Reconciliation and Sanctification at the Ground Of Bitterness

Growing up in the South, I saw dozens of Civil War memorials around my hometown and home county. In my family cemetery outside Columbia, Tennessee there is a gravestone of a great, great uncle who fought in the Muary Grays for the the Army of Tennessee.

What do we do with these memories and memorials that remind us of America’s Original Sin–Slavery. Perhaps we should find ways to sanctify these standing stones? Perhaps we can allow these monuments to move us toward reconciliation?

The following article from Scot McKnight’s blog, “The Jesus Creed,” describes a group in Atlanta who took action toward reconciliation and sanctification recently at a Civil War memorial. Please read the article.

OneRace Stone Mountain

SEPTEMBER 10, 2018 BY SCOT MCKNIGHT

Source: “The Jesus Creed”

Rising 825 feet over the skyline of Atlanta, Stone Mountain is the most-visited destination in the state of Georgia. On its north face, a carving in the granite wall depicts three figures central to the Confederacy: Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and Stonewall Jackson.

Against this backdrop, observers might have puzzled over the scene unfolding on a recent Saturday at the top of the monument. An ethnically diverse crowd of more than 3,000 people, the majority under age 30, sang as a full rock band led the crowd in Christian praise songs.

Nearly all lifted their hands, shouted, and even danced as pop-rock worship music blasted from speakers. Then a black man in a bright red shirt with white letters reading Reconcile took the mic.

“Heaven is among us,” said Jonathan Tremaine Thomas, a young pastor from Ferguson, Missouri. “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Thomas was followed by civil rights leader John Perkins, who was followed by apologies from Christian leaders to two Jewish leaders for the history of Christian anti-Semitism, who were followed by declarations of forgiveness for Dylann Roof by family members of Charleston church shooting victims. And this was all in the first 150 minutes.

Over the rest of the day, at the base of the mountain, gospel artists performed and local pastors prayed at an assembly that lasted eight hours. Park officials estimated that the entire event attendance drew between 22,000 and 25,000. At the end, the crowd took communion together at the “table of brotherhood,” a nod to Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 speech.

The day marked the climax of two years of preparation by the OneRace Movement, a group that has brought 560 Atlanta-area pastors together in pursuit of reconciliation and revival.

“We believe we are in a divine moment,” said Billy Humphrey, co-director of OneRace. “The Lord wants to eradicate racism and dead religion in every form in the church. He wants to expose blind spots of prejudice, privilege, bitterness, and fear. The answer to division and hate is the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

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“The Poor You Will Always Have With You”

I’m reading Shane Claiborne’s Irresistible Revolution, and I found an interesting discussion on the words of Jesus “You will always have the poor among you.”

Claiborne writes:

Almost every time we talk with affluent folks about God’s will to end poverty, someone says, “But didn’t Jesus say, ‘The poor will always be with you’?” Many of the people who whip out this verse have grown quite insulated and distant from the poor and feel defensive. I usually gently ask, “Where are the poor? Are the poor among us?” The answer is usually a clear negatory. As we study the Scriptures, we see how many texts we have misread, contextualized, and exegeted to hear what we want to. Like this one about the poor being among us, which Jesus says in the home of a leper and after a poor marginalized woman anoints his feet with perfume. The poor were all around him. Far from saying in defeat that we should not worry about the poor, since they will always be among us, Jesus is pointing the church to her true identity—she is to live close to those who suffer. The poor will always be among us, because the empire will always produce poor people, and they will find a home in the church, a citizenship in the kingdom of God, where the “hungry are filled with good things and the rich sent away empty.

I heard that Gandhi, when people asked him if he was a Christian, would often reply, “Ask the poor. They will tell you who the Christians are.”

Perhaps it is acceptable to flip the statement of Jesus concerning the poor from a statement into a question. Jesus said, “The poor you will always have among you.”

Let’s ask–Are you always among the poor?

The Homeless

Shane Claiborne tells this story in his book The Irresistible Revolution.

Several decades ago a group of families were kicked out of an apartment complex in Philadelphia without a place to go. They were left to fend for themselves on the city streets. 

