How many times do we read these words during the Christmas season? These few verses are the inspiration for the nativity sets around our homes and churches. It is the inspiration for the Christmas pageants that children are currently practicing for. But even with reminders all around us during this season, I do not reflect enough on the reality that Mary gave birth to her firstborn son, Jesus, and laid him in a manger.Read More
Scroll two flicks on Facebook and you are sure to come across a hot take on the presidential election. The first debate is this Monday night and your timeline will be inundated with short incendiary clips of each candidate trading barbs followed by both sides claiming debate victory.
We are both pastors of local churches. We are both teaching the people we shepherd Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. And we both have a growing concern that our congregations can easily get swept into the circus of cynicism and the maddening mockery that has been this election season. Our concern is that cynicism and mockery aren’t markers of God’s salt and light people. Also the vision of the Kingdom we see in the Beatitudes often looks different than the visions of lesser kingdoms the candidates are putting forth.Read More
Brothers and Sisters,
This past two weeks has been filled with lament and grief. We grieve the tragic deaths that took place before our eyes of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, along with the tragic murders of Dallas and Baton Rouge police officers. We grieve the deep division in our nation that surfaces week after week. We ache as we listen and watch a nation deeply divided spew words of hate and ignorance. And perhaps as church leaders, we are most grieved by the deep division and sin within the body of Christ that times like these reveal and sense the weight of the challenge to be faithful in the midst of such darkness.
Times like these often reveal our powerlessness as leaders. We see brokenness and desperately want to fix it. We want to act and act now. We gather to pray, we are learning to lament, we caution our congregations to be more wise on social media, and we are trying to become better listeners. Yet there seems to be a deep sense growing among many pastors that none of these things can be ends in and of themselves. I believe we are recognizing more and more how easy it is to act and speak in the height of the tragedy as a way to escape our sense that we are powerless and yet I also believe there is a collective sense among many of us that it is time to sit with the weight of what is going on and ask deeper questions.
Many of us have been wrestling with important questions on how to lead our congregations forward in the midst of our divided, fearful, and angry nation. This is not the first time in the last few years that we have walked through racial division with our congregations and we know it will not be the last. We know faithfulness as a church means pressing into the places of pain in our community and offering the radical love of Jesus in a way that challenges both systemic injustice and the individual idolatry that drives hate, racism, and division.
I have heard many leaders in the last week ask important questions, such as:
- What does it look like to be faithful pastors and leaders in the midst of a rapidly changing cultural climate?
- How do we move our people to engage in radical love of neighbor in ways that shine the beauty of Jesus into every corner of our city?
- What does it look like to foster hope, humility, and perseverance in the people we are leading as they engage in overwhelming justice issues?
- How would Jesus want us to walk alongside those who are spiritually deaf and blind in our congregations?
- How would Jesus draw near to and minister to those who are injured by the blindness and deafness of their brother and sister in Christ?
These are heavy questions. Questions of which there are no quick and simple answers to. These questions that are often asked in the peak of our grief and lament but can easily be pushed aside until the next challenge our community faces.
As a network of churches, we want to offer a few more formats in the next six months to continue to grow as leaders and keep the conversation going.
SEE BELOW FOR A FEW OPPORTUNITIES.
We pray and hope the church would be a part of meaningful action that puts Jesus on display in our cities most especially in places experiencing injustice, pain, and division. These are only formats for learning, but we are praying the Spirit would use these times to move us forward in "spurring one another on toward love and good deeds."
Praying for you and your churches,
Executive Director | Surge Network
Latasha Morison with Be the Bridge to Racial Unity
8am-12pm (Pastors & Church Leaders) Training and discussion by Latasha Morison for how to equip your congregation to have important conversations around race and unity. RSVP HERE
6pm-9pm (Lay Leaders in your Church) This evening is for key people in your church who are passionate about justice. More info and promotion materials are coming your way, but this will be helpful for giving leaders practical ways to be bridge builders and patiently walk alongside others in your congregation who struggle with conversations around race. RSVP HERE
October 31-November 2:
Round tables with Stephanie Summers with Center for Public Justice. Politics is not the only way to engage on issues of justice, but the current political narrative and polarization between parties is shaping and influencing the church in deep ways. There will be multiple opportunities to learn from the Center for Public Justice as Stephanie Summers discusses public and political engagement. Keep an eye out for details.
Join a book discussion: We will be convening for a 3 week book discussion on:
Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America. To get connected to a small group of pastors to discuss this important topic please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m the kind of guy that dives into work head-first. Night after night I’ll pour blood, sweat, and tears into my vocation. Fast days, long nights. Day after day, fighting against the clock to get as much done as possible. A lot of the time at work, it feels like I’m in the trenches while the opposing army keeps pushing closer and closer. Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but hey, I do claims for a living. Because I’m the supervisor of my department, I feel a weight that is very difficult to articulate to other team members. The weight of ownership and responsibility and excellence and a million other things.Read More
Only one person has seen both the joyful tears of my happiest hour, and the terrified tears of my worst hour. That person is Dr. Ebru, the Turkish doctor who ushered my sweet daughter into this world. Before launching into the dramatic story, let me introduce you to the person I thank God for every time I hold my sweet daughter’s hand and embrace my lovely wife.Read More
You shall have no other gods before me. Lord, how guilty am I of daily bringing other false gods into your presence. Surely I am living proof that John Calvin was correct in saying that “Man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols.” I wrongly believe they will provide me with theRead More
I am ashamed to say that I have lived most of my life in a city I knew little about. That changed in 2006 when a friend of mine, a school principal in the neighborhood where I grew up, opened my eyes to the poverty and hunger that hide just beyond our view...Read More
I wonder what it would look like to see a collaborative movement of people who stay. Not just in hip neighborhoods or hurting neighborhoods, but all kinds of places—in North Scottsdale, South Phoenix, East Mesa, West Glendale, you name it.Read More
One afternoon, he climbed to the top of what we know as A Mountain and looked out at the dusty plot of land at the foot of the hill. Most people would have seen nothing but barrenness and obstacles, but Hayden saw opportunity. He saw the city of Tempe.
Across the Valley, and the country as a whole, there’s a group of people who see potential in these trees. Where many see a problem to be discarded as quickly as possible, they see a treasure to be stewarded...Read More
Many of the donations received by Treasures4Teachers are common items in the office or home that many would simply consider throwing away, yet these are the very items Barbara wants to repurpose for the classroom. As passionate as she is about helping teachers, she is equally passionate about reusing and repurposing items...Read More
Do you see the basic shape of this argument? The focus is shifted away from considering whether there are any social or institutional injustices and what their potential impact might be on African Americans. Instead, we are admonished to focus our energy on dysfunction happening at the family or individual level.Read More
Deborah Geesling shares the personal journey that led her and her husband to start P82 Project Restoration: which aims to bridge the gap between the needs of those experiencing mental illness in our community and the provisions made by the state.Read More
Not caring for creation can be a symptom of a narrow view of sin and the scope of its effects. However, the Gospel is just as comprehensive. As my favorite Christmas hymn Joy to the World exclaims, “He comes to make his blessings flow as far as the curse is found.”Read More
He frequently heard teaching about the importance of vocation and all-of-life discipleship, but he never saw anyone’s work—apart from pastoral, missionary, and nonprofit work—publicly celebrated...Read More
Take a moment to read about Tina's journey in medicine and how she has lived into her conviction to be hands of hope and healing to underserved populations locally and to the ends of the Earth.Read More