you can share that others might borrow from and advance in their city, county, and state? Christ Followers: (John Chapter 12) “If anyone serves me, let him follow me, where I am my servant shall be also...”
Where is the Lord? He is helping and healing the hurting, those in pain and those in trauma impacted by generations of racial and economic injustice. Where are
Christ’s followers-of course, they would be with him doing the same.
By Jeremy Jernigan
The church landscape in America is different than ever before. Most formal denominational groupings seem to be on the decline. At the same time, the rise of multisite churches creates opportunities for mini denominations. It begs the question: What truly makes a denomination? Said differently, What truly unites us? Is it a shared history, a shared creed (or set of distinctives), a shared leadership structure, or something else? No matter how we or others feel about denominations, many of them started with a pursuit for greater unity.
I’m a second-generation preacher who grew up in the Christian church tradition. It’s been said there are only two types of preacher’s kids; I hope my role as a pastor indicates which type I am. I grew up with amazing parents who loved me and loved the church. I never had to compete with the church for their attention. This allowed me to grow up and develop my own love for the church as I began to experience Jesus for myself. My parents are still in ministry, they have close relationships with my sister and me, and we both have a favorable view of the church. In today’s world, that is quite an accomplishment, and I’m grateful my experiences growing up in the Christian church produced this result.
Searching and Learning
As an undergraduate, I began to dive deeper into other Christian traditions. It’s hard to know what is unique to your experience without comparing it to something else. It’s what every married person realizes when they return from the honeymoon and discover their spouse reshelves cups the wrong way (facing up or down, depending on your opinion of “normal”). And don’t get me started on proper toilet paper installation.
I’ve grown increasingly grateful for the simplicity and freedom that comes from the Christian church tradition. It was easy for me to grow up in my faith and keep the main thing the main thing. But I’ve also learned and applied profound theological truths from other traditions like the Anabaptist movement. This at first seemed very strange to me culturally, but the history of the Anabaptists offers much for today’s post-Christian culture.
What should we do when we see something uniquely different in another tradition? At certain times in history, the answer has been to try to violently erase it by force (this has been especially true of how Anabaptists were treated). Events like the Thirty Years War in Central Europe in the 1600s—which started as a war between various Catholic and Protestant states—are heartbreaking realities of history for those of us who follow Jesus. He prayed to his Father, “I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me” (John 17:23 New Living Translation).
Four Bridge-Building Techniques
In the midst of current cultural and technological shifts, we have an opportunity to incorporate the best we can find in various traditions. This requires a new talent of bridge building and a willingness to enter into unfamiliar territory. It means we must recognize we have something to offer those in other traditions, and we have something to gain by learning from them.
I recommend at least four techniques for building bridges today.
1. Actively listen to others. Listening is perhaps the most underdeveloped skill in today’s culture. Failure to listen is why we are so polarized and divided. If we listen only to voices that confirm what we already believe, we will stunt our learning and growth. It requires little effort to read books by authors from other Christian traditions or listen to podcasts from voices outside the Christian church. Seeking out the perspective of other churches will offer new insights to explore, but it will also highlight aspects of our tradition that we love.
2. Embrace other traditions. Christians from different traditions are drawn to what the Christian church has to offer. We have the opportunity for building new bridges with denominational church leaders as well as establishing a connection with leaders who may be giving up their current denominational label completely. Like a Messianic Jew or a Christian Muslim, we should be willing to create new models of how Jesus can be experienced in unique contexts. Are we comfortable with someone adopting parts of our tradition while keeping parts of their tradition? The history of global mission work indicates we should be.
3. Protect multiple expressions of the church. The sheer volume of available podcasts and resources from churches around the world should convince us we can reach more people with more expressions of the church. In Sacred Pathways, Gary Thomas wrote, “Good spiritual directors understand that people have different spiritual temperaments, that what feeds one doesn’t feed all. Giving the same spiritual prescription to every struggling Christian is no less irresponsible than a doctor prescribing penicillin to every patient.” Building bridges between denominational traditions allows us to create a near-limitless catalog of prescriptions to offer.
4. Build relationships with people from other traditions. We will never know the beauty of other traditions without seeing them lived out in real people. (Likewise, others will never see or understand the Christian church tradition without interacting with us.) A mentor of mine is from the Anabaptist tradition, and this friendship allowed me to see how much there is to learn. It’s why I invest time with organizations like the Jesus Collective (jesuscollective.com) which is bringing multiple denominations to the conversation to learn from each other.
I could list many others, and I’m sure you’ve seen a few more that work well. Now more than ever, we can offer others the best of our heritage, learn from and adopt parts of other traditions, and together move forward with new expressions of the church for a new season of ministry.
Jeremy Jernigan serves as lead pastor of Abundant Life Church, a multisite church in Oregon and Washington (www.alcpnw.com). He is the author of two books, most recently Redeeming Pleasure. Jeremy is married to his high school sweet Michelle and they have five kids who all have New York Yankees middle names.