The families occupied an unused sanctuary in a Catholic cathedral. Many local leaders wanted to oust these families from the abandoned cathedral, but college students joined the families in an attempt to keep the authorities at bay. 

The families and students won. They stayed in the cathedral until they were able to find homes. 

The families hung this banner over the door of the cathedral:

“How can we worship a homeless man on Sunday and ignore one on Monday?”

My Journey in Lagos: Part Four.

The Appointment Of Three Teachers in Lagos, Nigeria

Our sister church in Lagos graciously invited me to attend the appointment of three teachers to their ministry on Sunday the 19th of August. The new teachers are Fred George, Emmanuel Emeh, and Gilbert Kimeng. I’ve been training, mentoring, and working with these brothers over the last several years. It’s been a thrill to work with them.

These three brothers will be the first to be appointed to the role of teacher on the continent of Africa by our movement of churches. So, this is quite a historic occasion, and I’m blessed to be part of this event.

I want to personally thank Dr. Douglas Jacoby for his work in West Africa. Douglas initiated the first Ministry Training Program which helped equip Fred, Emmanuel, and Gilbert to rise up and become teachers. Also, thanks to Joey Harris and other teachers who taught in the training program.

I also want to thank the Rocky Mountain School Of Ministry and Theology for their work in training ministry leaders in our churches. All three of these teachers have taken courses at the RMSMT, and two of them are pursing degrees there. The RMSMT specializes in helping students in developing countries work toward advanced degrees in theology.

Also, a big thanks to the Beam Fund for sponsoring a program that allowed me to focus on training and mentoring potential teachers in West Africa, French West Africa, and East Africa. The appointment/recognition of Fred, Emmanuel, and Gilbert is the direct result of their investment in the teaching ministry. Thanks to the Board of Directors of the Beam Fund for your partnership in this endeavor.

Also, a big thanks to Chris and Rolayo Ogbonnaya and to the elders in Lagos for your warm invitation to me to help train and mentor teachers in West Africa. Your partnership has meant much to me over the years. My time spent in Africa training teachers has been one of the most satisfying tasks of my life. I appreciate you allowing me to use my gifts to help the disciples in Africa. God bless all of you.

I’m grateful for every moment I get to spend in Africa. The warmth and generosity of the disciples in Lagos is overwhelming. Thanks you for your love for me and my family over the years.

Please pray for the church in Lagos. Pray for the future ministry leaders in the West Africa School Of Missions. And pray for Fred, Emmanuel, and Gilbert, newly appointed teachers in Lagos.

God bless all the churches across the continent of Africa. Amen.

Praying for our new teachers

My Journey in Lagos: Part Three

International Youth & Family Conference.

Lagos, Nigeria.

On Saturday the Lagos church held their first ever International Youth & Family Conference in West Africa. Youth & Family ministers, leaders, and volunteers from all over Africa attended this conference. The conference was entitled, “Building Strong Families.”

Damon Curtis from Houston, Texas speaking at the International Youth and Family Conference

The Georges from Lagos, Directors of the Conference

Along with classes for the parents, there were also classes for singles, campus, and teens. I had the opportunity to teach the campus students. I shared with them the importance of dreaming big dreams based on Acts 2:16-18,

“No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

‘In the last days, God says,

I will pour out my Spirit on all people.

Your sons and daughters will prophesy,

your young men will see visions,

your old men will dream dreams.

Even on my servants, both men and women,

I will pour out my Spirit in those days,

and they will prophesy.’”

Peter and Joel both confirm that God wants us to be dreamers. He wants his daughters and sons to prophecy/preach. He gives us his Spirit to help us dream.

Are you a dreamer? How big are your dreams?

Are your dreams as big as they have ever been?

God will take our dreams and build on them and expand them. He can “do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” Paul writes a word of praise to God in Ephesians 3:20-21, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

Campus Students in the campus class

So let’s give God our dreams. And, let’s ask God to magnify our dreams for his glory. Whether you are married, single, or a student in campus or high school—Dream Big Dreams.

