Every three or four months, my wife Caryn and I travel the 100 miles from Northern Virginia to Charlottesville to strengthen and encourage the disciples there. We are tent-makers (aka, not full-time ministry) trying to serve God in the best way we can. We always enjoy our time with this small but growing fellowship, the Blue Ridge Church, led faithfully by Drew and Jenny Mines. Charlottesville is near and dear to my heart. I lived there for four years as a University of Virginia student back in the 1980s. Three other family members (siblings and spouses) attended UVA as well, and now my daughter is a part of the Blue Ridge ministry as a student at James Madison University.
In June, the Johannesburg Church of Christ recently had the privilege of hosting the "Crossing the Line" workshop facilitated by Michael and MyCresha Burns from the Minneapolis-St. Paul Church of Christ. The workshop was a tremendous help in understanding cultural influences and how misunderstandings and race can be used by Satan to divide churches. The morning session was geared toward the ministry staff and in the afternoon, we workshopped the topic with over 200 family group leaders.
I could have written an article with this title a year ago, but it would not have been quite as jarring as this one is. In the past year, I have expanded my knowledge considerably of my black friends’ worldview, and have altered mine in the process. This has been a very rewarding and very disturbing adventure for me. Let me give you some advance warning regarding this article, especially if you are white. I am about to not just disturb a sacred cow, I’m going to kick it in the gut. Buckle your seat belt and hold on tight – but please keep reading!
In Crossing the Line: Culture, Race and Kingdom, Michael Burns opens the doorway into dialogue and discussion of race and its impact on the culture and kingdom of God. Issues of racism, race, and culture bring out deep passion and potential conflict in the world; and because disciples live in this world, they affect us, our mission, and our unity. Every potential problem like this, though, can be a pitfall or a platform. It can be our undoing or an amazing opportunity to put the power and wisdom of the true gospel on display.
Newly-appointed Boston Church of Christ elder, Darryl Owens, addressed the pressing questions of race in the body of Christ in his sermon entitled, "Rollercoaster of Love... Say What?!" One of the highlights was providing a simple, practical way to have meaningful, loving conversations about race.
Welcome to the “Crossing the Line” series from the Minneapolis-St. Paul Church of Christ. This series is not intended to be the definitive and final word on the complex questions of race and culture in our world today, but it does represent countless hours of prayer, discussion, research and getting the perspectives and opinions of hundreds of disciples from around the world who were engaged in conversation before undertaking this endeavor.
The Minneapolis/St. Paul Church of Christ hosted its annual Simunye Weekend Celebration on October 22-23, 2016. "Simunye" is a Zulu term which means "we are one." The special guest speakers for the weekend were Steve and Carol Mukenya. Steve and Carol have led churches in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Nairobi, Kenya; Lusaka, Zambia; and currently lead the church in Gwinnett County, Atlanta.
Why this? Why now? Why me?
During my 45 plus years of ministry, I have served in many roles in many places. When I turned 65, I resigned from my ministry staff role in Phoenix and began a teaching ministry. The advice I received from trusted, wise brothers about my future legacy was that my greatest contribution would come through leadership training and writing. Hence I embarked on the leadership training part, and pursued it vigorously for about seven years. Then we moved to Dallas and I served as a part-time staff person in 2015. Through these eight years, I wrote only one full length book and did second editions on a couple of others. I was unable to concentrate on writing while still considered even a part-time staff member. It was purely my problem, for the Dallas leadership didn’t put any pressure on me at all. This issue, along with continuing to have friends younger than I am die, led me to end the part-time staff involvement and devote 2016 to writing.