***

Congregational singing at conference:

My Journey in Lagos: Part Two

Lagos-The West Africa School Of Missions

While in Africa, I’m teaching 28 lessons in 8 days. 20 of these lessons are on church history. I’m teaching a class to students of the West Africa School of Missions. Twenty-five students attend this ministry training academy. Most of these young women and men have already graduated from university. Many left their home churches in West and Central Africa and left their jobs in various fields like education, law, and engineering to be trained for the full time ministry.

Singing Before Class

They are part of a three-year program that for the first two years focuses on biblical and ministry training. The third year is a ministry practicum. Then, the plan is to place students in the full time ministry in West and Central Africa. There are churches that currently exist without full time paid leaders. Once trained, these students will be able to fill these ministry needs. The school of missions is funded by the Beam Fund.

I met students from cities in Nigeria, Ghana, the Congo, and Guinea-Bissau. I’ve never taught a more eager class. The students were hungry to learn.

No School Of Ministry Sings Like the One In Lagos.

I realize that not everyone loves church history. To me it felt like the students understood that they were part of the history of the church in West and Central Africa, so they wanted to learn as much as they could from the mistakes of the past so they would not repeat those mistakes.

Please pray for the West African School Of Missions. Many of these students will finish the school within the year, and they will go strengthen and establish churches in West and Central Africa. Pray that these students will go throughout West Africa strengthening the churches and making disciples.

The Students Singing “Happy Birthday” to My Daughter Chelsea

My Journey In Lagos—Part One

Lagos, Nigeria—A City Of 20 Million

“As of 2000, the population of Lagos, Nigeria, was roughly 7.2 million, somewhere between those of greater Philadelphia and Chicago. By 2030 it will be 24 million, nearly as large as metropolitan New York and London — combined.”

—From “A World Of Boomtowns”

I love Lagos. It’s an overwhelming city, but I love it.

Lagos is gigantic, intimidating, wonderful, aggressive, warm, and colorful. It’s a sprawling metropolis filled with teeming millions of people from all over West Africa. There is a vitality to this developing city that fuels the spirit.

As you enter a store or hotel, people greet you with a bright and cheerful, “You are welcome.” Or, if you have white hair like me, they say, “You are welcome, Sir.”

And traffic, you haven’t seen traffic until you’ve been on the streets of Lagos. Traffic in Lagos is a free-for-all. Whoever flenches, losses. You dare not blink. If you blink, crash. There goes the bumper.

I love the Logos church. It has been three and one-half years since I was last in Lagos, and I missed the fellowship of the Lagos disciples. The NYC church has a close relationship with the Lagos church having supported the mission there for years with both funds and leadership.

In return the Lagos ministry continues to inspire the NY church with its growth, its commitment to Jesus, and its unfailing zeal. There are 17 churches In Nigeria. The most recent church was planted in July in Owerii in the Imo State in the Southeast. There are already twenty-seven disciples there.

The Lagos church has 1,900 disciples and helps oversee ministries in Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea-Bissau, and The Gambia. There are 12 churches in those surrounding countries. Counting the churches across Nigeria, there are 29 congregations in West Africa.

I landed in Lagos late in the afternoon on Friday August 10th and was scheduled to teach a four-lesson congregational teaching day on Saturday morning. I woke up Saturday morning not feeling the best, but the Holy Spirit was with me and The Spirit worked through me. The teaching day was well received by the disciple.

I taught on Generosity: Imitating the Heart Of God. This was an exposition on 2 Corinthians 8 & 9. I love these chapters. They are filled with inspirational insight and practical points of application.

On Sunday, I woke up feeling worse than on Saturday, but the Spirit empowered me to preach to one the regions in Lagos on Intentional Discipling. For a second day, the message was well received.

While at church I got to witness Christian generosity in action. One of the brothers was celebrating his birthday. For his birthday he brought a giant sack of rice to church and divided out the rice to anyone who needed it. I thought about the words of Jesus, “It is more blessed to give than receive.”

I was thinking that a good tradition for every first world disciple would be that when their birthday rolled around that they would contribute at least one giant sack of rice to a church in a developing country. That would make for a happy birthday.

After church I went to my hotel room and rested. The rest helped me get over my sickness. I woke on Monday and the felt much better.

(To be continued)